Final Call (January 10)

Welcome to Final Call, a brief, hand-picked selection of news, articles, videos, and curiosities from the Internet and beyond.

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Q: Have you ever considered doing a series on the “hard things” of Scripture? Here are a few examples: Who are the sons of God in Genesis 6:2? What is meant by Psalm 82:6 where it says, “I said, ‘You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you'”? Who are the spirits in prison Peter refers to in 1 Peter 3?

A: Yes, I actually got as far as mapping one out once upon a time. But I ended up abandoning it because I began to consider the benefit of “staying in my lane.” I don’t think that series would be playing to my particular strengths. There are people out there who are far better equipped to do serious studies of seriously tricky texts, and I am happy enough to leave the work to them. In particular, I’d direct you to the Word Matters podcast with Trevin Wax and Brandon Smith. “Each episode takes a contested or puzzling passage of the Bible, walks through the most common interpretations, and then recommends how to preach or teach the passage effectively.” You’ll enjoy it! I also recommend Eric Bargerhuff’s book The Most Misused Verses in the Bible.

Thoughts on Christian Publishing

Samuel James picked up on the list of 2016’s bestselling Christian books as compiled by the Evangelical Christian Bookseller’s Association. In Thoughts on Christian Publishing, he makes the observation that when people read blogs they seem to show interest in thoughtful, meaningful commentary on life and Scripture, yet when it comes to books they gravitate to what is light. “The contrast between the work that outsells all other work in Christian bookstores and the work that drives traffic and conversation in the evangelical blogosphere is astonishing. … Where’s the disconnect? Why am I seeing such a stark difference between the content I inhabit on a daily basis and the content that the average Christian is consuming at bestselling rates?” These are great questions and ones worth pondering. My guess is that people who read the blogs he reads don’t present a large enough demographic to drive good books up the ranks of bestsellers.

He provides this application: “The space right now for creative Christian writers is enormous. There is a real material need in American Christian culture for literary talent.” I agree entirely. Now, here’s the thing: We tend to see blogs as a kind of minor leagues that filters talent to determine who is worthy of a book contract. Books are still the medium that validates the writer. To extend the analogy, they are still the major leagues. But I’d like to suggest that we can be okay with being bloggers, with posting content freely to the blogosphere, even if none of our words ever get slapped between two paper covers. It took me many years to uncover the vanity and idolatry that pushed me to propose books meant not first to serve and bless others but to validate myself. It is only recently that I’ve found such joy and confidence in writing a blog that I can truly say I care little whether I ever publish another book.

So let’s not pit blogs against books. In fact, let’s free up some of our best writers from the pressure of book-writing so they can do what they do best—writing shorter, pithier, more urgent, more blog-friendly content. Let’s give that away for free, let’s let the search engines work their magic, let’s see how God uses such simple means.

Daily Quote Graphics

You probably know that every day I share a quote graphic in my A La Carte column. What you may not know is that I archive all of these at Flickr. You can go there to browse the collection and to download them in high-resolution. You can even set them to play in a slideshow.

Precious In the Sight of the Lord

You may have heard this weekend of the unexpected death of Mike Ovey. Though not well-known to North Americans, he was an important figure in British Evangelicalism. It will do your soul good to read this tribute by Lee Gatiss. You should also read Matthew Barrett’s article Best Possible Gift where he says, “For the last two decades Mike has been defined by one passion: bringing reformation back to churches in the UK. Certainly this is a herculean task, and many before Mike have given up. But Mike was undying in his determination, unflinching in his resolve. For the past two decades Mike valiently upheld three pillars on which British evangelicalism rests.” Please be in prayer for Mike’s wife, Heather, and for their three children, Charlie, Harry, and Ana.