I have recently attempted to get in touch with three different pastors who I consider to be both incredibly successful and very well known. Two of them started United Methodist Churches that have grown like crazy and have become, for many, models of how to do ministry in the United Methodist Church in the twenty-first century. (I contacted them seeking endorsements of my book which is coming out next spring.) The other is not United Methodist but also started a church that has seen amazing growth, I attempted to get in touch with him to talk about his experience with United Methodism in order to try to learn from him how to avoid some of the mistakes and barriers that Methodism has recently put up to doing a new thing in the name of the Lord.
Literally when I began writing this post I had heard from two of them and had not heard back from the third. As I was typing I got a response from the third (actually the only one who responded himself, the other two were mediated through executive assistants). I have chosen not to mention their names because I am really not trying to make anyone look bad, and this post isn’t intended to be about any particular person, but about a more general thought process I have been on as a result of trying to learn from and interact with people who have done some pretty amazing things.
This experience has made me think a lot about being nationally recognized, at least within your field of expertize. Here is a summary of my thoughts:
- I heard back from all three of them within a week. I am impressed by this because I am guessing that they each receive a pretty high amount of correspondence. Although, I was most impressed by the quick response of the person who responded personally.
- I immediately received a polite but firm “no” from the one I hoped to interview. I initially received a hopeful response from the first endorsement request, but a few months later received a “no.” The third, the one who directly emailed me back, wrote to say that he is traveling this week and will try to respond next week.
- At first I was pretty cynical about the two pastors who I couldn’t even directly talk to. One of them, in particular, I really felt like if I could have a five minute conversation with would be interested in my book and would be willing to make the time to talk about it – in part because several people had said I should contact him about it because they felt that he would be interested in supporting it. But as I have continued to reflect, I have begun to realize that I have no idea what their lives and schedules are really like. I am struggling to balance starting a PhD with being a dad and a husband. I know that two of the people I contacted are husbands and parents and also happen to be the primary leader of a church that has thousands of people in worship each week. So what right do I have to expect anything from them? The next stage was sort of sadness, because I know that I really do have a lot to learn from people like them and for the most part because of their success I will not be able to have any in depth correspondence with any of them. But here is where I am today: I am wondering why I want to “rub elbows” with the big fish… or something like that. I think there are some good reasons, but I also think some are not so good… like ambition, pride, things of the like.
- Finally, I have been struggling with the sense that networking and trying to get to know people and be known by them is a sort of necessary evil, but then that also seems too strong. I think this is as honest as I can be about where I ultimately come down on this: I feel like the book I have written is worth reading and it represents, as best as I can articulate it right now, the passion that I believe God has given me for what I have to say to the Church. However, not many people know who I am and name recognition seems to be a big factor in whether someone buys a book. So, if I can get someone else, say someone whose name you recognize, to say “Hey, this is a great book! You should read it…” then maybe more people read what I believe God has given me to say.
So the moral of the story is this: I am thinking about asking John Wesley himself to endorse my book, but I can’t think of a way to do it without using a ouija board… Just in case you are wondering, in my mind if he did endorse my book it would be something like this: “This is the best articulation of how to put Wesleyan theology into practice since… well, me! If I were re-writing the General Rules today I would add a fourth rule, buy Kevin Watson’s book A Blueprint for Discipleship.” – John Wesley, Founder of Methodism
That might help sell a few books…