Readers have asked if I made a mistake on the cover of my book, Hand Over Fist: An Invitation to Christ-Centered Civility. The cover reads “Forward by Leonard Sweet.” Was this a misspelling?
Yes and no.
A foreword is another author’s brief introduction to someone’s work. It is the typical way of one author helping another gain notice, or of enhancing a book’s appeal. If Len did anything in a typical manner, then the typical spelling of “Foreword” would be appropriate. If there’s one thing I have learned about Leonard Sweet during my three years of study with him; nothing is typical.
If I could sum up what I’ve learned from Leonard Sweet in two words, they would be, “Look Forward.”
Len has a communication style that redirects his readers and listeners to an experience of faith that invites greater participation, encourages broader imagination, and provides deeper connection than they might ever have experienced before.
For Len Sweet, leading is bound up in redefining what it means to follow, preaching is imagined as giving blood, and the “work” of Christian discipleship is reimagined as child-like play and wonder. He challenges Christians to become expert Paradoxicalists and Jesus Semioticians. He calls followers of Jesus to trust once again the Story of Jesus as told throughout the whole of scripture – Old and New Testament, and to dig for the back story present, but overlooked in the text.
When Len hosts gatherings in his home, they are never, ever called “retreats.” They are “advances.” Every year, these advances are held to educate doctoral students in the disciplines of Semiotics and Future Studies, and to challenge doctoral graduates through his “Future Church Think-Tank.,” both of which I’ve been a part.
Everything that enters Sweet’s home has a story. Literally, everything. Every piece of furniture, from chairs, to lamps, to walking sticks, down to the Uranium-enhanced Jadite coffee mugs you use. They all have stories. A story formed in the past, but intended to inform the future, and told to move the listener forward in their thinking.
So, when Leonard Sweet agreed to write the “Foreword” for my book, I wanted to somehow communicate what his words, phrases, conversations, stories, and ministry have done for me and what I hope they will do for the reader – move them forward.
That’s why cover of my book has that small tribute to my friend and mentor, who is helping to lead so many forward to a bright and EPIC future in service to Christ and ministry to our world.
P.S. Out of concern for my friends with Type A personalities and for those who are editors, I did stick with the correct spelling of “foreword” within the book … 🙂