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7 Questions with David Bruner
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7 Questions with David Bruner
Name: David Bruner
Current title: Pastor
Current organisation: City Presbyterian Church
David and Gretchen moved to Auckland in January 2017 to serve with the Grace Presbyterian Churches of NZ. David grew up in North Carolina and went to university there. He served in campus ministry in Colorado, and then went to seminary at Westminster California in San Diego. After he and Gretchen (a primary school teacher) were married in 2013, the Bruners were part of church plants in San Diego and Seattle before being called to long-term ministry in New Zealand. They welcomed their daughter, Sierra, into the world in February 2020. The Bruners enjoy tramping, rock climbing, mountain biking, and sharing stories with friends over a great meal.
1. What have you found most challenging as a church leader?
As I have served in church plants in highly secular contexts throughout my life in ministry the challenge has always been growing the church in a healthy way. As we all know, Western secular culture is highly resistant to the Gospel having a lot of baggage from errors of the church and a heavy bulwark of intellectual challenges to work through. Every week I am in prayer for God's help as I grapple anew with how to contextualise the biblical Gospel to pave the way for modern secular people to come to faith.
2. How did you become a church leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I was active in leadership in a campus ministry in University, and went on to do a full time internship in campus ministry when I graduated. Through the internal sense and external confirmation by others that God was calling me to pursue ministry vocationally. This led to me going to seminary and pastoral internship and eventual ordination in the church.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I take Mondays off to look after our 1 year old daughter. Tuesday mornings after time in Scripture meditation and prayer for myself and my family, I spend praying for people inside and outside the church, and for God to work through our ministry and the world. Then I'll spend some time corresponding with folks to arrange meetings for the remainder of the week. Tuesday afternoons I'll start prepping for the Sunday service and sermon, figuring out the Scripture text and topic and reading secular sources to understand how non-believers in our context are approaching the issues the text addresses. Wednesdays and Thursdays are typically taken up half with 1-1 meetings with people in the church and outside the church and half sermon and Sunday service prep plus admin and organisation for other ministries such as community groups, discipleship groups etc. Friday morning I try to spend serving in a volunteer capacity meeting and serving people in the community, and Friday afternoon finalising everything for Sunday. Saturdays we typically try to do something as a family that may or may not be ministry oriented. Also we'll typically devote 2 variable evenings a week to ministry meetings or having people over for dinner. The other evenings we try to chill out either reading, watching something, playing music etc.
4. What's one book apart from the Bible that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
Probably Centre Church by Tim Keller has been the most shaping of my approach to church leadership. I've long admired Tim as someone who effectively reaches the culture while being faithful to Scripture, and this book is kind of him sharing all his best wisdom for how to do so. I devoured it when it first came out and have walked developing leaders through it on several occasions since.
5. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
Humility. The only way to create a flourishing church culture of grace is to lead as someone sinful and broken fully dependent on God's grace. A wise mentor of mine used the illustration of shepherding a flock by digging wells, and not building fences - drawing people to the sweet irresistible water of God's grace for their souls which is the only thing that truly transforms, not trying to police their behaviour and demand more and more of them.
6. How do you develop a healthy leadership pipeline in a church?
I believe a healthy leadership pipeline is based on providing opportunities for anyone to exercise gifts and grow in them. We make known what needs there are for ministry leadership, ask people to pursue what excites and inspires them, and not what is draining to them, and then coax them along to learn and bear fruit in that sphere of service.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a church leader so far?
The past year and a half we have had three young guys serving in elder and deacon internships. We started out with a very clear curriculum they would progress through to be ordained in a year. A few months into the program one guy's wife fell chronically ill, had to quit her job, and is still bed-ridden much of every week. Another one had his start-up company fail and had a falling out with his dad. Then Covid hit, and the third guy found himself without a job. Needless to say all our best laid plans were completely derailed and I was at a loss for how to go forward. It has been absolutely amazing though to watch God step in and do the leadership training for me. Through very trying circumstances and crises of faith He has carried and grown all three of these guys and they are all more solid in their faith and more humble, mature and keen to serve and lead others than ever. It's been quite a reminder to me of how Jesus is truly the one pastoring and growing His body, and I'm just along for the ride.