I have thought for some time that the evangelical world does not need another book on relationships. The good Lord knows that the topic has produced far too much heat with precious little light.
But I cannot shake my feeling that the current approaches to dating and relationship are no longer adequate for the challenges young people face. The most popular versions suffer from being outdated—like it or not, young Christians do not experience relationships with the opposite sex like they did 10 years ago. Others are too....trite. I have met many colleged-aged Christians who have been dismayed by the current range of offerings for not approaching the issues with the spiritual and intellectual seriousness they desired.
As I considered these perceived shortcomings, I realized that maybe, just maybe, the world needed one more book on dating and relationships. And then it occurred to me:maybe I should be the guy to write it.
That was in 2005. Since then, I have written many pages and revised them many times. I have approached publishers and havereceived nothing but positive feedback and helpful edits, but have been turneddown nonetheless. My central problem seems to be driven not by my content, but (understandably) by the bottom line: I'm a relatively unknown author and "relationships" is a very crowded field.
My central goal on this journey has always been to write a very different sort of dating book than currently exists. What kind of book?
First, the book has to treat the ambiguity of modern relationships seriously. Like it or not, modern relationships are rarely clearly defined. I want my book to acknowledge those ambiguities.
Second, the book should avoid making legalistic prescriptions. At the end of the day, context isn't the only consideration in determining right and wrong, but it should be a factor. Legalism is the outgrowth of those who refuse to allow us to think. I happen to think that everybody who writes about relationships would hardly find this objectionable. Nevertheless, the conversation that has occurred in Christian circles is frequently driven by legalistic prescriptions and ideologies.
Finally, the book has to contribute something new to the conversation about dating. My own perspective is that the conversation among Christians has been focused around one question: how should young Christians behave in their relationships with the opposite sex? I want to reorient the conversation around very different questions; How do modern relationships reveal the way young people think and feel about God and themselves, and how do those thoughtsand feelings then affect their relationships?
Over the past three years, I have refined and organized my thoughts. However, I recently realized that I have reached my limits: I need your help. The pages I have written stand in need of testing by a community of people who will offer honest, tough feedback. What better way to receive that feedback, I thought, than by giving away all my content here at ConversantLife? Hence,the “Build a Better (Dating?) Book “ project.
Here’s how the it will work: over the next three to four months, I will be systematically releasing the entirety of my book here at ConversantLife. I am looking for people to be willing to read it consistently—it’s a series,after all, which means the ideas will build toward a conclusion. I am looking for people to offer their hardest, most honest comments. Anything is fair game: my writing,my ideas, my examples, anything. At the end of the day, we build this book together.
For this sort of project, your participation is essential. I am not looking for praise or flattery: I'm looking to improve my work. To that end, I thought I would offer some incentives (after all, what would a project like this be without incentives?).
There will probably be other incentives along the way. But my real hope is that the reward will lie in the project itself: in the process of asking questions, of challenging peoples’ opinions (especially mine!), and of working toward understanding a realm that is extremely complex.
One final point: I don’t actually care whether the book is, in fact, published. If it isn’t, then I will not have wasted my time. The intrinsic benefits from working on a project as difficult as writing a book have been enormous, and my aim here is simply to allow my work to reach as many people as possible.
On Wednesday, then, we begin at the beginning. I hope you’ll stick around.