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Jim Pace   (Author - 'Should We Fire God?') Jim Pace (Author - 'Should We Fire God?')

'Finding Hope, Once Again'

When the worst school shooting in history occurred, Pastor Jim Pace, a Virginia Tech alumnus, was front and center. Media, students, church members, and strangers asked him the same question: If God is loving, why doesn't He stop disasters before they start?

'SHOULD WE FIRE GOD?' is Jim's thoughtful, reasoned response to the idea that God isn't doing His job very well. In conversational, nonpreachy prose, Jim explains why God allows pain and devastation to occur - and what the consequences would be if He didn't.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Jim Pace about his book, 'Should We Fire God? Finding Hope in God When We Don't Understand,' and first wondered, being that he is a pastor, and that his new book's title was straight-out-of-the-gate eye-catching, why he felt he wanted to write the book in the first place - and its relevance to the three year anniversary of the Virginia Tech massacre? "Thanks for the compliment about the title. There were actually a few publishers who thought the title was too strong. But I felt it needed to be. I have always been a questioner, of just about everything, including God. Also, I didn’t grow up believing in Jesus, this happened just before I finished college, so God and I have had to deal with these issues extensively. I live in a university town, so intelligent and well-informed cynics surround me. As a result, these questions have always swirled around in my head. In the aftermath of the shootings, I felt like this type of question needs to be dealt with."

And just where did that great title originate from anyway? "I was talking with a friend of mine who is not a follower of Jesus but is very spiritually interested. In one of our conversations that turned to the spiritual realm, he and I were just asking questions of each other. One of his was, “Could God ever do anything that is so upsetting to you that you would leave him?” Should We Fire God? is a result of that conversation."

Being that you explain within this book how God sometimes allows life to go terribly wrong, and how we must maintain faith in spite of calamity, it's still going to be a hard pill to swallow for those out there that have suffered more than most - especially those connected to this Virginia Tech travesty. How does your book hope to break through to these, and other such people? "I hope by not shoving anything in anyone’s face. Far too often, segments of the church have tried to push answers that are too simple and too carelessly wielded. I try to not do that. Some of the feedback I have gotten from the book thus far from those that either have been deeply hurt in the past or are walking through pain right now, is that I get them. They feel like I honor the difficulty of their situation and then I offer some thoughts they hadn’t considered before. They sense that I am being honest with how God and I have gone through my life. If that is true, I consider that very high praise."

You have appeared on many TV shows - Larry King Live, Anderson Cooper 360, Good Morning America, etc. - but which experience stands out the most to you even now - and why? "Definitely Good Morning America. I was being interviewed by Dianne Sawyer and Robin Roberts and during a break I made a joke. I have never been stared down like Dianne Sawyer stared me down."

"But that one stands out for more. On that show I was taking email questions about God and suffering on live TV. I remember a young girl from Topeka Kansas asking me if she was safe. Dianne turned and looked at me, again, on live television, and asked what I would say to reassure her."

"Yikes. That was just one of the moments that will always stick with me. One of the many moments of collision between what had happened on our campus, and the realities of the world we live in."

You helped found the Ecclesia Network, a group of churches discussing and learning from the emerging church movement. Please tell us more about this and their collective mission "I have been fortunate to have been a small part of the founding of the ecclesia network. Ecclesia is a relational network of churches, leaders and movements that works to equip, partner and multiply more of the same. It is a small and growing group of churches and leaders that are seeking to understand how we follow Jesus in our context today. A great group of men and women that are leading churches and ministries that are quite different, yet focused on the same mission. I love it."

Finally, I myself (after having been a very fit, healthy person for the first 40 years of my life), have recently suffered three back surgeries, leaving me on the verge of a fourth, and with constant leg numbness and tingling each and every day that passes. Based on your new book, and the teachings within it, can you please explain to me how (on my bad days) I must maintain faith - given that I had done no bad in the world before the first operation, and yet today still feel like these so-called 'calamities' have already (darkly) foreshadowed my future ... thank you "Wow. First of all, let me say I am so sorry to hear that, even though I am sure you aren’t looking for my sympathy. I have friends who are living with long-term physical difficulties and I have learned much from them. So, I am a bit humbled by the question."

"I guess if I could attempt an answer, it would be this. You are loved by God. Deeply and dearly loved. Here is what that means. God is either watching you from a distance and loving you, if you haven’t ever asked him to reconnect with him through his son; or he is watching and loving you from his point of connection to your soul. If you are trying to follow him through this, no doubt at times you have done that better than others. But you are still loved. He isn’t grading you, isn’t putting your efforts on a chart to determine his level of care for you in this."

"What I suspect he would say to you if he were to speak to you directly would be that he will walk with you through this season, however long or (hopefully) short it is. He doesn’t promise to reverse the effects in your physical life, but he does promise to be with you in it. To allow this season to be one of meaning and not just wasted difficulty."

"We are all open to being harmed by this beautiful and broken world we live in, and my experience is that Jesus very much wants to allow us to reconnect with God for that reason, among others. He would like to walk you through your life and show you how you can bring even more meaning from this time. We don’t always get the answers we want from God about suffering and when it will all end, but we get something I think is much better. We get a guide for the journey."

"To answer as big a question as you posed in just a few paragraphs is almost impossible. Hopefully this is a reasonable start."

Interviewed by: Russell A. Trunk

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