Grand Rapids, MI. ― After 40 years as a Presbyterian pastor, Douglas Brouwer faced an existential crisis that would likely come as a big surprise to those outside the clergy. What did all the hard work on evenings, weekends and holidays — away from his family — amount to? And in the current age of shrinking mainline churches, what could he point to as the end result of his decades in ministry? Following a lengthy career pockmarked by petty conflicts and feelings of disillusionment, he wondered if he had spent his life, as the author of Ecclesiastes laments, “chasing after wind.”
“I was a Presbyterian pastor for 40 years. I loved most of it, barely tolerated some of it, and was grateful to be finished with much of it,” Brouwer shares in his powerful new book, Chasing After Wind: A Pastor’s Life.
Like pastors everywhere, Brouwer went into ministry to do lifechanging work for God and ended up spending most of his time managing the parking situation outside the church, fielding parishioner complaints about the color of the sanctuary carpet (or, in Brouwer’s case, the color of his shoes), and endlessly fundraising for mission projects and building maintenance.
“What had happened, I now realize, is that I had lost myself so deeply in a role and a title and a way of life that I was no longer sure whether I had an identity separate from those things,” Brouwer says.
In telling his story, Brouwer comes to recognize that the most meaningful parts of his career — the “holy bits,” as he calls them — were in unexpected moments where everything was stripped away but the mysterious work of God. Recounting these times of curious joy and shared mourning, he demonstrates how a pastor can find grace and peace in looking back on a life in ministry.
Brouwer adds, “One friend described the book to me as like meeting your elementary school teacher at the grocery store — in other words, it’s an unexpected, maybe awkward, glimpse into a pastor’s life.”
About the Author
Author Douglas J. Brouwer spent 40 years serving churches in Illinois, Michigan, Florida and Switzerland before retiring to Michigan. He studied philosophy at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and earned master’s and doctoral degrees from Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey. Now retired, Brouwer lives just north of Holland, Michigan, a few steps from Lake Michigan.
To read Brouwer’s musings on life and faith, please visit https://dougsblog.substack.com/, or follow the author on Twitter (@DouglasBrouwer), Instagram (@douglasbrouwer) or Facebook (@douglas.brouwer.1).
Chasing After Wind: A Pastor’s Life
Publisher: Eerdmans Publishing Company
Release Date: March 1, 2022
Available from Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and www.eerdmans.com
Reviews, photos, links to previous interviews and Q&As are available upon request.