For today's entry in the Friday Five interview series, we catch up with Mark Buchanan.
Today we chat with Mark about transitions, taking risks, and seasons of life.
You've recently moved out of the pastorate into a teaching position. What has this new season of life brought you?
Time. The rhythms of academic life are dramatically different from the pastorate. Here, things start, and 3 months later they stop. In between are long stretches of breathing room. In pastoral ministry, there is no end point, no finish line: nothing really concludes. And here, if you have a bad class, they all disperse after 3 months. In the pastorate, if you have a bad congregation—do I need to finish that sentence?
I'm enjoying this new rhythm—luxuriating in it, really. The extra time means: I'm home most evenings, have more time to write and travel, spend more time with family and friends, get more exercise, and feel more relaxed in general. I better stop with that, lest I tempt my former brethren toward the sin of envy.
It has also brought a shift in the nature of my influence. My influence is both diminished and enhanced. In the pastorate, I influenced hundreds of people weekly. Here, I have small classes, made up of students who are burdened with course work and distracted by a multitude of demands and who, for the most part, don't see much beyond the horizon of the next assignment. So in that sense, my influence has shrunk. I've lost the opportunity to incite riots. In the pulpit, you can light fires. In the classroom, you can explain techniques for lighting fires. Big difference. But this is the upside: most of these students will form the next generation of church leadership. I get a few years to mess with their heads—teach them how to incite riots, train them how to light fires. That, maybe, could add up to a revolution. Here's hoping.
C.S. Lewis' quote, "God is not safe, but he is good" has really impacted your life and ministry, resulting in two books Your God is Too Safe and Your Church is Too Safe. Seems like you are calling Christians to a more adventurous, radical kind of Christianity.
My deepest regret, after 24 years in pastoral ministry, is that I didn't take more risks (and I took a lot). Even so, I hugged the shore too close. I fussed over trivialities too much. I fretted about budgets too many nights. I placated the disgruntled and catered to the whiners too often. "Everywhere Paul went, they started riots, Everywhere I went, they serve tea" (Anonymous). I deeply believe—I more feisty and sassy about this than ever—that unless Christians start raiding the devil's lair, we'll never turn the world on its head. I want to be a prophetic voice for that.
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