Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Centerfolds in Big Green Theology Books

It has got to be the most engaging, practical and liveliest books around...
with the most boring title.

It's "Clinical Theology" (zzzzz) , Frank Lake's classic...the heavyweight (literally; it's known in academia as "the big green book" of over 1000 pages) tome. For years out of print, and the prize possession of only three of my seminary professors, some bibliophiles (I confess) have been known to spend years searching used bookstores (before Amazon and EBay) like drug addicts for a copy. Especially a copy with the (I am serious) fold-out centerfolds included (Often these are missing when the copy has been used...kinda like the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue, eh, John?).

Shawn Rabon, a member of the church I pestered (not a typo) in Delano, Calif. (now in ministry in England) had for years heard me whine that I did not have a "real" copy...just a cheesy cheap counterfeit condensed ("Condensed"? How dare any mortal put that word in the same sentence as the immortal Frank Lake! Heresy! Next you you know, they'll be a condensed Bible!!...oops).
Besides, as you can see by the photo,this is clearly an illicit bootleg:
it is not big OR green!!)

I'll never forget the day that Shawn met my plane into London. I was thrilled to see him again, we were to spend the night at the airport hotel before my flight to Israel the next day.
But when I scanned the crowds, and found eyes (and jaws) immediately dropped at the big green book in his hand.

He had scored a copy for me!

I don't think I kissed him..
..until he verified what was too good to be true:

Yes, the centerfolds were included!

We had to steal a peek at them right in the middle of Heathrow International.
(OK, for those worried a bit..the fold-out centerfolds are full of intricate diagrams of
theological and psychological charts...not naked, airbrushed and hairbrushed babes, These charts are lusted for in some seminary circles)

I still owe you man.

But Shawn, do you remember then going over to the airport newstand; where we were browsing magazines. On gentleman was sneaking peeks at a naughty

magazine centerfold, and you (obviously still so in awe at seeing me again...I understand!!) actually interrupted his fun with "Hey, this is my pastor from America!"

I am sure he was thrilled. He mumbled something; I think the word "sod" was in his sentence.
(you UK folk know what that means).

But Shawn's genuine evangelistic enthusiasm is refreshing.
Even though I turned a few shades of red.

Now, thirteen years later, the big green book is still my favorite addiction/pornography.
I read it in the study, in the car, on the beach
( I get so ongrossed I don't even much... the scantily-clad women).
Especially the famous dozen centerfold charts. I mean, just look at them!
(note i have the theologian's beer in my hand).

I was leading a seminar on culture and evangelism a few years ago, drawing as usual from a wide variety of material: from Matrix movie clips to Nextreformation articles to U2 songs to (of course) Frank Lake's centerfolds.

On the last day, I knew it was time for a "lab." I sent my class out on the town in groups of three (No, we weren't dressed like Mormons) for low-key conversations with people. My group walked the parking lot of the shopping center where the church we were teaching at was located.

I'll never forget Nancy Boyd (pastor of this amazing tribe), bold and loving like Shawn (though not like Shawn),
befriending and praying for a guy sitting is his car. No, we didn't mention that two of us were pastors. But we noticed a minute into the conversation he was drinking a beer and had spread open on his adult magazine centerfold.

We had a good talk, and even prayer.

As we were about to leave, he asked "Are you from that church over there?
We were, we told him.

He said, "I think I went to school with one of the pastors."
He dropped the name and he was right.
No accident.

Steve (the pastor he mentioned, pictured here at the beach where he was, uh, doing theology homework with his senior pastor) have been praying for this guy since. Hopefully by now, he has connected with Jesus, the church community, and has encountered the big green book that's far better than porn.

The centerfolds can't be beat.

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