Andy Crouch's Blog

December 22, 2011

Over the last 15 years International Justice Mission has mobilized Christians to address the profound need for structural transformation in public justice systems around the world that, due to a combination of corruption (i.e., human sin turned systemic) and lack of resources, do not serve the poor. Generally the rich can find a way to get these systems (or parallel replacements for them) to work adequately on their behalf. The poor cannot.

IJM has brought professional expertise (investigative, legal, social work, diplomatic, etc.) to bear on these systems, founded its work on a casework model that helps actual clients who have suffered from injustice in a dramatic way, married that casework to a structural transformation vision that realizes that the problem is bigger than individual cases, and been motivated and sustained by profound faith in a realm where even people of good will are often paralyzed by fear and despair. Due to this unique combination of assets targeted at an area of particular need, IJM has had an extraordinary impact, most recently recognized by Google, which is devoting its 2011 corporate philanthropy to an anti-trafficking coalition led by IJM. There is nothing I'm more thrilled by in my lifetime than the growth in breadth, depth, and influence of IJM (with whom I've had the privilege to work and volunteer in various ways for many years).

Thanks to generations of hard work and ongoing vigilance, our public justice system in the USA is not systemically broken to the same extent as it is in the countries where IJM works. But today it occurred to me that there is another system in our country that in some ways is as broken as, if not more broken than, its equivalents in the rest of the world. This system does not serve the poor. Generally the rich can find a way to get this system (or a parallel replacement for it) to work adequately on their behalf. The poor cannot—even though they overwhelmingly want to.

What we need in this system is a movement that brings professional expertise in numerous areas, a casework model that actually meets the needs of specific individuals and families in a dramatic way, married to a structural transformation model, motivated and sustained by profound faith in a realm where all too many people have effectively given up.

This system is our educational system.

Who will lead the IJM of courageous, faithful, professional, Christian efforts toward the structural transformation of American education so that it works just as well for the poor as it does for the rich? Could it be that 15 years from now we could have seen as much transformation in the way American Christians see their responsibility for education as we have seen in the last 15 years in the way they see their responsibility for public justice?

That's what I'd like for Christmas.


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Published on December 22, 2011 18:03 • 104 views

Over the last 15 years International Justice Mission has mobilized Christians to address the profound need for structural transformation in public justice systems around the world that, due to a combination of corruption (i.e., human sin turned systemic) and lack of resources, do not serve the poor. Generally the rich can find a way to get these systems (or parallel replacements for them) to work adequately on their behalf. The poor cannot.

IJM has brought professional expertise (investigative, legal, social work, diplomatic, etc.) to bear on these systems, founded its work on a casework model that helps actual clients who have suffered from injustice in a dramatic way, married that casework to a structural transformation vision that realizes that the problem is bigger than individual cases, and been motivated and sustained by profound faith in a realm where even people of good will are often paralyzed by fear and despair. Due to this unique combination of assets targeted at an area of particular need, IJM has had an extraordinary impact, most recently recognized by Google, which is devoting its 2011 corporate philanthropy to an anti-trafficking coalition led by IJM. There is nothing I’m more thrilled by in my lifetime than the growth in breadth, depth, and influence of IJM (with whom I’ve had the privilege to work and volunteer in various ways for many years).

Thanks to generations of hard work and ongoing vigilance, our public justice system in the USA is not systemically broken to the same extent as it is in the countries where IJM works. But today it occurred to me that there is another system in our country that in some ways is as broken as, if not more broken than, its equivalents in the rest of the world. This system does not serve the poor. Generally the rich can find a way to get this system (or a parallel replacement for it) to work adequately on their behalf. The poor cannot—even though they overwhelmingly want to.

What we need in this system is a movement that brings professional expertise in numerous areas, a casework model that actually meets the needs of specific individuals and families in a dramatic way, married to a structural transformation model, motivated and sustained by profound faith in a realm where all too many people have effectively given up.

This system is our educational system.

Who will lead the IJM of courageous, faithful, professional, Christian efforts toward the structural transformation of American education so that it works just as well for the poor as it does for the rich? Could it be that 15 years from now we could have seen as much transformation in the way American Christians see their responsibility for education as we have seen in the last 15 years in the way they see their responsibility for public justice?

That’s what I’d like for Christmas.


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Published on December 22, 2011 10:03 • 17 views

December 7, 2011



Andy: "I have to admit, "Little Drummer Boy" is one of my absolute least favorite Christmas songs. You'd think a gleefully amateur music video of it would be low on my list. Instead this exuberant take on the song made my day with its celebration of Winnipeg, snow, drumming, friends, and Jesus. Enjoy, and celebrate."
Sean Quigley - Little Drummer Boy, 30 November 2011 :: thanks @MichaelMeinema!
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Published on December 07, 2011 12:11 • 76 views



Andy: ?I have to admit, “Little Drummer Boy” is one of my absolute least favorite Christmas songs. You’d think a gleefully amateur music video of it would be low on my list. Instead this exuberant take on the song made my day with its celebration of Winnipeg, snow, drumming, friends, and Jesus. Enjoy, and celebrate.?
Sean Quigley - Little Drummer Boy, 30 November 2011 :: thanks @MichaelMeinema!
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Published on December 07, 2011 04:11 • 18 views

October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs was a supreme example of a culture maker. 


He made cultural goods, in every sense of that word. "Real artists ship," he famously told his engineers. Culture is only changed when you make more of it, and, boy, did Steve Jobs make more of it.


He pursued excellence, and in particular he pursued beauty. In every market Apple entered, it did things more cleanly, elegantly, and beautifully than its competitors. It's not too much to credit Steve Jobs with the return of beauty to the center of our culture's aspirations.


He built teams. Yes, by all accounts he could be an abrasive manager, to say the least (though one hears fewer stories of that from the last ten years, when Apple had been rescued from disaster and, perhaps, illness had chastened him in some ways). But he pulled together teams of 3, 12, and 120 that demonstrated tenacious loyalty and disciplined creativity in the otherwise fickle world of Silicon Valley. He was a celebrity, but he was not a rock star—he was a leader. That makes all the difference in the world.


But all this, and so much more, is fairly obvious. I think something less obvious will be Steve Jobs's greatest legacy.


The most fundamental question of our technological age is this: Will technology make us more, or less, fully human?


Steve Jobs just may have decisively shifted the answer to that question. He embodied the hope that the answer is more. 


The Mac was launched with this brilliant promise: "1984 won't be like 1984." Apple's products respected human beings—their embodiment, their quest for beauty and meaning and even joy—in a way that their competitors' did not. And Steve himself, who exuded calm and confidence and vision even while he stirred consumers to frenzies of desire and competitors to distraction, envy, and imitation, represented our vision of ourselves as we hope we can be: not slaves to technology, but free and creative users of it.


In this broken, beautiful world, there are no pure icons—but neither are there any completely empty idols. Apple's bitten apple is not an icon—like all idols, the more fervent the worship the more it will disappoint. And yet, it is, and Steve Jobs was, a sign of something true and worth seeking: a fully human life. For all of us who seek that life, the only proper response to Steve Jobs's extraordinary culture making is: thank you.


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Published on October 06, 2011 10:13 • 66 views

Steve Jobs was a supreme example of a culture maker. 


He made cultural goods, in every sense of that word. “Real artists ship,” he famously told his engineers. Culture is only changed when you make more of it, and, boy, did Steve Jobs make more of it.


He pursued excellence, and in particular he pursued beauty. In every market Apple entered, it did things more cleanly, elegantly, and beautifully than its competitors. It’s not too much to credit Steve Jobs with the return of beauty to the center of our culture’s aspirations.


He built teams. Yes, by all accounts he could be an abrasive manager, to say the least (though one hears fewer stories of that from the last ten years, when Apple had been rescued from disaster and, perhaps, illness had chastened him in some ways). But he pulled together teams of 3, 12, and 120 that demonstrated tenacious loyalty and disciplined creativity in the otherwise fickle world of Silicon Valley. He was a celebrity, but he was not a rock star—he was a leader. That makes all the difference in the world.


But all this, and so much more, is fairly obvious. I think something less obvious will be Steve Jobs’s greatest legacy.


The most fundamental question of our technological age is this: Will technology make us more, or less, fully human?


Steve Jobs just may have decisively shifted the answer to that question. He embodied the hope that the answer is more. 


The Mac was launched with this brilliant promise: “1984 won’t be like 1984.” Apple’s products respected human beings—their embodiment, their quest for beauty and meaning and even joy—in a way that their competitors’ did not. And Steve himself, who exuded calm and confidence and vision even while he stirred consumers to frenzies of desire and competitors to distraction, envy, and imitation, represented our vision of ourselves as we hope we can be: not slaves to technology, but free and creative users of it.


In this broken, beautiful world, there are no pure icons—but neither are there any completely empty idols. Apple’s bitten apple is not an icon—like all idols, the more fervent the worship the more it will disappoint. And yet, it is, and Steve Jobs was, a sign of something true and worth seeking: a fully human life. For all of us who seek that life, the only proper response to Steve Jobs’s extraordinary culture making is: thank you.


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Published on October 06, 2011 03:13 • 12 views

September 5, 2011

Timothy Dalrymple has a typically thought-provoking post up at Patheos today about his upcoming World Magazine article on COURAGEOUS, the new movie from Sherwood Baptist Church, producers of FIREPROOF and other movies. A lot of folks have asked me what I think of what they're doing, and Tim kindly includes a couple quotes from me about the real importance of these movies. Understandably, he couldn't include my whole reply when he asked for my comments, but with his permission, here it is.

I've seen neither FIREPROOF nor COURAGEOUS. My friends who know movies are pretty skeptical of their artistic merits (to say the least). For my part, I suspect they are pretty thin artistic efforts (like an awful lot of stuff that passes for cultural creativity from Hollywood itself). But I celebrate them, for two simple reasons.

First, it is better to create something worth criticizing than to criticize and create nothing.

Second, one or two Christian kids with real talent somewhere in this vast land are going to see these movies, get the sacred-secular dichotomy knocked out of them at an early age, move to LA, work their tails off, dream, fail, and try again . . . and one day make truly great movies. These movies are significant not for their own excellence but for the door they open to cultural creativity that the church never should have lost.


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Published on September 05, 2011 20:16 • 64 views

Timothy Dalrymple has a typically thought-provoking post up at Patheos today about his upcoming World Magazine article on COURAGEOUS, the new movie from Sherwood Baptist Church, producers of FIREPROOF and other movies. A lot of folks have asked me what I think of what they’re doing, and Tim kindly includes a couple quotes from me about the real importance of these movies. Understandably, he couldn’t include my whole reply when he asked for my comments, but with his permission, here it is.

I’ve seen neither FIREPROOF nor COURAGEOUS. My friends who know movies are pretty skeptical of their artistic merits (to say the least). For my part, I suspect they are pretty thin artistic efforts (like an awful lot of stuff that passes for cultural creativity from Hollywood itself). But I celebrate them, for two simple reasons.

First, it is better to create something worth criticizing than to criticize and create nothing.

Second, one or two Christian kids with real talent somewhere in this vast land are going to see these movies, get the sacred-secular dichotomy knocked out of them at an early age, move to LA, work their tails off, dream, fail, and try again . . . and one day make truly great movies. These movies are significant not for their own excellence but for the door they open to cultural creativity that the church never should have lost.


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Published on September 05, 2011 13:16 • 15 views

August 24, 2011


Amy Julia Becker is a remarkable young writer whose book A Good and Perfect Gift, a memoir about discovering that her first child had Down Syndrome, comes out this fall. She sent me an email asking how I handle speaking requests, and especially the question of how to handle the occasions when invitations come without any apparent plans to compensate her for her time. With her permission, here's a slightly expanded version of what I wrote in response.



I have a pretty standard reply when I receive speaking requests that require travel outside the Philadelphia area. It starts this way: "My speaking fee is $2,500/day or partial day, plus travel expenses, which I work hard to keep to a minimum." If I have reason to expect that they will be taken aback by that number, I add: "I realize this may be out of the reach of some academic or nonprofit budgets." (Note that I don't offer to reduce the amount. :) ) I sometimes also emphasize: "I'm all yours during the time I'm with you—please feel free to pack my schedule! I'm happy to wash dishes if that would be helpful." (That's true! I actually like washing dishes. Not many groups take me up on the dishwashing, but a lot sure do take advantage of the packed schedule, and I love it.) And I often add: "My family and I have decided to focus my volunteer speaking time on the Philadelphia area, where I never charge at all. However, this means that when I do travel, I have to charge my full fee."



Now, there are a few exceptions worth noting. I often make different arrangements when my travel is connected with my day job at Christianity Today—this approach applies to the roughly half of my time that I spend on my own speaking and writing. Another exception is that in the months following the publication of a new book (which will happen, God willing and me writing, late next year) I generally do several events, ones that my publisher's marketing team feels are especially significant, for little or no compensation except travel. It's a recognition of all the investment they are making in the book. I only do this in consultation with the publisher, though.



Also, there are a handful of people who are most significant in my own life and growth, with whom I want to spend as much time as possible in order to sustain and deepen the relationship. If discounting my fee or waiving it altogether means we get to do something together, then I'll do so.



This approach is hard won over several decades of experimenting and learning from my mistakes—in particular, things I found myself desperately wishing I had not agreed to do. :) To be honest, in my experience there are few times where traveling any great distance to speak without payment is actually a good idea. As for the specific amount I charge, it's based on essentially one criterion: an amount just high enough that even if my hosts were to do a terrible job preparing for my visit (alas, that does happen from time to time), I could happily cash the check and know that if nothing else was accomplished, the income had helped to set me free to do other things at other times without worrying about money. For various reasons the amount has gone up over the past few years, but interestingly, the higher I've set that number, the more lasting fruit my work has seemed to bear.

That said, I think the least important thing in my whole approach is the dollar amount I charge—much more important are the principles behind it. Most important is the commitment Catherine and I have made that in Philadelphia, we will discourage churches and ministries from paying me altogether. We have decided we are called to "tithe" our time as well as our money, and we want to tithe our time in the place where God has placed us and where there are the greatest chances of building and nurturing ongoing relationships. So with my fellow Philadelphians I set all these considerations aside and try just to serve generously and wholeheartedly, expecting nothing in return—and that, too, interestingly, has borne a lot of fruit in the form of joyful friendships and partnerships of a sort I could only dream of when we moved here eight years ago.


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Published on August 24, 2011 17:27 • 44 views


Amy Julia Becker is a remarkable young writer whose book A Good and Perfect Gift, a memoir about discovering that her first child had Down Syndrome, comes out this fall. She sent me an email asking how I handle speaking requests, and especially the question of how to handle the occasions when invitations come without any apparent plans to compensate her for her time. With her permission, here’s a slightly expanded version of what I wrote in response.



I have a pretty standard reply when I receive speaking requests that require travel outside the Philadelphia area. It starts this way: “My speaking fee is $2,500/day or partial day, plus travel expenses, which I work hard to keep to a minimum.” If I have reason to expect that they will be taken aback by that number, I add: “I realize this may be out of the reach of some academic or nonprofit budgets.” (Note that I don’t offer to reduce the amount. :) ) I sometimes also emphasize: “I’m all yours during the time I’m with you—please feel free to pack my schedule! I’m happy to wash dishes if that would be helpful.” (That’s true! I actually like washing dishes. Not many groups take me up on the dishwashing, but a lot sure do take advantage of the packed schedule, and I love it.) And I often add: “My family and I have decided to focus my volunteer speaking time on the Philadelphia area, where I never charge at all. However, this means that when I do travel, I have to charge my full fee.”



Now, there are a few exceptions worth noting. I often make different arrangements when my travel is connected with my day job at Christianity Today—this approach applies to the roughly half of my time that I spend on my own speaking and writing. Another exception is that in the months following the publication of a new book (which will happen, God willing and me writing, late next year) I generally do several events, ones that my publisher’s marketing team feels are especially significant, for little or no compensation except travel. It’s a recognition of all the investment they are making in the book. I only do this in consultation with the publisher, though.



Also, there are a handful of people who are most significant in my own life and growth, with whom I want to spend as much time as possible in order to sustain and deepen the relationship. If discounting my fee or waiving it altogether means we get to do something together, then I’ll do so.



This approach is hard won over several decades of experimenting and learning from my mistakes—in particular, things I found myself desperately wishing I had not agreed to do. :) To be honest, in my experience there are few times where traveling any great distance to speak without payment is actually a good idea. As for the specific amount I charge, it’s based on essentially one criterion: an amount just high enough that even if my hosts were to do a terrible job preparing for my visit (alas, that does happen from time to time), I could happily cash the check and know that if nothing else was accomplished, the income had helped to set me free to do other things at other times without worrying about money. For various reasons the amount has gone up over the past few years, but interestingly, the higher I’ve set that number, the more lasting fruit my work has seemed to bear.

That said, I think the least important thing in my whole approach is the dollar amount I charge—much more important are the principles behind it. Most important is the commitment Catherine and I have made that in Philadelphia, we will discourage churches and ministries from paying me altogether. We have decided we are called to “tithe” our time as well as our money, and we want to tithe our time in the place where God has placed us and where there are the greatest chances of building and nurturing ongoing relationships. So with my fellow Philadelphians I set all these considerations aside and try just to serve generously and wholeheartedly, expecting nothing in return—and that, too, interestingly, has borne a lot of fruit in the form of joyful friendships and partnerships of a sort I could only dream of when we moved here eight years ago.


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Published on August 24, 2011 10:27 • 16 views

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