Chip MacGregor

May 15, 2008

A Fresh Look


Well, I’m now 50. Older and wiser (hopefully). Please let me offer one short rumination…

Recently I made some comments about Mike Hyatt, the Thomas Nelson decisions, and the direction of CBA. That caused a couple people to write and ask me, "Why are you down on CBA?"

My response: "I’m not. Not at all." But their questions got me to thinking some things…

First, I love Christian books. My life has been changed by books I’ve read — I can point to some titles (The Ragamuffin Gospel, In the Name of Jesus, etc) and say with all honesty, "My life was never the same after having read that book." It’s the ministry a book can have in the life of a person that keeps me excited about words. When I read, I learn, and that changes me. And I’m one of those ignorant types who needs to learn a lot, since I’ve got a lot of changing to do.

Second, I love CBA and the things associated with it — authors, publishers, booksellers. Honest. I’ve been part of CBA for more than 20 years. I feel as though I know it inside and out — both its strengths and its weaknesses. I will sometimes poke fun at the stupid stuff (Armor of God pajamas and Standing on the Promises Insoles, for example), but let’s face it — those things are funny. Still, I don’t want anyone reading this blog and coming away from it thinking that I’m not supportive of great Christian books. I always want to remember the people I work with are trying to change the world for good.

Third, this is the Golden Age of Christian publishing. There have never been so many good books, done with such quality, and at such an affordable price. Some day we will all look back on this time as an incredibly rich season of Christian writing. I dare say there are more good writers, more training opportunities for those writers, and certainly more outlets for those writers (thanks to the web) than ever before. That’s a wonderful fact.

Fourth, I’ve been remiss in talking about the GOOD part of CBA. The fine writers. The skilled editors who spend their lives just trying to locate and foster talent. The publishers who risk large quantities of money and time to produce life-changing books. The sales teams that spend hours reading the books on their lists in order to best talk about them with people.

Sure, there are things I don’t like. I’d prefer a CBA bookstore to be an actual bookstore, rather than a store that sells trinkets and kitschy art. I think there’s abundant evidence that Christian bookstores began their decline when they started turning their focus away from books. We live in a specialized society, and I’m one of those who believes "Christian books" is enough of a niche to do well. But…well, I’ve had plenty of bookstore owners say that, in fact, they can’t make it on their book margins — they need the t-shirts and necklaces to pay the bills.

So I’m trying to take a fresh look. I was really touched by the note a former colleague posted on The Writers View (a web resource for Christian authors). The individual admitted having fallen into a trap of using cynicism, ego, sweeping generalities, and over-the-top snarkiness to criticize CBA. And all that cynical crud began to have a corrosive effect on the spirit. So, despite normally being a positive, sunny type, the author admitted acting like a teenager — using attitude and a faux sophistication to criticize and act cool as a way of impressing people. And it was stupid — the author needed to repent and be appreciative of all the good things in life; all the good things God has wrought.

Well… I’m there. That’s me to a T. I’ve been overly critical and snarky. I’ve exaggerated the facts. I even got to the point where I found myself rolling my eyes when somebody told me to "not let unwholesome words come out of your mouth, but only that which is helpful for buiding others up." That’s right — I was rolling my eyes at Scripture. Yikes. (In case those words are new to you, Saint Paul wrote them in the First Century. It’s pretty good advice; you’ve got to admit.) It seems like there was this image of me (snarky, negative, curt) that I didn’t like at all. But maybe it was accurate.

That’s when I realized things had gotten off track. I’m normally a positive person, and I don’t know why I felt a need to act like such a freakin’ know-it-all. I’m not negative — my wife will tell you I’m the eternal optimist. I’ve been forgiven much, and I guess hitting 50 made me remember all the blessings God has given me, and that I need to appreciate His grace anew, and be humbled by the fact that I’m getting much better than I deserve. And stop ragging on the parts of CBA I don’t like. Because there’s a lot of great things happening in publishing. It’s not just a matter of "speaking the truth" in this life (another thing I’ve had issues with), but "speaking the truth in love." So I very much appreciated reading the post from that author (as well as the honesty it took to say those things). It moved me to take some time and reflect. And make sure I change.

So this is me — with a fresh look. Humbled over my mistakes. Sorry for my out-and-out bad choices. But ready to move forward.

And if this is sounding a bit too personal for you, here’s the fact you really need to know: I love books. I love writing. I particularly like books that have the potential to change people. And while I’m not sure there are many books that can change the world, I believe very much that words can help stir small changes in the lives of individuals. And it’s essential for me to believe that books change lives on an intimate level, because my own life has been changed by them.

Here’s to books that make a difference.

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