Divine Hours Pocket Edition

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : June 5, 2007

Well, I’ve labored for the past 6 months or so for the past 6 months I’ve been putting my feelers out to find interest for a breviary. The response has been either “not interested” or “you’re not a big enough celebrity” or “that sounds cool–we’ve got the same idea, you should jump on board with what WE’RE doing.”

I’m not very sure that there is a big market for breviaries among emerging folks. But if there is, the need is likely to be met by the newly published Pocket Edition of the Divine Hours.

I’ve gotten nibbles, but few bites. And as I struggle in obscurity to find sustainability for my community and our campus ministry, I don’t want to waste my time with dead ends.

It is hard to have great ideas, but to not be able see them come to light because I lack a big enough platform. I know that many of you are in the same boat. And it is an awkward boat to live in. It makes me worry about whether or not the Jesus Manifesto book will find a readership. And this worrying is constipating my writing.

I’m a guy who just wants to be able to give his life to ministry in his neighborhood, and occasionally be able to speak to a wider audience about the things that are important to me. But to do that our community needs to find a sustainable balance. In my gut, I feel that writing is a way for me to move towards that, but it has been a struggle.

So, I’m asking for your serious input: is it worthwhile for me to keep pursuing this book of prayer project (which is basically a book of prayer with a supplemental spiritual exercises and missional practices section)?

Also, I’d like to hear about your experiences. Are you a part of a small church or ministry that does great work, but struggles with sustainability? How do you sustain yourselves in ministry?

Mark Van Steenwyk is the editor of He is a Mennonite pastor (Missio Dei in Minneapolis), writer, speaker, and grassroots educator. He and his wife Amy have been married since 1997. They are expecting their first child in April.

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9 Responses to “Divine Hours Pocket Edition”

  1. Tessa on June 5th, 2007 9:29 pm

    Back on April 11, you wrote about how you were an undisciplined, slacker, who never really had to try, and made it through seminary without ever reading an entire book.

    You also wrote that you haven’t really changed.

    Reading this post through the lense of the April 11 entry makes me wonder if you have really “labored” on the breviary project. (How many rejections have you gotten? How have you followed up on those rejections? How have you followed up on the nibbles? Are you REALLY spending 40-50 hours a week looking for people who are interested?)

    I’m the kid who struggled hard to earn Cs in almost all of my classes. (And I’ll admit that I take a certin bit of perverse joy in seeing “The Smart Kids” struggle. It’s not nice of me, to think this, but it’s about time you people had to work at something!)
    * * * * * * * * * * * *

    I don’t buy the “worry is constipating my writing” excuse for one second. (And if you had tried that excuse in school, none of your teachers would have accepted it). If you truly believe in this book of prayer project, you will need to find the discipline to write it - WITHOUT the external motivation of funding or a publisher. Just do it and have faith that it will find an audience. (Or, decide you can’t do it and quit).

    This comment probably comes of as harsh — and for that I appologize. You are obviously gifted and passionate, and I’m tired of seeing people mistake passion or giftedness as a shortcut.

  2. markvans on June 5th, 2007 9:53 pm

    Well, maybe “labored” is a wrong choice of words. And, by the way, my April post was about the other book…not the breviary. The prayer book section of the breviary project is already done.

    I’m glad I give you pleasure. Just because I didn’t have to try hard to write little papers in seminary doesn’t mean that my life is a cake walk. Just because classwork is easy doesn’t mean I’m some sort of slacker who takes the shortcut on everything. I mean, have you been reading my blog? I do a lot of work and am not getting by.

    You’ve struck a nerve. But it sucks to be vulnerable on my blog and then have someone respond by saying “its about time that you’re having difficulty.” Why on earth would you drop by to post on my blog just to say “hey…you think your passion gives you the right to not try hard…you suck?”

  3. markvans on June 5th, 2007 10:02 pm

    Let me just clarify something.

    The reason I care so much about this project is because I work HARD doing ministry. But it doesn’t provide sustenance. Missio Dei can’t afford to do the work we’re called to do. Not that we need oodles of money, but we do need some. The breviary is something we wrote for ourselves. But I had hoped it would be useful for others–and as such provide a modest income for our outreach projects.

    The reason why I snapped so ferociously at you, Tessa, is that my frustration, which has been borne out of a deep desire to provide some income to our community was met with your response. And your response was “get over yourself.” That really pissed me off. I’m sorry I responded out of anger.

  4. beth on June 6th, 2007 7:35 am

    I am part of a small peace and justice group (that is associated with a larger national group). Our focus is social justice and nonviolence. We pray and study together, and then take some some sort of action to the community. Since 2001 we have weekly stood in silent vigil, to publicly protest the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. We join with other groups to work for the end to the Death Penalty in the United States. Our solidarity is with the poor and all of those who are oppressed by the empirical, money and death driven-ness of our culture.

    Spiritually, our focus is very much that of the Jesus Manifesto - simplifying our lifestyles, breaking free from the consumerist trap of the culture.

    My own specific ministry is to prisoners - so much pain and desperation among the prisoners and their families, most of whom have been condemned to long (life) sentences for relatively minor and nonviolent crimes.

    As for financing - mostly we’re on our own. We volounteer. We empty out pockets of pocket change. We pay our own way. At the national level there are books and cards that are available for sale, and sometimes that generates income, but mostly it is not much.

    Basically, we all still have our day jobs.

    However, I understand that there is money out there to be had for projects that are considered good for the common good. It is a hard sale for me and my work with prisoners, but I am starting to look into setting up a non-profit organization and then soliciting from donors.

    Don’t know if this is relevant to what you are asking or not. I just started to read your blog and am not sure exactly what kind of ministry you are talking about.

  5. Anna on June 6th, 2007 8:14 am

    Thank you for sharing, Mark, even in your pissy attitude. :)
    When I read the post yesterday, I immediately thought of Dorothy Day, whom I know you hold as one of your role models. She was abstract in a very concrete way in her writing. Catch my drift? I love reading her articles online because it feels like I am stepping into her world and see the application of her ideals, however feeble and weak. I know I’ve suggested it before, but I think you should take a little more from life (bad and good) and add it to your writing. People love stories and since we are living The Story, it makes sense to share it.

    I empathize with you on being a “grand idea” person and having no means or platform with which to accomplish it.

  6. Jackson on June 6th, 2007 3:02 pm

    Hi Mark

    Do not worry about Tessa. It sound like she need to talk through some repressed feeling with a therapist. Life is nothing like the classroom and learning is more than homework.

    I have noticed a recent trend or trends in Christian publishing.
    1. It seems you have to grow a big church, write a book about it, then hit the conference tour. I do not say this to be a cynic, in fact I attended one of those churches that was written about and I know there was a cool story to tell. What disturbs me is there are churches doing great things and may have something to say but they are not considered influential, or big enough to matter. My Church has a group of women that goes into strip-clubs and treat the dancers like humans, give them gifts, and shows then authentic love. That is probably not going to grow to 10K people, but we are called to the margins of society.

    2. My other issue with Christian publishing is most of the book seem to send a message of…if you do this, or pray this way, or take the following steps you life will be perfect. That is not really the message Jesus was preaching. I know that is not what you were looking for in a response, but i thought it fit with the publishing theme.

    If no one publishes the Jesus Manifesto print it yourself and sell it on line. Same with the breviary, there are ways you can advertise and get the word out. Do not let the man discourage you

  7. Tessa on June 6th, 2007 9:11 pm

    Let’s take that one at a time -
    1. I did not mean to say that you sucked or that you should get over yourself. I am sorry that you heard it that way, and will try harder to express exactly what I mean. If my words hurt, please just disregard me as a crazy internet spammer. I’ve never met you and it is possible I am off base

    2. I have read your blog for many months, followed you through several domain changes, and would very much like to support the work you do (but for reasons I’m not going to get into, have not yet been convinced that I should be contributing to this mission/dream). I know that you do not see your life as easy right now and never said/implied that it was.

    3. Believe me, I thought long and hard about not posting a comment and have refrained many times from posting my thoughts. Why now? Because I am concerned that you are going to give up simply because your “feelers” have not yet returned the results (or money) you’ve dreamed of. I’m concerned you’ll give up because of a few dead ends or a long struggle. (It’s not supposed to be easy; first books rarely make money and if that’s your sole goal – you should probably quit. Most agents will tell you that the goal of a first book is to get a second book and name recognition). I fear you will give up simply because others have said you are not a “celebrity” (when making this resource available will be one step in “increasing your platform” and gaining a readership for the other book). I’m really curious to know if you would consider smaller, more modest goals (like getting an excerpt published, and or having someone do a review)? What’s wrong with collaborating with another community? Have you thought about bringing along a pile of books/manuscripts to share-n-sell when you speak/fundraise? Have you looked into self-publishing or on demand publishing?

    4. I am one of those coldly detached analytical people who often (usually) ignores emotions. I just see the facts/numbers and miss the other stuff. No worries about an angry response - because I didn’t notice it.

    I shall now return to the LURKER LAIR and be quiet. If anything has rubbed the wrong way or offended you - then go back to the begining and remember that I can just be some crazy internet spammer trying to unload bogus pharacuitcals to pay for my therapist bills.

    Best wishes on your future projects

  8. markvans on June 6th, 2007 9:58 pm

    Tessa, I get it. And I was indeed hoping that the book of prayer would be the first step towards a second publication. But with the Divine Hours Pocket Edition, my question is whether or not it would still be worth publishing my project. And I am indeed open to collaboration–that is probably what will end up happening. But if I do that, it probably won’t help with my goals in regards to creating some sort of revenue for Missio Dei–whether through book sales or me getting more opportunities to speak.

  9. Jeff on June 6th, 2007 10:05 pm

    I’d like to reinforce what Jackson said about self-publishing. It isn’t just for losers anymore. There are some great companies out there that can make your book look just as good as any publisher and very affordable. Of course you don’t get the marketing power of a publisher, but let’s be honest, Mark. I don’t see a publisher putting a whole lot of effort into marketing either Jesus Manifesto or the Breviary because you’re not Shane Claiborne. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. In fact, its more true to who you are.

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