In 2017, Get to Know Some Dead People

by Jonathan Trotter on January 3, 2017

It’s a noisy, noisy, noisy world out there. If you’ve got an internet connection, you have access to a screaming torrent of opinions and crises and politics and yummy recipes for some no-bake-easy-prep-3-step-totally-awesome-cheesy-enchiladas.

And that, my friends, is why we need dead people.

Some time ago, I decided that I needed to balance my reading list with some not current authors. I needed to spend some time with folks a few generations removed. I needed some mentoring from history.

I’d like to encourage you to try it too.

Because if we only read Chan and Platt and Claiborne and Mayfield and Brown and so on, we’re missing something huge. We’re missing an old reservoir of tremendous depth.

I’m not saying you should stop reading modern books (or blogs like A Life Overseas!), I’m just saying, we’ve got to balance the new and modern and URGENT stuff with some long-standing, foundational writings.

After all, wisdom was building her house long before people started tweeting in the eaves.

 

The Danger of Thinking We’re the First
Have you ever seen someone who thinks they’re the first one? And they’re so not?

For example, some folks act like “social justice” wasn’t even a thing before they were born. By all means, these folks should read Claiborne and Caine, but they can’t forget to read Bonhoeffer, Augustine, Carmichael, and Aylward. These old folks were hardcore long before most of us were even born.

When we think like this, when we think we’re first, we blind ourselves to the wisdom of others; we deafen ourselves to the lessons they learned while living and fighting. And dying.

And that’s exceptionally stupid.

Being first has a sort of romantic ring to it for sure, and it makes us feel important. But it also unmoors us, and it’s usually just not true.

It disconnects us from our history and the bigger story. And the longer I live abroad, the more convinced I am that one thing we MUST do is remember that we are part of a much bigger story.

Remembering that our part is only one part of a grander story insulates from despondency when things go poorly and prevents arrogance when things go splendidly.

It is a Small Place we must visit regularly.

 

A New Thing?
Creativity is awesome, and we should come up with new approaches that adapt to changing demographics and emerging technology. God is certainly the King of the Dawn.

Isaiah gets quoted a lot this time of year: “For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19)

But we can’t forget Isaiah’s neighbor, Jeremiah: “This is what the Lord says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.’” (Jeremiah 6:16)

Want to keep your faith alive and growing in 2017? Remember that God is the God of the living and the dead. Anticipate the new things and walk faithfully in the old things.

 

Try It
For every living author, read a dead author.
For every new book on missions or missiology, read an old book on missions or missiology.

Here’s a check: Think about the last five books or articles you’ve read. If all the authors are still alive, you’re missing out on a very special treasury I call “wise dead people.”

If there are local stories of older (even ancient) believers in your region, find them and read them. Connect your story to theirs. Help new believers learn about and connect with these stories too, as a vital part of their spiritual heritage.

In this age when so much data is accessible so easily, it would be a shame if we never accessed the long view of those who’ve gone before us. We need them, the writers, thinkers, and believers from ages past.

So, may God indeed do a new thing in you and your family and your ministry in 2017.
And may you not be surprised if some of the new things look like ancient paths.

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Who are your favorite non-living authors?

How do you deal with the overabundance of screaming current information?

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About Jonathan Trotter

Jonathan is a missionary in Southeast Asia, where he provides pastoral counseling at a local counseling center. He also serves as one of the pastors at an international church. Before moving to the field with his wife of eighteen years and their four kids, he served as a youth pastor in the Midwest for ten years and as an inner-city ER/trauma nurse for three years. He enjoys walking with people towards Jesus and eating imported Twizzlers. | www.trotters41.com | facebook: trotters41 | twitter: @trotters41

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