I've started writing a book! Well, not really. I'm just developing the proposal. But I've talked with an agent at Credo Communications, attended a workshop on "How to Get Published," talked extensively with an author-friend, and gotten words of encouragement from my church. This summer I'll take a four-week study leave to (hopefully) knock out a good bit of work on the book.
So what's my book about?
Here's the way I've pitched it to my agent:
Being a pastor is sort of like living on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi or Louisiana. There's always the danger of a ministry-killing catastrophe. Churches are often unsafe places for ministers. Churches are filled with sinners - just like me! Many pastors walk into a church with a naivete about the danger of what they do every day. They are vulnerable to difficult people, unresolved conflict, incompatible visions, hidden agendas, and sin - their own and that of others.
I endured five years of conflict and crisis in a church. I went into that church naive and unprepared. I should have asked harder questions. I should have taken more time to build trust. I should have been more careful about introducing change. Fellow leaders should have been more cooperative and forgiving. It was, in short, a perfect storm, a Category 5 hurricane in the making. When the catastrophe happened, I should have been more prayerful, less accommodating to the wishes of others, move loving, patient, and honest. The conflict eventually exploded in a "planned split" that devastated my family and me and many other people. It threatened to end my career as a pastor and seriously damage my marriage.
But through that catastrophe, I learned valuable lessons. I moved on, recovered a love for the church, and eventually returned to the role of lead pastor elsewhere. In my book I will reflect on my experience and share the lessons learned. I hope to redeem the experience by helping other pastors recognize, negotiate, and redeem their own ministry hurricanes. I will also share anecdotes I collect from other pastors. Unfortunately, there are many stories out there to share.
(By the way, if you're in ministry and you've gone through a ministry catastrophe -- or have a friend who has -- I would appreciate getting the story in writing. Or I can interview you over the phone. I plan to keep all stories anonymous and will change the names of people and places.)
Obviously, my book will be aimed at pastors, but people in a variety of ministry settings will be able to relate to my story. My goal is to help people in ministry recognize the signs of an impending catastrophe, limit its damage, learn its lessons, and live with gospel optimism for the future.