Monday, June 21, 2010 | By: Zachary Bartels

What You Missed If You Weren't There...

Last Thursday, Ted Kluck and I were hosted by Baker Book House for an in-store signing event to promote our book, Kinda Christianity. We were pleased with a better-than-expected turnout, and rewarded all who attended with all sorts of funny. We fielded some questions, talked about the book, its inception and reception. I presented a paper about how Gut Check Press is, in the words of St. Polycarp, the bomb, like tick tick. I also taught a lesson on advanced emergent techniques for those wanting to go beyond missional and incarnational, into the word of incarmissional.

In the spirit of second chances, I have below reproduced the paper I presented, and will soon be sharing the graphics-heavy lesson plan for the advanced emergent course.


Grand Rapids has been the building site for many of the bedrock houses that comprise the skyline of Christian publishing: Zondervan, Baker, Eerdmans, that one guy who writes his own tracts and then hands them out on college campuses and calls all the girls whores and then gets eggs thrown at him and says, “Oh well, they spit on Jesus too,” Kregel. And while each of these has made its own contributions to the church, to biblical scholarship, and to the reading world at large, they all lack a certain boxing-glove-logo-ness. And where the aformentioned have fallen short, it is this paper’s contention that Gut Check Press excels—not only in the literal boxing glove present in its logo, but also in the literary punch-in-the-face that Gut Check Press offers its readers via their “pull-no punches, blow-your-skirt-up, break-your-shin-bones” style of books—books that would not sit well with the Amish Girl fiction enthusiast or even the world of Christian mens’ literature and its ever-popular “Ten Steps to a Good Public Cry” genre.

In short, Gut Check Press is in another class altogether. Perhaps an analogy would be apropos here: David C. Cook (the man) is to Mickey Rourke as David C. Cook (the publisher) is to Gut Check Press. Gut Check would make Davey go buy it a Rockstar energy drink and fill Gut Check’s car up with gas. Premium. GCP has no inexplicably British Jesuses, no voluminous ruffly dresses, no endless self-exploration and accompanying discourses about how you “feel” and the “journey you’re on.” Also no fainting.

Take, for example, Gut Check's first publication, Kinda Christianity: A Fair, Organic, Free Trade Guide to Authentic Realness, a 62-page epic of missional proportions, packed with sardonically irreverent satire, dazzling gray-scale graphics, and endlessly useful information for the aspiring emergenteer.

If ever a popular work filled a scholarly void, it is this one. After all, while there has been a glut of recent books that lay out for the reader an emergent worldview and theology—books like A New Kind of Christianity by Brian McLaren, A Christianity Worth Believing by Doug Paggitt, and The Secret by Rhonda Byrne—these books are, as the addage goes, fish. And while fish may be delicious for a moment (provided they weren't caught by a commercial vessel), they will soon leave one famished and trolling the streets for more, harder fish. Only Kinda Christianity teaches the reader to cast the line of incarnational community into the depths of the wildly diverse sea and reel in endless bucketsfull of genuine authenticity.

As would be expected with such a groundbreaking work, it has not landed unnoticed. The press has taken notice. And not just the blogosphere, but, like, the legitimate press—the Grand Rapids Press. Front page of the religion section, above the fold. Win.

The retail world has taken notice, as evidenced by this very event. Not only did Kinda Christianity reach the top 1% of 1% for sales on, the last week of April and first week of May, it is also available in stores. Two stores.

And of course, the academic world has taken notice. At the 2010 meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in Sacramende, the Rev. Dr. Michael E. Wittmer presented a paper entiteld “Gut Check Press: It's Legiznit, Brah,” in which he concluded, and I quote, “What Karl Barth is to neo-orthodoxy and Benny Hinn is to TV preachers, what Voltaire is to the Enlightenment and Pat Robertson is to the leg press machine, what Schleiermacher is to Classical Protestant Liberalism and Brian McLaren is to the Emergent church (or the other way around, I can't really tell the two apart anymore), so Ted and Zach are to to the fiercely orthodox, thirty-something, Calvinistic, cigar-smoking, boxing enthusiast set.”

Actually, there wasn't really a paper. And there is no such city as Sacramende. But what if there was, right? Right?

In conclusion, we submit as incontrovertible fact that only one publisher has brought you a book parodying the emergent church and an audio book about Mike Tyson. Does that make Gut Check Press great? Does it make it an Amway-esque empire worthy of your fear, love, and devotion in equal proportions?


2 reader comments:

Erin said...

I absolutely loved the paper and it makes me smile to think of how much fun you must have had writing it.

mikewittmer said...

I totally said that. Or I will, now that you have put it in my head.