Monday, November 23, 2009

Win a free mission trip to Haiti

IVP is cosponsoring a contest to win a free mission trip to Haiti with Kent Annan, codirector of Haiti Partners and author of the new book Following Jesus Through the Eye of the Needle: Living Fully, Loving Dangerously. Six people will be chosen to receive an all-expenses-paid 5-day mission trip to Haiti from May 20-24, 2010. To enter, answer this question:

How are you personally challenged by Jesus' invitation to live more fully and love dangerously, and how could this trip be part of that?

with either a 300-400-word essay or a 2-to-3-minute video posted to YouTube. Entries must be submitted by Feb. 15, 2010. The first 50 entries will win a free copy of the book. See contest rules and entry form.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Deadly Viper authors and publisher retract book

In the past few weeks, Asian American Christians have been protesting the release of the Zondervan book Deadly Viper Character Assassins for its insensitive use and stereotypical appropriation of Asian and Asian American images and themes. The charge has been led by several of my authors, primarily Soong-Chan Rah (see key posts here, here and here) as well as Kathy Khang and Ken Fong, and many others (Asian and not) have been involved. I have weighed in here and there but have not said anything yet on this blog because as an editor at another publishing house, I did not want to be seen as taking potshots at a competitor. However, I am thrilled that I can now pass along the official news that Zondervan has issued a public apology and is pulling the Deadly Viper book from publication and distribution. Reposted from Soong-Chan Rah's blog:

Zondervan Statement Regarding Concerns Voiced About “Deadly Viper: Character Assassins”

From Moe Girkins, President and CEO

Hello and thanks for your patience.

On behalf of Zondervan, I apologize for publishing Deadly Viper: Character Assassins. It is our mission to offer products that glorify Jesus Christ. This book’s characterizations and visual representations are offensive to many people despite its otherwise solid message.

There is no need for debate on this subject. We are pulling the book and the curriculum in their current forms from stores permanently.

We have taken the criticism and advice we have received to heart. In order to avoid similar episodes in the future, last week I named Stan Gundry as our Editor-in-Chief of all Zondervan products. He will be responsible for making the necessary changes at Zondervan to prevent editorial mistakes like this going forward. We already have begun a dialogue with Christian colleagues in the Asian-American community to deepen our cultural awareness and sensitivity.

Zondervan is committed to publishing Christian content and resources that uplift God and see humanity in its proper perspective in relation to God. We take seriously our call to provide resources that encourage spiritual growth. And, we know there is more to learn by always listening to our critics as well as our advocates.

It would be unfair to take these actions without expressing our love and support for the authors of this book, Mike Foster and Jud Wilhite. Both gentlemen are gifted writers and passionate about their ministry. We do believe their message is valuable and plan to work with the authors to come up with a better presentation of that message. We will jointly ensure we do our due diligence on the appropriateness of the creative side. This will include reaching out to a broad spectrum of cultural experts.

Finally, I want to personally thank Professor Rah, Ken Fong, Eugene Cho and Kathy Khang for their input and prayers during this discussion. We appreciate everyone’s concern and effort and look forward to working together for God’s kingdom.



And the authors of Deadly Viper have removed all previous materials from their website and posted this apology:

To our Friends and Family:

Due to an unfortunate conflict that arose around our use of Asian American themes, we have decided to close this chapter of Deadly Viper Character Assassins. This decision has been a very difficult one for us and one that we did not take lightly.

For the past 2 years we have had the honor to be part of an incredible movement of advocating for radical integrity and grace. We have been deeply humbled hearing your stories of how Deadly Viper has impacted your life, family, and relationships.

We and our team will continue to commit our lives to the message of integrity, grace, and most of all becoming People Of The Second Chance.

We thank you for your prayers, support, and kindness through this season.

We love you.

Mike Foster and Jud Wilhite

I heartily commend Zondervan and the authors for this action and am glad for this result. It is stunning to see authors willing to give up an invested brand identity in order to make things right. I am grateful for the dialogue that has taken place and that people in positions of power were willing to listen and learn.

Takeaway for the church overall: This is how it's done. This is The Next Evangelicalism that Soong-Chan writes about - a church that is stronger, more authentic and has more integrity in its witness when all members of the body are honored and respected. The church is becoming more global, more diverse, and the future of the North American church will depend on how readily it incarnates the totality of the body in all its ethnic and cultural dimensions.

Takeaway for Asian American Christians in particular: As I've said before, Asian Americans have an opportunity to become culture makers. It's not enough to protest when injustice occurs (as important as that is) - we must also be contributing to the conversation and involved in the business of creating cultural artifacts that shape society. We need Asian Americans (and people of all ethnic and cultural backgrounds!) as authors, editors, marketers, designers, journalists, bloggers, publishing executives. It's likely that this Deadly Viper incident would not have happened if Zondervan had had more Asian Americans on staff. So Asian American community, as Paul Tokunaga says in Invitation to Lead, it's time to step up. Write books. Apply for jobs at Zondervan (and other Christian publishers). Get in the game.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Find Work That Fits You

[This is part of an article I wrote for that was posted a few months ago.]

My high school friends were a microcosm of school society. Eric was a photographer and yearbook editor. Ann was a leader in the marching band. Bill was the lead actor in theatre productions. Laura was in the dance line. Jeff was co-captain of the track team. Carol was co-captain of volleyball and synchronized swimming. Dan was in speech and debate.

Me? I lettered in debate and theatre, and I ran track for a while. I also participated in things like academic decathlon and science olympiad. But my senior year, my primary involvement and identity was as an editor for the school newspaper. I had published a poem back in first grade in our school district's poetry compendium, and I had always loved reading and writing. So the school paper became my niche.

Why did my friends and I gravitate to certain interests and not others?

Some of it was parental influence. Teachers and coaches may have encouraged us to try out for certain activities. And, of course, peers had something to do with it. I never would have run track if my friends had not also been on the team. But to a large extent, we all had certain gifts and talents that geared us in some directions rather than others.

Some people distinguish between gifts and talents. They say that gifts are those natural, innate, God-given abilities to excel in certain areas, whether intellectual, artistic, or athletic. And talents might be thought of as skills that can be acquired and learned, regardless of inherent ability. I'm not sure it's quite that clear cut, but I do recognize that people have different gifts and talents.

This seems to have been the case from the very beginning. Genesis 4:2 says that Abel was a keeper of sheep and Cain a tiller of the ground. We don't know why they differentiated as they did; perhaps Adam and Eve assigned them these tasks arbitrarily, and they learned to do them. Or maybe as children Abel always loved animals, while Cain was a budding agriculturalist. We have no idea. But either way, they were shaped and formed to particular vocations.

[Continue reading the article here.]

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

On checking Amazon sales rankings

"...he found himself checking Amazon every ten minutes or so to see how his crossword books were selling. They always had depressing numbers like 673,082 or 822,457. Once his latest had made it up to 9,326. It had given him a happy afternoon, until he logged on before going to bed and found it at 787,333." - Audrey Niffenegger, Her Fearful Symmetry, p. 49

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

"The Day We Let Our Son Live"

My wife, Ellen, wrote a blog entry about our son, Elijah, that has been reposted on Christianity Today's Her.meneutics blog. (The opening paragraphs below are by editor Katelyn Beaty; Ellen's material follows.)

The Day We Let Our Son Live

It ended up being the most important day of my life.

When it comes to the chance for those with genetic defects to live, the news has not been good on either side of the Atlantic. Last week’s Telegraph reported that of all women in the U.K. who find out through prenatal testing that their baby will have Down syndrome, about 90 percent choose to have an abortion. And yesterday, ABC News reported a near-identical rate among women in the U.S.: 92 percent of those who find out their child will have the chromosomal defect decide to abort. One geneticist at Children’s Hospital Boston found that, without prenatal testing, the number of Down syndrome births would have increased by 34 percent between 1989 and 2005. Instead, the number of Down syndrome births has dropped by 15 percent over that time.

Upon hearing such news, I remembered Ellen and Al Hsu (pronounced shee), a Christian couple who works at InterVarsity Press in Downers Grove, Illinois, and who faced the same situation as the women above. This is Ellen’s story of Elijah, their 4-year-old with Down syndrome, as originally told on their family blog, Team Hsu.


I gazed in wonder at the blurry form on the screen. “Hi, Baby,” I whispered. The image of our baby was much clearer on the level-two ultrasound. The technician rolled the ultrasound wand over my growing abdomen, and I marveled as I watched our son squirm and suck his thumb. A new life forming within me.


Our OB/GYN had referred us for a level-two ultrasound after he noticed choroid plexus cysts on our baby’s brain during the standard 20-week ultrasound. I was anxious about what the maternal health specialist might find. We knew a couple whose ultrasound also had showed choroids plexus cysts, but whose baby was perfectly fine when he was born. We had spent the past week praying for our baby and hoping for the best.

Al walked into the exam room as the technician was finishing up. She hadn’t said much and explained that the doctor would be in to take a look for himself and to explain what he found. Al and I chatted quietly while we waited. I was relieved that he had made it before the doctor came in. Little did I know how much I would need him.

The doctor came in and began his exam. I was delighted at the chance to see more images of our baby. But my world was shaken when the doctor finally began explaining what he saw. “Something is very wrong with this baby.”

He continued to roll the wand over my tummy as he pointed to various spots on the screen and began listing all the “abnormalities”: larger than usual nuchal folds; clenched fists; possible club feet; something wrong with the liver; enlarged ventricles in the brain; possibly no stomach. My tears flowed as his list grew longer. My delight at the new life within me turned to icy fear, and I clutched Al’s hand tightly.

The doctor suspected a chromosomal problem, possibly Trisomy 13 or 18, birth defects caused by an extra 13th or 18th chromosome. He explained that both of these conditions are generally “incompatible with life.” We were told that if our baby was born alive, he was likely to die within a day. If we were lucky, he might survive for 6 to 12 months. We wondered if we should begin preparing for death instead of life.

Continue reading The Day We Let Our Son Live...

Monday, November 02, 2009

Introverts in the Church by Adam McHugh

Now that I've gotten some books off to the printer, I have a little more breathing space to announce books that have just been published. One that I'm excited about is Adam McHugh's Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture. (You can download free PDFs of the introduction and the first chapter.) I'm not an introvert myself, but I'm married to one, and I've found myself becoming somewhat more introverted in my rhythms over the years. Adam's book is a groundbreaking work that validates introverts' identity and temperament and lifts out the value and place of introverts' contributions to Christian life and community.

Adam wrote the book because much of the contemporary evangelical church tends to be extroverted in temperament and style, leaving less place for introverts as well as for practices like contemplation and reflection. So the book is a healthy corrective that highlights how the church needs introverts and extroverts alike to fully be the body God intends it to be. (I've thought for years that every wacky extroverted youth pastor out there needs to partner with introverted youth workers that can connect with the quiet kids who would never open up to the extrovert.) Adam has some fascinating insights into how the introverted mind and temperament work. Neuroscience shows that introverts' brains are wired differently and process information differently. I was particularly interested to learn that introverts tend to need more sleep in order to recover from a full day of interaction.

The book suggests practical ways for introverts to navigate extroverted Christian subcultures and to practice introvert-friendly ways of doing community, spirituality, leadership, evangelism, worship, preaching and more. If you've ever left church early to avoid the coffee fellowship time, this book is for you. If you have ever been frustrated with church culture that seems to equate being more extroverted with being more spiritual, this book is for you. And if you are an extrovert who wants to better understand the introverts in your life or welcome introverts to your church, you must read this book.

It was fun to get some nice endorsements for the book from introverts like Dan Kimball, Don Everts and Lauren Winner, who says, "Introverts, take heart! As an introvert myself--an off-the-chart 'I' on the Myers-Briggs--I find certain aspects of church life, like speaking to other human beings every Sunday, really taxing. McHugh thoughtfully explores the gifts introverts bring to the church, and he considers both how introverts can live well in the church and how churches can be more hospitable to us."

Adam blogs at, and you can become a fan of his book on Facebook here.