A Review of Tim Owens’ The Search Committee

“It had occurred to Travis that it was hard work trying to steal a preacher. There was no easy way to do it.” The Search Committee: A Novel

When Tim Owens’ book became available via the Tyndale House Blogger Review program, I had to get it. Its title, ‘The Search Committee,” caught my attention as I had an idea of what it would be about. I was not disappointed. And it was about more than I expected with an ending (that you will have to read for yourself) that I did not see coming.

Now in my 25th year of being a minister/pastor/Reverend, I have had some interesting experiences as a pastoral candidate having served 4 churches in that time period. But I have been interviewed by probably another four to five churches as well.

I have also interviewed search committees as well. (The interview with my current congregation’s search committee lasted three hours at the local Pizza Hut!) However, the experience of being visited by a search committee (incognito) has not (as far as I know) been done to me. I have made judgments (yes judgments) about those sitting around a table in a room or restaurant as to their motivations and expectations.

And yet in the journey in that ancient Ford van which forms the basic setting in Owens’ novel, seven members of a North Carolina Presbyterian church;  Travis, Bill, Frankie, Matt, Dot, Joyce, and Susie; present us with an unforgettable journey not just to churches and preachers and bathrooms as they seek a pastor. They are also generational representatives of the various groups which congregations and their leaders spend so much time, print/pixel, and money on trying to understand and reach.

There is: Travis and Matt the young adults who are still trying to figure what they want to do and what life is about. Susie, the single parent in her thirties. Bill and Frankie the retired members. Dot and Joyce, the former the church gossip and the latter a widow who is not from the area.  They take us on the journeyinward to their souls and backward into their pasts that affect who they are and which, I think, shapes in ways apparent and not-so-apparent their likes and dislikes; their preferences and their revulsions; in and with ministers.

And it is this journey, their back stories, that constitute the core of this award winning novel.  For it is in their journeys, their flashbacks, the vivid dreams, and the unfolding events of their lives outside the van trips and church visits, we see that in their search for a pastor, they are in search of grace, hope, direction, and love, both human and divine, in their own lives. And we see them, not as representatives of a local church, but of the human race as well.

And though the chapters begin with quotes from the Presbyterian Book of Order as well as references from the Bible,  and there are brief passages of sermons appropriate to the story setting, there is only a cursory discussion of theology per se. Rather, the deeper and more important takes places within the characters themselves. What is more germane to this book is the human element of ministry and not the theological issues of the day.

This book is well written with credible characters and I give it a 4 out of 5 star rating.

Note: I received a free copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for a review of this book. I was not required to write a positive review.

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