A Plea To Christians Wanting To Write Their Very Own Book, Or Subtly Pushing My Ghost-Writer Resume

This is a thinly veiled open letter, and I am addressing it to anyone who is trying or even considering to write a Christian book.

Dear person posted up in the corner of the coffee shop who’s taking up a table in the mid-morning rush (and oblivious to the needs of your fellow man),

Hey I get it, you’re not gonna be in the who’s who of Christianity until you’ve published a book. A memoir, an ultra-glorified bible study, another wake-up call to the church –  whatever the genre is that you’re convinced your about to change. Just because you are writing a book to proclaim very interesting points about Jesus and the Christian life does not mean your writing will be interesting.

You may have a great point, even a series of great points all working in unison to make a grand point, but if you don’t write well then you are like a clanging gong. Please, take that advance the publishing company gave you and invest it in a ghost-writer. It hurts upfront but you are far more likely to have great returns, both in reader-response and book sales (not that this is a concern, as it’s all about getting your message out).

Quite simply, I’ve read way too many Christian books where the writing was excruciatingly bad. As in the lastfour Christian books I’ve read have been unbearable. To the point where I wondered if an editor, in good consciousness, collected a paycheck for their work – because there seemed to be strong evidence pointing to being uninvolved.

Now I’m sympathetic, I really am. You’re not a writer – you’re a pastor. You’re a teacher, you’re a leader, you’re the head of some organization who someone got ahold of my address and isn’t letting go. I realize you’re not a writer, yet you’ve chosen to write. And unfortunately having a great thesis does not guarantee a great book. In fact you may spend so much time discussing your thesis that you neglect what you’re saying. It’s not just what you say, but how you say it.

Reasons to spend more time developing your writing skills:

  1. Not only will your main points be heard, but they will be felt. Readers will be moved, not merely informed.
  2. Your book will likely be much shorter. More than likely you will actually spend more time writing a shorter book, but more people will be able to get through your work when it’s not a 300 page epic.
  3. Your sermons or speeches may grow to be more effective with your newfound ability with crafting words.
  4. You won’t have to promote your book so loudly (and annoyingly) to the blogosphere, as we’ll be passing along the good word on your behalf.

I hope I have not offended you. I don’t fault you for not writing well, as writing is not your original gift. But I hope that you can see an extra investment here will prove to be profitable for all involved (and will save me being the first guy on Amazon who finally says “what are you all talking about this book was a mess ! I’ve seen more organized train  wrecks!”

Best wishes in your success (please keep me in mind for review copies),

Charlie

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I’m Not Quitting Just Morphing, Or New Beginnings Come From Some Other Beginnings End

When I first started a site called Charlie’s Church of Christ I wanted it to be a place where I posted essays and other assorted media in various mediums (I even wanted to post religious-flavored comic strips until I realized plenty others were doing that) – I didn’t want to call it a blog because it didn’t seem to fit what I wanted to do. Bloggers write on a schedule and blog posts have a distinct feel to them, distinctively different from essays. I wanted my work to feel more timeless than the (imaginary and projected) constrictions blog seems to have. However I went with wordpress for hosting and soon after began writing three times a week, and after a while I finally caved and called this what it had become – a blog.

Yet blog just wasn’t quite what I was doing nor wanted to be doing. Which is why it’s no surprise the “blog” died – evidenced by a lack of posts in 5 weeks. I worked hard to craft posts on regular intervals because that’s what blogs do, and for a year I cranked out posts, sometimes when I wasn’t quite “feelin’ it” if you know what I mean. And you can only keep that going for so long until it stops working.

Well apparently it stopped working when I started working – my new job that is. Thus I’m declaring the Charlie’s Church of Christ blog is dead. However Charlie’s Church of Christ isn’t dead. Oh heavens no. I’m returning to what I wanted this to be – a place for my essays.

I’ll write them when they strike me and post accordingly. I’m not very good as a machine, and so I’ll stop trying to be so mechanical. True, this means not regular posting, but only published essays when I’m “feelin’ it,” but hopefully you’re using an RSS so you won’t be in the dark when an essay comes to light.

I truly must say thank you to anyone who stopped by to read when this was a blog, and even more thanks if you stuck around and/or commented. I apologize the blog side died, but I hope you can join me on this flip side ride.

Answers to Questions you didn’t ask:

“When do you plan on rolling out this first essay?”

Well if I say when then it’ll feel obligatory and thus be like a blog again. I do have some essay ideas swirling around, I hope to try to pound them out soon. So, in sum, I offer a vague answer.

“I’m religiously oppossed to RSS feeds – how often should I drop by to see if you’ve written an essay.”

Don’t try to pigeonhole me! Okay maybe once a month? Sometimes more sometimes less? Don’t you hate answers that are questions?

“So when you say you you’re not going to blog anymore but write essays, isn’t this toe-may-toe/toe-MA-toe?”

Piercing question (I’m saying this to myself). I’ll reference my favorite writer Phillip Yancey’s blog. It carries that name, but his posts have much more of an essay feel. That is what I’m going for.

“Do you realize how close you were to having 200 posts? 5 is the number. You couldn’t pump out 5 more posts to hit that brag-able number?”

Sorry slim, couldn’t do it.

“We all know you stole that second title from that Semisonic song.”

Where did I claim it was mine? (Response: “By not citing it.”)

“Charlie this post thing is longer than most blogs you wrote. I think you’re losing them.”

Thanks for the feedback, I’ll end this kind-of-blog-kind-of-announcement now.

 

 

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Did I Just See A Mormon TV Ad?, Or Can Division Actually Be a Good Thing?

The Mormon church in the last few years has tried to rebound it’s image by releasing an ad campaign attempting to make the religion seem more every-day-people and not so Utah-desert-dweller. They’re even sponsoring ads on you tube!

This is something you’ll likely not see from Christians. Not because we’re not trying to make ourselves cool again, but because we’re not united enough. If you google “mormon” you’ll see the LDS church has an official website. This isn’t something you’ll find in Christianity because there is no official Christian church.

I’m sure some Christians secretly dream of unity, because then we could full on assault the world (in love) unified. I, however, actually think our division can be a good thing.

First of all I’m glad there aren’t advertisements on television trying to convince the public that Christianity isn’t wacky. But mostly I think the power of Christianity is in it’s guerrilla-ness. Advertising campaigns may be trusted by corporations but the message of Jesus is something that works more organically. Slower, yet, but much deeper and more potent.

Maybe this seems totally wild but I actually the different versions of following Jesus are a good thing. Rather than a totally uniform version, which can seem like a cult (I’m not calling Mormonism a cult, but it’s happened), people who’ve met Jesus over the ages have all struggled to figure out what it all means and arrived at different conclusions. I think that’s a good thing.

What do you think of a religious advertising campaign? Do you wish there were a Christian church similar to how there’s the Mormon church? Do you think the divisions are a good thing?

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Charlie Apologizes For Neglect, Or The Most Difficult Post To Create A Second Title For

It’s fall, a time of decline. The name itself reminds us of the fateful event in the Garden that led to death, and the weather reminds us that not everything lives happily ever after but in fact everything must die.

Okay so that was a purposefully over the top intro written to be humorously melodramatic. Though this blog has lately felt like a tree losing it’s leaves, it’s not dead. Spring will come, and daggunit you won’t have to wait 5 months for it.

So it’s one of those posts where I explain I’ve been busy like mad lately and I haven’t had the energy to blog lately. I know excuses are lame, but I felt I owed whoever is left out there some sort of explanation. I’m not retiring or quitting or any of the sort, I just don’t have the heart this week to come up with anything.

I’d also like to formally apologize for not being very good about responding to comments. I truly love reading what you all have to say, even if you think it’s not related to what I discussed, and I do read every comment – usually with a smile on my face. But I haven’t had the energy to give a proper response to what you’ve said – and I’d rather respond for real then just put something up for it’s sake.

So by golly if you haven’t done the RSS thang or subscribed then please do so you don’t miss when I finally hit my groove again. My work schedule is set to slow down from it’s frenzied pace and I want to keep giving you the mediocre-quality content you’ve come to expect. Thanks for your patience and for hanging in there. And if you haven’t hung in there with me then you won’t get this message.

In the mean time, tell me what’s going on with you lately. I’d throw out a couple of guesses but that’d contradict my recent post about pastors who guess what their congregation is dealing with. So, what’s up?

 

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No More Fine Print, Or God Doesn’t Mind Sinners

Sometimes when we let a tattooed singer songwriter on stage at church he’ll utter a nervous joke about being surprised God is letting him on stage without striking him down.

Though it’s a joke, it raises something – this idea that God only likes the good boys and girls. That people with problems and faults and any kind of dirty past should serve, they need to clean up their act before they’re any good.

But I think God likes sinners. He loves them.

This doesn’t seem revolutionary, but I think we need to stop adding an asterisk, a foot note, a caveat that God loves sinners but he is redeeming them and doesn’t want them to stay the same. As true as it might be I think we just need to accept that God loves dirty rotten people even if they never change.

I’m sure this will come across wrong but I think the Romans Road explanation of the gospel does some harm here. It say that we are sinners and God cannot tolerate even the tiniest amount of sin, thus he had to send Jesus. I’m not saying that’s wrong, but I think that how we phrase it sounds like God finds us despicable and it makes it sound like God gets the heebie jeebies from sinners. Well, Jesus didn’t seem to mind as much.

So sinner, play your guitar for us. God will not strike you down. I though we left that idea behind 2000 years ago.

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The Gears Of The Hype Machine, Or Wilty Lettuce On A Shriveled Bun

Sorry to bring him up, we get hung up on his name and miss the point. But I’ll try anyway…

One thing I appreciate about Rob Bell is that he doesn’t do the hype thing. All of his books have come with virtually no self promotion – he’d do a press release and little more. Surely you’ve had to endure a near steady barrage of hype around a book propelled by the author and a legion of followers. But Rob has no blog on which to promote every week and no e-mail going out begging people to check out his latest thing. There’s been no machine cranking the gears of sales trying to get people interested. No campaigns.

Yet we are all aware of his books. And this is because he wrote something that people naturally had to talk about (and as they say any press is good press).

So my Lutheran reader won’t get much out of this post, but for the rest of you I think the church can learn from Rob and/or his PR team. Let our work stand on its own. Bell didn’t hype up his films, books or tours because he didn’t need to – they spread the old fashioned way. I know some churches I’ve been apart of had big hype machines churning behind everything they did, making epic videos and employing an army of chipper people to act as though this were bigger than Michael Jackson in the 80′s.

Is hype really covering up insecurity?

We live in an advertising culture. I get it, you can’t rely 100% on word-of-mouth – you do have to do some sort of advertising. But we are constantly being sold something, and so we one-up the competition through the age old game of hype. And often what we’re selling doesn’t match up to the packaging. If you haven’t learned that lesson yet with fast food hang overs then you’ve got high cholesterol, greasy fingers and the gullibility keeping those restaurants alive.

Maybe we should let what we’re selling (man I hate that language) sell itself. If it’s naturally captivating then we have to do less work anyway.

Have you been to a church that has a hype machine? Did the burger look like the commercial? What do you think of Rob Bell’s marketing?

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Taking A Shot In The Candlelit Darkness, Or The Super Minor Thing That Annoys Me

I don’t have anything earth-shattering tonight. Just a brief rant.

Have you ever heard a sermon where towards the end the pastor slows down the pace, pause before he tongue clicks against the roof of his mouth and says “now I don’t know where you are. Maybe your marriage is in trouble and your wondering if it can be salvaged. Maybe you’re barely keeping your head above water in your finances and on the brink of losing your house. Maybe you just received news this week of a family’s member cancer.”

For some reason this little thing so commonly found in sermons annoys me. To steal their way of speaking maybe it’s because they’re guessing what we’re going through – because they don’t actually know what we are going through. Maybe it’s the light organ and occasional Edge-esque guitar ringing as the lights soften. Maybe because it’s the new emo alter call. Maybe it’s the way it only uses big flashy struggles and neglects the less famous but arguably more heart-stripping struggles every human being fights.

Is this a big deal? Is asking a question and then immediately answering it annoying? No to the first, yes to the second. I’m not trying to change the world with today’s post, I just wanted to see if anyone else has picked up on this annoying sermon tactic.

Does this bother you too? Or am I just being nit-picky? If it does feel like a bug bite for you too, what is it that makes it annoying? 

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