5 Questions With Mark Buchanan

Welcome to 5 Questions With.....

Today's Guest is Mark Buchanan.

I first discovered Mark's books after a recommendation from a colleague, Pastor Stanley Groothof. I have since had the pleasure of reading and being blessed by a few of Mark's books.

Mark Buchanan is a pastor (New Life Community Baptist Church), award-winning author, and father of three who lives with his wife, Cheryl, on the West Coast of Canada. Educated at the University of British Columbia and Regent College, his work has been published in numerous periodicals. He is the author of six books. You can see the complete list here. In addition you can read Mark's blog on his website.

And now without further delay, on to the questions:

Hello Mark,

Of the books you have written thus far, which would be your personal favorite?

Ooh, hard to say. It's a bit like asking which of my 3 children I love the most. As with children, so with books: you love them all the same, and all differently. Each book occupies a place close to my heart - both with affection and disappointment. All surpass in some way what I set out to do, and all is some way fall short.

The book, though, that most changed me is Things Unseen.
Until writing that, I never thought about the difference the reality of heaven should make in our earthly existence. A year-long steeping in heavenly-mindedness altered the way I see everything. It gave me a depth and breadth of perspective that frames virtually all my earthly experience. Heavenly-mindedness, far from making us of no earthly good, is about the only thing that makes us of any earthly good.

And my book Spiritual Rhythm has special meaning for me, simply because it's so intensely personal.

2. In your most recent book, Spiritual Rhythm, you talked about spiritual seasons. Can you explain that a bit more?

The seed of the book was a personal crisis. I was grieving the death of a close friend and colleague. During that time I began to realize that my habitual way of measuring spiritual maturity was deeply skewed. My default was to gauge maturity by busyness (though I would have used words like passion, commitment, vitality, focus, etc..). The more you do, I thought, the more you love Jesus. But when I went through my long stretch of sorrow, I was devoid of passion, focus, vitality, and all that. So I had to either admit failure, or rethink my whole model of spiritual formation.

And then there it was, hidden in plain sight: Jesus and Co. measure spiritual maturity, not by how busy we are, but by the fruit we bear. And fruit implies seasons. I have, in my yard, 6 fruit trees. They only bear (harvestable) fruit in one season, but they take all four to produce it. That was the ping! moment. As in the natural, so in the spiritual: we need all the seasons, including winter, to grow fruit.

So the first part of Spiritual Rhythm explores the seasons of our heart. And the second part explores the rhythms for living through and stewarding each season well.

3. How have you grown/what new things have you discovered about spiritual disciplines since writing Your God Is Too Safe?

I’ve discovered that, like any good exercise regimen, you heighten its effectiveness by varying its tasks. I have learned not to read the Bible the same way year-in and year-out. I vary my practice now – I go from, say, an intense season of memorization, to, say, a leisurely season of reading the Bible like a novel, to, say, a focused season of exploring one idea biblically – grace, or stewardship, or repentance. And so on. And this with all the disciplines – I find ways to change them up. This keeps them fresh and actually catalyzes growth, at least for me.

I’ve also discovered how easy it is to fall into legalism with spiritual disciplines – the Pharisee lays in ambush down every path of spiritual formation. I keep having to remind myself not to make the discipline the goal; the goal is a richer life in Christ. When I forget that, I can quickly become prideful when I’m disciplined, shame-filled when I’m not, and judgmental toward whoever is more disciplined (“fanatics”) or less disciplined (“lazybones”) than I am. I have to keep steady vigilance over myself to not fall into this trap.

One last thing. I find helpful the ancient wisdom of developing a rule of life – a concept I was oblivious to when I wrote YGiTS – as long as the first 2 insights/cautions are applied.

4. Which spiritual discipline do you think the church currently needs to (re)emphasize?

I still think we need to take seriously Sabbath-keeping. The modern church is so cranky and weary and novelty-hounding, which are symptoms of endless busyness. The flip side of this is also true: we are rapidly losing the ability to work hard, in season and out. We don’t know how to put our hand to the plow and not look back. There is little perseverance in us, which I also think is a symptom of Sabbath-neglect. Since we rarely deeply renew ourselves in God’s presence, we quickly weary in doing his work. So I’d love to see churches really resting deeply and then working hard, back and forth.

Can I add another? Tithing. I am shocked at many Christian’s lack of discipline in financial stewardship. It is epidemic. It is at crisis proportions.

5. What can you tell us about your new book for 2012, Your Church is Too Safe?

I wanted to write something on the Church’s mission and identity – or, more exactly, the church’s mission as it arises from its identity – that was theologically substantial and hands-on pragmatic. I think I’ve captured that here.

The book is provocative. It’s a theology of risk-taking. It’s a call to arms. It’s manifesto of living dangerously. It’s a deep exploration about how most of our churches are too safe – too comfortable – for those who already are in them, and too unsafe for those who most need them. And it’s a plea that we change that.

I lay a biblical groundwork for missional living, issue a call to it, and offer a practical guide for pursuing it. Mostly, I do this by retelling biblical stories intermingled with contemporary ones. Why was Jonah so angry about God’s compassion for Nineveh, and how might something similar be going on in the western church? How did Abraham resist and then learn to “be a blessing” to all nations, and what does that teach us now? Who are today’s Samaritans? Why is biblical hospitality more about receiving kindness from others than extending it to them, and why is that harder for most of us?

All in all, Your Church is Too Safe is a plea for the church to live in such a way that, like Paul in Thessalonica, we turn the world upside down.

Thanks again Mark. I also want to thank you for writing books that have spoken to me personally and encouraged and challenged me.

So welcome. Thanks for asking.

Ok, there you go. I would encourage you to pick up any of Mark Buchanan's books. My personal favorite right now is Spiritual Rhythm.

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Anonymous said...

Thanks, Rick, for connecting with and interviewing Mark Buchanan! His book _Your God is Too Safe_ has had a big impact on my life. I'll have to pick up his new book, too, when it's released in March – What a cool cover (http://www.amazon.ca/Your-Church-Too-Safe-Upside-Down/dp/0310331234)! ~Stanley

RDA said...

Thanks Stanley for introducing me to Mark's books..