Jim Archives

Making Good Coffee Good for Everyone

My name is Jim and I am a coffeeholic. Yes I do love coffee, and although I enjoy the various combination drinks at Starbucks, I regularly enjoy a good, rich, dark roast.

Since I’ve begun working in environmental stewardship, I’ve been learning more about not just what makes good coffee, but what makes coffee good–as in fair and just, a positive impact on those who grow it, and gentle on the environment. But all of the labels–such as shade-grown, fair-trade, and bird-friendly–have been confusing to me, as they may be to you.

A post on coffee and community at the Flourish Blog is very helpful in sorting out how individuals and churches can make coffee hour a truly redemptive time.

On the church coffee hour, it reads:

The church coffee hour is already a ministry—a time of fellowship, connection, and service for people who need the love of God and the love of our brothers and sisters. Drinking conscientiously-produced coffee and tea simply extends that ministry to brothers and sisters we may not be able to meet and greet, but who are no less deserving of love and justice. When this service is viewed as a ministry, and not just a perk or an expectation, options open up for making it work.

Check it out.

50 Leaders of the Evangelical Generation: #29 Ron Sider. The Liberal

[I am working on a project that may become a book on the most influential evangelicals leaders of our generation, since 1976, and the impact they’ve had on the church and their times. I will introduce them briefly on this blog from time to time. Who should be on this list?]

Ron Sider. b. 1939

Since Ron Sider published Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger in 1977, he has provided direction and support for evangelicals focusing on poverty, social justice, pacifism, and the environment. Sider, both personally and through the small and lightly funded organizations he founded, has represented the northstar of the small group of evangelical liberals that from time to time prod the right-leaning community with a necessary nudge to include the last, least, and lost in the outreach of the church. One thing Sider has never done is deviate from both the core doctrines and the central cultural issues of the movement; he demonstrated this by signing the Manhattan Declaration in 2009. This was consistent with his lifelong pro-life stance. In fact, Sider’s Completely Pro-Life, published in the mid-1980s, calls on Christians to take a consistent stand opposing abortion, capital punishment, nuclear weapons, hunger, and other conditions that Sider sees as anti-life.

As Tim Stafford wrote in Christianity Today:

Ron Sider doesn’t seem the type to upset people. A short, balding seminary professor with a quick smile and thick glasses, he talks in a relaxed, low-voltage way. Professionally he is a hybrid, a historian who teaches theology and talks and writes about politics and economics. His academic credentials are exemplary: a Ph.D. in Reformation history Yale; articles published in prestigious journals. Theologically he is a heartland evangelical, deeply committed to an inspired Bible, to a passionate communication of the gospel and to a transforming personal faith. Politically he is mainstream Democratic party except for conservative stances on homosexuality and abortion. In short, Sider is no flaming radical. Yet it would be hard to think of another evangelical who has been more ardently criticized for being “radical.” In reality, Sider takes flak from both the Left and the Right, particularly when he upholds evangelical positions at ecumenical meetings. “I’ve been picketed twice,” he says, “by theonomists [who believe in applying Old Testament law today] in Australia, and in Minnesota by gay-rights [advocates].”

Sider has published over 22 books and has written over 100 articles in both religious and secular magazines on a variety of topics including the importance of caring for creation as part of biblical discipleship. Sider’s Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger was published In 1977. Hailed by Christianity Today as one of the one hundred most influential books in religion in the twentieth century, it went on to sell 350,000 copies. He is often identified by others with the Christian left, though he personally disclaims any political inclination. He is the founder of Evangelicals for Social Action, a think-tank which seeks to develop biblical solutions to social and economic problems.. He is also the Professor of Theology, Holistic Ministry and Public Policy at Palmer Theological Seminary in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania.

[I am working on a project that may become a book on the most influential evangelical leaders of our generation, since 1976, and the impact they’ve had on the church and their times. I will introduce them briefly on this blog from time to time. Who should be on this list?]

Frank Wolf. Gentle Congressman b.1939

When the topic of Christian politicians comes up in conversation, almost no one mentions Representative Frank Wolf of northern Virginia. That is not because his actions or words run contrary to Christian principles. It may be for just the opposite reason: Wolf is a humble 15-term Congressman who has worked unflaggingly but quietly on some of the most difficult issues for people of faith around the world. Wolf is a restrained and effective Christian statesman.

An unassuming champion of international human rights and religious liberty, Wolf won the first William Wilberforce Award in 1992, presented to Christians in public service by Chuck Colson and Prison Fellowship. Wilberforce is the driving force behind a group of congressmen from both sides of the aisle, including Wolf, who meet periodically to make their faith part of their politics. The most recent recipient of the award is former Democratic congressman Tony Hall of Ohio.

Wolf said: “There are only 435 members of the House of Representatives and only 100 members of the Senate. If we can get the word out about Wilberforce’s life and legacy, we can change this country.”

Wolf is not much at glad-handing, he shies away from the limelight, and he’s a bland public speaker. For his serene optimism, critics have labeled him naive. His travels are not the typical junkets to posh resorts or embassy parties but risky excursions to outposts ravaged by war and famine—especially to places where fellow Christians are persecuted for their faith.

On one journey took him to Tibet, where he posed as a tourist, eluded the tour guide by pretending to be ill, and then sneaked out to talk to Tibetans on the street for the real story of Chinese repression. Another expedition took him to Sudan, a nation that was waging a self-described religious war against its own citizens who are Christians or other non-Muslims through a campaign of torture, starvation, and murder. Sudanese soldiers were literally snatching children from their mothers’ arms and selling them into slavery for the price of a few head of cattle. Girls were sold as concubines.

He has dodged bombs in Nagorno Karabakh. He has investigated conditions in El Salvador, Bosnia, and Ethiopia. Instead of enjoying the plush accommodations he could command as a government official, Wolf toughs it out with ordinary people for a first-hand sense of their plight.

Before the fall of the Iron Curtain, Wolf tramped throughout Eastern Europe championing for freedom. He was the first American official to bulldog his way into the notorious Perm Camp 35 in the Siberian gulag, where leading dissidents were imprisoned. Upon returning, he publicized the religious and political abuses they reported and arranged for me to join a second group visiting the camp. Due to Wolf’s tenacity, the Soviets released many prisoners even before the USSR collapsed.

After the trial of the leadership of the Bahá’í community of Iran was announced in February 2009, Wolf was deeply disturbed over the “systematic persecution” of the Bahá’ís. He offered a resolution on the subject of the trial of the Iranian Bahá’í leadership co-sponsored by seven others–“Condemning the Government of Iran for its state-sponsored persecution of its Baha’i minority and its continued violation of the International Covenants on Human Rights.”

For his indefatigable efforts, Wolf has won respect even from people on the opposite side of his conservative politics. Former Washington Post columnist Mary McGrory called him “a watchman on the rampart of world freedom.” Former Democratic congressman Lionel Van Deerlin described Wolf as one of “a special breed,” who “seem attracted to public office to fulfill more than personal or political ends.” Men like Wolf, he added, “sustain a flicker of hope in the elective process.”

When Chuck Colson presented the first Wilberforce Award to Wolf, we prepared large red, white and blue vertical banners with Wilberforce’s picture to decorate the outdoor proceedings. Wolf asked if he could have one of the banners and we complied. The next time I visited Wolf’s congressional office, he had it hanging on the inside of the door to his personal office. The banner took up the entire door; a Wilberforce-like legacy seems to have consumed his entire life.

“God’s favorites…the poor”: Charles W. Colson in The Faith

Wonder what Glenn Beck would say about this:

“As we see the world through God’s eyes, we actually do put others’ needs ahead of ours.  This is why, when the great novelist Flannery O’Connor was asked by one of her correspondents how he could experience God’s love, her reply was, “Give alms.” She meant do something for the poor, for those in need, which in fact is one of the most telling marks of Christian holiness, as the apostle James reminds us (1:27; 2:17).

When we care for God’s favorites, the poor, who include the destitute, the widowed, the fatherless, the sick, prisoners, and anyone suffering injustice, we plunge immediately into the cosmic battle that’s always raging between good and evil.  We choose sides. Once on God’s side, we come to understand God’s point of view and position ourselves to experience God’s love and friendship in a whole new way.”

–Charles W. Colson, in The Faith (Zondervan: 2008), pags. 164-165

As a follow-up to my earlier post on Glenn Beck’s affront to Christians, can anyone identity the author of the recent book that included these shocking words:

“As we see the world through God’s eyes, we actually do put others’ needs ahead of ours.  This is why, when the great novelist Flannery O’Connor was asked by one of her correspondents how he could experience God’s love, her reply was, “Give alms.” She meant do something for the poor, for those in need, which in fact is one of the most telling marks of Christian holiness, as the apostle James reminds us (1:27; 2:17).

When we care for God’s favorites, the poor, who include the destitute, the widowed, the fatherless, the sick, prisoners, and anyone suffering injustice, we plunge immediately into the cosmic battle that’s always raging between good and evil.  We choose sides. Once on God’s side, we come to understand God’s point of view and position ourselves to experience God’s love and friendship in a whole new way.”

It really is past time for Glen Beck to apologize to Christians for his equating the church’s work in social justice with Nazism and Communism. He’s not just enraging liberals; he’s become an embarrassment to conservatives. And on this point he’s just wrong in the most offensive way.

Although he wasn’t directing his comments at the Heritage Foundation video series, Beck’s comments were made just after the release by Heritage of the series on social justice with Chuck Colson of BreakPoint, Al Mohler of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Sean Litton of the International Justice Mission, and other evangelical leaders speaking on the meaning and importance of social justice.

Beck’s comments are not an issue of left and right but of false representation of the teachings of Jesus on care for the poor and the suffering, and a broadside against those who live out the Gospel in our society.

The criticism of Beck is strong and diverse, from many parts of the religious spectrum:

Jim Wallis, Sojourners

James Martin, S.J., Catholic priest

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

Joe Carter, evangelical editor, First Things

The Rev. Canon Peg Chemberlin, president of the National Council of Churches of Christ USA

David Gushee, evangelical, professor of Christian ethics, Mercer University

Marty Duren, Southern Baptist pastor

It’s time for Beck to make amends, or for Fox News to censure him or drop his show.

Leaders of the Evangelical Generation: Carl F. H. Henry. Senior Theologian.

[I am working on a project that may become a book on the most influential evangelicals leaders of our generation, since 1976, and the impact they’ve had on the church and their times. I will introduce them briefly on this blog from time to time. Who should be on this list?]

#1 Carl F. H. Henry. Senior theologian 1913-2003

Formidable evangelical theologian and founding editor of Christianity Today magazine Carl F. H. Henry stole his first Bible from a church. Later, when God opened his heart and convicted him of his sins (not just the Bible stealing), Henry knelt down by his car on Long Island and prayed the Lord’s Prayer, the only way he knew how to speak to God. His actions and his communication improved dramatically. In 1947 he contended in The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism for evangelical positions against the prevailing liberalism of the mainline church, and pushed his conservative brethren for more cultural engagement than prescribed by the fundamentalists of the day, led by Carl McIntyre, a writer, radio preacher, and rabble-rousing symbol of Presbyterian fundamentalism.

It was Henry and his contemporaries Harold J. Ockenga and Billy Graham who propelled the modern evangelical movement as a vital societal force and set the stage for it to soar past theological liberalism as the prominent Protestant force of the time. From the beginning of his academic career Henry aspired to lead Protestant fundamentalism to greater intellectual and social engagement with the larger American culture.

Henry was born to German immigrant parents just before the outbreak of World War I. Raised on Long Island, Henry became interested in journalism, and by age 19 he edited a weekly newspaper in New York’s Nassau county. After his conversion to Christianity, Henry attended Wheaton College, obtaining his bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Bent on pursuing an academic career in theology, he completed doctoral studies at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary (1942) and later at Boston University (1949). He was ordained in the Northern Baptist Convention,and taught theology and philosophy of religion at Northern Baptist Seminary. In 1947, he accepted Ockenga’s call to become the first professor of theology at the new Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.

In 1955, Henry became the first editor of Christianity Today, a publication conceived by Billy Graham and L. Nelson Bell and financed by Sun Oil magnate, J. Howard Pew, as an evangelical alternative to the Christian Century. Under Henry’s guidance, Christianity Today became the leading journalistic mouthpiece for evangelicalism and provided the movement intellectual respectability. He resigned his position at Christianity Today in 1968, after conflicts with Pew and Bell over editorial issues and criticism from evangelicalism’s fundamentalist wing.

After a year of studies at Cambridge University, Henry became professor of theology at Eastern Baptist Seminary (1969-74) and visiting professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (1971). After 1974, he served stints as lecturer-at-large for World Vision International (1974-87) and Prison Fellowship Ministries (1990-2003).

Henry’s six-volume theological tome God, Revelation and Authority is one of the most important evangelical theological works of the twentieth century. Published between 1976 and 1983, it shaped the evangelical movement in countless ways and is still widely read, studied as a clear statement of evangelical beliefs contra liberalism and neo-orthodoxy. The New York Times called it “The most important work of evangelical theology in modern times.”

January 2010 was the world’s warmest January since satellite tracking began in 1979.  Hard to appreciate in Washington, D.C., NY and the capitals of Europe, which have experienced remarkably wintery weather.  But NY is not the world, as hard as that is to believe for New Yorkers and the NY-based national media.  And the worldwide average last month made it the wamest January on record.


“Last November was the hottest November we’ve ever seen, November-January as a whole is the hottest November-January the world has seen,” he said of the satellite data record since 1979.

The World Meteorological Organization said in December that 2000-2009 was the hottest decade since records began in 1850, and that 2009 would likely be the fifth warmest year on record. WMO data show that eight out of the 10 hottest years on record have all been since 2000.

Two truths for the day:  Weather is not climate.  A cold winter in one area of the world doesn’t debunk science.

A Lot of Snow in America (not so much in Vancouver!)

Something for my good friends and relatives who think that a snowier than usual winter means there is no global warming/climate change; and for my other good friends who think a hotter than usual summer means there definitely is. 

It’s called weather. 

The Big Snowstorm

Front Porch: A threshold of community and ministry

I have a back deck, and if you live in the suburbs, you probably do too. I wish I had a front porch. Kendra Juskus, in a terrific post at Flourish, explains why a front page is an important tool of community and of ministry.

She writes:

The porch is a physical space that is both personal to its owner and hospitable to guests and strangers. It is a threshold of community: neither a place of anonymity, nor of complete intimacy. It is a place where new connections are wrought and old connections are strengthened. One can be invited onto a front porch even as a passerby; it provides opportunities for welcoming the stranger.

Contrast the front porch with the back deck, an architectural feature that arose in American neighborhoods in the 1970s. The back deck is purely private, a sanctuary into which only the friends and relatives of the deck owner are admitted.

Tebow Ad Alarms, Surprises, and Triumphs

I really like what Focus on the Family pulled off with the Tebow ad on television’s biggest stage. It wasn’t what I expected, but after reflecting on the strategy, it was a great “head fake” that produced unbelievable interest and then really offended no one, showed a sense of humor, and drove people to the Website for deeper messages on life and family (and the full Tebow story).

Focus’s site got 500,000 hits and 50,000 unique visitors in the hour the ad aired.

But the impact kept growing:

Focus spokesman Gary Schneeberger said:

“For Sunday and Monday only, we had 1.16 million unique visitors, which is eighteen times our normal traffic,” he says. “And we had 8.6 million terabytes streamed. I don’t know what that means [a terabyte is 1,000 gigabytes], but that’s apparently 267 times more than we normally have. The full interview with the Tebows that’s mentioned at the end of the ad had been watched a total of 762,897 times as of yesterday, and the ad on our website had been watched 305,000 times — and that’s not counting the number of views on other websites. I just saw a link on Yahoo!, which had posted the ad, and it had been viewed on their website over 1.1 million times.”

Leaders of the evangelical generation: Stan Mooneyham, humanitarian

[I am working on a project that may become a book on the most influential evangelicals leaders of our generation, since 1976, and the impact they’ve had on the church and their times. I will introduce them briefly on this blog from time to time.  Who do you think should be on a list of leading evangelicals?].

#8 W. Stanley Mooneyham: Humanitarian. 1926-1991

With today’s ubiquitous calls for Christians to respond to human needs around the world, it is difficult to remember the days when evangelicals didn’t see the connection between physical and spiritual needs in a holistic outreach. W. Stanley Mooneyham was a giant in moving the church to “come walk the world” and respond to the great needs of body and soul.

Mooneyham was a passionate maverick who, as the second president of World Vision International after its founder Bob Pierce, became an advocate for international aid and the first real star of television fundraising for the hungry and suffering children and families of the world. During his tenure, Mooneyham took the organization from an annual budget of $7 million in 1969 to $158 million with a worldwide staff of 11,000 when he left.

He really gave his life serving the poor. The ravages of the diseases he encountered in constants trips to the cesspools of the most impoverished areas of the world led to the failure of his kidneys in 1991, when he died at 65. The trauma and lure of almost constant international travel, as well as the emotional roller coaster of a life spent immersed in Southern California hedonism and Third World squalor, took a toll on not only his health but also his family. His marriage ended about the same time his days with World Vision did.

During Mooneyham’s tenure as president, he directed the relocation efforts that helped Vietnamese boat people. It was an involvement typical of his time at World Vision. He was advised not to pursue the venture, which he called Operation Seasweep, and there was no place to take the boat people rescued on the high seas. But Stan threw caution to the wind, bought a World War II landing craft, outfitted it, and sent it to the South China Sea.

That’s when I met Mooneyham. In 1978 I was beginning my first job, as a writer for World Vision, and in after just seven months on the job I was sent to Asia to document the maiden voyage of Operation Seasweep. I hadn’t met Mooneyham during my early months at WV, but he wasn’t about to have me writing about the mission without a good talking-to.

When I arrived in Singapore, I was summoned to Stan’s hotel, where he lectured me on treating the poor and suffering with respect. And he didn’t want my copy filled with wonder at how “different” these people were.

That year, we rescued 228 Vietnamese boat people from the Thai pirates and the deathly surges of the high seas. Within two years, the world was shamed by the boldness of World Vision’s leader and the U.S. Navy was picking up these refugees.
Mooneyham was a special assistant to Billy Graham before joining World Vision. He was one of the first practitioner of telethons and direct-mail campaigns to raise funds and was not afraid to use emotional appeals. Responding to criticism of his methods in 1978, Mooneyham said: “We are accused of emotionalism, but hunger is emotional, death is emotional and poverty is emotional. Those who wish to make it all seem neat, clinical and bureaucratic are the ones falsifying the picture, not us.”

Mooneyham was the seventh child of a cotton sharecropper in Mississippi. He joined the Navy and served in the South Pacific during World War II. He told The Times in a 1981 interview that he became a Christian because of the war. He graduated from Oklahoma Baptist University on the GI Bill. Mooneyham joined the Graham evangelical crusades as a media liaison worker in 1964 and became advance planner for Graham evangelism congresses around the world. It was in some of those foreign lands that he saw what he described as “the awesome human needs” and joined World Vision.

A Few Great Speeches: Colson, Bush, Washington, Others

I love soaring, poetic speeches, and I particularly appreciate beautifully written short speeches that inspire. I blogged on inspiring short speeches in November 2004

I’m thinking today of great speeches I’ve witnessed in person.

The Enduring Revolution

First, a speech by Charles Colson on September 2, 1993 after he was awarded the $1 million Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, which he donated to the ministry of Prison Fellowship. Now defunct Moody magazine described (Nov. 8, 1993) the setting:

“Prison Fellowship chairman Charles Colson faced a situation that mirrors what the church as a whole faces. People of several faiths, many of whom were attending the Parliament of the World’s Religions, gathered at Rockefeller Chapel on the campus of the University of Chicago to hear an address on religious liberty. What do evangelicals have to say in a pluralistic setting? How do we talk about the cultural role of religion with those who worship other gods? As the winner of the 1993 Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, Mr. Colson had earned the right to stand on the platform. The speech, titled The Enduring Revolution, is what he said when he got there.


An excerpt:

We stand at a pivotal moment in history, when nations around the world are looking westward. In the past five years, the balance of world power shifted dramatically. Suddenly, remarkably, almost inexplicably, one of history’s most sustained assaults on freedom
collapsed before our eyes.

The world was changed, not through the militant dialectic of communism, but through the power of unarmed truth. It found revolution in the highest hopes of common men. Love of liberty steeled under the weight of tyranny; the path of the future was charted in prison cells.

This revolution’s symbolic moment was May Day 1990. Protesters followed the tanks, missiles, and troops rumbling across Red Square. One, a bearded Orthodox monk, darted under the reviewing stand where Gorbachev and other Soviet leaders stood. He thrust a huge crucifix into the air, shouting above the crowd, “Mikhail Sergeyevich! Christ is risen!”

Gorbachev turned and walked off the platform.

Across a continent the signal went. In defiant hope a spell was broken. The lies of decades were exposed. Fear and terror fled. And millions awoke as from a long nightmare.

Their waking dream is a world revolution. Almost overnight the western model of economic, political, and social liberty has captured the imagination of reformers and given hope to the oppressed. We saw it at Tiananmen Square, where a replica of the Statue of Liberty, an icon of western freedom, became a symbol of Chinese hope. We saw it in Czechoslovakia when a worker stood before a desolate factory and read to a crowd, with tears in his eyes, the American Declaration of Independence.

This is one of history’s defining moments. The faults of the West are evident — but equally evident are the extraordinary gifts it has to offer the world. The gift of markets that increase living standards and choices. The gift of political institutions where power flows from the consent of the governed, not the barrel of a gun. The gift of social beliefs that encourage tolerance and individual autonomy.

Free markets. Free governments. Free minds.

Read the full speech, especially the masterful description of the Four Horsemen of the Modern Apocalypse.

A personal note: Jonathan Aitken related in his biography Charles Colson: A Life Redeemed, how I—as Colson’s executive assistant—employed some harmless yet somewhat Colsonian means to fill the Rockefeller Chapel for Chuck’s speech.

The Second Inaugural

The second speech on today’s list is George W. Bush’s 2nd Inaugural Address. My wife and I were on the Capitol lawn, close enough to be part of the event and see the participants, but honestly not close enough to see facial expressions, except on the big screen.

It was, I believe, every bit as masterful and soaring as Kennedy’s famous inaugural. Once people are done hating Bush, his second inaugural will be listed as one of the greatest presidential inaugurals in American history:


We go forward with complete confidence in the eventual triumph of freedom. Not because history runs on the wheels of inevitability; it is human choices that move events. Not because we consider ourselves a chosen nation; God moves and chooses as He wills. We have confidence because freedom is the permanent hope of mankind, the hunger in dark places, the longing of the soul. When our Founders declared a new order of the ages; when soldiers died in wave upon wave for a union based on liberty; when citizens marched in peaceful outrage under the banner “Freedom Now” – they were acting on an ancient hope that is meant to be fulfilled. History has an ebb and flow of justice, but history also has a visible direction, set by liberty and the Author of Liberty.

Notice how Bush tapped Lincoln’s second inaugural for some language.

(Other than the fact that I heard both of these speeches in person, what do these two speeches have in common? This answer to this question is at the end of the post.)


There’s been a lot of talk about the strength of John Edwards’ Two Americas speech (regardless of what you think of encouraging class warfare) But notice how he tapped what many see as one of the finest political speeches of our era, Mario Cuomo’s Two Cities speech at the 1984 Democratic convention.


Ten days ago, President Reagan admitted that although some people in this country seemed to be doing well nowadays, others were unhappy, even worried, about themselves, their families, and their futures. The President said that he didn’t understand that fear. He said, “Why, this country is a shining city on a hill.” And the President is right. In many ways we are a shining city on a hill.
But the hard truth is that not everyone is sharing in this city’s splendor and glory. A shining city is perhaps all the President sees from the portico of the White House and the veranda of his ranch, where everyone seems to be doing well. But there’s another city; there’s another part to the shining the city; the part where some people can’t pay their mortgages, and most young people can’t afford one; where students can’t afford the education they need, and middle-class parents watch the dreams they hold for their children evaporate.
In this part of the city there are more poor than ever, more families in trouble, more and more people who need help but can’t find it. Even worse: There are elderly people who tremble in the basements of the houses there. And there are people who sleep in the city streets, in the gutter, where the glitter doesn’t show. There are ghettos where thousands of young people, without a job or an education, give their lives away to drug dealers every day. There is despair, Mr. President, in the faces that you don’t see, in the places that you don’t visit in your shining city.

In fact, Mr. President, this is a nation — Mr. President you ought to know that this nation is more a “Tale of Two Cities” than it is just a “Shining City on a Hill.”

The Most Important Forgotten Words of George Washington

The first George W. saved a young nation with the power of his words and his presence prior to the signing of the peace treaty of 1783. Restless American troops, unhappy with Congress, were scheming a military coup. Washington heard the rumors and surprised a room full of gathered officers, striding to the front of the room and speaking to them. The speech was evidently unremarkable, but what happened next was not:

Following his address Washington studied the faces of his audience. He could see that they were still confused, uncertain, not quite appreciating or comprehending what he had tried to impart in his speech. With a sigh, he removed from his pocket a letter and announced it was from a member of Congress, and that he now wished to read it to them. He produced the letter, gazed upon it, manipulated it without speaking. What was wrong, some of the men wondered. Why did he delay? Washington now reached into a pocket and brought out a pair of new reading glasses. Only those nearest to him knew he lately required them, and he had never worn them in public. Then he spoke: “Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray but almost blind in the service of my country.” This simple act and statement by their venerated commander, coupled with remembrances of battles and privations shared together with him, and their sense of shame at their present approach to the threshold of treason, was more effective than the most eloquent oratory. As he read the letter to their unlistening ears, many were in tears from the recollections and emotions which flooded their memories. As Maj. Samuel Shaw, who was present, put it in his journal, ” There was something so natural, so unaffected in this appeal as rendered it superior to the most studied oratory. It forced its way to the heart, and you might see sensibility moisten every eye.”

Finishing, Washington carefully and deliberately folded the letter, took off his glasses, and exited briskly from the hall. Immediately, Knox and others faithful to Washington offered resolutions affirming their appreciation for their commander in chief, and pledging their patriotism and loyalty to the Congress, deploring and regretting those threats and actions which had been uttered and suggested. What support Gates and his group may have enjoyed at the outset of the meeting now completely disintegrated, and the Newburgh conspiracy collapsed.

American Rhetoric has its ranking of the Top 100 American speeches

Answer to the earlier question about Colson’s Templeton Address and Bush’s Second Inaugural: Both speeches were drafted by speechwriter Michael Gerson, who began his career as a writer for Colson immediately following his graduation from Wheaton College, and went on to write for the president. Any question about who wrote much of the tremendous, spiritually rich prose for Bush will be put to rest if you read The Enduring Revolution.

Leaders of the evangelical generation: Ted W. Engstrom, executive leader

[I am working on a project that may become a book on the most influential evangelicals leaders of our generation, since 1976, and the impact they’ve had on the church and their times. I will introduce them briefly on this blog from time to time.]

# 4 Ted W. Engstrom. Executive Leadership 1916-2006

The strength and breadth of today’s evangelical movement—the evangelical part of the Christian church—is due in large part to the foundations started in the 1950s and built over the last generation. Among these foundations are the organizations, associations, and businesses that many call the para-church. These groups, focused on a specific part of the church’s overall work, complemented the ministry of the churches, but they also clearly transcended the churches in public perception and effectiveness on many tasks. This may be because of their focus, the attractiveness of these endeavors to entrepreneurs and their ability to attract expertise, absence of geographic boundaries, and the ability to raise funds in new ways.

This growing wing of the church was led by a new crop of individuals who at first came from the churches—pastors who had a calling to pursue a specific area of ministry, such as international relief, child evangelism, or radio programming—and over time included more and more management professionals who moved from their secular jobs to lead these Christian organizations.

[As the new para-church flank developed over the last generation, many church insiders—pastors, church staff, denominational executives—naturally began to resent the higher profile of these groups, and especially their ability to raise large budgets, even as individual churches struggled to build a new children’s wing or put in a new furnace.]

One of the early giants was Ted W. Engstrom, a large kindly man with round edges and a hitch in his step who led through spiritual infusion, seasoned wisdom, and a steady hand.

For more than half a century, Engstrom’s colleagues became accustomed to his frequent correspondence (signed with his initials, TWE), which graced the management logs of three of the early giants of the para-church. Engstrom, who graduated from Taylor University, was editorial director and general manager of Zondervan Publishing House, and became president of Youth for Christ International (where some of the crusades featured a young evangelist named Graham) before joining World Vision International in 1963. It was his leadership at these organizations, and then his role as a mentor for scores of up-and-coming executives in the Christian world, that provided a steady hand to the rudder of the growing evangelical movement.

Engstrom’s management advice could apply to many situations we face today: He said:

“We terribly overestimate what we can do in one year and underestimate what we can do in five. Start by realizing that you can’t get out of this mess in one year. But you can lay a foundation that can get you out of this mess in three or five years. By planning now, you can get some control over your time.”

I worked at World Vision during Engstrom’s years as Executive Vice President, and I was his ghost writer for many internal and some external communications. During this years, Engstrom emphasized three things above all:

Evangelism: While many of the projects of groups such as World Vision concentrated on practical problems, Engstrom continued to drive for an evangelistic element in every program.

Time Management: he led Managing Your Time seminars for many years with World Vision colleague Ed Dayton.

Generosity: His motto—“We are in business to give ourselves away.” He recognized that groups such as World Vision were becoming centers of not only funds but also expertise, and he demonstrated his commitment to sharing this with others in the church.

The Christian Leadership Alliance established the Engstrom Institute as a home for their executive leadership training and resources. CLA says that Engstrom “is recognized for making one key contribution to 20th century American evangelical culture: introducing standard business practices and management principles to churches and other faith-based institutions. These often went awry because they paid too little attention to the bottom line.”

The evangelical firmament has relied not only by the brightest stars, but also the gravity that held the constellations together. Ted Engstrom had that gravity—the para-church was his platform and an emerging force in the focused activity of the American church.

Leaders of the Evangelical Generation: Phil Vischer, cartoonist

[I am working on a project that may become a book on the most influential evangelicals leaders of our generation, since 1976, and the impact they’ve had on the church and their times. I will introduce them briefly on this blog from time to time.  Who do you think should be on this list?].

Phil Vischer. Cartoonist. b.1966

Primary among the recognized responsibilities of the parents, teachers and, and story tellers of every generation is to educate and socialize their children, and to explain their understanding of the meaning of life, the virtues and truths of their faith, and the principles necessary to thrive in this world and to grasp the hand of the God who transcends time.

Since 1993, one of the principal communicators of religious culture to the children of the nation has not been huge organizations such as Awana Clubs or Child Evangelism Fellowship, the home school movement, or even the Sunday schools, but Bob the Tomato, Larry the Cucumber, and their vegetable cohorts at Veggie Tales—the creations of a bright but quirky Bible college dropout from southeast Iowa, Phil Vischer.

This may seem like an overstatement, but rarely has a line of programs or products dominated a field as thoroughly as Veggie Tales shorts and films (now more than 31) did the children’s religious education/entertainment since 1993.

Christianity Today reported:

“Before the singing vegetables of VeggieTales hit the scene, there had never been a Christian video series that sold 25 million copies. There had never ever been a fully computer-animated feature (Pixar’s Toy Story was still two years away). And there had never ever, ever been Christian-produced entertainment so funny and smart that viewers did not realize they were receiving moral instruction.”

Veggie Tales was introduced to the world as productions of Big Idea, founded in 1989 by Vischer and his college firend, Mike Nawrocki. The company officially launched in 1993 with its first Video, Where’s God When I’m S-Scared?.

Vischer was born and raised in the southeast Iowa rivertown, Muscatine, the second of three children of a prestigious but tormented Christian family. His paternal grandfather was a founder of the Bandag tire company based in Muscatine, and his maternal grandfather the longtime director of the Okoboji Lakes Bible and Missionary Conference (Christian and Missionary Alliance). His mother is a professor at Wheaton College. Phil tells his personal story in Me, Myself & Bob.

I spent my middle and high school years living across the street from the Vischer family, and Phil’s parents were my youth group leaders at Mulford Evangelical Free Church. I remember young Phil, 12 years my junior, as Flip–a longtime nickname he was happy to abandon as he grew older. When Phil began making films, those of us who knew him well were not at all surprised by the off-beat humor or cartoonish voices. They were simply an outgrowth of Phil’s persona. Our only surprise was how rapidly Veggie Tales exploded in the Christian marketplace (not surprised because the products were poor but because, as Jesus found, a prophet is without honor in his hometown).

The discussion of creating culture and penetrating existing cultural forms is often a heady exercise of sociologists and missiologists. But for at least a brief and shining moment, they were led by vegetables named Bob and Larry.

With a danger of oversimplifying, it may be safe to say that Vischer found maintaining a large production company took different skills than creative great stories and characters. In 2005 Big Idea was sold as it faced bankruptcy and a distribution lawsuit. Veggie Tales lives on and Vischer still works with the company on a contract basis, writing scripts and performing many of the voices for new Veggie Tales productions. He has also started a new creative shop called Jellyfish Labs.

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