How to transform your church—by one pastor who did it

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The Table I Long For author Shawn Brace.

A new book shares the story, as well as reflections on lessons learnt, of a pastor who shut down his church—then re-launched it with a new focus on mission and community. The Table I Long For is Pastor Shawn Brace’s story of renewing his faith and ministry, working with his local church and community in Bangor, Maine, in the north-east of the United States.

“The past six years of my ministry have been so life-changing and transformative as my family and I, along with our church, have had our paradigm of church and what it means to be followers of Christ completely turned on their heads,” explains Pastor Brace, who is the author of three previous books and currently a columnist for Adventist Review. “And it has felt like there has been a huge vacuum, especially in the Adventist world, of materials that focus on what it means to live a missional life. So, after putting it off for a while, I finally decided to sit down and write on it.”

The Table I Long For narrates a story that began in 2016, with the re-launch of the church celebrated on September 15, 2018. The book takes its title from a reading that became something of a mission statement for their church group, summarising their growing realisation of the importance of community and offering welcome to all people.

For Pastor Brace, this understanding is key to mission in an increasingly secular culture. “People aren’t looking for a church, they’re looking for a family,” he explains. “To me, the table is the most beautiful expression of what it means to be that family. We come, we sit, we listen, we invite others to that table, providing a welcoming space for everyone to belong, believing in the power of God to disciple them. It’s where Jesus spent the largest part of His ministry.”

Presented in the form of a personal memoir, The Table I Long For uses specific stories to explore the theology of the church, mission and evangelism. “Shaun writes very well, and covers a lot of important principles in the context of his experiences,” comments fellow author and experienced church mentor, Dr Peter Roennfeldt. “It is clearly ‘his story’ and a great way to get the ideas across. I think he does well in defending his ideas, very graciously addressing critics and potential hijackers.”

Pastor Brace admits that many of these experiences have stretched and changed some of his understandings of faith. “It’s still a work in progress,” he reflects, “but when my life became truly focused on entering into life with people who didn’t know Jesus, it really challenged some of my theological assumptions.

“It has helped me lean on Jesus so much more and really, truly, learn that my security comes from Him and not in my behaviours or even from being right.”

It is a journey that Pastor Brace invites you to share in The Table I Long For, which is available now from Adventist bookshops in Australia and New Zealand, or online.