Great concept, right? Little did we know this book would become so much more. The result is Staying Awake: The Gospel for Changemakers, launched April 6 by Chalice Press.
One constant in Staying Awake is Tyler’s thesis that following Jesus’ teachings and being the church Jesus wanted is not all potlucks, Sunday school, and youth groups. It’s risky. It’s uncomfortable. It challenges the establishment. It calls us out of our comfort zones—in both our Sunday-morning sanctuaries and our Monday-through-Saturday lifestyles—and into the streets. Tyler outlines what Christians do to stay awake:
Each of these practices looks different in the different contexts of our lives and our congregations, but the elements are the same. This is how we stay awake. We need to seek out those who share their own stories or who represent stories too terrifying to share, to invite them into our holy spaces, and to create God-filled grace and compassion.
Staying Awake is one of very few Chalice Press books with cartoons. Tyler is also a graphic artist and created several illustrations that drive home the point and also draw a chuckle or a raised eyebrow. Stirred into the mix are good storytelling, self-deprecating humor, and the kind of energy we could all use as we emerge from a year of worship lockdown. Staying Awake can prime your pump for how to do church differently. If ever there was a time to reboot how you do church, how you live out your faith, 2021 is it, right?
But what changed from the initial proposal? Staying Awake started as a book about congregational invigoration but evolved into a book with a strong social-justice heart. This is one of those instances when an outside force reshapes an idea, tempers it in the heat of anger, fear, and righteousness; and as a result an even stronger message is created. In this case, that outside force was the deaths of black men at the hands of Minneapolis police.
Staying Awake has a tragic symmetry. The book begins with a black man’s death at the hands of police officers, as Tyler takes us to a protest over the November 2015 police killing of Jamar Clark. Four years later, Tyler was near the peaceful protests and violent reactions following the death of George Floyd under the knee of Officer Derek Chauvin. We at Chalice Press tend to view our authors as family, so we worried about Tyler’s safety and the safety of his church. When the protests that started in Tyler’s neighborhood escalated to an international call for justice, Tyler added an epilogue chronicling his response in language crafted so painstakingly, so pain-filled, that you will literally feel as you read it. And he ends the book with what can be read as an update or a prayer:
The work continues. None of us expected the racist murder of George Floyd to spark the international uprisings that it did. Even as I write this, our community is still trying to find the most faithful, adaptive way to make a difference while our world is burning. I encourage my team to rest their bodies when they can but to always, always stay awake to God.
And so we are sleepless, nervously awaiting a verdict in the Chauvin trial, which by sheer coincidence is under way as we launch this book. And we are staying awake, prepared for the next time we must take a stand.
This is not always easy reading, but it’s the kind of reading that will help us as we reassess so many elements of our personal and public lives over the next few years. I hope you will read Staying Awake and listen to where the spirit is calling you to raise your voice, to make a difference, and to share the gospel for changemakers.
Brad Lyons, President and Publisher