Tyndale House Publishers
The Search Committee by Tim Owens introduces readers to life in small-town North Carolina and seven members of a church that desperately needs a new pastor. These seven in particular need spiritual direction, and as they travel each weekend to visit churches, they learn to rely on each other and to follow God’s leading.
The book focuses mainly on Travis, a young married man whose troubled past keeps him from wanting to have children and who struggles not to think about the other young woman on the committee. Owens also records events in the other six characters’ lives and a few others, like the interim pastor.
The characters are flawed, dealing with everything from broken marriages to sexual temptations to suicidal behavior. They are by no means role models, and one could argue they hardly improve by the end of the book. Each character experiences change, but not all make lifestyle changes or repent of the sins in their lives. One has to wonder why these seven were picked for a pastoral search committee, of all things. But the body of Christ is nowhere near perfect, and Owens creates characters who are not afraid to struggle and fail.
The plot, if it can be called that, involves about half the pages of the book. The gaps are filled with descriptions of the seven’s interactions with other characters. Flashbacks give vivid and often painful snapshots of these characters’ earlier lives.
Owens does a terrific job of painting the people, attitudes, and quirks of the South. Readers can hardly tell what decade the book is set in because the characters and their struggles transcend time. The humor is as dry as Mark Twain’s. The author plays off the committee’s ignorance to make readers burst out laughing. Often, Owens records in two or three pages a pastor’s entire sermon (usually the good ones or ones the search committee stays awake for), and while these are usually insightful, they do little to contribute to the plot or themes of the story.
The book is strongly Presbyterian, and Owens quotes sections of the catechism or other doctrinal guides before each chapter. However, these sections are non-controversial and theologically sound, and one Presbyterian pastor condemns homosexuality in his mind while preparing a sermon.
Controversial issues do arise, though. One woman who lost both parents and a brother to an abusive father later sees her brother in a dream. The author and characters seem to believe it really was the brother. Another member of the search committee spends a night with his girlfriend in a hotel room. It is insinuated that they have sex, but the character later explains they didn’t. We also can never tell if this girlfriend, and later wife, is a Christian.
Moreover, no one addresses the fact that the characters deceive and lie to the churches they visit. Owens relates a humorous story of how two committee members pose as a couple and lie about where they moved to, and it turns out to be the pastor’s street. One of the characters expresses regret of the need to lie, but the sin is never remedied.
Because of some mature themes and incidents, I would not recommend this book for early teens or anyone younger. Besides these flaws, The Search Committee is a humorous, insightful story of broken people finding hope—and a new pastor along the way. – Alexandra Mellen, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
A mismatched team of seven hit the road in an Econoline church van on a mission to find a new pastor. They don't agree on much other than the stops at Hardee's for coffee and a biscuit. But they stick to the call, trying to slip undetected into worship services across the Southeast—all in hopes of stealing a preacher for their congregation.
Each member is wrestling to balance their own busy life and personal struggles. And they're trying to keep their issues to themselves. Forced to spend countless hours together, these very different personalities from different generations begin to bond. And their lives are profoundly changed as they love and support each other through the difficulties in each of their lives.