I am a guy who has always been better at promoting others than I have myself. Most kids tie a blanket on their neck and run around pretending to be a superhero. I was the kid tying the blanket on my friend's neck and then coaching him on how to be a superhero.
The summer of 2017 kicked off as a period of desperate self-promotion. I had written a book, and my agent suggested that I raise my profile in order to attract publishers. I tried. I truly did. But instead of promoting myself, I ended up accidentally pulling together a diverse team of small-time Christian Apologists and promoting them, instead. Story of my life.
This began as another act of self-promotion. In attempting to keep up a constant flood of social media posts in order to keep myself in the public eye, I was digging for things to say. One thing that crossed my mind was this little fantasy I had always had: do my own Apologetics conference. But here's the thing. Instead of arranging to have a well-known and well-respected speaker come in, I would bring in my OWN guys! A bunch of friends I had made in my work as a Christian journalist. Like-minds who were darned-good writers and speakers, but mostly did it on blogs and Facebook, and otherwise went out into the world and worked regular jobs. Just like me.
In my daydream, I called them "The Mentionables." It was my own little riff. By now, I've entirely forgotten why I thought it was funny.
It was funny (to me, at least) but it stuck. This was much to the chagrin of my wife, who thinks the name "The Mentionables" is a terrible name for a Christian ministry. I can't entirely disagree with her, but this whole thing was almost self-perpetuated and practically built itself, so not a lot of thought went into the name, and it seems a little late to change it.
The rest is essentially history. I tagged the guys I was thinking about, and they all immediately warmed to the idea. But hey, we were guys who were living paycheck to paycheck, or we were unemployed, or we were in debt. Point is, there was no pot of gold or mysterious patron to kick this pipe dream off. So it's just a fun thing to talk about.
And talk about it, we did.
We just happened to have a graphic designer in our midst. This guy made us a website and a logo and a moto. At least three motos. We had decided between "The Greatest Apologists you've never heard of," or "Many voices, one message," or "Small time voice, big time noise." And I think at one point we even toyed with "Men on a mission."
Anyway, it was the voice/noise thing which stuck. That was also the very first moto suggested.
We also had some sound guys and podcaster in our midst. So they built us a podcast from the ground up.
Then there was a friend of mine from college who really got into the idea. Then he asked his church, and they set up a conference with no one really planning on all that happening.
With a conference date set almost a year down the road, everyone on the team was jazzed up and kept at the good work. Our work began to gain some interest in the vast community of small-time/non-professional Apologists, and a lot of guys who I respected started inquiring about joining.
This was a nightmare for me. I greatly respected these guys, and it would be an honor to work with them, but I already had more people than I needed for an Apologetics conference.
My decision was to begin a network, independent from the team. My idea was, we could come together as small-timers willing to support and lend effort to each other's projects and needs. A community of mutual support.
Then, if anyone from any section of the country approached us with needs, we would mobilize the network members closest to them.
While we were simply a team, and we'd done a podcast and planned a conference, I suggested that we do a writing project. I presented the team with a list of 50 atheist questions someone had published online, suggesting that we should each answer each question and publish a catalog of answers. The idea was met with lukewarm interest, and fell by the wayside.
After the formation of the Network, I resurrected the idea, this time with a list of FOURTY Atheist questions I had found elsewhere.
This time, with a broader group of participants, I got a total of five people - three team members and two network members - who answered the questions. What resulted was a book-length document that was quite good.
I edited the document, and went into discussion with a few publishers. The first guy I talked to offered to publish, but the contracts he sent out to us contained some theological statements which were a bit radical for the Mentionables, and my agent advised against signing the contract.
We pursued publication ideas elsewhere, and the book was eventually published as a Kindle book through an associate of Nick Peters'. It was highly recommended through Apologetics networks, and did very well almost immediately "off the shelves," so to speak.
All of this was good, but the truly magical thing was the conference. Chad Gross and I had occasionally brushed shoulders in the real world - we lived in roughly the same geographical area, and so ran into one another once a year or so at various local conferences.
Besides that, not a single one of us had met another. In fact, of the original five guys who participated in the conversation that kicked the whole thing off, only two had known about one another until I brought them into conversation. I was the single person that connected them all.
I say this not in self-congratulation, but rather in wonder that all these guys who didn't know each other, once united on-stage at the conference, were operating like a... well... team. And a good one at that.
Chad brought with him a grounded, practical, researched, and family oriented approach which contributed greatly. He is also a tremendous encourager to those around him, which is no bad thing to have on a team.
Tyler comes off as a kind of a rock-star on the team, largely because he is that rare combination of vocal and eloquent. Possibly the most highly educated of us all - at least in the subjects we are addressing - he talks with an air of authority which makes those on his side of the table feel confident, and those on the other side of the table feel a bit intimidated.
Nick is Tyler's equal in intellect - and opposite in technique and approach. The two style themselves as nemeses. Nick also prides himself on his sense of humor (I would argue we are all pretty funny in our own way). Nick is not shy about his asperger's syndrome, and talks about his wife who shares the same syndrome. In addition, Nick's wife faces a few additional emotional and cognitive struggles - all of which Nick faces like a champ through constant encouragement and love.
As a result, Nick has developed a very caring and pastoral approach in his writings and Apologetics.
Adam is a nexus of talents he is a little shy in admitting. Listen to any given episode of Adam's podcast, and you will hear him seamlessly transition from comedian, to philosopher, to anthropologist, to preacher, to counselor, to theologian, to regular guy that is fun to hang with.
What I bring to the team is not easy for me to say. Cohesion, would be my best guess. I'm proud to call each of these men my friend, and awestruck to see them become friends with one another.
Whether or not "The Mentionables" is the advisably best name for who we are, one thing we definitely are is a team. And brothers.
God has brought these rag-tag misfits through so many adventures, and it has been a privilege to be on this ride. It's not a ride I want to disembark from anytime soon.
To quote Neil Hess, it's exciting to see what is in store.