Can You Hear Me Now?

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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The Hulk stops cars, Spiderman climbs buildings, Harry makes himself invisible. Me? I’d like to fly, or breathe underwater. What seems closer, though—close enough that I actually pursue it—is being able to know that I make a difference.

Before you roll your eyes, let me be clear: this fantasy comes from insecurity. Helped an old lady cross the street? I want to know what she says about me to her family. Sent a get-well card to a friend? I want to know where my card ranks in his list of “This Week’s Most Encouraging Moments.”

Pretty broken superhero dreaming, I’m embarrassed to admit. Is it the only truth? Fortunately, no. Behind every act is a mix of ordered and disordered motives, this confession highlighting the disordered part. But the desire to have influence—to affect others’ lives for good—now this is worth walking a hundred ladies across the street.

This month at The High Calling, Young Professionals (YP) will focus on influence: where it exists, how we get it, what to do once we have it. I’ll share stats, write about dropouts-gone-deep pockets, and talk with YP coaches who have access to the stage in their own right. Today, I’ve invited Dave Zimmerman, author and editor at InterVarsity Press (IVP), to share his take on influence.



Dave, thanks for joining us today. YPs are hot off the education press and want to know that they matter in the workplace. Give us a story from your twenties when your voice shaped something at work.

I remember this time we were brainstorming a new corporate tagline. (I should mention here that IVP is remarkably flat in its hierarchy and wildly collaborative in its strategic planning.) Sally Craft, then leading our publicity team, floated the Wesleyan Quadrilateral—Scripture, tradition, reason, experience—a grid by which we make responsible decisions. We liked the flow of it, but our audience, we thought, is much broader than Methodists. I threw out the language of the Shema, which Jesus identified as the greatest of God's commandments: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and all your strength" (Mark 12:30)

“Heart. Soul. Mind. Strength.” resonated with everyone, and I developed a reputation as a bit of a wordsmith.

Of course, when we announced our new tagline in our next catalog, we screwed up the order of the terms on the cover: "Heart. Mind. Soul. Strength." Sigh.

Ah, man, that’s like Show-n-Tell with an asterisk. I bet you wince a little every time you see it.

Someone else took the heat for that one.

At IVP, you work with Likewise, an imprint which focuses on making a difference in the world. The name itself comes from Jesus’ words to the lawyer after telling the Good Samaritan story: “Go and do likewise.” So Likewise has a voice; it has influence. How much of that voice is Dave Zimmerman’s?

I'd say that even given the "all-in" collaborative culture of IVP, it's safe to say I've been the primary curator of Likewise's voice. I’ve served as the editorial liaison for the line (my colleague, Andrew Bronson, is our marketing liaison). Andrew likes to stay a bit behind the scenes; me, I like the attention. So I blogged fairly regularly about a “Likewise ethos,” and I wrote regular newsletters trumpeting the line to Likewise authors and readers. We’d also often gather together people who matched our "psychographic" within larger events and conferences, so we could commingle with them and reinforce what we saw as the core values of the line.

There's a reverse process in there, of course; the books we've determined along the way to be Likewise books have shaped my worldview and informed my values, even messed with my voice. So I suppose it'd also be appropriate to ask, "Dave has a voice. How much of it is Likewise's?"

Touché. I read a mystic who said the things we build “are outward manifestations of inward realities.” You’re implying that this goes both ways. Something to ponder.

Thanks for that. I won’t be sleeping for a few days.

How much "Dave" would we see in Likewise 10 years from now if you were to stick around?

I suppose this is as good a place as any to offer a news flash: we've decided to absorb the Likewise line into IVP Books. While I certainly hope I'll be around in ten years, Likewise won't.

Sorry to hear that.

We had a farewell party. There were cupcakes. Anyway, I've actually given a fair bit of thought to your question. Likewise has always had a strong countercultural bent—our last Likewise book, for example, The Unkingdom of God by Mark Van Steenwyk, calls for a posture of repentance as the basis for our discipleship, an orientation he arrives at by thinking of Christianity in anarchist terms. It's a profound book, I think, and I'm personally glad it's the book Likewise goes out on.

Given that, however, it's ironic that I'm the editor. I live in a single-family house in the suburbs. No one looking at me would think Who let that anarchist hippie in the building?

The authors I acquire and develop, and the character of the line I've tried to cultivate—I think these are reflective of my aspirations for myself: I want to be someone who's thoughtful, passionate, who doesn't settle for abstractions and isolation. I want to be led by my authors, to be taught by them, to be transformed as I edit their stuff.

Ten years from now the world will look quite different, I'll look quite different, the publishing industry will look quite different. I hope that taken together we'll all look more like Likewise looked on its best days: thoughtful, active, hopeful, realistic, humble, audacious, all that and more.

Lofty vision, Dave. Yet, possible, I believe. Humility is certainly working for you. And God's faithfulness, too. My prayer would be, in the words of the late Zan and Jayna, "Wonder Twin powers activate!"


Readers, come back next week for Part 2, when Dave unveils his real superhero power. In the meantime, check out Dave’s book, Deliver Us from Me-Ville. This Monday and Tuesday (August 5-6) only, go here to download the ebook free! After that, it’s $.99 through September 7.

Dave Zimmerman is Associate Editor at IVP Books. He is also a YP coach here at The High Calling.

Post image by miuenski. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr. Interview by Sam Van Eman, YP editor and narrator of A Beautiful Trench It Was.