By Mark A. Taylor
I remember a conversation 30 years or more ago about book publishing by writers in the Christian church and church of Christ. “Evangelical publishers won’t publish books by Christian church writers,” a Standard Publishing salesman said. “And if Standard Publishing publishes books by Christian church writers, Christian bookstores won’t sell them.”
I don’t know if that was true then, but I can promise you it’s not true today. Last year we published essays about book writing by Mark Atteberry, Arron Chambers, Dave Ferguson, Anne Milam, Daniel Overdorf, and Jamie Snyder. Each of them is a leader among Restoration Movement churches. All of them are published book writers. And all of their latest books were published by a company with no Christian church roots.
We wanted Kyle Idleman, teaching pastor at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville and author of the runaway best seller Not a Fan (published by Zondervan), for our series. But he was too busy—writing another book!
These are only some of those in our movement publishing books with Evangelical publishers these days. And they don’t need to hide their Christian church connections or modify dearly held doctrines taught in Christian churches to do so.
Case in point: a book to be published this summer by Mike Baker, pastor with Eastview Christian Church in Normal, Illinois. With two Eastview associates, J.K. Jones and Jim Probst, he’s written We Speak, a book on evangelism whose title repeats the theme of this summer’s North American Christian Convention. InterVarsity Press, a division of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, will release the book just in time for the NACC, whose website is referenced in the back of the book.
Surprising to me was how Baker chose to begin the book. His opening illustration about the power of speech was a description of Alexander Campbell’s debate with Robert Owen in Cincinnati in 1829. Campbell “was arguably the leading voice in seventeenth-century America for what has come to be known as the Restoration Movement,” Baker wrote. “Along with Barton Stone, he led a grassroots movement of independent Christian churches as an itinerant preacher.”
Another new book, this one a delightful volume of “bedtime Bible stories and prayers,” is written by former Standard Publishing editorial director Diane Stortz. Published by Tommy Nelson, the children’s imprint of successful Evangelical publisher Thomas Nelson, the book is a wonderfully illustrated, through-the-Bible storybook whose brief chapters are designed to read aloud to young children.
Here’s a part of Diane’s rendition of the story in Acts 2:
The people listened while Peter told them about Jesus. “Jesus died on the cross,” he said, “but God raised Him from the dead! We saw Him alive again. Now He is back in heaven, and He has sent the Holy Spirit. Jesus is Lord!”
“What should we do?” the people asked Peter.
“Believe in Jesus,” Peter said, “and repent, and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins. You will receive the Holy Spirit too!”
So everyone who heard Peter’s words and believed in Jesus was baptized that day—about three thousand people! This was the beginning of the church.”
If Baker were writing a few decades ago, he likely wouldn’t have talked about Alexander Campbell in his book’s introduction. If Stortz were publishing with Thomas Nelson instead of Standard then, maybe her editor would have encouraged her to skip over the baptism reference.
Maybe these are two examples of how Christian churches are becoming mainstream—known for winsome evangelism, a focus on the Bible, and a concern to please God by loving people—instead of isolated protestors to the work of the church among larger or better known denominations.
In any case, all of us can be glad that times have changed. All of us can congratulate writers like Baker and Stortz. All of us can thank God that Christian church leaders are finding their voice and audience through outlets not put off by their Restoration Movement connections.
NOTE: I’ll be talking with Mike about his book and about the North American Christian Convention this Thursday, March 26, 11 a.m. Eastern. Listen live here.
For those reading this after that date, find the archived interview at the same address.