Bob Hostetler is an award-winning writer, editor, pastor and speaker from southwestern Ohio. His twenty-six books, whichinclude The Bone Box and American Idols (The Worship of the American Dream), have sold millions of copies. He has co-authored eleven books with Josh McDowell, including the best-selling Right from Wrong (What You Need to Know to Help Youth Make Right Choices) and the award-winning Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door. He has won two Gold Medallion Awards, three Ohio Associated Press awards, and an Amy Foundation Award, among others. Bob is a frequent speaker at churches, conferences, and retreats.
Today Bob was kind enough to stop by for a Friday Five chat:
You’ve had a very full career as both a writer and a pastor. How does your writing impact your preaching and how does your preaching impact your writing?
The largest impact on both is more or less in the background. My writing provides a rich background for my preaching, and vice versa. They don’t often intersect directly, as they’re fairly distinct styles of communication, but they do add immeasurably to each other, each one making the other better. They also tend to make me more creative, back-and-forth, as I’m writing for one milieu or the other.
I think the greatest challenge for me is keeping the two distinct. For example, I’m a conversational preacher, generally, so my speaking style is a bit closer to my writing style than would be the case for some preachers. And yet, there are some manners and modes of speaking that would never transfer into writing. And, of course, the opposite is true, too.
You’ve ton a lot of collaboration with other authors, especially Josh McDowell. What is the secret?
I have coauthored numerous books with Josh, and have contributed to others. While I don’t know that there’s any great “secret” to collaborating or coauthoring, I would say for me, a mutual respect and affinity is paramount. I don’t know if I could coauthor with someone I didn’t like, or get along with (and besides, life is too short). Beyond that, another key skill is the ability as a writer to get into another person’s head and think like that person, talk like him. I had the advantage when I started writing with Josh of having read most of his books prior to that time, and so while our first couple books were written before I had ever met him face-to-face, I had no trouble “hearing” his voice in my head. Another key, I think, and one I urge on writers at conferences when they ask about co-authoring, is to make sure terms and tasks are laid out in writing ahead of time so there’s no misunderstanding (e.g., who is going to do what, when tasks will be finished, how advances, royalties, and other things will be shared, and so on).
Why do you and Josh make such a great team?
Thanks for saying that! Obviously, Josh is lucky to have me. Just kidding. Please don’t tell Josh I said that. Seriously, in addition to the things I mentioned earlier, I think we truly complement each other in personality, and in how our minds work, and so on. I remember, when we were writing Right From Wrong, I would get excited about a kid who responded to a question by telling a little of his story, and I’d say, “Josh, listen to this! Isn’t this story incredible!” And Josh would get excited with me, but then he would pull a page from the research and say, “Bob, did you pick up on that part of the research that said such-and-such? Do you realize, if you compare it to that other statistic, what that means?” And he would go on for a while, drawing parallels that I could never have come up with in a million years. That’s been repeated over and over in our relationship. We see different things, get excited by different things, think in different ways, and yet it works, it combines into something special, maybe. It’s a symbiosis, the kind of thing I think the Bible talks about when it says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).
I like your book, American Idols. Do you think many Christians believe the American Dream to be God’s Will for their lives?
Thank you for reading it and mentioning it. I do think many of us whose upbringing and background is American culture and the American church have unthinkingly adopted the American Dream not only as an aspiration, but as an assumption. That’s why I wrote the book, because that assumption can lead us astray, and often does. I don’t even know if most of us could really say for sure what the American Dream is…but we know we want it, and we tend to believe God wants it for us. That’s why idols like consumerism and success and comfort are not only widespread in our culture, but in the church as well. BUT the good news is, when we free ourselves of those idols, we open the door to GOD’S DREAMS for us, which are far, far better even than the American Dream.
You’re latest is a release of a bestseller, Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door, a book aimed at teens. It’s easy for Christian teens to find their thinking co opted by the world. How do parents and pastors and influencers help counter this?
Light always dispels darkness. Always. And there is so much wrong-headed thinking–or, even, NON-thinking–in the world around us, because the thinking of the world is foolish and the heart is darkened. It’s not enough to wait until our kids ask questions, because by that time, they’ve been pounded with the darkened thinking of the world. Christian parents, pastors, youth pastors, grandparents, and teens themselves are called to arm ourselves with answers based on the truth that is found in Jesus Christ. And we are called also to do so in a way that is not only palatable but intensely interesting to our kids–and to a world in need. That’s why Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door has been so successful, I think–because it’s fun and entertaining, and it answers the questions we all want answered.