“Hello Joshua. I really appreciate the work you do through your podcast. I need a little help if possible.”
That’s the start of a listener email that Josh Heavin, writer and co-producer of our podcast “Passages,” received a month ago. The writer is a young man currently in college who is experiencing severe doubts about the truth of Christianity.
Even if you don’t know this young man, you know someone like him—probably several people like him. It’s a familiar story, sadly. He grew up in the church, went off to college, took a religious studies course, and started reading Bart Ehrman. Soon he had doubts about the Bible, which led to doubts about his faith. But unlike many stories of this sort that end with the person apostatizing, this young man found “Passages,” and wrote to Josh:
“I have come across guys like yourself who know all the relevant info and still find the Bible trustworthy. Can you help me out with this? Do you think we can really trust the accounts?”
And that’s how this young man ended up emailing with Josh, who has seminary training as well as a PhD in New Testament, to talk about the reliability of Scripture as well as Christian faith more generally.
When Josh shared that letter with our writers room, I told everyone that that letter is why we do what we do at Mere Orthodoxy. We write and podcast because we believe that God uses words to open people’s eyes to grace and to help them better understand how to love God and neighbor. Words are the means through which we evangelize and catechize people and they’re a huge part of Christian discipleship as well. Words are one of the ways we build and deepen our relationship with other Christians and with a local church.
So at Mere Orthodoxy we write and speak good words for the benefit of readers who haven’t met Jesus yet, readers who are deconstructing and aren’t sure if they’re Christian anymore, and readers who know they’re Christian but are trying to understand their faith in deeper and more existentially satisfying ways.
This work is always important, but it may have a unique urgency today. In a recent blog post, one of our contributors, Abilene Christian University theology professor Brad East, wrote that most younger and early middle-age adults he knows that grew up in the church now fall into five categories:
- ex-Christian—they’ve left the faith
- ex-church—they like Jesus, but they don’t attend church
- deconstructing—they’re attempting a sincere and broad reconsideration of everything they believe about God, Jesus, sin, religion, politics, family, etc.
- imploding—they came to a crisis point in their parenting, marriage, work, or personal life and they’re now trying to put everything back together
- hanging on by a thread—they are relatively stable, but it feels as if one major event happened in any area of their life, they could slide into one of the other categories
As we enter 2022, Mere Orthodoxy will continue to address this problem by presenting a more constructive picture of Christian faith and the hope the gospel offers for individuals and for society. It’s time to abandon the culture war and turn, instead, toward the more difficult but ultimately worthwhile task of culture-making—specifically a culture defined by a merry band of readers, listeners, and writers dedicated to pursuing truth together amidst a loud, anxious, and ideological world. We’re not afraid to talk about tough issues and hot topics, but we’re content to ignore ephemera and stand aside when cycles of outrage break out.
Unfortunately, the culture war paradigm is so hardwired into the American church that many people struggle to understand why we aspire to something different, why we wouldn’t take sides on the outrage of the day. This is how so many Christians have engaged culture for so long that many struggle to imagine an alternative. Discussing those who could significantly fund Mere Orthodoxy, Tim Keller told me that “for most people my age, you guys are an acquired taste.”
So how can we grow our work and continue to reach people with this more constructive vision? The only way is with a large band of small supporters. So toward that end we are trying to raise $30,000 before the end of the year. Everything we have accomplished so far at Mere O has been done on a shoestring budget. We reach half a million people annually and our podcasts are downloaded by thousands every week and we’ve never had an annual budget greater than $30,000.
Now we plan to push forward with full-time staff and more dedicated time to growing the work so that we can reach more people like that young man who wrote to Josh, to say nothing of the many people still in our churches who are wrestling with their own intellectual doubts and struggles.
Specifically, in 2022 we plan to launch two new podcasts, to host our first live, in-person conference, and to launch a members-only online community intended to bring together our readers so that we can better serve one another and, even if over a distance, renew the common life so often lacking in our churches and nation.
Here’s the good news: We already have our band of supporters. It’s you and the many people like you who enjoy our work. Now we need to mobilize. There are four ways you can partner with us to advance this work:
First, please pray for us. There are a thousand ways of doing this work poorly and many temptations to drift away from our mission. Please pray we’d stay true to the work God’s given us to do.
Second, subscribe to the print edition or purchase a gift subscription. (This month you can buy one subscription and get a second subscription for a friend for free.)
Third, volunteer. I am looking for volunteer help for 3-5 hours a week in the following areas:
- grant writing
- podcast production
- project management
Fourth, you can donate to support our work. If we can get one person to donate $10,000, two to donate $5,000, five to donate $1,000, and 50 to donate $100 we would reach our goal. If you know someone who you think would value this work and be willing to give, please share this with them.
If you think it’s long past time to turn away from counter-productive and morally corrosive culture warring and turn toward a still better way dedicated to persuasion, good faith engagement, and fidelity to Christ in all things, please consider supporting us.
Editor-in-chief of Mere Orthodoxy
Late, December 21: After our first day, this is where our needs stand for us to hit the goal of $30,000: We are still looking for one donor at $10,000, two donors at $5,000, three donors at $1,000, and 34 donors at $100.
Update, December 28: We are nearly halfway to our goal. We are still looking for one donor at the $10,000 level, 2 at the $1,000 level, and 20 at the $100 level.