Garber & Guinness…and me

Last week saw us pulling another all-nighter to set up a display for the staff of the CCO, and then, a day and a half later, speeding our way to DC to set up another gig, which Beth had begun, arriving in a big rented van. The CCO’s strategic work on college campuses is remarkable and serving them is among our favorite tasks; their zesty staff order tons of books from us. So many good friends, there, asking good, good questions about helping students, nurturing academic faithfulness, equipping collegiates to live out faith in their colleges and universities. Most of our readers know this, but it isn’t an easy or simple matter to live profoundly Christian lives in the complex institutions and unique places and sub-cultures of our world. It is exhausting to be called to minister on campus, to those who have so very much going on–academics, vocational questions, family-life, finances, sexuality issues; you know Charlotte Simmons and Goat and Smashed and The Freefall of the American University and on and on. The post-modern university is certainly a vital mission field and campus para-church groups like the CCO play a significant role helping young adults connect their deepest convicitions and their vocation as students. We think, by the way, that the CCO’s practice of partnering with local congregations is unique and important (recall this month’s website column about the centrality of the instiutional church for cultural renewal.) We hope our books play a part in helping campus chaplains, youth workers and others involved in such important places of ministry. Please help us spread the word of how we can serve organizations, churches, ministries and such. We always come back from CCO staff training events wondering how we can help promote campus discipleship.
Steve Garber, truly one of my best friends and most faithful cheerleaders, wrote several years back a book that, I would imagine you know by now, is a Hearts & Minds favorite. Not only am I briefly interviewed in it, it is a book that I’ve reviewed for two different national magazines. The Fabric of Faithfulness: Weaving Together Belief and Behavior in the University Years is elequant and sturdy, deep and deeply moving. It is one of my all time favorite books and deserves to be read, and re-read. (I am not the only one to say this, by the way, that it gets richer with repeated readings.) Garber is respected and admired by a handful of celebrities, yes, but more so by long lines of ordinary students with whom he has walked through life. Week after week, he calls people to think deeply about their lives, to ponder how our characters are formed and how our communities of faith can be places which nurture public responsiblities. Read about his networking work and some of his finely-crafted essays here. He talks the talk of “Christian worldview” and lives it out in helpful, caring, sustainable ways. He holds up real examples— common folks he knows, novelists like Wendell Berry, historic heroes like William Wilberforce—and shows us what faithfulness looks like.
(If you haven’t please read my review of his book here. And forward them off to sombody you know who works at a college, or is in a college setting.)
Dr. Os Guinness, born in China, is older than Steve, a bit more internationally known (how many people do you know who are invited to talk about modernity and the challanges of ethical responisilibilities before prestigious communist dinners in China’s capitol city?) Like Garber, Guinness spent some significant time with Francis & Edith Schaeffer, the late-60’s evangelical apologists who God sent to a Swiss chalet to hang out with disillusioned seekers who passed through in those turbulent years. He studies history and culture, leadership and sociology. He, too, has learned deeply from the life-long campaigns of William Wilberforce. Guinness went on to work for the BBC, some important think-tanks in Washington DC, and founded the “university without walls” called The Trinity Forum. We’ve had him here in the York area a time or two and we’ve raved about his important books over and over again on the website at our monthly book review column. His many books include the brief, but powerful Fit Bodies, Fat Minds on why evangelicals have not developed a propensity for serious thinking; The Time for Truth, on the debate about truth in a world of spin, hype and postmodern reformulations; Prophetic Untimeliness challanges the idols of “relevance” and shows how cultural accomodation afflicts evangelicals (think of the shallower end of the mega-churches) and mainline folks alike. (Read my review here.)
His most recent two books have been a wonderfully-written study of the search for the meaning in life, The Long Journey Home which is a thoughtful guide to the three primary “families of faiths” (the secularist, the Eastern, and the Judeo-Christian) and the most recent study of the problem of evil, Unspeakable: Facing Up to Evil in an Age of Genocide and Terror (Read my review here.) Now out in paperback, Unspeakable is, I believe, one of the most important books to be written in recent years, and should be on the reading list of anybody that carries the burdens of the world with them. That we live in an age of perhaps the worst human trafficking in human history.
The classic, though, is The Call: Finding and Fulfilling Your Live’s Grand Purpose and it is one of my all time favorite books. Long before Rick Warren popularized the human quest for purpose, Guinness wrote elegantly and radically about the forgotten Christian doctrine of calling and vocation.
We spent a few hours with Os as he spoke before the gathered crowd hosted by the C.S. Lewis Institute, another important ministry that we are proud to serve. They have brought in fabulous speakers to the Washington DC area over the years—from N.T. Wright and Alister McGrath to Lewis experts, to apologists like Ravi Zacharias. They have asked us to set up book displays and promote the books of Lewis, and others, at their events, and it is a wonderful privelege. Thanks especially to Jim Eckert, one of their great volunteers, who always helps us.

As you may be able to tell from the photo, after four hard days of book lugging and book promoting, with Garber & Guinness, I’ve got a lump in my throat, a haze in my brain, and a squirrely look on my face. It should be noted that, as the shot is snapped, we were starting to pack up, Beth is most likely balancing the credit card stuff, the book display is being torn down, boxes are in the background, and my very smart and very strong helper, Matt Lyke, is doing the dirty work.
You can see him bending over in the back, while I posed with the honored guest. I’ve considered asking Os if schmoozing is a noble calling, a vocare. That people like Matt and Scott help Beth and I, and that our store staff back in Dallastown hold down the proverbial fort, and that authors like these two have befriended our little efforts, makes the hustle worthwhile.
Kudos to Garber & Guinness, for their brillant and passionate presentations, pouring themselves out to stimulate others in deeper discipleship. If you follow what we do here, if you care about our views of good books, please take some solid advice: read their books!

4 thoughts on “Garber & Guinness…and me

  1. Steve Garber’s Fabric of Faithfulness is one of my two favourite books of all time, excluding, of course, canonically collected divine revelation.

  2. Oh, look at you! Great to see you, and sorry I missed Steve Garber at staff seminar. I know it was good stuff!Blessings,Michele

  3. I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but Os Guinness’ (I’m not familiar enough with him to call him just “Os” like you are) The Call really helped me in defining where God has lead me in my life. it’s really helped me especially in my understanding of the difference between the general call all of us have recieved and specific call which each recieve uniquely. i come from a background where “calling” is something left for pastors, and i really like os’ comments on how all are called to the mission of Christ.

  4. hi byron- great little article and good thoughts on Garber and Guinness… Steve’s talks at Staff Sem were just what I needed, and while there I purchased a few copies of the Call to give to some graduating seniors…. you should also know that on Friday I unpacked and shelved all the books for PSU- our shelves look great and hopefully soon we’ll be cataloging them in time for students’ return!peace, Becki L

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