Just got back from spending a few days selling books with a wonderful group of UCC pastors, friends who have allowed us to be a part of their convocation to set up books, chat about books, stand up and give mini-lessons on the books du jour. As evangelical churches become more theologically diverse and some mainline churches deepen their uniquely Christian practices, liturgy and desire for faithful witness, I find—as I always have, truth be told—that I truly enjoy our multi–denominational work. We set up tons of books, as always, and this good group of serious pastors teased me about my bad back and optimistic expectations. Bookselling Hearts & Minds style will never make us wealthy, but these events evoke a richness for which we are grateful.
A special perk of these long hours working away from home was the opportunity to hear Tony Campolo again, a bunch of times, in a fairly casual and small-crowd setting. We got to kibbitz a bit, I sat with him for a while and, yep, he bought some books from our display. When I shared with him some of our frustrations about being criticized for our ecumenical spirit, he encouraged me with a reminder of the extreme hatred he’s encountered (including death threats!) Then he told me a funny story about he and President Bush when they were together off the record at the dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library. I guess all of us have to struggle with disapproval ratings sometimes, and if Tony and George W can laugh about it, I should too…
You may find it of interest that Tony remains ever faithful to his progressive politics and his evangelical roots. He is an evangelist at heart and here, among the most sidelined of the mainline churches, he invited them to do good evangelism, to have their public witness for peace and justice be rooted in spiritually vibrant congregational life, which, in turn, has to be truly animated by the Holy Spirit. One cannot sustain serious social action without a mature and authentic relationship with Jesus.
What other evangelical preacher can hang out with such mainline clergy women and men, sharing their passion for inclusion and open-heartedness, and yet call them firmly to Biblical authority, to Holy-Spirited prayerfulness, to old-school evangelism (yep, he even tutored them on how to do an invitation; I wondered if some of them have ever even heard an altar call, let alone given one)? It is surely God’s job to do the converting, he assured them, but it is God’s desire to use us, as we invite others to become disciples of Christ.
Although a Baptist preacher, he can talk their game: he peppers his talks not only with his breadth of KJV memory verses but with quotes of Tillich and Rudolph Otto, Buber and Karl Manheim; Niehbur and Albert Einstein, Julian of Norwich and Theresa of Avila. And, yes, he told of amazing Pentecostal encounters with faith-healing charismatics and civil disobedience with William Sloan Coffin to protest the latest round of Bush budget cuts.
My, my, this is great stuff, all delievered with good humor, tons of stories, and—as one who has known him a bit for decades—at great personal cost. Tony Campolo is a favorite public speaker for many and he is renowned for his entertaining talks. He is more than entertaining, though, he is important. We should pay attention to him. We commend his many books and remind you that they would make great graduation gifts. Scroll down a bit for our blog-site special deal.
HERE ARE THREE FAVORITES:
Carpe Diem–Seize the Day is all about “coming alive” in various aspects of life (work, home, school, in nature, in church, etc.) and would be particularly nice as an invitation to post-graduation purpose and passion ($12.95.)
His newest is called Speaking My Mind, which is now out in paperback ($13.95.) The subtitle (which he doesn’t care for, by the way) is “The Radical Evangelical Prophet Tackles Tough Issues Christians Are Afraid To Face” and it is on his views on everything from war to gay marriage, Islam to science.
Also recently released in paperback is Adventures in Missing the Point where he co-writes with post-modern emergent leader, Brian McLaren. Here, they give and take back and forth on a variety of contemporary concerns, exposing how the middle class church has too often accomodated itself to secular modern culture and surely needs to emerge into something more relevant and more faithful and more Christ-like. There is a good study guide in the back, too ($16.99.)
-this month only-
Tony Campolo books
buy two get a third free
the lesser expensive one is free