Magazines & Newsletters: The Best and the Brightest

As the owner of a struggling independent
bookstore, it is my hope–obviously–that my recommendations and
reviews here will sell some books. We mail “Ëœem anywhere and love to hear
of residence hall book groups, faculty studies and Sunday school classes
who brave serious reading for serious times, and others whose lives have
been enhanced by our wares. Some day, by selling said books, we might
even be able to give our hard-working staff the raises they deserve. Unless
you really don’t care what you sell, though, hawking good books
these days is, shall we say, less than lucrative.

CCO campus minister friends are my main
audience, but I hope that some others may be listening in on our monthly
conversations about books, Kingdom vision and contemporary Christian fidelity.
Whether in campus outreach, youth ministry or other culturally-significant
work, I hope my years of book reviews (some of which can be accessed at
have been useful. And at least a little profitable for us, which, when
up against the goliaths of porno-selling market-meisters amazon-dot-whatever,
et. al., seems ever tenuous. But don’t get me started…

I digress. Our feeble bottom line amidst
global consumerism is not my point this month. This time, I want to steer
you away from Hearts & Minds and our inventory towards some resources
such as newsletters, periodicals and the like.

Folks often ask where I turn for short
essays, book reviews and other articles to stimulate the Christian mind.
Of course everyone knows of Christianity Today, the flagship
magazine of evangelicalism, and Sojourners, the standard
Christian peace and justice mag (two regular must-reads in my estimation).

In these pages, I have regularly promoted
Evangelicals for Social Action’s (ESA) useful PRISM. Ron
Sider has expressed his interest in the CCO specifically and collegiate
ministry generally: all of our student leaders should help Sider, Campolo,
Richard Foster, Tom Sine and other key evangelicals in the effort to keep
this little monthly afloat. Call ESA at 610-645-9390 or email them at They’ve got
some new videos to promote their wholistic, socially-active evangelism
(and a new Web site organizing such church-based work,
The new editor of PRISM promises to make it an even more lively
collection of writing, good ideas and resources. Don’t miss it! And don’t
miss modeling for your students your commitment to such organizations.
Where else will they learn the peculiar habit we Christians have of supporting
odd little missions, reading alternative magazines about stuff like justice,
and utilizing such unsung but reliable sources for news and views? Contact
ESA today!

BreakPoint with Chuck Colson
is a monthly collection of cultural commentary laden with worldview language,
reference to distinctively Christian thinking and the need for gospel
folk to be engaged in current events. What a great little mag! Each piece
can be read in a few minutes and is always very plainly written. If you
read these for a month or two and haven’t photocopied or somehow used
them as conversation starters or illustrations for your classes or Bible
studies, I’d say you should go back to Summer Training! For radical evangelicals
longing for cultural reformation, these little commentaries are worth
their weight in Kingdom gold. (That they include stuff on the arts and
science, film and advertising reviews and references to college campuses
makes them perfect for our use!) These worldviewish commentaries are actually
printed versions of Colson’s fine, daily radio broadcasts, which can be
heard on the net at
As a ministry of the renowned Prison Fellowship, BreakPoint can
be acquired by calling 1-800-457-6125. They can also give you information
on syndication–maybe you could get your campus radio station to air
it daily.

Critique is one of the
spiffiest-looking publications out there. It is published by CCO friends
Denis and Margie Haack (they call their Schaeffer-esque ministry “Ransom
Fellowship” and their home, quaintly, “Toad Hall.”) It
is a modestly-sized, monthly magazine of great substance, designed “to
help Christians develop skills in discernment.” They run brief excerpts
from a variety of books and journals, they do thought-provoking movie
and music reviews and occasionally point out articles from mainstream
periodicals–say, Psychology Today or Atlantic Monthly–which
Christians might thoughtfully discuss. In recent months, they’ve been
recommending various Web sites, too (like a Bruce Cockburn site, or places
for information on Christianity and homosexuality) which can either serve
as a resource for developing the Christian mind or can be helpfully perused
for the sake of gaining a window into our culture and its idols and ideologies…

What’s more (“There’s more?”
you ask), throughout the brief publication are discussion questions and
conversation-starters on the articles. Denis is particularly skilled in
helping folk sort out a viable in-the-world-but-not-of-it strategy for
relating to the world; his passion for wise and faithful discernment comes
through as Critique‘s reason for being. Send them a couple of bucks
or more and you get not only Critique, but also Notes from
Toad Hall
, Margie’s delightful and, at times, painfully honest
reflections on life, time, ministry and struggle through her day-to-day.
(She is a great writer and we should pray hard for both of them as they
are both working on manuscripts that should turn into books some day soon!)
With our own Bonnie Liefer, Steve Garber and former CCO Training Director
Donald Guthrie on their Board, you can imagine how appropos this ministry
is for us. Don’t you dare miss it! (And its classy and hip black and white
graphic, done in an excellent printing job, makes for a very cool coffee
table piece. Sure beats tacky junk mail from Ed McMahan!) Write to Ransom
Fellowship, 1150 W. Center, Rochester, MN 55902 or email

Re:Generation Quarterly
is a very, very important journal, written almost exclusively by deep-thinking
Gen X-ers. Their subheading, “community transforming culture,” and their
creation of regional salons, on-line forums and chat groups illustrate
their deep understanding of faith as embodied and communal. While they
are clearly committed to historic, orthodox Christianity, their take on
the faith is surprisingly fresh, creatively argued, and seems always probing
and often profound. Not nearly as heady (or, thank God, as dull) as the
very important First Things journal, it seems to share some
sort of camaraderie with them. The full color graphics and modern photography
are captivating, while the film and art reviews are significant. (And
here’s another CCO connection: Re:Generation Quarterly‘s publisher
is William R.L. Haley, brother-in-law of Cami, brother of Taylor.) Although
very, very hip, these guys are definitely the deep end of the evangelical
gene pool… (Re:Generation Quarterly, 1-800-783-4903;;

youthculture@2000 is a
quarterly newsletter put out by former CCO staffer Walt Mueller. This
is an amazingly helpful guide for parents and youth workers on the world
of high-schoolers, their lives and culture. Without appearing reactionary,
his indepth reports–on Eminem, Brittany Spears, Survivor and
so forth–expose serious matters in youth culture and reflect on popular
trends. (Many of these are available as reprints.) In most issues, Walt
does a very nice book review of a youth ministry title, and his wholistic
view of relevant and caring youth work comes through loudly and clearly.
Also, he loads up a page full of the best Web sites that provide current
info on bands, movies, TV shows and the like. Walt does a great live presentation,
too, and his central Pennsylvania-based center is increasingly known for
providing leadership in youth ministry circles. Praise God for his good
work: we knew him when! (Center for Parent & Youth Understanding;;; 717-361-8429)

Perspectives is the newsletter
of the Institute for Christian Studies (ICS). I get excited by the oddest
things, and even though this periodical is mostly in-house news from the
small but scholarly Toronto grad school, I sometimes literally get on
my knees thanking God for them when Perspectives arrives. Granted,
there was a time in our circles when the late Peter Steen, official CCO
troublemaker, in-house philosopher and staff prophet, had some of us believing
that we would reverse the juggernaut of secular modernity by reclaiming
and robustly applying the Calvinist worldview which links the sovereignty
of God and the rule of Christ over every aspect of life to higher education
and academic life. Biblically redirecting scholarship–the idea-world
which powers and directs public life–was seen as the key to culture-wide
reformation, and for that, of course, we needed our own seriously philosophical
and Christianly conceived think tank and PhD-granting institution. Ergo:

(Forgive the digression, but it could
be argued that the postmodern deconstructionists, riding a parallel track
against modernity, just got there before we did and they have been leading
the charge against the idol of scientistic reductionism that Steen warned
against two decades ago. In our time, at least, postmodern scholarship
has won the day and their take on things has trickled down from the ivory
tower becoming the popular currency on the street; for better or worse,
they are the culture-shapers par excellence. Not to brag, as it
is a matter of shame that our salt and light witness was less than adequate,
but those who, at Steen’s insistence, regularly read Perspectives
and followed the work of ICS were familiar with and equipped to deal with
majordomo themes like postmodernism decades before other less-aware
evangelicals, who are just now catching on.)

Anyway, the ICS was the center of the
universe–the New Jerusalem, as we jokingly called Toronto–and
Al Wolters, Cal Seerveld, Bernie Zylstra, and, later, Walsh & Middleton,
were their prophets. Pittsburgh ministries such as CCO, PUCS, and of course,
the Jubilee conference itself, are all somewhat in their legacy. It concerns
me that we do not promote ICS much any more, sending our best and brightest
students to study there. Get on the mailing list for Perspectives
and stay informed about their educational efforts. Learn about their conferences,
papers and the classes that they have been faithfully offering for more
than 30 years. The occasional book review or call for papers just may
help one of your sharper students or be intriguing to that faculty member
to whom you’ve been witnessing. Their “Faith & Learning Network” database
may be just what you need for further research. Some of their auxiliary
efforts–art shows, political efforts, stewardship guidance–may
be worth checking out. After requesting their newsletter, swing by and
chat at their Jubilee booth next month. After all, they’ve been coming
to every Jubilee since the very first year. (ICS, 229 College Street,
Suite 200, Toronto, Ontario M5T 1R4;;

Speaking of Pete Steen, his son and daughter-in-law
both worked for the CCO in the early “Ëœ80s. Todd is now a prof at Hope
College and is the managing editor of the prestigious Christian
Scholars Review
, which is a serious academic journal you should
know about. Every college library ought to carry it, so if yours does
not, make that a New Year’s resolution–to press your university to
be inclusive of various perspectives and at least stock this journal.
(Perhaps you could recruit a sympathetic faculty member to endorse it.)
Email Todd at to ask
for copies, subscription rates and plans to get this important tool for
academic discipleship into the right hands. This really does cover academic
subjects from very rigorous scholars–it would be an asset to Christian
students who are doing research for papers as well as a witness to those
faculty members who may not know that there is a tradition of serious
thinkers who engage in what historian George Marsden has called “the outrageous
idea of Christian scholarship.”