Mortality is a scary thing. I’m not dying, but much of what I have written is. As of December 31, almost every book I have written for Discipleship Resources is going out of print. (The one exception is Vital Signs, but its days are numbered as well…) Part of my identity rests in the books I have written. They’re not great literature — some would say they’re not even “good” from any literary standpoint. Still, they are an outward and visible sign of my inward and spiritual journey, offering some of the best insights I have to offer on stewardship (Revolutionizing Christian Stewardship for the 21st Century, Beyond Money) and leadership (FaithQuest, A New Kind of Church, Equipped for Every Good Work, Leadership and Interaction Styles). It will be weird knowing that these books, many available for most of a decade or more, are no longer “out there.” For what good they have done and what value they have offered, I am deeply grateful. And when I am honest, I know that the contribution they have made has been modest at best, and there are more than enough other resources to take their places.
But it is still hard. I guess I haven’t really admitted how proud I am of the books I have written. It is more than just ego that swells when someone recognizes me as the author of a book they read and enjoyed. Nothing makes me happier than finding someone who discovered real value in a book, helping them to be more effective in leadership. My writing has been an important part of my ministry, and there is something a little discouraging about seeing it going out of print. The two books I was working on last year — both having been approved by publishers, then pulled due to economic necessity — sit languishing, unfinished. They seem to me two precious children that nobody wants. Oh, well, I love them. And I know they have an audience, simply because whenever I talk about them, people want to know when they will “come out.” The problem is that my audience is so small that it can’t support what I write.
Thank goodness for this blog. It has been my “literary” outlet for almost a year. Once again, I have no real sense of what difference it makes, but my writing isn’t just about who reads it and what they do with it. I find that I have a need to write, a hunger to share ideas, and a passion to stir things up. I write for my own enjoyment, then I get a kick out of sharing it with others — even when others disagree or get upset. Writing is a kind of open dialogue with the world. I love the give and take writing the blog affords. And so, I will continue to churn out my thoughts and hope someone, somewhere, finds value.
Once, a few years ago, I saw someone in an airport reading one of my books. It was the biggest thrill in the world. But what made it even better was that, when I got closer to the person reading it, I saw it had been read a number of times, with pages marked, notes in the margins, highlighted passages, and random papers stuck here and there. It was not just read. It was USED.
My books will hang around a few more years, then, like millions of others, they will disappear and be forgotten. I, too, insignificant when compared to my ideas, will be forgotten, but for a few wonderful years I have been able to add my thoughts to the discussion and stimulate some new thinking in other people. Like footprints in the sand, I made a brief impression, and with the waves of time the slate will be wiped clean that others might imprint in their own time and way. It’s been fun so far. It will be interesting to see where I will find my voice in the future. I will continue here, and see where I end up next.
Categories: Personal Reflection
Dan, does the copyright on these revert to you? I agree with the person above–there is no reason in the age of digital distribution and print on demand for any book to go “out of print.” Why not lead the way and provide these works for free digital download so that their usefulness can continue?
Oh, believe me, I will make them available to anyone who wants them… and to many people who don’t!
Your not going to perpetuate the Cokesbury model, are you – proprietary file format and reader, available only on Windows – because Bill Gates is universal, though not yet powerful or rich enough? There is extreme irony in the way they published the Book of Resolutions (and Discipline, and Worship) electronically, contradicting the resolution “Proper Use of Information Communications Technology” in so many ways they have become the very thing the resolution was designed to defeat.
Thanks for your faithfulness to this blog. I agree with much of what you say, but even when I don’t agree, I like the fact that your writing stimulates me to think about some issues that I may not ordinarily think about. And as part of the UM connection, I find it interesting to know what other people in other conferences are thinking about the church and its effectiveness (or lack of) in today’s society.
I appreciate your thought-provoking writing, and am glad to hear that you plan to continue!
The best stimulus for a writer is cultivation of energetic counterpoint.
Christopher Hitchens has Doug Wilson. N. T. Wright has John Piper.
I fear Methodism now consists (oddly) of too much kinship; we are incestuous…too much unchecked intellectual inbreeding. In a word: “predictability.”
Of course, someone will come down on my head for saying so…
So…ought I to offer the seven copies of EQUIPPED… I have in the closet for sale to the highest bidder? Even good Dan Dick books, Dan S, I fear will not finance retirement, however.
Dan, does this mean that theUMC or at least DR is not in the 21st century in terms of the ability to keep resources around and print out one or two copies at a reasonable price “on demand”? If so, that is just one more way that we are falling behind.
Sorry to hear about this decision. Thanks for sharing about it in a way that resonates with so many of us in terms of the fleeting nature of things we put our heart and souls into.
Keep writing! Ok, so when you come to do the circuit event on spiritual gifts, we can’t count on people being able to order Equipped For Every Good Work from DR? Or should we buy now, ‘while supplies last?’ Or…save my copy to sell for early retirement? 🙂
In a related way, the spiritual gift work that you wrote will stand up to time and change better than some books that equip ministry.
In the five years from when I went on the cabinet to the time when I returned to the local church, a lot changed in ministry. Faith has been further relegated to the realm of convenience for many. The time allowed for serving in the span of one’s week is less–and the use of the volunteer ethos over and against service is a greater battle. In five years losses in area churches mean many are no longer good candidates for a turnaround–and must face a rapid and significant change. I could go on–but reflection on the practice of ministry is as important now as ever when the margin for error in churches is less forgiving.
Also different is the need for deeper spiritual formation to equip new vision and renewed ministry. So the turnaround books I read in the 80’s and 90’s carry over less–except those pages in Schaller when he asks 42 questions as relevent now as then. More necessary now is the deep spiritual formation done in community–to gain balance and faith in life–and to develop a culture of ministry. Times, they are a changin.’
A blog or community of practitioners is of increased importance, it seems to me.
Thanks for the thread.