I was sitting in church at Drakes Branch Baptist Church in the summer of 2003 or 2004, where we were visiting. I’d pastored there in the 80s and early 90s, and was back visiting old friends. The pastor was preaching a good, biblical message, but my mind was wandering, as it often did, to a problem I was having in Cedar Rapids. I was part of a wonderful citywide fellowship of pastors who had helped me through dark times in my ministry and had co-labored with me in that city. They were my friends and we had deep fellowship in Christ. But I also had some strong theological divergence from many of them, especially after the so-called “Brownsville Revival” came to Cedar Rapids. I often found myself disagreeing with the heartfelt prayers my brothers prayed.
What to do?
As I sat in church, mulling this over, an idea formed in my mind. No, I claim no revelation or inspiration, but I thought it was an idea with promise. As we drove home, I kept turning this thing over in my mind and came up with what became “Brick Walls and Picket Fences.” I want to be theologically and doctrinally accurate – I could never buy the “let’s forget doctrine and love Jesus” idea I heard so often. However, I could not join with those who anathematized everyone who disagreed with them in any way. I’d prayed with these men I disagreed with. I knew these men’s hearts. They were not enemies of the gospel. They did not hate Jesus or the Word.
How could I walk in unity with those with whom I strongly disagreed?
The answer to that was Brick Walls and Picket Fences. Here’s my theory, my thesis.
There are four levels of “doctrine” or truth, and each one is accompanied by an appropriate “unity response.”
- There is the “Brick Wall” level – truth that is essential to the Christian faith around which we must build a wall of separation.
- There is the “Picket Fence” level – truth that divides us into Christian camps, but does not cause us to break fellowship as believers. We may worship separately, but we can regard one another as brothers and sisters in Christ, and be friendly neighbors.
- There is the “Dinner Table” level – truth that we disagree on but ought not divide us, even in the church. Like a family sits around the table and disagrees, we disagree on these issues and continue our fellowship.
- Finally, there is “Personal Space” truth – those issues that Paul describes as disputable, in which we follow our own conscience, allow others to do the same, and keep our opinions to ourselves.
At the time, I was doing an email essay distribution called “WORD Processing” and I wrote this up. It got wide circulation. Then a terrible thing happened! The good Dr. Mohler wrote his essay on “Theological triage” which was nearly identical. I thought to myself, why proceed with a book on this if Dr. Mohler hath spoken on the topic? But I finally decided to move forward and the result is this new book, “Brick Walls and Picket Fences.”
Last fall I was put in touch with Rainer Publishing and they agreed to publish it. It is now available. You can buy it at Amazon.com. They have been wonderful to work with.
Now, folks, here’s the thing. Rainer published the book, and they are doing their job in promoting it. But I agreed to actively promote the sales of this book as well. That is part of the process of publishing now. The author isn’t just an author anymore, he becomes a salesman and promoter. It’s not something I’m particularly comfortable doing, but it is my job. I’m grateful for the good folks at Rainer who made this book a reality and I’m going to do my job in trying to sell it.
I talked with Alan Cross about that. He published his book, “When Heaven and Earth Collide: Racism, Southern Evangelicals, and the Better Way of Jesus” back in early 2014. He’s had to do the same thing – promote, promote, promote. And it’s not to get rich. If you think publishing a book is going to make you a lot of money, you are going to be sadly disappointed when it finally happens. Unless you are one of the big-timers, you publish a book to get out the message. Maybe you make a buck here or there. Maybe. But you do it because you believe in the message. I shouldn’t say this, but I happen to know what Alan has made on his book. You’d be shocked at the amount. No, the other direction. You do NOT get rich in the publishing game if your name isn’t Osteen or Swindoll or MacArthur. You publish a book to share a message, not to collect royalties.
It’s my job to let you know that I have a book for sale. So here it is. I have a book for sale!
- It is available in Kindle for 5.97.
- It is available in paperback 12.97.
- I have ordered a case of books, and if you will write a review on your site, I’ll send you one. Give me your name and address.
So, yeah, if you see me promoting my book (or Alan, or anyone else), that’s how it goes. It’s part of the process. You write the book, then you promote it. If you write a book, you will have to promote it too. You will feel uncomfortable when you do it, but you will do it nonetheless.
My thanks to the good folks at Rainer Publishing. My thanks to those who buy and read the book.
I’m only sorry they didn’t do the cover in lime green.