The Rise of the “Re” in Christian BooksSeptember 28th, 2021
A funny thing happened on the way to Christian book publishing in our time. We are experiencing an explosion of the prefix “re” in book titles and sub-titles. I was first drawn to this in a recent book I published. Normally authors have very little say on the actual published title and sub-title of a book they have written. So, I was struck that the sub-title of my book, For the Body, had as the first word of the sub-title, the word “recovering.” That was the beginning of my journey through the Zondervan catalog, followed by the Baker catalog, then Eerdmans, then Kregel, and so on. My look at contemporary titles (and subtitles) of books confirmed my suspicion: We are in the midst of the dramatic rise of the “re” in the titles or subtitles of Christian books. Let the following words I discovered just wash over you as you read them and ask the question, “what does the rise of the ‘re’ in book titles tell us?” “What can we learn by this?” Here are the words I discovered: rekindling, rebuilding, recovering, renewing, restoring repairing, remembering, revitalizing, reclaiming, and reviving. I’m sure that words like “re-orienting and reconstructing” and eagerly waiting to be used as well. What does this mean?
The rise of the “re” in Christian books is sending us a loud and strong message that Christian thinkers across all major publishing platforms believe that the church is not in a good place. The very use of these “re” words means, in effect, we must recapture something which has been lost. Yes, “recapture”… that was yet another “re” word. The rise of the “re” means that we have work to do to get back to that which we once had, but has now been lost. Re-build means we have to start with rubble and build that which once was. Restore means to bring back to a former glory. Remember means we had forgotten something. Re-kindle means something was once burning, but has now gone out. This is how all these words function. We must openly admit that we are in a “reclaiming” period in Christian history. We have turned down a road and ignored the “dead end” sign. We have set aside that which should have been central. We have forgotten that which should always be remembered. So, we must retrace (another “re” word) and get back on the right path.
I often tell our students at Asbury Seminary that the great project of their generation is the restoration of biblical, apostolic Christianity in our time. The great “falling away” of people from the ranks of the church is not all bad. In many cases (not all) it is a necessary winnowing so that authentic Christianity can, once again, thrive and be reborn, renewed, rekindled and so forth.
Everyone would rather live on the banks of the Red Sea with tambourines in their hands celebrating God’s work and brimming with the optimism of what it means to be part of a new, supernatural movement of God. That seems so much better than – at the other end of their history – trying to rebuild the broken-down walls of Jerusalem with a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other (Neh. 4:15-1). But all of this – Red Sea as well as the Nehemiah restoration was preparatory for the greatest miracle of all, the incarnation and the coming of Christ. God is unfolding His kingdom and we can and should anticipate great things ahead. But, we should remember what Gandalf said to Frodo when he said that he wished all of this calamity had “not happened in my time.” Gandalf wisely responded, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” We live in a time of rebuilding and restoring and rekindling. Let’s quit pouting about it, pick up our trowels and get to work, shall we?
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