Do you remember a month ago, in my essay preceding the list of books about vocation and work, I noted that many young adults are interesting in relating faith and career, that the integration of spirituality and daily discipleship is essential in their way of doing faith. (As it should be for us all, eh?) I suggested that ordinary churches should be thinking about this, and perhaps buy some of the books we listed. I noted that there is much about this and one very specific chapter in the fabulous The Next Christians by Gabe Lyon (Multnomah; $14.99) which I think is must reading. And that the important book You Lost Me by David Kinnaman (Baker; $17.99) documents how a lack of intentional theological conversation about work, art, science and the like is one of the reasons some young adults drift from church involvement. Again, this is a very useful book and we highly recommend it for a number of reasons, not least because of how it reminds of us of importance of this topic of work and calling and thinking creatively about our lives in the marketplace.
I have relentlessly
talked and taught about this for decades, and there are times (if I may be honest) when I grow
weary: will a work-world revival, or, at least, for starters, a renewed
interest in labor from church quarters, develop and grow in our time? Should we quite trying to sell books
about vocation, give up on the talk about developing a uniquely Christian
perspective on our various callings and careers? As I've hinted from time to time, these books don't sell as
well as we might wish, even though few people deny their importance. We are glad for our best mail order
customers, and glad for those who pursue these kinds of topics. But I do get discouraged. I sometimes lay awake and wonder about
our internet work: is there anybody out there? How can we inspire folks to take up more of these very inspiring and useful books. I have to admit, I sigh a lot these days...
Well. I received a wonderful gift of
encouragement this weekend, and want to celebrate it with, since I suspect that you, too, care about these things, and will be glad for some encouraging news. I want to tell (again) of the extraordinary work of
my colleagues and friends in the campus ministry organization, the CCO
(Coalition for Christian Outreach.) Being around their staff is always energizing! I just got back from a shindig they put
on in Northwestern Pennsylvania and I want to tell you just a bit about it. You may be interested to know what
books sold at this conference.
For the fourth consecutive year, CCO hosted a gathering of about 200 students from colleges around Northwestern Pennsylvania----if you are from around here, you know them: Allegheny, Slippery Rock, Edinboro, Butler County Community College, Clarion, Penn State Barons, a branch of Pitt up at Bradford, and more. Some are overtly evangelical and Reformed colleges like Grove City and Geneva, some are church-related like Westminster and Gannon, a Catholic school in Erie. Most, though, are state universities or community colleges and the students attending "Leadership Together" were hearing about relating faith and learning, integrating worldview and one's collegiate way of life, in fresh and perhaps new ways. I can't wait to share with you some of the books they bought.
Three of us were honored
to be the main stage presenters, and each of us ruminated on one of the three
temptations faced by Jesus as explained in Henri Nouwen's wonderful little book
In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership (Crossroads; $14.95.) The late Father Nouwen, tempered by his move from
Harvard to L'Arche (a shared community household including the able bodied and
the mentally challenged and handicapped), reminds us in this poignant little
book of the Devil's efforts to seduce Jesus--and us! It is tempting (especially in this setting, eager young
adults, wanting to make a fruitful Christian witness at their postmodern
colleges, transforming the world, you know) to try to make faith relevant. Or to over-do our efforts to be
popular. And to try to grasp for
power, rather than being led by the Spirit of God in the ways of Christ. Oooh, that was my topic, and it was
more difficult for me to speak about this than those listening may have
You see, for God's greater glory
and the grand hope of wanting to love our neighbors and world well, I want
sharp and innovative Christians to have power. Oh, I know we aren't to be like the Taliban, and I can
critique the culture wars "take over" mentality with the best of them. But, I told the students, I am such a
booster of the CCOs Jubilee conference and advocate reading these sorts of
books about faith and public life so very much because I want do want some sort
of power. I want to help people be
salt and light and leaven in our needy world, and make a difference. Yes, truth be told, I am tempted by the
idol of power. Having to preach on
Nouwen's rejection of worldly power-mongering, of naming the "gospel of
weakness" and citing passages like Mark 10 (and Jesus' nonviolence when it
mattered most, in the garden and cross) was a vivid reminder for me that we are
to be leaven, a bit of light, but not heavy handed holy warriors. As Nouwen reminds us, "it is easier
to want to control people than to love people."
If I may, I would suggest that reading deeply and well allows us to be shaped into the character and ways of Christ and thinking seriously about how His upside Kingdom informs how we go about our daily living is one way to prepare for the proper use of power. We have to hold out a vision of wanting to make a relevant, winsome difference, but all of those idols can seduce us into doing the Lord's work in the wrong ways. We want to raise up a savvy group of leaders, but they must be servant leaders. Reading books like we suggest, I think, can help prepare us for this task.
So, it was great having the chance to set up a book display--table after table---to help students consider faithful and properly relevant ways of serving God in all of life. They were invited to be counter-cultural in tone and style and methods, but to realize the broad scope of our missional outreach, living in God's gracious newness, from the boardroom to the bedroom, as they say, from how we think about sports to how we think about shopping, from art to business to engineering to relating to popular culture. And they were truly interested --- it was inspiring listening in to their table conversations as they developed "take away" goals and ideas. Some of them were even citing Henri Nouwen and seemed to me to be speaking beautifully "in the name of Jesus."
Just in case you think I'm making this stuff up, here are some of the books we sold at the CCOs "Leadership Together." Of course we sold books on leadership, several on relationships, a few on apologetics (Lee Stroble's A Case for Christ and A Case for Faith, Tim Keller's The Reason for God) not to mention regulars on prayer and spirituality (The Praying Life by Paul Miller and Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton, for instance.) Naturally, they picked up popular evangelical books from the category we call basic Christian growth---Crazy Love, Love Does, Radical, Not a Fan, Blue Like Jazz, Discipleship Essentials and Undead: Revived, Resuscitated Reborn by Clay Morgan (Abingdon; $15.99), a very cool new book working on the zombie theme). And we often sell books on social concerns---fighting sexual trafficking, say, or titles like the very compelling Following Jesus Through the Eye of the Needle by Kent Annan (IVP; $16.00) (interestingly, a student standing next to the person buying that one raved about it; she had read his other one written after the earthquake in Haiti, Unshaken, as well. It's great when a reader does my job for me, telling about hos she loved a book.) We sold a copy of Zealous Love: A Practical Guide to Social Justice edited by Michael Yankoski (Zondervan; $16.99) maybe because Bob Goff has a chapter in it. One student picked up, out of the blue, not noting my endorsement on the back cover, Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire by my friends Sylvia Keesmaat & Brian Walsh (IVP; $23.00.) I almost kissed her when she said it just looked really challenging, and she was up for that.
We were obviously glad for these solid purchases, for the wide and relevant interests they represent. But these young adults really seemed to be drawn to be, as Nouwen puts it, "formed in the
mind of Christ" as it related to their future careers. Maybe it is because they don't see
these books at other Christian bookstores, or maybe they don't hear much about this
in their home churches. Of course
I highlighted these themes, and their CCO workers and mentors maybe guided them
just a bit. But, still, I was
profoundly encouraged by these sales.
I still wonder why we don't sell these day in and day out, but for now,
I'm glad for the idealism and vision and vibrancy of the students of Leadership
BUYING BOOKS ACCORDING TO COLLEGE MAJOR: OR, PREPARING FOR LIVING FAITHFULLY IN THE WORK-WORLD
One education major bought Christian Teachers in the Public Schools: 13 Essentials for the Classroom by Dalene Vickery Parker (Beacon Hill Press; $12.99) and another chose Making a Difference: Christian Educators in Public Schools by Donavan L. Graham (Purposeful Design; $16.95.) Both of these are quite good and surprisingly, there aren't too many books like this out there. I showed Education for Human Flourishing: A Christian Perspective by Paul Spears & Steven Loomis (in the IVP Christian Worldview Integration Series; $22.00) to one young lady, but I think it seemed a bit much----I can't blame her, it is heavy. But, wow. What Teachers Make: In Praise of the Greatest Job in the World by poetry slam sensation (and former urban, middle school teacher) Taylor Mali isn't particularly religious, but it seems to please a gal doing her student teaching soon. We were glad to sell it. It is published by Putnam ($19.95.) Google his youtube spoken word piece called "What Teachers Make" (and, while your at it, the spectacular "Speak with Conviction") if you don't know him.
As a former speech pathology major myself, I was happy to meet a speech and hearing major. And she was interested to see a few special education themed books. For instance, Disabilities and the Gospel: How God Uses Our Brokenness to Display His Grace by Michael Beates (Crossway; $15.99.) Warmed my heart, I must say.
A science major was
thrilled when I described Francis Collins as the former head of the Human
Genome Project and he snapped up his co-authored (with Karl Giberson) The
Language of Science and Faith: Straight Answers to Genuine Questions (IVP;
$20.00.) It wasn't the only book on science we sold, and I was glad to see a
guy pick up another favorite, the reformationally-minded Science and Grace: God's
Reign in the Natural Sciences by Tim Morris & Don Petcher of Covanant
College (Crossway; $17.99.) I'm not sure we sold any this time, but we did have some books about technology, Christian insights about engineering, and Mathematics Through the Eyes of Faith by Russell Howell & James Bradley (HarperOne; $19.99.) Love the religious conversation about that STEM stuff.
My friend Jonathan Merritt's first book Green Like God: Unlocking the Divine Plan for Our Planet (FaithWorks; $16.99) was stacked up, and at least one environmental science major got one. It wasn't the only book we had on creation care, but I remember selling Merritt's. Yay.
I have to admit we haven't sold many of these yet, but one customer couldn't believe his eyes: a serious and obviously well informed book on urban planning, new urbanism, and what some are calling "the built environment." I have reviewed a bit already, and will again, that book that caught his attention: The Space Between: A Christian Engagement with the Built Environment by Eric O. Jacobsen (Baker Academic; $22.99.)
We sold a couple of books on sports, like the small Game Day for the Glory of God by Stephen Altrogge (Crossway; $9.99) and The Reason for Sports: A Christian Fanifesto by Ted Kluck (Moody Press; $13.99.) I tried to sell The Long Snapper by Jeffrey Marx, and of course his book about Joe Ehrmann, The Season of Life (Simon & Schuster; $21.00.) I heard that the one fellow was a collegiate athlete, another a big fan. One gal got the brand new Men of Sunday: How Faith Guides the Players, Coaches and Wives of the NFL by Curtis Eichelberger (Nelson; $15.99) as a gift for somebody she knew. Nice.
Business majors, and an accounting major, found Why Business Matters to God (And What Still Needs to be Fixed) by Jeff Van Duzer (IVP; $20.00) and Business for the Common Good: A Christian Vision for the Marketplace by Kenman Wong and Scot Rae (IVP; $24.00) both of which are very substantial. A thoughtful fellow studying finance looked at The Crisis and the Kingdom: Economics, Scripture and the Global Financial Crisis by British economist and pastor, E. Phil Davis (Cascade/Wipf & Stock; $18.00.) It is the only book like it, and I was so proud to have it there, and so glad somebody cared.
One open-minded student admitted being a bit confused about contemporary politics. She
purchased the back-and-forth discussion of Right, Left and Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics co-authored by Lisa Sharon Harper & D.C. Innes (Russell Media; $22.99.) I was really jazzed that two students got Ronald Sider's excellent, comprehensive, Just Politics: A Guide for Christian Engagement (Baker; $19.99.) One was a politico, it seemed, but the other just wanted to learn. She admitted to never really thinking about how her own faith would inform her voting. Thanks be to God. That's why we do this work, folks....ya know?
We sold a copy or two of the Student's Guides in the "Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition" series that I wrote about a month ago. We sold the fantastic one called Literature by Louis Markos and the one called Political Thought by Hunter Baker. These are published by Crossway and sell for just $11.99 each. Speaking of those little guides, I can't tell you how excited I was to have the newest one in the series, Philosophy: A Student's Guide by my very good friend, and esteemed philosophy prof from the great program at Dallas Baptist University, David K. Naugle. It is the fifth in the "Student's Guides series published by Crossway; $11.99.) David---a great teacher, and dear mentor to many---had graced me with an advance peek at some of this, and it is excellent. Not just for philosophy majors, I think every serious-minded student should get this. And---I'm not just saying this---the first chapter or two are worth the price of the book. Anybody interested in the life of the mind or intellectual things should read this. This whole project about the integration of faith and scholarship, and what it means to have the mind of Christ about the academic world, well, it is the best. So we were glad to have a stack of 'em. I don't have to tell you that this isn't the sexiest title on the table, and the word philosophy may scare some people away. As I told one student, this is as painless a way into this grand tradition of relating faith and philosophy as one is going to find.
We sold a copy of
Transforming Care: A Christian Vision of Nursing Practice by Mary Molewyk
Doornbos, Ruth Groenhout and Kenra Hotz (Eerdmans; $24.00) who are thoughtful
scholars from Calvin College. We have other books on health care, of course.
We sold at least one on the arts; it is always fun when artists see stuff like Calvin Seerveld, or the many titles published by Square Halo Books or God in the Gallery: A Christian Embrace of Modern Art (by Dan Siedell) or even the wonderful older book by Madeleine L'Engle, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art. I talked with a
film-studies major about Romanowski and Overstreet. We sold one of the brand new book of prayers for writers, a delightfully
edited book by Gary D. Schmidt & Elizabeth Stickney called Acceptable
Words: Prayers for Writers (Eerdmans; $16.00) which is a delight for anyone who loves reading or writing---you may know Schmidt as a popular YA novelist. We had some other books on lit and writing, sold one which was a religious exploration of Harry Potter, although that student maybe wasn't even a lit major. And what a joy to have a young woman pick up the new The Terrible Speed of Mercy: A Spiritual Biography of Flannery O'Connor by Jonathan Rogers (Nelson; $15.99.)
We sold one book that we took on semiotics -- Changing
Signs of Truth: A Christian Introduction to the Semiotics of Communications, fabulously written by the fabulous Crystal Downing, of Messiah College, published audaciously by IVP Academic for $24.00 --- to a communications major.
A lively, heavy Christian book on
postmodern semiotics -- are you kidding me? Getting to show off this kind of stuff is, as the kids say,
ridiculous! What a joy!
I have a hunch that for
some of these students, they were buying these resources because they've been
nurtured, over a year or so by CCO friendships, by last year's Leadership
Together event, by being at the big Jubilee conference in Pittsburgh in February, maybe the Ocean City Beach
Project or a CCO outdoor wilderness trip, perhaps by reading our blog, even. Like anyone might be in your own circles
of influence, these kids were stepping up to what they've been hearing about,
taking the advice of friends, being enfolding into Christian practices like
Christian reading about vocation and culture. They are allowing a truly Christian worldview to become
their way of life, bit by bit.
They bought books about various aspects of life and they wanted to glorify
God in fruitful, faithful ways in their life's work. They are getting it, because somebody is inviting them into
this Kingdom way of life.
BEING MENTORED, BIT BY BIT
This insight, that lasting growth comes in part through mentors and in friendships, reminds me of another book we sold there on Friday night (in fact, one that was mentioned more than once from up front) Steve Garber's Fabric of Faithfulness: Weaving Together Belief and Behavior (IVP; $16.00.) You know this is a thoughtful and important book, and we often commend it for serious readers. If you want to get a flavor of the sorts of ways Steve gets all this said, earnestly and thoughtfully, check out this short talk from Q Ideas. His book comes up often in these conversations and the sort of people Steve has mentored and influenced indicates the caliber and importance of his eloquent book.
So, some students book books because they are being mentored, they are being discipled into intregal ways of missional living. I hope being reminded of this (and hearing about the books such disciples are buying) encourages you to influence and mentor and teach others who are around you.
Others, though, bought books---or at least looked ---for the first time ever. Granted, reading Christianly, about these sorts of things, may be a new thing. Heck, these days, reading anything is a bit of a stretch for some. Yet, invited into faithful leadership in the name of Jesus, they began the life-long journey, committing themselves to what might be a new practice---reading a bit about something they've never read about before. How about you?
Again, thanks to the CCO for doing stuff like Leadership Together. And a special shout-out to friends at Grove City College for hosting me so well in the days I was there, too. We are grateful.
If any of these books
seem interesting to you, or if you know anyone to whom who you might what to give a gift, let us know. As usual, here at BookNotes, you can
get 'em at a 20% off.