Recommended reading

I got my contributing editor’s copies of the new Door Magazine today. I’ve got nothing in this issue — my Yaconelli tribute won’t come out until the next issue, two months from now. But I want to direct your attention to an interview with John D. Spalding of Beliefnet. It’s terrific.

The Door can be a little hard to find — check really large bookstores with very extensive magazine selections. (Or just go to the web site and subscribe!)

Remembering Mike

Last summer Robert Darden, the editor of The Door Magazine, asked me to prepare a tribute to the late Mike Yaconelli, who died in an automobile accident last October.

Mike and his former business partner Wayne Rice founded Youth Specialties, one of the leading publishers of church youth group materials. Mike was an author of books about spirituality. And Mike and Wayne were the founders of The Wittenburg Door, as it was known until 1988. (That’s not quite true, actually — they bought out a much smaller publication with the same name. But they were certainly the founders of the Door as most people know it.) The Door published a tribute to Mike soon after his death but wanted to revisit the topic in connection with an upcoming announcement which I think would have tickled him.

Between the ownership change at the Times-Gazette and my preparations for the Kenya mission trip, I wasn’t at all sure I could do this project justice. But I didn’t dare turn down the opportunity. I interviewed Mike’s widow Karla before my trip, and I’ve talked to two of his early co-consipirators at The Door since returning. This week, with the deadline looming, I struggled to put the tribute together so that I could put it to bed and turn my attention to the layspeaking engagement I have coming up on Sunday.

I wasn’t at all sure I had done a good job, and even if it was a good job I wasn’t sure if it was exactly what Bob was looking for. But I got a nice e-mail from Bob tonight. He’s apparently happy with it, and I heaved a sigh of relief.

I can only hope I’ve done Mike justice. I only met him in person one time, but I consider him a great man, an example of Christian humility and honest longing for God’s grace, as well as a truly funny satirist.

A busy weekend

Sorry I haven’t posted much this weekend; it’s been busy. On Saturday, I covered a festival-type event for the newspaper and then Sharon and I had a wonderful dinner at Loveless Cafe, a Nashville-area landmark which changed hands this year but is being treated with loving care by its new owners, who include Nashville-based movie set caterer Tom Morales. I’d never been there before, new or old owners, so I can’t compare the two, but I can tell you that we were well-fed Saturday night. I had the fried chicken; Sharon had the pork chops, which were huge, and we both ended up taking home doggie bags.

As soon as you sit down, they bring you a plate of biscuits with homemade preserves. The placemats include a quote from Willard Scott calling them the best scratch biscuits he’s ever eaten, and a quote from Martha Stewart saying the best breakfast she ever ate was at the Loveless.

This morning, I was on the other end of the food-service equation, helping cook and serve a luncheon to my church to raise money for our men’s club.

This afternoon, I interviewed C. McNair Wilson for an article I’m doing for The Door Magazine. That was a thrill; McNair is the author of “YHWH Is Not A Radio Station In Minneapolis,” now out of print, a book which I’ve owned and loved for many years. He’s a talented illustrator and author, has several religious-themed one-man shows, and is a former Disney theme park imagineer.

Then, I went over to my parents’ home to see my sister and her three children. This was my first visit with them since my return from Kenya, and I had Masai-made bracelets for Jacey and Jessa, a Masai-made whistle for Jacob, and Kenyan 100-shilling bills for each of them. (They were even more impressed before I told them 100 shillings is about $1.25.)

Pardon their French

There was a famous incident a few years back in which author Tony Campolo was speaking to a large Christian gathering. While talking about the problem of world hunger, he intentionally used a vulgarity — and then pointed out to the crowd that most of them were more angered by his use of a “dirty word” than by the heartbreaking statistic on world hunger he had mentioned just previous to it.

Anyway, Dean Peters’ excellent Heal Your Church Web Site has called its readers’ attention to another web site, one which I think has some fascinating points to make about the church and how it presents itself to the world.

Unfortunately, the web site’s name is Church Marketing Sucks.

Go there and read it anyway.

Grady Nutt

One of our area ministers stopped by the newspaper today, and when he mentioned something about pastors being only human I immediately thought of a quote by the late Grady Nutt.

That led me to reminisce about Grady Nutt, and to look and see if any of his old albums had been rereleased on CD. I couldn’t find any, and that saddens me to no end. If I could find a copy of whatever album “The Tea Totallers” appeared on, I would buy it in a heartbeat.

The Rev. Grady Nutt was a Southern Baptist preacher who became a standup comedian, with his faith, his family and his occupation as his subject matter. For a while, he was a regular on “Hee Haw” (he was unpretentious enough to appear on “Hee Haw,” but don’t let that scare you off). He talked about how pastors were only human; that was the quote that came up this morning. Grady said that when a pastor hits his thumb with a hammer, he does not say “Verily and behold, I have slammed it.”

Grady even made a TV situation comedy pilot about life as a pastor. It wasn’t picked up and was burned off one summer during the 1970s as a special. Grady died, much too young, in an airplane crash.

The story “The Tea Totallers” takes a long time to tell and only Grady could do it justice. But it has to do with a minister’s family which is hosting the family of a visiting evangelist for lunch. One of the children spills a glass of iced tea all over the tablecloth, and the mother — who has been slaving away to make everything spotless and perfect for the special guests — begins to tremble as if she’s about to have an apoplectic fit. The father, however, stares her down until he has her full attention — and then reaches out and intentionally knocks over his own glass. Pretty soon, everyone at the table, including the mother and the bewildered visitng pastor, is gleefully knocking over tea glasses. It’s a perfect Mary-and-Martha parable about what’s really important in life, as opposed to the details about which we often obsess.

Even funnier are stories that I recall about Grady being forced to counsel a grieving widow in the only unoccupied room in her house — the bathroom — and about a baptism by immersion gone terribly awry.

Someone please, please get this man’s material onto CD. The world still needs him.


Mike Yaconelli, the godfather of modern youth ministry and the long-time publisher of The Wittenburg Door (now The Door Magazine, for which I’m a contributing editor) died last October in a tragic car accident. I posted extensively about this tragedy in my old blog.

Mike and his company, Youth Specialties, donated The Door to the Dallas-based Trinity Foundation some years back, but after his passing the magazine naturally did a tribute to him as soon as possible. Now, they’re revisitng the subject, in connection with some editorial changes which should make the magazine closer to what it was when Mike ran it.

For that article, I was privileged to speak today with Mike’s widow, Karla Yaconelli. I’ll hopefully be talking to several others from the magazine’s history over the next couple of months.

Interestingly enough, in rereading some of the tributes published about Mike last fall I discovered that while he and Wayne Rice were the co-founders of The Wittenburg Door in any real sense, they actually bought the name from two other men who had published one issue of The Wittenburg Door!

(By the way, I realize the German city where Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door is spelled Wittenberg. The name was misspelled in the first issue or two of the magazine, and by the time anyone realized it was wrong, they decided to keep it that way just out of silliness.)