With The Whole Life Offering book scheduled to come out in a few weeks, Lord permitting, here’s a look at one of the press releases we put out in an effort to sprinkle something of the flavor of the contents abroad in advance.
I share it with you for two reasons–one professional and one personal:
- Professional: This press release reflects a way for ministries to tie in to the increasing popularity of Lent among Evangelicals. But it also illustrates a broader principle: Press releases are best when they’re not about you (especially during Lent! Think about it!). They’re best when they draw upon your expertise to reflect upon an issue of interest to the reader. We did well with this one, much better than the other release we put out entitled, “Foley Releases New Book Which He Hopes You Find Really Interesting.” Cardinal lesson about press releases: Never be an answer to a question no one’s asking.
- Personal: Biblically, Lent is about something more and other than self-denial. Self-denial, after all, is still centered around the self. If I say, “I’m giving up Cadbury Creme Eggs for Lent,” it’s still all about the I who is giving up Cadbury Creme Eggs. This defeats the, you know, purpose of Lent, which, as Isaiah 58:6-7 illustrates, is not so much about denying the self as it is about submitting it unselfconsciously to God’s wider purpose and plan. So as you read the release below, ask yourself not, “What am I giving up for Lent?” but “To whom am I giving what I am giving up for Lent, and why?”
And back to the professional for a moment:
Perhaps a worthwhile resolution for Lent for nonprofits would be to subsume themselves in their cause so that for forty days they don’t talk about or promote themselves–at all–but only about the cause they are given to steward.
Who knows? It might prove so transformative that you’ll stick with that approach long after you’ve resumed the Cadbury Creme Eggs.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Fasting During Lent May be Rebellion Against God says Author Eric Foley
Colorado Springs, Colorado; March 8th, 2011
March 9th marks the beginning of the Lenten season leading up to Easter. Lent has become increasingly popular among younger Evangelicals with the season being marked by fasting from various types of food and activities. Pastor and author Eric Foley believes, however, that observing Lent should propel Christians to do more than just abstain. “Isaiah 58 is clear: fasting and abstinence for its own sake is not commitment to God. It’s rebellion against Him.”
Undertaken as spiritual preparation for the celebration of Easter, Lent is typically marked by 40 days of fasting, not including Sundays. During this time, Christians choose a particular food or activity to abstain from. While meat has often been a target, and things such as alcohol, candy, soda, and even social media are becoming increasingly popular to fast from, making Lent as much about health as spirituality.
“If we’re participating in Lent either to humble ourselves or to get healthy, that’s beneficial but hardly Lenten,” says Foley. “God intends for fasting and abstinence to be a means by which we can love and provide for our neighbors in need. The point of our going without is so that they may go with.”
Foley’s newest work, The Whole Life Offering: Christianity as Philanthropy, lays out a discipleship model based around John Wesley’s Works of Mercy and Works of Piety. By combining spiritual disciplines like self-denial with acts of love towards neighbors like sharing one’s bread he contends that Christians can grow to full maturity in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.
He continues, “Jesus didn’t deny himself for His own sake. He denied himself for the sake of the world. For us. Our self-denial should take the same form as His: going without so that others might come to know God’s love. If we’re going to fast from a particular food or activity, it’s so that we might give that food or activity to someone else.”
The Whole Life Offering is set to be released in April 2011 and will be available for purchase as a paperback through Amazon. Pastor Foley is available for interviews; please contact .W Publishing at 719-362-5237 for more information.
You’ve hit on an aspect of spirituality that has been rolling around in my head for a long time. It is essentially why Lenten disciplines developed differently in the East and the West.
In our Orthodox Churches, we fast together. The Lenten disciplines are the same for monks, bishops, priests, the laity (the Royal priesthood), and everyone. We fast from meat and dairy products during the season all together. The question “What are you giving up for Lent?” is simply not heard among us. We fast together.
We have the three basic Lenten disciplines of Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving as the goals for our Lenten journey and we have the prayer of St. Ephrem as the basic spiritual guide:
O Lord and Master of my life, give me not the spirit of sloth, idle curiosity (meddling), lust for power and idle talk.
But grant unto me, Thy servant, a spirit of chastity (integrity), humility, patience and love.
Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see mine own faults and not to judge my brother. For blessed art Thou unto the ages of ages. Amen.
To be sure, we “fast as you can, not as you cannot.” No one goes into a gym and starts bench-pressing 300 lbs the first visit, but we do fast as a community.
I continue to appreciate your work and look forward to your book. May God grant you a spiritually profitable Great Lent (as opposed to the “Little Lent” before the Nativity) and may God bring us all to “that night that is brighter than the day” when the whole world will sing “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and on those in the tombs bestowing life!”
Always a joy to hear from you, Fr. Barnabas–thanks for these important insights. More and more (as you’ll see from the “mini-series” I did recently on corporate coaching of champions) I am struck by the importance of undertaking Works of Mercy and Works of Piety collectively. The “O” (ownership) part of the P/E/O process stands as testament to how transformation can never been complete until it is shared by and embodied in community.