Posted by: Billy Marsh | November 21, 2007

“We Are Your Books”

The Walk - Michael Card

I just finished reading a short little book which has proven once again that a literary work doesn’t have to be 1,000 pages long in order to be enduringly profound. The Walk is an open window into a man’s unguarded heart as he shares candidly and affectionately about his spiritual mentor. Yes, this is the same Michael Card who is the Christian music artist that you all have either by loving wisdom, learned to cherish his music or have played the fool and have said in your heart that you will find a better substitute elsewhere. In this book, Card carries the same poignant and poetic certainty that he laces each one of his many songs with. The focus of this brief work is on what Card’s mentor called the “Cycle of Discipleship”; however, it does not take long for you to become lost in his stories and testimonies concerning the life and ministry Dr. William (Bill) Lane.

I’m not going to review the book step-by-step for you. It’s so short you could read it in one sitting with ease. What I want to share with you all is one of the moving paragraphs towards the end of the book which nearly brought me to tears. I guess this particular story hit a nerve due to the fact that up until that point, I had very closely identified myself with both Dr. Lane and Card. I have been in both roles: the mentor and the disciple. The spirit of this memoir resembles the essence of what I have longed to do with those I have discipled. In addition, much the same way that Card expresses his discipleship under Dr. Lane mirrors how I was mentored under the lifelong role of my father and the relationship that I have had with my home church pastor, Steve Lee. But, enough with me, that’s not what I came to blog about!

Dr. Bill Lane was a world-renowed  scholar/theologian who served at Western Kentucky University and then later at Seattle Pacific University. Michael Card had been a young student under Dr. Lane at WKU, and it was there that these two men providentially crossed paths and began a lifelong “walk” together. Later in life, Dr. Lane was diagnosed with mutiple myeloma cancer. At the time, he was teaching at SPU, but Dr. Lane and his Brenda believed the Lord was leading them to return to Franklin, Tennesee to go through with his treatments there. Before leaving, many of the students and faculty at SPU gathered together to have a commissioning service for Dr. Lane. It just so happened that Card had played a concert the night before nearby and was able to be present for the sending off party.

Now, Dr. Lane was a first-class theologian and had written very influential commentaries on the Gospel of Mark and on the letter to the Hebrews. But, what he called his “magnum opus” was still unfinished. The tentative title was Apostle and Task Theologian: Paul in the Perspective of Mission. Due to the seriousness of his cancer, it looked apparent that he would not be able to finish his life’s work. However, at the commissioning service, here’s the words from one student that shows that Dr. Lane’s work on this earth was not in vain:

“Everyone has been recounting all of your qualities, Bill,” he said to the crowd. “But I would like to mention something that is wrong with you. You have trouble finishing your work!” A slight gasp came up from the audience. There was a moment of tense silence. Then Bill’s friend continued, “And we would like to thank you for not finishing it. For if you had spent the time required to complete the book on Paul, you would not have had the time to invest in us . . . We are your books, Bill!”

What a wonderful testimony. A man who was discouraged that he was leaving unfinished business behind by not finishing his book was convinced otherwise. If you take the time to read this discipleship book that is also somewhat biographical and journalistic, you will see a theologian who emodied exactly what I desire to manifest in my own ministry, namely a shepherd’s heart with a scholar’s mind. And any true shepherd will know that this affirmation from this student is what each laborer in Christ longs to hear the most.

I long to write books, many of them is the Lord wills it. You can ask my wife that I already have titles for some of them. However, I am always all the more eager to ensure that whether it is through my writing or my personal relationships, that I am making disciples. Far be it from me to simply type manuscripts, send them in to a publisher or post them on a blog, and all the while, never have written any books that have hearts of flesh. For all of my fellow mentors out there and those of us who are being mentored. I believe the relationship between Dr. Lane and Card would be worth modeling.

“Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all.”

~ 2 Corinthians 3:1-2 ~

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Responses

  1. Billy,

    I was given a copy of Lane’s NICNT commentary on the Gospel of Mark by my pastor when I went away to college. I read it as part of the reading assignment for a class on Mark in Seminary and subsequently used it while preaching through Mark’s Gospel several years ago at BHBC. Also, I have been blessed by Michael Card’s music for over twenty years. So Lane has blessed me and contributed to my walk as well.


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