Friday Five Interview: Mark Buchanan
The teacher and former pastor talks transitions, inciting riots, and writing.

For today's entry in the Friday Five interview series, we catch up with Mark Buchanan.

Mark Buchanan is an author, professor, and blogger. His latest book is Your Church Is Too Safe.

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.

November 22, 2013

Displaying 1–3 of 3 comments


December 01, 2013  11:22pm

Karen "Preach the word.." = lecture the word, one every week till you die has been going on since the church fathers - when the clergy system started to "protect against false teaching". Is that not ancient enough?

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November 24, 2013  5:21pm

Respectfully, I believe what Tim thinks of as "ancient church learning dynamic" isn't. That is, it isn't so much "ancient Church" as it is traditional Protestant inheritance from the Reformation with the pulpit, preaching (as one-way lecture) and expounding "the Word" taking front and center instead of the Eucharist which was, from the NT beginning, the consummate liturgical focus and Symbol of what it meant to live as Church as a whole way of life (the offer of one's whole life as a sacrifice to Christ symbolized in the gifts of bread and wine, and His filling that with Himself and in turn offering it back to us as spiritual nurture and life). We see in Acts this was the center of the gathered worship the first day of the week around which the whole remainder of the week lived in community was centered. The most traditional way the faith has always been passed on, however, is through one-on-one mentoring and nurture from spiritual fathers and mothers to spiritual sons and daughters (of which monasticism is one model, Christian family another, and the local parish an extension of that) sharing all aspects of life.

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November 22, 2013  7:28pm

You made a great choice. I think the current - ancient church learning dynamic is weaker than kindergarten. It's perpetual dependency learning with no graduates - well maybe .01%. They are expected to receive a 30-45 minute lecture every week of their life till the day they die. It's so stifling all the children are sent to other rooms so they won't get bored. The adults work really hard at not appearing bored so no one thinks they are not spiritual. Mutual relationship with the one said to be their teacher is almost non-existent if there are even 100 saints for 1 teacher. In college, students will go out and do what you taught. The class room is far more open to mutuality. Levels of participation are far greater with personal expression assignments, etc. It seems most church "leaders" like the status quo and think the Bible actually teaches this approach to church life. I know they want somewhat different results but don't realize keeping the system the way it is will always return the same results. Changing the church name, the hair cut and the mic (the invisible ones they use now) doesn't change the system.

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