The Pastor-Author

Increasingly pastors have become authors. Sometimes they have co-authors, sometimes heavy editors, and other times all on their own. Publishers are interested in pastor-authors because some of these pastors start with a huge platform (read: megachurch audience) and many also have huge networks (read: Rick Warren). Most importantly, the pastor-author always has a pulse for the audience — for the lay person, for “felt needs” and for what “works best” when it comes to ideas and practices. Hence, when I read pastor-authors I expect more wisdom than contribution to knowledge. [I’m not sure why Marianne Meye Thompson’s John cover appears on the front page of this post.]

Today, two pastor-authors whose books I find on that wisdom ledger, Nelson Searcy and Dave Ferguson. These authors are practical, they are alert to human needs and they communicate at the level where many live.

Screen Shot 2016-12-03 at 1.05.39 PMNelson Searcy’s newest book, Unshakable: Standing Strong When Things Go Wrong, examines what Christians can do when they face the storms of life. Which storms? Family problems, illness, lack of purpose, temptation, financial stress, career challenges, death of a loved one, failure, doubt, marriage issues, disconnection from God and death. Nelson’s point is that Christians need the “right foundation”: faith in Jesus Christ, and that foundation can generate peace, power, protection, and a plan for life.

Alongside the right foundation, Nelson proposes the following pervasive strategies for navigating the storms of life: the reality of surprises that need to be sidestepped, learning to ask the right question of the right person right away, embracing your emotions, borrowing wisdom from others, being willing to witness to others what you have learned from the storms (that is, wisdom), and then learning to turn our pains into purpose. (One sees this in 2 Corinthians 1 so clearly.)

Dave and Jon Ferguson’s new book, Starting Over: Your Life Beyond Regrets, develops what they call the “Sorry Cycle” and learning how to love and live beyond your regrets over mistakes you’ve made — to tie these two books together — in navigating the storms of life. Thus, they examine “regret paralysis”: awakening to longing, awakening to regret, awakening to help, awakening to love, and awakening to life. These are the five awakenings we go through as we find our way back to God. This book deals with the theme of regret and the sorry cycle — made up of a longing that is complicated by regret and doesn’t escape the cycle.

Screen Shot 2016-12-03 at 1.07.15 PMRegrets, we’ve all got them. They examine three kinds: regrets of action (like lying, broken relationships, dumb choices, money we’ve blown, etc) and regrets of inaction (opportunities missed, time wasted, risks not taken, words not spoken, love left unexpressed, gifts not given, forgiveness withheld, etc) and regrets of reaction (abuse, neglect, rejection, betrayal, mistreatment, disability, accident, illness, isolation, etc). The issue for the Ferguson brothers is how we respond to what we regret.

It goes back to Augustine: humans are designed by God with a longing for God, for love, purpose and meaning. That longing unfulfilled generates some regrets. The gospel announces that life can begin all over, that we can start again — a theme I developed shortly long ago in Jesus Creed when I examined the mission of John Baptist.

To break free from regrets, Dave and Jon provide three steps: recognize, release (they have a wonderful idea in “echoing” God’s forgiveness in our own hearts) and redeem your regrets.  Like spirituality regrets, relationship regrets, health regret finance regret, and the big purpose reget.

Both of these pastor-authors are great story tellers, and their books are filled with meaning-creating stories.

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