I’m finally able to get back to my normal reading schedule, and the first book I read was written by my good friend, Chris Brauns. Chris was my older brother in seminary—two years ahead of me and about ten years wiser—and I’ve always looked to him as a model for how to be a man of God who shepherds God’s people. If you ever have the privilege of having Chris Brauns—or someone like him—as your pastor, you have been exceptionally blessed by God.
I use Brauns’ pastoral and clear headed book on forgiveness (Unpacking Forgiveness) as required reading for my class on systematic theology, and his new book, When the Word Leads Your Pastoral Search, is equally helpful. This book is specifically targeted to search committees, but I found that Brauns’ insights are also beneficial to pastors. One of the most difficult aspects of being a pastor is figuring out what your job is, knowing when it’s sufficiently done so you can go to bed, and knowing how well you did. Because When the Word Leads Your Pastoral Search tells search committees what to look for in a pastor—essentially laying out the job description—it also can be used by pastors who want to meet that description.
Brauns contends that the most important part of the pastoral calling is the need for expository preaching. He explains that preaching the Word is about more than delivering content, for this could be accomplished by other means. The fact is that “Preaching is God’s specifically appointed means for the proclamation of His Word” (p. 183), and this hasn’t changed even in our technologically advanced age. Brauns concludes: “God specifically tells pastors to preach the Word. While we may choose at times to do other activities, they cannot replace preaching. Nothing can” (p. 184).
It’s hard to read this book and not want to pick a paragraph of Scripture, exegete and then preach it on Sunday. So while When the Word is mandatory reading for search committees, it is also inspiring for pastors. This book will encourage you in the job you are already doing, but it will also motivate you to become even better. And should you fail so miserably that the church asks you to leave, you can always do two things.
1. Take heart, knowing that if Jonathan Edwards was fired by his church, then it’s not surprising that you might be too. You’re in really good company on this one.
2. Leave them your copy of Brauns’ book as a parting gift of love. If they were so blind as to let you go, then they’re probably going to need it.