LifeWay Christian Books, Twitter and Being a Witness

ImageA few weeks ago, I went into the Buford LifeWay store to purchase some books to help me with the Christian Learning Center class I teach, as well as my Wednesday night messages to  youth. As I normally do, I went over the LifeWay online catalog to make sure they carried the books I wanted, then made my list and went to the store hoping to find at least one or two of them in stock.

Now, the type of books I went searching for are – admittedly – a bit on the nerdy side. Books on philosophy, worldview, apologetics, and theology just aren’t popular for some reason (insert sarcasm font). They get relegated to a single shelf near the back, and I understand why: as Christians, we much prefer the books that tell us how to have a better life than the ones that tell us how to know God better. I get it.

But when I went looking for my titles, I couldn’t find a single one. Nada. Zero. Zip. In fact, there were no books on philosophy or worldview on the shelves at all, and precious few on apologetics.

As someone who worked for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, I was disappointed. Hurt. Angry.

Granted, not everyone is a nerd like me, but we are all called to know and understand our faith with great depth and conviction. For there not to be a single book in the store to help us deepen our understanding of the basic philosophical principles and worldview concepts of the faith…unbelievable.

And unfortunate. It perpetuates the stereotype that to be a Christian means you can’t be intelligent. Or well-thought.

So I tweeted my frustration to Thom Rainer, the president and CEO of LifeWay, mentioning the specific store and my disappointment at the books not carried. Not only did he respond to me personally (via Twitter and email) he offered to make it right.

And so today, when I went to pick up some books that I ordered, I checked the theology shelf of the store, just to see if there had been any change.

It was loaded with books on philosophy, worldview and apologetics. I can’t say that my one or two little tweets did all that, but it was gratifying to me to see that there was such a quick change in such a short time. While I’m reasonably sure that LifeWay was probably sold out of those types of books when I was in the store two weeks ago, I still felt like pointing out the need for such books was the right thing to do.

We live in an incredible time: via the power of social media, I was able to not only connect with the president of our denomination’s largest public arm, but I was able to (possibly) affect change within that organization. Twitter may often be a repository of dull and useless “insights” from people with too much time on their hands, but it can also be a powerful tool to reach people and make a difference.

But even greater than the coolness of Twitter is the power we have in speaking up. It’s not a horrible scandal for LifeWay to not carry a ton of philosophy books, but it is wrong for us as Christians to be okay with not exercising our minds. It’s wronger still for us to not to call out the church when we’re not doing what Scripture says (see Matt. 22:37, 1 Peter 3:15, 2 Timothy 4:1-4).

So let me encourage you this week to speak up when you see something that needs addressing – whether it’s within the church or within the culture around you. We are called to be witnesses to God everywhere we go (Matt. 28:19-20), so let us witness to those around us with the hope that accountability can bring positive change.

Dear Graduate: Here’s Your Chance to Make a Movie

Usually, I use this forum as a way of expressing myself. Today, though brief, this post is to help out other people.

I formerly worked for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries as a writer and project manager, and one of the major projects in development during my time there was the ASK Curriculum, an apologetics curriculum for students. We were mainly in the preliminary stages of the project, so I didn’t have that much to do with it, but (as you can well imagine) it was a project about which I was extremely passionate.

Well, fast forward a year and change, and RZIM is on the verge of finishing this curriculum up and bringing it to the masses. Only, in order to get it completed, they need some help.

Tomorrow, RZIM will be filming the final video for the ASK material, and they need extras from the Atlanta area. All of the details can be found here, but for clarity’s sake, I’ll let you know they are looking for people, ages 18-30, who can be at Georgia Tech’s Global Learning Center tomorrow morning at 9:00. Filming will go until around lunchtime, though some extras might need to stay as late as 2:00. The ministry will provide breakfast, a box lunch, and a $20 Starbucks gift card to those who register online and show up for the filming.

For more information, or to register as an extra simply click on this link.

I’ll be there. Will you?

The Kind of Man I Want to Be

You get the metaphor.

I went to a Pastors Appreciation luncheon today, put on by WNIV 970 & 1400 here in Atlanta (and sponsored by their ownership group, Salem Communications). It was a nice affair, with plenty of things that people in the ministry like: food, coffee, and stuff – all free. I came home with a rather substantial sack full of goodies and a lot to think about.

Namely, what kind of a man do I want to be? And more specifically, what kind of pastor?

I’ve always taken for granted that being a pastor was as natural as breathing, if for no other reason than because I don’t know how to be anything else. Even when I was working in a “non-pastoral” role with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (whut-whut!), I still found myself performing pastoral functions like leading chapel and just checking in on my coworkers to see how they were doing. I just couldn’t live life any other way.

So when I think about going forward as a pastor, part of it feels like it should just be easy – that I’ll innately know which path to choose or which words to say or what messages to preach. But the truth of the matter is that there are some hard choices I have to make in order to be the best pastor I can.

I realized this while reading an interview with Rick Warren, pastor of the Saddleback mega-church in Southern California. Warren was talking about advice that he would give to young preachers, and he said something that really resonated with me: make sure your people know that sermons are meant to inspire them to do something (what Warren and his church call “do-able faith”).

I wrote it down like this:

Teachers impart knowledge; preachers inspire action.

I like that, especially as I go back and re-read the Gospels and look at the life of Jesus. He was deep but He always required his audiences to do something in response to what he said – either change their beliefs, their actions, their view of themselves, or their view of Him. He never left His hearers neutral; they either moved closer to Him or they moved farther away. People couldn’t help but act when Jesus spoke.

Can’t exactly say that about me. In fact, you’d say the opposite, because I kind of go out of my way to leave people alone. I don’t like ruffling feathers, I don’t like confrontation, and I don’t believe in saying things that hack people off just get a response out of them.

Honestly, I believe that if I can just come alongside people and show them the kind of person Christ has inspired me to be, then I’m doing what I’m supposed to. I learned that from Jesus too.

But at the same time, there’s something to be said about a man who can make people think. Who can inspire them to act. Who can use his words to cultivate in the hearts of others something genuine and good and powerful that leads to change (or, if you want to go all King James, repentance).

I came away from today’s luncheon wanting to be that kind of man. I want to inspire people to do, to act, to think, to feel. I want people to walk away from an encounter with me and have an impression left on their life. That sounds kind of vain when put that way, but it’s not meant to be.

And now that I’m sitting here typing, I can think of a better way to put it: I want the things I say to be as inspiring as the things I write. Granted not everything I write is inspirational, but I’ve gotten enough feedback from you, the audience, to know that what I write resonates with you in some way (enough to keep you coming back). I want that kind of resonance in all areas of my life.

But I don’t want it the cheap or easy way. I’m tired of the people who decide that the bully pulpit is the best way to communicate to others. I don’t believe that I have to bash anyone over the head with my faith in Christ, nor do I feel compelled to hold a figurative sword over anyone’s head and demand a response. I know that I want to do as Jesus did – preach the Word, be a light in the darkness, sound the message of the Kingdom of God, let people know what they must do in order to be saved…and patiently wait for those things to sink into the hearts of people so that they become sincere. There is no such thing as quick and easy faith in God. It’s a journey, for many a struggle, and it takes time, compassion, patience, consistency and love to yield anything that lasts.

That’s the kind of man I want to be: someone who inspires others, by my words and actions, to journey towards something that is both demanding and simple, something that is far beyond what most people assume or believe. I want to be the person of whom others say, “That’s the real deal there, dude.”

I’ve got a long way to go.

But then again, don’t we all?

**Don’t forget, you can also read this post at the new Jason Muses website, located here.**