Every year in December, I receive innumerable letters from Christian organizations appealing for funds. Most are summaries of their important activities, informative yet not always very provocative reading in and of themselves. Others pull at emotional heartstrings or hot-button social/moral issues, and these are particularly demeaning in their approach; they are there to elicit knee-jerk responses, not thoughtful considerations of where to give scarce funds.
However, one letter which I receive I read in its entirety and regard as a gift to me. Ken Myers, of Mars Hills Audio, writes a fund-raising letter the way it should be written. There is no appeal to sentiment or emotion but, rather, a mini-essay on what it means to be faithful culturally, as in how to live and behave as a Christian in all realms of life. In so doing, Ken indirectly tells us about Mars Hill Audio, because that's essentially what they do through their monthly program of commentary and interview. Only at the end does he plainly and honestly ask us to consider giving, and by then our minds are stirred and we are almost ready to send a gift just as a thank you for the wonderfully encouraging letter we just read. Well, that's how to appeal for funds. He's got me. And yet he'd be the first to tell me to prayerfully and thoughtfully consider when and to whom to give, all as a matter of faithfulness.
This month's letter takes issue with those Christians and Christian ministries who urge us to strategically target the influential as a way to change society, or to make the gospel attractive as way to gain the world's admiration. Quoting Eugene Peterson, he notes that the practice of targeting influential leaders is not a practice backed by biblical precedent. As Myers says:
"Faithfulness to the Lord of all Creation is cultural faithfulness; it is faithfulness in every realm of human experience, from science to sports, from making movies to making babies, from how we build relationships to how we relate to buildings. Following Christ is a matter first of inner transformation, and then of living faithfully in accord with the order of Creation as he made and is redeeming it, in all of our cultural convictions and practices concerning a host of abstractions and concrete realities: food, sex, time, music, history, language, technology, family, justice, beauty, agriculture, and community."
Along the way, I become acquainted with a sonnet, "Annunciation," by John Donne, am treated to a summary of pithy comments by Eugene Peterson, a very good writer and thinker, read a quote from J. Gresham Machen from a 1912 Princeton address on "Christianity and Culture," and am prompted to find and listen to an unknown and not likely widely known fifteenth-century English carol entitled "I Sing of a Maiden." Well, it's like a full meal in a four-page letter.
Perhaps I exaggerate the degree to which I am impacted by the letter, but forgive me as I'm "in the moment." I can't, however, exaggerate the effect steady listening to the Mars Hill Audio programs has done for me. I recommend them. Read the letter here. Sign up for a trial CD or MP3 program here. You'll have a more thoughtful 2007.