April 5, 2013
March 27, 2013
We had a real treat last week: an in-person visit from Andy Crouch, the energetic and insightful executive editor of Christianity Today magazine. He's following up his 2008 IVP title, Culture Making, with a new book coming out this fall entitled Playing God. He was at the Press to lay some of his thinking on us, and it was great. Would you like to listen in?Continue reading "[Video] Andy Crouch on Institutionalism"
February 1, 2013
January 17, 2013
Posted by Jon Boyd at 9:43 AM
December 11, 2012
The title of this blog, "Behind the Books," is a bit of a double-entendre. Most of the time, I'll aim to pull back the curtain on this little publishing house and share some of what's going on in here. (I hope that won't take the edge off your appetite, like the old bit about people who like sausage or law being well advised not to inquire into their making.)
But sometimes (and today is one of those times) I fancy that "Behind the Books" suggests an alternate image.Continue reading "Jigsaw Puzzles with L'Engle and McLellan"
Posted by Jon Boyd at 7:40 AM
August 8, 2012
Thank you to Caitie Johnston for writing this post. Caitie is the Assistant Marketing Manager for IVP.
As booksellers, we have the opportunity to meet some pretty wonderful people in the book publishing industry. We attend many conferences every year, and at each it’s common to see familiar faces. In July, as we attended the International Christian Retail Show in Orlando, FL, we were greeted by old friends from publishers, distributors and booksellers alike. But perhaps the sweetest fellowship we enjoyed on this trip was the time with our authors who came along with us.
We are thankful to publish a variety of books by Christian artist and author Michael Card, who joined us at ICRS this year to promote the next book on Mark in his Biblical Imagination Series. Michael was invited to lead the conference’s evening worship service one night with new songs from his CD Mark: The Beginning of the Gospel, and his classic hit, “Immanuel.” It is a blessing to us to work with an author whose music and writing has impacted so many people for the last thirty years. During his book signing, many booksellers, publishers and other attendees lined up to meet Michael to express their gratitude and share about different concerts and conferences where they saw him throughout the years. Amidst his book signing, performances and interviews, Michael presented the completed manuscript of his next book Matthew: The Gospel of Identity. We look forward to seeing it printed and bound at next year’s ICRS!
We also had the pleasure of hosting Os Guinness, social critic and author of more than twenty-five books. We were honored that he accepted our invitation to ICRS this year to promote his new book, A Free People’s Suicide. We gave away plenty of books at his signing as fans lined up to get their hands on a copy of a new book by the author of such classics like The Call. Although he is living in Washington D.C., Os is still a citizen of Britain, and one fan even tried to convince him to switch over to the U.S. officially.
Michael Card and Os Guinness are very different people—Michael, a singer/songwriter and author from the Tennessee south and Os, a very cheerful but composed Brit— but they hit it off as they were ushered from one event to the next. Michael (@Michael_Card) tried to convince Os to start up his own Twitter feed by showing him how many conversations in the social media world already include references to “Os Guinness.” We’ll see if this is enough to convince Mr. Guinness to join the twittersphere.
This year, IVP also made many connections with new booksellers, and continued our relationships with some of our veteran customers. Booksellers have the most direct contact with our readers and we value their feedback on our many new books. Several popular titles for our bookstores this year were our LifeGuide Bible Study series, the John Stott Bible Studies, God in a Brothel, Sacred Rhythms, the God’s Promises series and our new Understanding the Books of the Bible series.
Another successful ICRS is over, but we’re already revving up for next year!
Posted by Leah Kiple at 11:00 AM
July 3, 2012
Thank you to Logan Mehl-Laituri for this reflection on Independence Day.
July 4th is not just a day to barbeque and catch up with friends. It is a day to remember our independence and how we became a distinct people as Americans. It was this day 236 years ago that a number of courageous souls openly declared that monarchy was no longer a tolerable form of political expression. They demanded popular sovereignty, and they eventually got it.
I think the experiment they inaugurated was an incredible achievement. But it also wasn't perfect. Popular sovereignty is coupled with popular responsibility. If we are proud of our nation's successes, we also must mourn our collective failures. If we love our country, it means that we bear with it through sickness and good health.
Our nation's military forces, which contributed significantly to our freedom from colonial rule, might be a bellwether. If it is, then we are in a period of ill health, and our country needs to realize this. For many years now, more soldiers have been falling on their own swords here at home than have been falling to the sword in battle (which has raged longer than ever before in our history). As we have for centuries, Christians need to pray for our country, that the violence on all sides of the gun may cease.
As Christians, we can sometimes forget who our real founding fathers were. While I certainly share in the cultural heritage Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and George Washington birthed, my true identity is defined by folks like Peter, Paul, Francis of Assisi, Ignatius of Loyola and Martin of Tours. I might be distinctively American, but I am determinatively Christian. I love my country, but I love God more.
So what might happen if we let our identity rest more in Christ than in country? How might that impact the militiamen (and women) who will likely grace innumerable parades today? The Church has not questioned war very well, leaving it to the individual service members themselves to wrestle with war and morality. Without a larger moral framework, soldiers and veterans often feel the responsibility laid solely on their shoulders. Though some might be guilty, all are responsible.
Nobody goes to war alone in a democracy; we all share the burden. At worst, even the "us-versus-them" mentality reflects the fact that it's all of "us" that go to war. As recently as my parents' generation, waging war had social impact; taxes were increased to share the monetary burden, food was rationed and gardens flourished. Even professional sports stopped. We could not just change the channel, nor should we continue to do so.
Silence and complacency are no longer options, they are a betrayal. Churches have men and women serving in the armed forces who collectively suffer the worst suicide rate ever recorded. This year there has been one soldier suicide every day . If the trend continues, it will double the rate from last year, which itself was a record high. For half a decade at least, veterans have been ending their own lives at a rate of seventeen per day. This is not merely a statistic, it's an epidemic.
If we love our country and those who protect it—and we should—then July 4th is a day to do more than celebrate; it is a day to act, a day to pray. The wars are not over, not for those who fought them. The war in their hearts and minds will rage for years, maybe the rest of their lives. You, Church, are to pray for the wars to find their end. Some of us may fight with weapons, but we all fight with our faith.
Today, remember your founding fathers, remember their deaths as readily as you do your brothers and sisters. More often than not, their blood was spilled not in the fight, but in the refusal to fight. Their blood was not a cry for war, but a call to prayer. Let that prayer be heard in your life and in the lives of those who suffer on both sides of the gun. Let freedom ring for both the victims and perpetrators of collective violence. May God's will be done.
Posted by Leah Kiple at 4:25 PM
May 30, 2012
James Emery White takes his readers on a pilgrimage to some of the most important sites in the history of Christianity in his new book Traveler's Guide to the Kingdom. From Martin Luther's Wittenberg to The Eagle and Child Pub where C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and other Inklings met, this book reflects on the Christian life across the world and throughout past centuries.
Get a closer look at this unique book through this Q&A with Dr. White:
What is the significance of this book being a "traveler's guide"?
It carries something of a double meaning. Each chapter is rooted in a place of spiritual significance that I take the reader to, and then each place/chapter introduces a bit of a traveler's guide to the Christian life through that place. Pilgrimages have long been significant to Christian life and thought, as have mentors. This is something of an attempt to combine the two.
You have written Serious Times, Christ Among the Dragons and A Mind for God. Why did you decide to write this Traveler's Guide and how does it compare with your other books on Christianity and culture?
I've always had my feet in several camps: the church and the academy, culture and apologetics, and spiritual formation. I wrote a book called Embracing the Mysterious God that won several awards--and was later released as Wrestling with God, also through IVP--on life in Christ. This is something of a return to that. But in truth, I reject separating life into compartments.We can't engage culture apart from a life in Christ; we can't journey with Christ apart from our minds. It's all one thing.
Why do you say that place matters, particularly as it pertains to this Traveler's Guide to the Kingdom?
From the beginning of human history, we have invested certain places with significance and meaning, sometimes because of their historical significance, sometimes because of their symbolic significance. To this day, people travel to the Holy Land to walk where Jesus walked. Or to Dachau. Or Iona. But it's not simply what happened at these places, or the personalities involved. It's the meaning of what took place. And that it took place. So in the book, when we "travel" to St. Catherine's monastery at the foot of Mt. Sinai, it reminds us that there is a God, and he has not been silent. He has been making himself known from the very beginning. Our God is the God of Moses. Our God is the God of Sinai. Our God is the God of the burning bush. Our God is the God of everything, and everyone, you read of in the Bible. Standing there conveys that with a weight unlike any other experience; so yes, place matters to us as humans.We are temporal, earthly creatures. It's difficult to underestimate its power.
Give us a glimpse of what we learn from Iona Abbey in Scotland.
That particular chapter explores the spiritual life proper. I have traveled to many places that seemed "spiritual." I have never been quite sure whether it was because it was steeped in religious history or full of mystery, or whether my soul simply resonated with the atmosphere. All I know is that Iona is, for me, a spiritual place. It feels like you are standing on the edge of the world, alone with your spirit before the Spirit, in nature's great monastery where buildings are only a part of the cloister. There are few places on the planet that call us to such powerful reflection and interaction with God. In the book, I explore the idea that we don't really have a spiritual life.We just have our life, and it is meant to be lived spiritually. Then I explore the myths that surround the life we pursue in Christ--and there are many--and the realities of how to truly develop an intimate relationship with God.
What are three things you hope readers take away from this Traveler's Guide?
Obviously an appreciation for these places. Our Christian history is being lost. A life such as Corrie ten Boom's, and her "hiding place," is virtually unknown to many younger Christians. Places like Iona, even Dachau, must be remembered. Second, I would hope for a sense of what the journey with Christ is meant to hold for us, and how it can hold it for us--again, the mentoring element. And finally, to see that we are creating history with our own lives in our own day, creating places and living lives that may inspire future generations, if we will prove faithful.
Posted by Leah Kiple at 4:00 PM
January 18, 2012
Thank you to Jeff Crosby, Associate Publisher and Director of Sales & Marketing for this post.
The Advent season we have just journeyed through is one in which our senses are often heightened beyond the norm: The fragrance of lit candles and the sound of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite; the taste of eggnog and the brilliance of multi-colored lights trimming homes and trees; the warm touch of friends and family who have gathered with us.
In spite of the oft-times hectic pace of the cultural trappings of the Advent season, it is one in which we are often more aware of the senses, more in tune with the wonder of Immanuel, God with us.
But what about the rest of the year?
If I'm honest, I realize that I'm very much like the people my friends Beth A. Booram and J. Brent Bill are writing to in their just-released book Awaken Your Senses when they say:
And we need to live in that present time. After all, it's the only time that we have. But how do we cultivate the disciplined use of our senses in seasons, unlike Advent, during which the world is experienced in gray rather than vivid color? When we hear the cacophony of suburban traffic more often and more loudly than the beautiful sound of the Wood Thrush? When friends and family are not near, but quite far from us and distant from our physical touch?
In a recent conversation about his reason for writing Awaken Your Senses, Brent Bill, whom I first met nearly a quarter century ago and whose written work I've followed and appreciated throughout the intervening years, explained it this way:
And that is exactly what Awaken Your Senses does: Open readers up to experiencing God present with us. Immanuel, throughout the year.
I've known Beth Booram, the book's co-author, for a much shorter period of time than Brent. But she, too, has become a friend and a trusted guide. We share a love of classical music, the outdoors, and family. We also share an appreciation for well-crafted - and kindly-spoken - words.
In a section of the book titled "Tasting Words," Beth writes powerfully and metaphorically about the ability to "taste" words, whether those that are life-affirming, sweet and appetizing (words like loving, kind, honest, beautiful, sincere, valiant) or words that are bitter and distasteful (cruel, vile, worthless, ugly, ungrateful). She leads readers through a very poignant spiritual exercise she calls "tasting forgiveness" (see video link below) that is one we all should be mindful of in any season. But as the calendar turns from Advent and Christmastide to Lent and Eastertide in the weeks ahead, her message on the taste of forgiveness is all the more penetrating, and all the more timely. (Drawing on the right by Marcy Jean Stacey; one of several "sense" pictures in the book)
Awaken Your Senses was written for people like me - and, maybe, like you - who need wise and helpful guides on the journey of exploring the wonder of God in any and all seasons: Advent and Christmastide; Lent and Eastertide. And beyond.
Immanuel, God with us.
Posted by Leah Kiple at 1:15 PM
December 20, 2011
Every summer I work at a wilderness island, Isle Royale National Park, in Lake Superior close to the Canadian border. One thing I love about living so far north is the seemingly never-ending amount of daytime. I rise with the sun at 6 AM, and then watch the last glow of sunset around 11 PM. It's a season of light.
There's no cell phone coverage, no roads, no cars. My groceries arrive every two weeks on a small boat. Here, I am forced to slow down, make do, and get by with what I have.
On my hike to work at the ranger station each morning, I might snack on wild raspberries, or stop to enjoy the fog wisps over the harbor. A moose and her twin calves may block the trail, and I marvel at their gawky grace. Wolf tracks imprint the shoreline. The quiet is broken only by birdsong and wind in the birches.
As I relax into the rhythms of creation each summer, week after week, I find myself remembering something deep in my bones. In wilderness, I feel connected to the one who created it all. And, I love the days... filled with light.
At home, just outside of Chicago, it's the Christmas season. I find myself sucked into the tyranny of the must-dos. There's holiday baking, Christmas cards, and shopping for my self-imposed ideas of the perfect gifts for friends and family. I dash to the grocery store each time I run out of shortening or eggs, and I find myself in the car more than I'd like, driving on endless errands. Horns blare, "Santa Baby" plays on store intercoms, and jets roar overhead.
I wake up in darkness, and by afternoon I'm snapping on lights around the house to fend off the twilight. The sense of connectedness to something deep that I felt in the summer is almost obliterated by now, victim to white noise and busyness. I miss the light.
It's now, right before Christmas, that I remind myself to slow down and spend time remembering. Remembering how to be quiet. How to pay attention. And, remembering to soak up some light.
One way to go deeper and slow down is to spend time with the prayers and writings of the church fathers and mothers, and the scriptures that frame the Advent season. It is in these ancient words that we remember our connections to something deeper than the passing whims and demands of the moment. It's a way to be quiet, and pay attention. And it's a reminder of the light that has illuminated our faith.
As I compiled the Ancient Christian Devotional series during the past five years for IVP, I fell in love with some of the writings of Ambrose of Milan. He lived around 333-397 and was known as a pastor of souls as well as a scholar. When I meditate on his words, I can understand why. His writings from so many centuries ago remind me of whose child I am, and of the deep roots of my faith. His words bring me back to the light.
One of my favorite Ambrose passages is excerpted in the Christmas week readings in the Ancient Christian Devotional (Lectionary Cycle C). Ambrose writes of Jesus:
Such ancient words! But they still illuminate the darkness.
As I paged through old prayer books and stacks of Ancient Christian Commentaries, looking for writings and ancient prayers to include in the devotional series, I came across this prayer from a Celtic abbot, Columbanus. He wrote, "We ask nothing other than that you give us yourself. For you are our all: our light, our salvation, our food and our drink, our God. Inspire our hearts, I ask you, Jesus, with that breath of your spirit."
"You are...our light." This Advent season, amid the tumult of to-do lists and self-imposed expectations, I'm trying to slow down and connect again with those ancient words. I am reminded of the light, even when the season dictates that these are the darkest days of the year. I rejoice with the familiar lines from the ninth chapter of Isaiah that open the readings for Christmas week:
December 1, 2011
Thanks to our IVP Books print publicist, Suanne Camfield for this post!
It was late Wednesday night when we finally met. After circling the airport three times, I spotted him in black dress pants and a dark winter coat. After months of planning, plotting, strategizing, exchanging emails, and conference-calling, Daniel Walker, author of God in a Brothel: An Undercover Journey into Sex Trafficking and Rescue, had finally touched down in Chicago.
I was busting at the seams.
The Anti Trafficking Tour that had begun in California exactly one week earlier was already a success. Kicking off with the Global Forum on Human Trafficking and followed by college and church events, crowds of all ages were responding to Daniel's message about modern-day slavery. But while my coworkers and I had heard great reports from the field (our online publicist Adrianna Wright, who had accompanied Daniel to California, told us, "He's pretty much a rock star"), I don't think any of us were prepared to hear Daniel's story firsthand.
We had invited Daniel to "IVP Day" --our annual, offsite company-wide gathering. After a few jetlagged hours of sleep, Daniel stood at a podium in front of all ninety-plus of us and began with a warm New Zealand "G'Day", making the room ripple with laughter. It wasn't long, however, before his comments turned serious: today, more than two million children are exploited in the commercial sex industry. As an undercover investigator, Daniel had rescued hundreds of these children, but couldn't possibly save them all. His encounters with girls like Maria, Paks and Jenni were enough to make a person clap in triumph at the same time she weeps in disgust. Hope and despair, all wrapped up in the same twisted story.
Maybe that's why, after Daniel finished speaking, our staff lined up to shake his hand and offer their own word of thanks. It's not everyday we get to see the fruits of our publishing labor, a tangible reminder that what we do--behind computers and marketing plans and spreadsheets and cover designs and packaging peanuts and forklifts--matters. What we do actually makes a difference.
Over the course of the next ten days, I listened to Daniel's story another dozen times. From Chicago to New York, in radio and magazine interviews, on city campuses and in suburban churches, even in the halls of MSNBC, I heard Daniel advocate for young girls, boys and women with clarity, passion and conviction. I watched crowds at every stop swipe at their tears and gasp in disbelief, and even though by the end l had heard the talk so often that I could anticipate each word, at every stop I found myself doing the same thing. I witnessed firsthand what happens when kingdom people catch a vision for the least of these.
Through our Anti-Trafficking Tour, in partnership with Compassion International and Hagar International, nearly a hundred children vulnerable to being sold into slavery were sponsored by individuals and families like you. Because of Compassion's extraordinary prevention program, these children will not fall prey to the wiles of human traffickers. In addition, Hagar International collected hundreds of emails from those interested in the difficult but critical work of restoring rescued victims physically, emotionally and spiritually.
The tour was the first of its kind for IVP. It had its ups and downs; details got rearranged, directions misconstrued, hotel reservations mysteriously lost and meetings cancelled and rescheduled. But when it was all said and done, Daniel gave more than twenty interviews, spoke to nearly a thousand people and--always a perk for a publisher--we sold a lot of books. More importantly though, the Anti-Trafficking Tour helped all of us here at IVP embrace and live out one of our core values: "to influence, engage and shape the university world and our contemporary culture for the sake of Jesus Christ and his kingdom in the world."It's why we love being behind the books.
October 4, 2011
Thanks to our online publicist, Adrianna Wright, for contributing this post!
Isn't it a relief when you meet someone who just gets it? Someone who isn't afraid to ask the hard questions and willing to be honest about his failings. Someone who cares deeply about Scripture and also has a fantastic sense of humor. Someone who seeks to be obedient but has a tender heart.
So describes my friend Jamie Arpin-Ricci. Jamie has blogged for a number of years, and it's through his blogging that I first came to know him. Over three years ago, Tom Sine recommended that I send a copy of his book New Conspirators to some Canadian bloggers, so I reached out to Jamie to see if he'd be interested in receiving a review copy. Indeed he was, and thus our relationship began.
Given my job as online publicist, I spend a decent amount of time staying in touch with bloggers about book requests and (hopefully!) ensuing reviews, so much of my interaction with Jamie followed along these standard lines. Yet after a while, another thread began to emerge in our communication. In the summer of 2009, Jamie offhandedly mentioned that a few of the books I'd sent (Following Jesus Through the Eye of the Needle and How to Inherit the Earth) had been "very influential in my own book (in process)".
Well forgive me, but I work for a book publisher, and when someone whose writing I respect just happens to say that a book might be lurking within, I jump all over it! And so it was that I learned Jamie was working on a book about St. Francis as "a timely and timeless example for the church in a post-Christian world." Hmm ...
Fast-forward to January 2010, when Jamie wrote to apprise me of a number of reviews that he'd written and to request a few more books. He also let me know that he "had to shelve the St. Francis project temporarily, as I am finalizing a volume on the Sermon on the Mount as missional and communal formation."
So I responded in typically professional fashion with, "Ooh, the book you're working on sounds yummy. Do you think it would be a good fit in our Likewise line?"
Well, over the next few months Jamie began to finalize his proposal. After he sent me the first draft of the proposal, I decided it was time to hand it over to Dave Zimmerman, who as an editor, actually acquires manuscripts ... So in May 2010, we officially acquired Jamie as an IVP author and slated The Cost of Community for November 2011!
In June this year, I finally had a chance to meet Jamie at the Wild Goose Festival, and I'm pleased to report that Jamie in person is exactly like the Jamie I had come to know through his writing. In short, Jamie gets it, and you should get his book.
"The familiar terrain of the Sermon on the Mount yields fresh insights and challenges in this grace-filled book. Wisdom gained from St. Francis and from life in the Little Flowers Community illuminates Jesus' central teachings in ways that help us see clearly their beauty, relevance and possibility."
--Christine D. Pohl, Ph.D., professor of social ethics, Asbury Theological Seminary
August 19, 2011
Is there a right and wrong way to evangelize? How could the way Christians proselytize affect the Gospel message? Elmer Thiessen discusses these questions and many others in his new book, The Ethics of Evangelism: A Philosophical Defense of Proselytizing and Persuasion.
Dr. Thiessen recently took time out of his busy summer schedule to answer some questions on the main points of his new book:
How do you define proselytizing?
I define proselytizing, or evangelism (I used the terms interchangeably) as the deliberate attempt of a person or organization, through communication, to bring about the conversion of another person or a group of persons, where conversion is understood to involve a change of a person's belief, behavior, identity, and sense of belonging. Although my focus in the book is on religious proselytizing, it should be obvious from this definition that proselytizing occurs in many contexts, including the area of commercial marketing. Advertisers are trying to change our identities! It is also fairly common to define proselytizing as bad evangelism. I, on the other hand, use the term in a neutral sense, where proselytizing can be either good or bad. In short, proselytizing involves any attempt at trying to convert a person.
What are some of the ethical objections leveled against religious proselytizing?
I deal with a dozen different objections to proselytizing in my book. Many view it as inherently wrong because it seems arrogant and intolerant. Persuading another is seen as meddling or an invasion of privacy. It is also seen as coercive. Missionary activity can be described as religious colonialism or cultural genocide. Some critics assume that proselytizing is wrong because religion is inherently irrational or unverifiable. There is also a weaker form of opposition to proselytizing, which maintains that proselytizing is often, or nearly always immoral. Here, some critics point to the unwelcome consequences of proselytizing. It sometimes (often) leads to hatred and division. Some proselytizers claim a right to proselytizing while denying this right to others. The motivations of proselytizing are also often questioned. Is it merely a form of self-aggrandizement? Or, is it a way to overcome self-doubt?
What are the characteristics of ethical proselytizing?
Ethical proselytizing protects the dignity and freedom of the individual and cares genuinely for the person being proselytized. These are the foundational characteristics. Obviously, any kind of physical coercion is wrong. Similar concerns arise with regard to social and psychological coercion, though as I argue in my book, these are difficult to define, and so we can at best rule out extremes in social and psychological coercion. Financial inducements to convert are also wrong. Ethical proselytizing must always be truthful and humble, even to the point of admitting that one might be wrong. After all, we as Christians only know in part! Ethical proselytizing will take into account and show some respect for the communal identity and culture of the proselytizee. It should be noted, finally, that success is not a criterion of ethical proselytizing.
Why is it important to note the difference between ethics and etiquette?
Frankly, I find it rather annoying to have Jehovah Witnesses or Mormons come to my door from time to time in order to spread their faith. It's embarrassing to have to refuse their invitations and finally close the door on them. I prefer to be left alone, but have they done anything morally wrong? Obviously not! They have only encroached on standards of civility that we have come to accept in a liberal democracy. That is why I think the distinction between ethics and etiquette is so important. Proselytizing is frequently seen to violate our standards of civility, or violate our normal etiquette, but these standards are not central and are relative to a specific culture. Ethical norms, on the other hand are more important and universal. My concern in the book is to uphold ethical standards in proselytizing.
How should churches evaluate their evangelistic efforts?
The first step for churches is to be aware of the importance of doing evangelism in an ethical manner. There is a danger, particularly in evangelical churches, to think that because evangelism is so important, we shouldn't worry at all about how we go about doing evangelism. But Christ's message needs to be conveyed in a Christ-like manner. Therefore, I believe churches should spend some time reflecting on how they do evangelism. There are some key biblical passages where concerns about the ethics of evangelism are raised (Luke 9:51-6; I Cor. 4:1-2; I Peter 3:16-16). The approaches to evangelism in a church should be evaluated in the light of these passages. In my book, I identify 15 criteria in Appendix I to distinguish between ethical and unethical evangelism. This might be a useful checklist to help a church assess how they are doing in terms of ethical evangelism. It is also important for members of a church to hold each other accountable; we need to help one another uphold the highest ethical standards in spreading the Good News of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Elmer Thiessen is currently spending his summer at a college in Debra Zeit, Ethiopia teaching a course called "Philosophy, Theology and Logic" to 25 seasoned Ethiopian pastors.
Posted by Leah Kiple at 9:15 AM
June 27, 2011
Thanks to Mark Scandrette, author of Practicing the Way of Jesus, for this inside look at how he strives to integrate the teachings of Jesus into the details of his life.
So many people feel a pull toward a more embodied path for spiritual formation. But as one leader recently observed, "There is a lot of radical noise in the church today with little radical action." I wrote my latest book, Practicing the Way Of Jesus, to help address this gap between how we want to live and how we actually live. In the book, I suggest that followers of Jesus have always been formed best by taking tangible steps in solidarity with others, to live into a vision of life in the kingdom of God. I like to call these risks of obedience, "experiments," because we learn to integrate the teachings of Jesus into the details of our lives through creative trial and error. An easy way to get momentum is by inviting a friend into a short-term shared experiment.
Over the phone last week my friend Nate made an offhand comment about how his electronic communication devices were crowding out his awareness of God and attention to people. He said, "Its gotten out of hand when I reach for my device before kissing my wife good morning." Nate and I both spend a lot of time using communication technology in our work (smart phones, email, etc). These are compelling and useful devices for getting things done and staying connected; however, we've both noticed a tendency to be compulsive, jumping up to check email before having a few moments of prayer in the morning or replying to email or status updates at the breakfast table when we should be giving our full attention to those we love. We asked each other, "Why do we do struggle with this?" Partly its the little 'hit' you get when email arrives in the inbox. But we surmised that on a deeper level, it's because we have a fear of missing out or worrying that if we unplug we might lose some of our power to control what happens in the world.
How do the teachings of Jesus speak to these issues? He invites us to trust and not worry, to "welcome children" and to pay loving attention to the people nearest us. Nate and I decided to do a a seven-day experiment together to pursue these things, using principles of abstinence and engagement. We made a commitment to do the following each day: (1) engage face to face with another person and read something on paper before turning to our devices; (2) limit checking email to twice a day-- once in the morning and once in the late afternoon); (3) When going through text messages and emails, pause momentarily to pray, "Your kingdom come, your will be done..." for each person represented before hitting "reply" or "delete."
Nate and I both experienced dramatic shifts during the week. Clarifying boundaries between work and rest made us more available to our families. Pausing to pray for each person we messaged elevated the task of correspondence to a sacred appointment. And by adopting voluntary limits, we both felt less stressed and hurried. During the week, I struggled to pray mindfully before hitting "send," and once or twice Nate checked his email an extra time. But in general, we found it easy to keep these commitments because we were doing it together. We learned something tangible about what it looks like for us to practice the way of Jesus in the messy details of our lives.
For more on Mark and his other experiments in the way of Jesus, visit www.jesusdojo.com.
Posted by Leah Kiple at 8:08 AM
June 17, 2011
This weekend is a time of joy and celebration for some, but for others, Father’s Day can be a reminder of painful memories and disappointments.
Whether you have a significant relationship with your father or not, the Heavenly Father has already given his life out of love for you. In the book, The Girl in the Orange Dress, author Margot Starbuck recounts her search for a father who does not fail. What she finds is a vastly loving God who says, “I am for you.”
Now, two years after the book’s publication, Margot reflects on her life and the redemption she’s now found through her Father God. Read “Searching for Abba on Father’s Day” on Christianity Today’s blog her.meneutics. Margot’s words are a reminder that the God of the Universe is also the Father who never fails.
Posted by Leah Kiple at 12:04 PM
May 3, 2011
Thank you to Jenell Williams Paris for this post about her new book, The End of Sexual Idenity.
Let’s face it: sex is complicated. Christians sometimes dodge the complexity and discomfort of talking about sex either by making definitive moral pronouncements that seem to settle it once and for all, or by simply refusing to talk about it. But many Christian leaders, including pastors, teachers, lay leaders and others, want to do more than just get the “sex talk” over with. They want to really love people, helping them center every part of their lives in Jesus’ love, including even their sex lives.
My book, The End of Sexual Identity, encourages Christians to pursue sexual holiness in the complexity of the real world. Sexual holiness is nothing new—it’s the old, old story of Jesus and his love, applied to our sexual journeys. For individuals, it’s the call to live life centered, oriented, toward the love of God. We can then reject any other orientation— heterosexuality, even—that would distract us from the central importance of who we really are as beloved children of God. On the corporate level, it’s a call to Christian unity, that we may love other Christians so much we can’t bear to separate from one another, even despite theological and personal differences in sexuality.
In the book, the sexual identity framework is the lens through which I view broader matters of sexuality such as marriage, celibacy, and sexual desire. The book takes on the sexual identity framework—the secular notion that one’s sexual feelings are indicative of one’s identity. The sexual identity framework is divisive, setting believers against one another, and dividing individuals within themselves as they strive to fit with one category or another instead of living before God as a unique individual.
I wrote The End of Sexual Identity with some trepidation, worrying that it might just add fuel to the fire of Christian in-fighting about homosexuality. I want to step back from those heated battles to begin reframing the conversation in a way that leads to civility and mutual respect. My highest hope for the book, however, is that it would inspire sacred conversation about sex—conversation that is real, vulnerable, and consequential. It’s an invitation to all believers to consider how the love of God might challenge, bless, and renew their sexual lives.
Jenell Williams Paris (Ph.D., American University) is professor of anthropology at Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania. She has written for such publications as Christianity Today, Books & Culture and Christian Scholar's Review. Her books include Birth Control for Christians, Urban Disciples and Introducing Cultural Anthropology: A Christian Perspective.
April 21, 2011
In honor of Earth Day tomorrow, we present this lovely meditation from Lisa McMinn, author of the book Walking Gently on the Earth. Here she reflects on the rhythms of life on their small farm, Fern Creek.
In the Pacific Northwest we’re still in the 2010-2011 La Nina year, which means cooler, wetter springs than usual. Mark and I walk Fern Creek’s gardens most afternoons like hovering parents checking on the young broccoli and cabbage transplants to see how they are managing the hardship of a cold wet spring, and to see if more snow peas, arugula and spinach have decided to break ground.
When we aren’t teaching, writing, or preparing talks we’re often occupied with tasks related to food: growing, preserving, preparing or eating it. Last night for dinner I poured a jar of last season’s spicy tomato sauce into a pan, added a few pesto cubes and a handful of oven-roasted tomatoes from the freezer, crushed up half a dried cayenne pepper, splashed in some red wine, and simmered it all for a bit before ladling it over homemade pasta. That we are still eating bounty from last year’s crops while this year’s basil plants are under the grow lights downstairs and the tomato plants are filling out in the cold frame inclines us to give thanks. Even given our worrisome, cooler, wetter-than-normal spring. La Nina or not, the earth will explode with flavor, color, and aroma as fruits, vegetables and flowers awaken. It always does.
So as we walk down rows of strawberries, or sit down at our table to eat we give thanks. Besides creating an Earth that bursts with plant life, God designed a world where one creature’s action helps another creature flourish. We thank God for that, too. I love our interdependence—all creation groans together in harmony, yearning to come into the fullness of God’s intention and glory (Romans 8:19-23).
We thank God for people who bring us food we don’t grow on Fern Creek, like dairy, wheat, and of course, cocoa farmers—who I’m especially thankful for, since we consume a lot of chocolate. Thanking God for cocoa farmers reminds me to buy cocoa in ways that help farmers and families in West Africa flourish, which means buying fair-trade chocolate instead of more familiar brands that buy cocoa funneled in from plantations using trafficked children for farm labor.
I’m also thankful for God’s critters who contribute to the food on my plate, like bees who pollinate fruits and vegetables and from whom we collect rent in exchange for housing. Or Chicken Little, Penelope, and Greta (to name a few) who give us eggs, fertilize our gardens in the winter, and eat larva that would otherwise grow to wreak havoc for organic fruit growers. And when we venture from our typical vegetarian fare to eat Tilapia for Easter I will be thankful for the fish that died so that we might celebrate life and family while drawing nourishment from its flesh.
Eating is a sacred act. Jesus used the metaphor to refer to his own life-giving sacrificial act, commanding Christians to eat in remembrance of God’s saving grace. Could I prepare and eat every meal mindfully, remembering God’s love, and reflecting God’s desire for life on Earth to flourish?
I think about these matters more now that spring has arrived and we’ll have 12 families depending on us for food. (In addition to our teaching jobs, Mark and I operate a small CSA—Community Supported Agriculture.) We find the work of farming as deeply satisfying as the joy of eating from Earth’s abundance, both acknowledgements of our responsibility to be good caretakers of God’s Earth.
Tonight we noticed the potatoes we planted in March are beginning to leaf out, and that we’ll have asparagus in time for Easter.
Lisa Graham McMinn (Ph.D., Portland State University) is professor of sociology in the department of sociology and social work at George Fox University in Oregon.
For more from Lisa on how Christians can live with intention, using the power of our choices to walk gently on an earth that is beautiful and broken, check out Walking Gently on the Earth.
Posted by Rebecca Larson at 9:24 AM
April 18, 2011
When Clouds of Witnesses, the new book by Mark Noll and Carolyn Nystrom, appeared on my desk recently, I was intrigued by the premise: an up-close look at seventeen Christians from Africa and Asia who lived remarkable lives of faith and leadership. I scanned the chapter list and was also interested to note that I had not heard of any of them. This was not the usual roster of Western heroes of the faith.
I have the extraordinary privilege of attending church with Carolyn and Mark, so I was excited to learn that they would be leading a six week Sunday School class based on the content of Clouds of Witnesses. After just one class I was hooked!
We explored the fascinating life of William Wadé Harris, an African evangelist/apostle who traveled the Ivory Coast during the early 1900s making converts to a unique brand of Christianity that sprung from his own mixed background: a combination of native religion, Methodism, Anglicanism—and a visit from the angel Gabriel in which Harris was supposedly commanded to wear a long white robe, burn all his tribal fetishes, perform Christian baptisms, carry a long cane, preach Christ everywhere and become a prophet like Elijah. He was eventually instrumental in establishing hundreds of churches along the Ivory Coast, many of which still survive today as “Harris churches.” He is also considered by many to be one of the originators of today’s prosperity gospel.
Harris is a controversial figure. Historians ask, “Was he truly Christian? Was he sane? (His wife thought not.) How did African indigenous religion and culture shape the Christianity that Harris practiced? What good did he accomplish? What evils resulted? How did his influence shape African and now global Christianity?”
After hearing Carolyn describe his life and legacy in more detail, I find those questions all the more perplexing. Perhaps the most interesting part of the story for me was this: when Harris moved on from one town to the next, he would create “churches” to continue his mission, appointing 12 apostles, often from recently converted fetish witch doctors. He instructed them to build churches and to “wait for a white man with a Bible,” someone who could come and explain to them the meaning of their conversion more fully.
And here’s the amazing part: they did—by the thousands! Imagine the scene when, after World War One ended, white missionaries began returning to Africa to resume their pre-war work:
“Ten years later British Methodist missionary W. J. Platt was among the early white arrivals on the scene. In town after town he found church structures full of people waiting for ‘teachers of the Book.’ In the meantime they had learned a few hymns from store clerks; some of their leaders had walked great distances to hear a Christian sermon, then walked back to repeat it as best they could to their own people. One of their few readers would select a single verse from the Bible and explain it over and over to those who listened. By 1924 thousands of people waited in and around these buildings for missionaries to continue the work that their Prophet Harris had begun.”
I get chills just thinking about it. And I ask myself, am I as hungry as they were to learn from the Bible? They waited for a decade for someone to teach them about God's Word. I have access to all kinds of resources and teachers, and yet I have to remind myself to study the Bible regularly.
I can’t say for sure that all of Harris’s theology was sound (at least by today's theological and cultural standards). He did get some major things wrong—like polygamy, for instance. But I believe the Spirit of God used him, with of all his syncretism and imperfections, just as he uses the strange blend of cultural influences and theology we all carry with us. It’s encouraging to think that if God could use a character like Harris, then he can use a broken, imperfect character like me. And it's humbling to realize how unaware most of us are of the history and contributions of the non-Western church, and how much they have to teach us.
There are many other fascinating figures just waiting to be discovered in Clouds of Witnesses. Ever heard of Watchman Nee? Yeah, he’s not in there. But the Chinese revival preacher Dora Yu, who was instrumental in Watchman Nee’s conversion to Christianity, is. I hope you’ll take the time to read about these more obscure—yet no less important—figures of Christian history, these stories behind the stories. May their lives give you cause to think, pray, marvel and hope in the God who is always at work bringing people to himself and accomplishing his purposes through vital Christian faith lived out in a diversity of global contexts.
Posted by Rebecca Larson at 2:52 PM
April 13, 2011
When my friend Greg Bowman speaks, I can count on him to shoot as straight as a west Kansas highway - even when I may not like what he says. We all need people like that, right?
So I listened closely when Bowman, a close friend for more than a quarter century and a small group pastor for nearly that long, told me, “No resources have had a more profound impact on my life and ministry than the Apprentice Series,” and went on to declare that “the books are making true life-change possible for the first time for so many.”
I listened. And I liked what I heard.Continue reading "Apprentice Series Continues to Impact Lives "
Posted by Rebecca Larson at 12:46 PM
March 23, 2011
Lately we’ve had several exciting opportunities to support our authors by attending conferences across the country. Here's a snapshot of just three of the most recent events.
Big Tent Christianity
In February, online print publicist Adrianna Wright attended Big Tent Christianity, a newer event with the goal to “bring people together from across the country to proclaim what unites us as followers of Jesus in this modern world.” This particular Big Tent event was a relatively small affair held at Church of the Beatitudes in Phoenix, AZ. Here, Mark Scandrette, author of the forthcoming Practicing the Way of Jesus, spoke on cultivating mission, creating a “Jesus Dojo,” and what emerging Christianity looks like.
A few weeks later, Adrianna also attended the Jubilee conference, an event for the Coalition of Christian Outreach (CCO) staff and their students, held at the David L. Lawrence Convention center in downtown Pittsburgh. At this established event, numerous IVP authors spoke at various plenary sessions, including Soong-Chan Rah, Walt Mueller, James Emery White, and Kent Annan (pictured here discussing his new book, After Shock).
In early March digital marketing manager Andrew Bronson had the opportunity to attend the SCUPE conference in Chicago. SCUPE is the Seminary Consortium for Urban Pastoral Education, an agency offering educational programs for pastors interested in better serving their urban communities. The conference focus this year was on peacemaking, and one of the speakers was our very own IVP author, Shane Claiborne. Along with his book, Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers (coauthored with Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove), IVP featured many of our newest social justice books including the Duke Center Resources for Reconciliation series, Social Justice Handbook, Mobilizing Hope by Adam Taylor and the most recent book from Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Loving Your Neighbor.
IVP is committed to publishing books on critical topics like social justice and peacemaking, and conferences like SCUPE help spread the word about these relevant resources.
To find out more about SCUPE and their mission, please visit scupe.org.
A Look Ahead
We're also revving up for another great Q conference this year. The Q Gathering meets to bring the church and our cultural leaders together to explore ways we can express the Gospel in our modern cultural context. If you’ll be in Portland between April 27-29, come check it out! Our own Adam Taylor was just added to the exciting speaker lineup, and you won't want to miss him. For more information, please visit qideas.org
Posted by Rebecca Larson at 3:39 PM
March 1, 2011
(Many thanks to Juliet Benner, author of Contemplative Vision, for this post.)
Lent is a time of preparation for Easter and the mysteries of life, death and resurrection that we celebrate during Holy Week. Many Christians understand this preparation primarily in terms of things that they choose to give up for the 40 days before Easter. But if Holy Week is a ritual walk through the events of the passion, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, perhaps the most basic way of thinking about preparation for this is to view Lent as spreading our engagement with these Holy Week events over 40 days rather than 7. What if you could use Lent as a 6 week journey with Jesus in which you spend time with him in Gospel meditation, watching his interactions with others and getting to know him? Think of how this would prepare you for Maundy Thursday when you accompany him to the Last Supper with his disciples. Or how it would help you enter more fully into his suffering and crucifixion on Good Friday, or your waiting with him on that longest day of the year - the Holy Saturday of his entombment. And think how this would help you then journey with Mary Magdalene to the tomb on Easter mornings, or be with the disciples when they first heard the news of his resurrection.
This is preparation that my book, Contemplative Vision: A Guide to Christian Art and Prayer can greatly assist. What I present in it is a series of guided meditations on Biblical passages and Christian art that have been based on them. Any of the meditations would be suitable, but after reading and reflecting on the introduction and first chapter, which present a discussion of the role of seeing and awareness in Christian spirituality and which would form an excellent focus for the first week of Lent, five are particularly well suited to Lent and could each serve as a focus for the next five weeks - Chapters 2, 3, 10, 9 and 12. Following them in this order they would lead you through a focus on Jesus’ preparation for ministry, relationships with others, journey to Calvary and death on the cross.
To enter into these meditations, I would suggest that after a moment of silent prayer, you read the text aloud, slowly and prayerfully. Do this several times leaving lots of reflective space. Then look at the piece of art that was based on this text. Again, don’t rush. Allow yourself enough time to really see it, and to notice what you sense and feel. Notice what God might be saying to you through the art, and how the art leads you back to the Scriptures. Then, slowly read the chapter in the book that brings together the art and the passage, moving your attention back and forth from the painting to the commentary. Then spend some time with the reflective questions at the end of each chapter.
When you have finished, take time to thank God for the gifts you have received. And think about how you want to respond to them. You might, for example, decide to respond in some creative way. But whether it feels creative or not, simply make your response your own, and do respond.
Spending some time in each of the six weeks of Lent in this way will unquestionably prepare you for Easter. But beyond this, it will prepare you to walk more closely with Jesus - more attentive to his presence and attuned to the realities of his incarnation. In short, it will help you know Jesus and it will deepen your relationship with him. If this is what you desire, consider this as part of your Lenten journey this year.
Posted by Rebecca Larson at 6:00 AM
March 6, 2009
Just in from the printer is our new book Deepest Differences: A Christian-Atheist Dialogue, by Jim Sire and Carl Peraino. Jim and Carl were in a neighborhood book club together, and then a conversation about the death of Kurt Vonnegut provided the spark for this book. This snippet from the preface provides the behind-the-scenes background, and it also gives a pretty good sense of the flavor of the book:
And these may well be the best acknowledgments I’ve ever seen in juxtaposition:
February 25, 2009
Some of our books have been turned into movies! Well, not really, but we’ve created videos to profile a number of our books. They’re all viewable from our website, but many of them are also available on YouTube. Here’s the top ten, according to the number of times they’ve been viewed on that site as of this morning. Check them out to get a feel for the books and their authors.
There are plenty others, along with videos related to the books but not posted by us, including James Choung’s two-part video describing his True Story. So if you find yourself thinking, I wonder what Love Is an Orientation author Andrew Marin’s voice sounds like, truck on over to YouTube and wonder no more.
Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 9:27 AM
February 20, 2009
Why does an author decide to undertake writing a book? In this blog Todd Hunter talks about his motives for writing.
I wrote Christianity Beyond Belief for two important reasons. First, I am convinced the low level of discipleship in the American church is not in spite of the gospel Christian leaders have been teaching and preaching, but precisely because of it. I know that may be a counterintuitive, even subversive thought—so let me explain.
A gospel that has only to do with sins being forgiven so that one can go to heaven when they die cannot produce and sustain and life of spiritual transformation for the sake of being God’s people. We need a larger view of the Good News of what God is up to in and through human beings. We need Jesus’ Gospel: the Gospel of the Kingdom.
Jesus’ Gospel includes forgiveness of sins and eternal life, but—and this is crucial—it cannot be reduced to it. The gospel of the Kingdom has to do with becoming, through grace and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, the cooperative friends of Jesus, who live constant lives of creative goodness for the sake of others through the power of the Holy Spirit. That story, unlike the story of going to heaven when you die, can produce a new life—which is of course an eternal kind of life.
Second, my decades long practice as a pastor tells me that we Christians tend to misunderstand the nature of community and its essential connection to both evangelism and serving others. Driving 20 to 30 minutes across town to go to church for an hour or so does not constitute community. Neither does adding a drive 20 to 30 minutes in the other direction mid-week to attend a home group.
Community, by definition, means unplanned, routine contact. Community is what you have at work, school, recreation or neighborhood. Those are the places in which we learn to follow Jesus for the sake of others. My Three is Enough groups are a way to help get going with a vision for discipleship and mission within the already existing rhythms and routines of your life.
Posted by Cindy Bunch at 9:40 AM
February 16, 2009
Meet Todd Hunter, author of the just-released book Christianity Beyond Belief. Todd is a well-traveled speaker and leader (he recently stepped down from leading Alpha USA to start his own ministry), and this is his first book. In honor of his release we have asked him to write a few blogs to introduce his book.
From Todd Hunter:
“Discipleship is not something you learn. A disciple is someone you become.”
My response to this quote from Jim Griffith and Bill Easum in *Ten Most Common Mistakes Made by New Church Plants *(Chalice Press, 2008) is yes and no—but mostly yes.
We tend to think of discipleship as only content—subject matter found in a curriculum guide or a book; content that can be reduced to words that fill in the blanks on an outline we keep in a notebook. In actuality, discipleship is a whole-life, embodied and social reality. This is the major, true and useful idea from the quote above: discipleship has a conceptual, cognitive component. At the same time it cannot be reduced to just that. To use a $45 word, but one perfectly suited for our use here, we could say that discipleship is not coterminous with content. Discipleship includes learning doctrine, Christian history, theology and so on, but it also goes way beyond it. It has to do mainly with following Jesus—learning to live our lives as he would live them if he were in our particular place.
Obviously to follow Jesus well we have to know enough right things about him—his worldview, values, way-of-life—to actually imitate his model in our lives. Having thought about this with me for a couple minutes, I’ll bet you can see where this is going: learning is not just content. Learning, in the sense of the ability to imitate and embody worldview and value system has to do with our whole being—body, soul, mind, heart and social self.
So thanks Jim and Bill. It is true: Discipleship is not something you learn. A disciple is someone you become.
Posted by Cindy Bunch at 11:45 AM
September 12, 2008
The Sept. 1 issue of Publishers Weekly featured several IVP-related items.The article "Emergent and Beyond" mentions Tom Sine's The New Conspirators as a guide to understanding the differences between emerging, missional, mosaic and neomonastic Christianity. I was quoted a few times commenting on the phenomenon of emergent (and non-emergent) books. Our forthcoming book by Julie Clawson (working title of Everyday Justice is not final) was mentioned, and Julie was quoted on the topic of emerging female authors.
Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers: Prayer for Ordinary Radicals (IVP, Oct.) marries Claiborne's activism with the “new monastic” outlook of coauthor and fellow sojourner Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, and argues that prayer should be actively engaged in changing the world.
“There are lots of good books on why we pray and different ways to pray,” says Wilson-Hartgrove, who cites excellent books on prayer by Philip Yancey, Mother Teresa and Brother Lawrence. “But this is a book about becoming the answer to our prayers. It's about how God wants to transform us and our way of life through the prayers Scripture teaches us to pray,” including the Lord's Prayer and Jesus' prayer for unity in John 17.
And the issue also included a nice review of Reconciling All Things, the first volume in the Resources for Reconciliation series. This is a partnership between IVP and the Duke Divinity School Center for Reconciliation, and the first book is by the Center's codirectors, Emmanuel Katongole and Chris Rice. PW says of the book: "Against a background of difference, the two argue for a vision of reconciliation that is neither trendy nor pragmatically diplomatic, neither cheaply inclusive nor heedless of the past."
Posted by Al Hsu at 8:22 AM
July 1, 2008
The June 23 issue of Publishers Weekly has these interesting factoids from a National Endowment for the Arts study called "Artists in the Workforce: 1990-2005." (For the purposes of this study, "writers and authors" refer to those whose primary occupations involve the creation of scripts, stories, novels, poems, plays, biographies, advertisements, speeches and other material. It does not include technical writers, editors or journalists.)
185,276: total number of authors and writers, 2005
39%: increase in authors between 1990 and 2005
51.9%: percentage of authors who work full-time writing
$50,800: median income for full-time authors, 2005
$38,700: median income for entire civilian labor force, 2005
$38,800: median income for all authors, 2005
$47,300: median income for male authors, 2005
$33,300: median income for female authors, 2005
54.9%: percentage of authors who are female
10.8%: percentage of authors who are minorities
26.8%: percentage of authors who are under age thirty-five
83.1%: percentage of authors who have at least a bachelor's degree
45.9%: percentage of authors who are self-employed
50,000: estimated number of writers living in California and New York
Santa Fe, New Mexico: city ranked #1 for authors per capita
May 22, 2008
A day after Pentecost, when my church celebrated the confirmation of three artistic adolescents--the day they declared what they believe by word and image and began their adult journey of faith--I learned of the terminal illness of one of our authors. Dr. Steve Judah, a psychologist who addressed the delicate subject of marital infidelity with remarkable grace and sensitivity in his book Staying Together When an Affair Pulls You Apart, is suffering from esophogal cancer and has entered hospice. He's been journaling his experience at www.caringbridge.org, where he wrote the following creed, which I reprint here with his permission.
When I leave earth and my physical body . . .
I believe I will go into eternity and begin experiencing heaven, a real place, and have a new body.
I believe I will be called by a new name and go to a place that has been prepared for me.
I believe I will recognize my new name when I hear it.
I believe I will immediately be in the presence of loved ones who have gone before me into heaven.
I believe we will recognize one another and be able to touch, embrace one another and talk.
I believe we will have all our senses, such as smell, touch, taste—and perhaps some new senses too.
I believe we will have thoughts and emotions.
I believe we will somehow have access to everything we have now on planet earth that is good and whole plus we will have more, much more.
As eternity unfolds I believe I’ll have adventure after adventure that continues to flood me with deep fulfillment.
I believe I will be in the presence of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
I believe it will be a wonderful and an awe-inspiring experience that defies description.
Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 9:55 AM
April 24, 2008
I have vague tinges of jealousy about this time every April, as my colleagues at the press pack up their booth supplies and business cards and truck off to Calvin College. Each spring the school hosts a festival, alternating annually between music and writing. Last year Sufjan Stevens and Emmylou Harris, true musical geniuses each, performed and discussed their approach to their craft and their faith. This year the festival brought together writers, among them Yann Martel, author of the brilliant Life of Pi. Still a little jealous.
The best conferences spark in their attenders a sort of creative renaissance. Particularly good at this is Andy Crouch, author of our forthcoming book Culture Making. His seminars always generate lots of conversations about the place and function of culture and our participation in it, including the very thoughtful and entertaining riff off his talk at the Transforming Culture symposium by Heather Goodman at L'Chaim. I particularly enjoyed the blogger's introduction of a term I've not encountered before but eagerly embrace nonetheless: luftmensch. Hi. My name is Dave, and I'm a luftmensch.
So I'd be interested in hearing about your most energizing conference experience: what did you talk about, and what did you do with what you took away from it? I promise to pray through my bouts of envy as you comment on your experience here.
March 26, 2008
My wife had lunch yesterday with a new friend. "Lunch" involved some of the perfunctory niceties of new friendships: "Where did you grow up?" "Are you married?" "What does your spouse do?" That sort of thing. My wife very loyally dropped the hint that in addition to being a book editor, her husband is a published author with a second book on the way. (We're always looking for ways to jack up our royalty checks, which I am assured will eventually be forthcoming, just as soon as a few of my books sell.) My wife's new friend was duly impressed--I daresay doe-eyed. "Wow . . . it must be so exciting being married to a published author . . ."
My wife very diplomatically responded, "Sure, sure it is."
Steel yourself for a difficult truth, IVP authors and, more important, IVP author-spouses: marital excitement has little to do with publication. If it softens the blow at all, let me quickly add that marital excitement has even less to do with editorial aptitude.
Now, maybe your experience has been different than mine--or should I say, my wife's. I welcome your comments here about the bliss of being married to a book author. But I think my wife's experience today points to a different phenomenon: the mystification of celebrity. The objective sexiness of any given author notwithstanding, there's something sexy--in a nerdy sort of way--about showing up on a guided search of the Library of Congress (using Boolean operators, of course). Authors have other sexy indicators as well--the press release, the publicity agent, the media interviews, the byline, the eponymous website. This is the thin air that publishing a book sends you rocketing into. It can go to your head, believe me.
But before terribly long every author comes back down to earth. As the attention of the reading public turns to the next crop of new releases, even the sexiest authors are returned to the solid ground of their own normalcy. The folks they interact with day after day--if they are lucky--quickly and persistently remind them that the atmosphere they entered upon publication, enticing as it was, does not a sustainable life make.
So pity your loved ones, authors, because the fawning gets old, and it's entirely possible that you're not as sexy as you're being led to believe you are. And enjoy your moment, as the glossy finish of your book jacket distracts your readers from your three-dimensional humanity, which is to say your finitude, your fallenness, your normalcy.
March 17, 2008
Don Everts is the author of a number of IVP books, including the widely read Jesus with Dirty Feet, the recent One Guy's Head series of postmodern apologetics, and the forthcoming I Once Was Lost with Doug Schaupp. He has been on InterVarsity staff in Colorado for over a decade, and he has just written the history of InterVarsity in the Rocky Mountains region. That history, When God Shows Up on Campus, is available for sale at Lulu.com as a print book, and it's also available for free download as a PDF.
The IVP connection to this is that there's a shout-out to IVP's very first book, Discovering the Gospel of Mark by Jane Hollingsworth. Back in the mid-1940s, college student Gene Thomas was waiting to pick up his date from her sorority. While in the foyer, he happened to glance at a magazine that was sitting on the coffee table. The magazine was called HIS, and it was published by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. As he leafed through it, he happened across an ad for a book called Discovering the Gospel of Mark. Even though Gene was not yet an active follower of Christ, he was intrigued enough to order the book. He later got together with several guys from his dorm and used that book to start studying the Bible. Through that study, assisted by Hollingsworth's book, Gene encountered and was gripped by the dynamic person of Jesus Christ.
Gene eventually became a fired-up, committed, evangelistic Christian, and he went on to pioneer InterVarsity chapters at universities all over the Rocky Mountains. His legacy continues on through the generations of Christians who have had active witness throughout the region, including people like Don Everts today. Thousands of people have come to Jesus through InterVarsity's work there, and IVP is glad to have played a part in the process.
So take a look at When God Shows Up on Campus. Not only does it provide a nice summary of IVP's first book, it's an invigorating story of entrepreneurial campus ministry and God's providence and direction. Check it out.
March 13, 2008
When I was in college, I went to an InterVarsity conference and bought a copy of Blaine Smith's Should I Get Married? even though I wasn't even dating anybody at the time. The book was quite formative for me and helped me have a more Christian perspective on relationships.
We more recently published Sex and Dating: Questions You Wish You Had Answers To by Mindy Meier, an InterVarsity campus staffer who has specialized in working with students in the Greek system of fraternities and sororities. The book is the fruit of her many coffee shop conversations with students who have asked her every question under the sun about sex and dating - perennial questions like "How far is too far?" and newer questions like "What's wrong with hooking up and having friends with benefits?"
Not long ago Mindy was at a conference for Greek students, and afterward she got this e-mail from one of her colleagues:
I just had dinner with one of my students, Marie [not her real name], that came to conference - and I wanted to encourage you with something that she shared with me. She (along with 3 others in her sorority) bought your book on sex and dating. Apparently they are all obsessed with the book, and have talked about it with many girls in their sorority. Marie told me tonight that your book is now famous in Alpha Chi Omega - it is the big talk of the sorority. They have girls coming into their rooms asking them to borrow the book, even for 30 minutes at a time so they can read it - both Christian and non-Christian girls. I thought this was so neat, and I am so thankful that you took the time to write such a needed book.
We're always glad to hear that our books are being read and passed around, and it's quite encouraging that an author like Mindy is able to extend her ministry to many more sororities and campuses through her book. It's especially exciting that the book gives these students the opportunity to share their faith and biblical perspectives on relationships with their sorority sisters. Some of these young women may never attend an InterVarsity conference, but they might encounter God through an IVP book. So I'm glad for books like Mindy's, and I hope that copies will be passed around sorority houses and dorm rooms for years to come.
February 26, 2008
Continue reading "Remembering Larry Norman"
February 4, 2008
I've written before about why authors expect (not unreasonably) that it should not take too long to get a revised manuscript typeset and printed.
Rachel Donadio offers another look at the same topic here, explaining that while technology can make things fast, people, geography, planning and distribution can still take a long time.
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:27 AM
October 19, 2007
Vanity publishing. It even sounds a bit sleazy, doesn't it? Paying a "publisher" to print and distribute your work has always had negative connotations in publishing. If a legitimate firm won't produce your book, there must be something wrong with it. Right? Either it is commercially unviable or editorially substandard. It means someone is doing it just to satisfy their vanity.
No more. Vanity publishing has had an extreme makeover.Continue reading "Vanity Publishing: Extreme Makeover Edition"
October 10, 2007
I have what is, apparently, an annoying habit of referring to authors I work with as "my authors." Just last week somebody called me on it. The phrase strikes some as pompous and presumptuous: I don't own these people--I just rent them. Tee hee.
Flipped around, the phrase doesn't seem to carry as much baggage. "My editor" comes across as roughly parallel to such professional relationships as "my broker" or "my attorney" or "my bookie." The relationship is clearly defined by the phrase: they write something, I edit it.
Not so with "my authors." There's something mildly condescending about the phrase, in the same way that referring to adult children as "my babies" is mildly condescending. It doesn't help matters when I occasionally slip into talk of "my stable" of authors, as though this diverse group of human beings with important and intriguing things to say are simply workhorses that I will use till they are no longer useful. Their dignity is subtly degraded and, rather than being first and foremost human beings, they become mere commodities.
It's a tricky business, because in the publishing industry, authors actually are commodities. (A colleague just let me know that Nelson has an employee whose title is "director of branding, Lucado.") In the word game, as I like to call the book business, two things above all others create a market for books: content and author. The content comes from the author, so our job as editors and more broadly as a publisher is to package the content and, by extension, the author for presentation to the marketplace. The publishing process is subtly degraded: we don't meet, engage people in spirited, thoughtful conversation, then help them craft their thinking into prose that will inform a broader audience; we "acquire," "develop," "market" and "sell" them and their ideas to whatever "consumers" will take a bite.
My wife has a similar language problem to mine: as the supervisor of a counseling program, she sometimes refers to the team of people working for her as "my therapists." The uninitiated hear that and surely wonder, How many therapists does this poor woman need? Frankly, I'd rather have my problem than hers, because my linguistic dilemma makes me look important, whereas her linguistic dilemma makes her look neurotic.
In defense of "my authors," I note that I refer to the people who birthed me as "my parents" ("the people who bore me" is probably technically more correct, but that phrase can be misconstrued, and my mom reads this blog; there, that should remove any doubt as to which member of my household is the neurotic one) and the other people they birthed as "my brother" and "my sister." I don't claim to own them or even possess them, and yet they are "mine" nonetheless. Taken together we are all part of "our family," which is perhaps a better, less transactional, more humane way of thinking of my authors and me. I'm reminded of a piece of dialogue in the now-classic film Sixteen Candles: "We're in the parking lot of my church." "You own a church?"
Anyway, don't take it personally, all you authors out there, when I talk about you as though you're a piece of meat, or when I reduce my editorial feedback to simple phrases such as "TYPE MONKEY TYPE!" Trust me, I'm not dehumanizing you; I'm just playing the word game.
October 5, 2007
A pleasant byproduct of publishing is the relationships that you cultivate. Coworkers, authors, readers, booksellers and vendors become not just links in your network or items on your task list but people you enjoy seeing and hearing from.
Most of my Facebook friends, I've noticed, are people I've encountered through my work as an editor; you can argue that "Facebook friend" is not a real category of friendship, but I think that's only because as a culture we've not lived online long enough to define what virtual friendship really is. In any event, those friends I've made through my industry have their own potential beyond mere social utility; they become people I can count on seeing when I travel to an unfamiliar place, people whose private reflections often seem to follow the same orbit as mine, people with whom I can commisserate and celebrate as the occasion allows.
One of my authors, in an odd but welcome kind of boundary-blurring, came to see me in a play at my church. As a result she's seen where I worship and gotten a sense of what I'm like outside the office. Another author I'm working with, as it turns out, used to work at my church. Finding that out has changed the dynamic of our working relationship; he's the first author I've worked with to find and make use of my home phone number, which means he's the only one to have heard my highly unprofessional answering machine message.
Some of the authors I've worked with I've gone on to work with again and again, changing our relationship from what could have been merely contractual and transactional to something living and dynamic. I celebrated with Lynne Baab, author of three IVP Books and a LifeGuide Bible study, when she left the United States to take a teaching position in New Zealand. I told her to keep an ear out for Neil Finn and his band Crowded House, who have made some of my favorite music of all time. Since moving she's sent me a number of articles about the comings and goings of the band, and today introduced me to Liam Finn, son of Neil and rising star in pop music from Down Under. Since then I've heard from another new friend (who works for another publisher) how much she's enjoying one of Lynne's books. It's a small world after all.
I guess I'm feeling sentimental today, what with all the pleasant surprises I've received recently from these various corners of my profession and with the forthcoming opportunity to see some such friends at a conference later this week. Thomas Merton, who is known best as a cloistered monk, broke from our preconceptions of such a calling to challenge his readers to "not flee to solitude from the community. Find God first in the community,then He will lead you to solitude." Our best experiences of solitude--even as we write, edit or even simply read--are set, Merton would suggest, against a backdrop with relationships in place, serving as the body of Christ for one another. I'm glad for the happy paradox that the otherwise solitary nature of my work--reading, writing and editing--has generated such pleasant byproducts.
August 14, 2007
Last month John Stott concluded his public ministry with an address at the Keswick Convention in England. For over a half-century Stott has been the leading evangelical in Great Britain with an enormous influence worldwide as well through his speaking and writing. At age 86 his fragile health has made him reluctantly conclude that it is time for him to move to the next stage. But I was not surprised to read that "Dr. Stott's frailty vanished as he started to preach for the final time publicly." That was my own impression when I was with him and heard him speak a couple of years ago. The vigor and solidness he has always been known for suddenly emerged from his weakened frame when he began to preach.
Of course Stott's many books will continue to have a wide impact; thousands are read every year in dozens of languages. But I wonder if the widest and longest impact might come from a source fewer know about.
For decades Stott has been pouring himself into the next generation of leaders in the Majority World. This work has been formalized in the Langham Partnership International (known as John Stott Ministries in the United States). As a result, thousands of pastors around the world have received books and commentaries they would otherwise not have been able to afford, and hundreds have received training and scholarships for advanced study. It is no coincidence, I think, that we have during these same recent decades seen the church explode in Latin America, Africa and Asia, a church that will be leading worldwide Christianity in the coming century. Thanks to Stott's vision, that church will have many leaders who are deeply rooted in Scripture.
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:55 AM
July 10, 2007
Al Hsu filed this report from the International Christian Retail Show in Atlanta, Georgia. Al is representing InterVarsity Press as an editor there; his wife, Ellen, is meeting with international publishers as our rights manager. Read more about the trip at Al's personal blog, The Suburban Christian.
Ellen and I attended the CBA/ECPA Christian Book Awards ceremony last night, which is the Christian publishing world's equivalent of the Oscars or Emmys. InterVarsity Press had three finalists: Praying by J. I. Packer and Carolyn Nystrom in the Inspiration & Gift category, The IVP Atlas of Bible History in the Bible Reference & Study category, and Finding God Beyond Harvard by Kelly Monroe Kullberg in the Christian Life category. I was particularly excited about Kelly's book being a finalist because I was the project editor for that book, and the other books in the category were by folks like Philip Yancey, Bill Hybels, Larry Crabb and John Piper. Quite the competition, and it's an honor just to be in the running.
And we were thrilled to find out that one of our books won in its category! The winners are:
Bibles: Archaeological Study Bible NIV (Zondervan)
(Last year a 900-page dictionary of theological interpretation won the book of the year, and they changed the rules so that any of the finalists in any of the six categories could be book of the year. Sales numbers are now weighed as one of the factors in determining the overall winner. Which is why a theological dictionary did not win this year.)
In addition, Packer & Nystrom's Praying also won a Logos Book Award from the Logos Bookstores chain in the Devotional/Spirituality category. Congrats to the authors!
Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 8:42 AM
June 8, 2007
Dieter Roelstraete, in issue 12 of the journal Dot Dot Dot, extends Martin Heidegger's description of books as "letters to friends":
Anyone who has ever "made" a book will immediately grasp the depth of feeling communicated in this admittedly romantic view of the book publishing business. No matter how strained the relationship between writer, editor, translator, designer, publisher, printer and book-seller can become, there is no denying the intimacy that is engendered by poring over the book as a labor of love that has required the "befriending," however formal and economically dictated, of so many different parties. By their very nature, books are collaborative efforts in a cultural space that continues to be dominated by individualism, conflated egos, and conflicts of solitary interests.
I should say lest you think Is Dave taking a class or something? that I didn't find this quotation by myself, nor did I deduce by myself that Heidegger (whoever that is) had anything to do with it. No, this quotation was forwarded to me by my colleague Matt Smith, a designer here at InterVarsity Press. It's a nice lived example of how things work around here, and how things in publishing work in general: insights come from all corners and contribute to the final product. And though there are days when the corners inhabited by designers, marketers, editors and authors seem like the four corners of a boxing ring, on our best days we all kiss and make up something uniquely collaborative, truly insightful, a conversation really worth joining.
Guess I'm feeling sappy today. I heart InterVarsity Press.
June 6, 2007
In our book Wanting to Be Her, Michelle Graham talks about an actress who didn't recognize herself in a magazine because of how different she had been made up. Well, More Than Serving Tea coeditor Nikki Toyama blogged about this link:
It has an amazing one-minute video of how women are made up and photoshopped to look entirely different from how they normally appear in real life. Even supermodels don't look like supermodels. Check it out.
May 29, 2007
At the 2004 Asian American staff conference for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, ministry coordinator Paul Tokunaga talked about all the recently published IVP books that had been written by Asian American authors - Kingdom Come by Allen Wakabayashi, Secure in God's Embrace by Ken Fong, Get the Word Out by John Teter, The Kingdom of God LifeGuide Bible study by Greg Jao, Grieving a Suicide by Al Hsu (yup, that's me), and Paul's own Invitation to Lead. That was quite a list, and a definite increase over recent years.
Then I realized that all of those authors were men.
Not a single female author was on the list. That fact was painfully obvious to everyone in the room, especially since we have far more Asian American women on InterVarsity staff than AA men.
After the session, Nikki Toyama came running up to me and said something like, "The authors were all men. Is IVP looking for Asian women authors too?" I said, "Yes. Let's talk."
We then sat together at lunch, and I think Tracey Gee was at the same table, and we talked about what a book by and for Asian American women might look like. Two months later I was in Los Angeles for a conference. While there, I connected with Tracey and talked further about the book idea.
Over the next two years, Nikki and Tracey assembled a pan-Asian writing team and embarked on a first-of-its-kind effort. They stretched beyond traditional East Asian demographics of Chinese, Japanese and Korean heritage and included coauthors from Southeast Asian (Filipina) and South Asian (Pakistani) backgrounds. They also included the voices of their biracial, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander and adopted sisters.
Their book, More Than Serving Tea: Asian American Women on Expectations, Relationships, Leadership and Faith, was published in November 2006, just in time for the Urbana 06 student missions convention, where 29 percent of the 22,000 attendees were of Asian descent. I was thrilled that apart from the featured books of the day, More Than Serving Tea was our #2 bestselling book of the convention, outselling even Knowing God and Too Busy Not to Pray.
As society continues to diversify, the multiethnic dimension of IVP's publishing program becomes increasingly important. So I am always on the lookout for books by people of all ethnic and racial backgrounds, writing on ethnic-specific topics as well as general topics for all audiences. Because we want to equip the church to serve our diverse twenty-first-century context, our books and authors need to reflect the multiethnic diversity of the global church and kingdom of God.
May 21, 2007
I don't typically read Touchstone much, but they ran an article by Tom Wright, author of our recent book Evil and the Justice of God. The article is an appraisal of Mere Christianity that is quite interesting, not just for Wright's take on Lewis but also for what Wright models, a spirit of generosity that says, "I don't quite agree, but Lewis's contribution is still good, even if he doesn't exactly say things the way I [Wright] would." Here's a snippet:
I owe Lewis a great debt. In my late teens and early twenties I read everything of his I could get my hands on, and read some of his paperbacks and essays several times over. There are sentences, and some whole passages, I know pretty much by heart. Millions around the world have been introduced to, and nurtured within, the Christian faith through his work where their own preachers and teachers were not giving them what they needed. That was certainly true of me.
For more, click here.
May 16, 2007
The problem with editing, for me, is all the reading.
I enjoy casually reading a good book as much as the next person, I suppose, but reading at work is all business. I don’t read, I re/add.
Re/adding is an entirely different exercise from the "reading" all you laypeople do. When I read, I lose myself in the content that I've entered into. While I may engage the material critically, even disagree with it, at the root of things I'm simply receiving what's been produced for me. By contrast, when I re/add I confront the author re: perceived blind spots in his or her writing or apparent ambiguity in what he or she is trying to say. I make suggestions for what he or she should add or subtract or otherwise modify.
My authors, of course, have to decide whether the battles I pick with them as I re/add their manuscripts are worth fighting: after all, the editor is Christian, enlightened, paying the bills; the editor, therefore, is always right. Right?
It takes an act of the will not to bring this editorial hubris with me into my casual reading as well. More often than not, I’m afraid, it refuses to be left behind. So I read a classic book in the evangelical tradition, and I scoff at the obvious modernist biases that pervade the author’s writings. I skim a splashy new release in the Christian book publishing industry and take delight in pointing out the clichés and tricks of the trade that clutter up the simple message that I, the enlightened Christian editor, would edit differently. I note lists of religious bestsellers and declare that “bestselling” does not equal “best-written.” I mock the theological naiveté of the hoi polloi who are buying whatever pablum some nefarious wolf in publisher’s clothing has dumped in their laps.
But every once in a while I read a book with a group of other people—people who aren’t re/add-ing so much as reading. My small group at church, for example, opts to discuss a forty-year-old book on evangelism. I commence re/add-ing, dutifully but skeptically, deconstructing and dismissing as I go. I lean back smugly in my chair in our circle, biding my time until I can bring all conversation to a halt with my enlightened Christian editorial denouncement of our reading assignment. Meanwhile, my friends and neighbors share how meaningful this week’s chapter was, how the author brought up things they’d never thought of, how their understanding and appreciation of Jesus has been transformed by their encounter with this text. And I am left silent.
But wait: now my small group wants to read the latest trendy, manufactured, prefab, one-size-fits-all presentation of the mega-gospel. I commence re/adding the book, systematically mocking the trail of alliteration and acronyms that litter its pages, marvelling at the depth of Christian mystery that has been so effectively sterilized and commodified by this larger-than-life Christian celebrity with a word-processor and a PR department. Meanwhile, my friends and neighbors are reading the book, wide-eyed and mouth agape at this fresh look at the Savior they’ve been singing to half-awake every Sunday of their lives. Some of them wonder why nobody’s ever talked about Jesus this way before. And I am left silent.
I sometimes picture myself in the stories I find in the Bible, and when I’m feeling particularly self-congratulatory, I put myself in the place of someone very special—the father of Jesus, perhaps, or the disciple Jesus loved, or even—dare I say it?—Jesus himself. But sometimes, when I’m seeing more clearly, I find that I, the enlightened Christian editor that I am, look suspiciously like a Pharisee.
In the grand scheme of things, the Pharisees are doing something salutary: immersing themselves in God’s revelation to his people. The trouble comes when they get so close to the truth that they can’t see the Truth in front of them. Jesus contrasts this enlightened myopia with the simple vision of everyday people who have encountered, in flesh and blood, the Truth that the Pharisees have been re/add-ing about. Jesus invites the Pharisees, and the gatekeepers of contemporary Christian industry, and the old guard of every generation of the people of God, to look up and catch a glimpse of what everbody else is witnessing: “I once was blind, but now I see.” We’ll be left silent, perhaps, but our mouths will nonetheless be agape, and our eyes will be wide open.
April 26, 2007
In reading Jerry Sittser's revision of his upcoming book of spiritual history, Water from a Deep Well, I was arrested by his comments on the paganization of the church. It seems that the Church of England is selling off church buildings they cannot afford to keep up to developers, who are converting them into apartments, pubs, recreation centers, businesses and more. He continues:
In short, these buildings are being paganized. No longer used for worship and the administration of the sacraments, they have become the tools of modern capitalism. Perhaps the church in America is following the same course. Today many churches preach self-help principles, peddle a variety of clever religious products, offer various programs to religious consumers, and cater to the “felt needs” of people. Ironically, while England is paganizing church buildings, Americans could be “paganizing” the faith itself. When the church is functioning at its best, it communicates the grace and love and power of God so completely that the faithful are enabled to live for God wherever they are, and thus to claim the “secular” world—theaters, bowling allies, schools, businesses, neighborhoods—for God’s kingdom purposes. At its worst, it does the opposite; the secular world encroaches on the church until it finally takes over.
Americans paganzing the faith? I think he has hit the nail--or, perhaps, the bobblehead Jesus--right on the head.
April 20, 2007
Andy Crouch, director of the Christian Vision Project and author of a forthcoming IVP Book, had this to say to StudentSoul:
The place where faith and culture meet most fruitfully is where culture is broken. Taking our faith into culture means to find a creative way to serve in those broken places. There's no other resource for dealing with brokenness that's as powerful as the gospel lived out creatively and effectively in the context of local culture. The gospel gives us enough hope to enter into these very difficult, seemingly hopeless situations. . . . None of us really gets to change "the culture," but a lot of us could change something about our neighborhood or the school down the road from our house or the local theater company.I like the contrast of images here: "The Faith" does battle against "The Culture"; meanwhile "our faith" sends us in search of brokenness within "local culture" to be creative agents of healing. Small and local may not be as sexy as a big battle, but it sure seems a lot more creative when you think about it.
April 18, 2007
I am reading what the author (Jo Kadlecek) will want you to know is a still-in-progress draft of her yet-untitled book on discovering passion in life. It's the kind of book that causes you to read and ponder. Or daydream. The kind of reading I save to perk up a grim Chicago winter day. I found her reflections on what it means to be an artist, and who qualifies as an artist, particularly interesting.
I began to question the creative process, what to do with it, how to harness it, why we had it at all. Did it extend beyond a painter’s canvas? Was it more than a chiseled piece of marble with life-like veins? Or was it exclusive and protected by and for a chosen few who could either afford it or comprehend it? . . . Some people told me artist-types were indeed a strange breed who lived on the fringe of acceptability, that they served no useful purpose and lived far from where the rest of us normal folks lived and moved and had our beings. Others called artists nothing short of prophets—in the same league as Isaiah or Paul—a gifted lot who could speak truth at the same time they critiqued the culture and its people with the mere stroke of a brush. It was as if these two had no room for the other. So one morning in New York, I suppose when I saw a child drawing or reading a poem, I peeked at my fear, and the pull in my soul said there was something more. Had to be more. Something I’d experienced even without words, something I needed if I was going to stay awake through this earthly existence. Something I needed in order to breathe and bleed and feel—even if my attempts at understanding or creating were raw and primitive. Even if I had millions of dollars or only one in my bank account, if I lived in a western world or a developing one. This seemed to be my DNA, to be everyone’s, in fact. Creative because we were first created.