John Fischer: I grew up in a Christian home and have believed most of my life. My issue has not been believing but making real what I believe.
What lessons have been the most valuable to you during your experience of following Christ?
John Fischer: A Christian is to be real. There is no need to hide. It is not how good we are but how honest we are to ourselves with Christ living in us.
You helped usher in Christian music during the '70s with many songs that became campground favorites of that youth generation. Tell us a little about that experience and how you perceive the current Christian music culture (or subculture)?
John Fischer: I have books written about this. The short of it: The Jesus movement was turned out towards the world. The subculture that grew out of it is turned in on itself.
In one of your CCM columns from years ago, you wrote a statement that I've had tacked on my office bulletin board ever since. You said, "Is there anyone out there fool enough to think they can still change the world with their guitar? I don't think anything's going to happen until there is." Do you still hold to that statement? How do you think it applies to this current generation of Christians, even those without musical talents?
John Fischer: We can make a difference in the world through living as an honest Christian in our own sphere of influence.
One of the things I've enjoyed about your writing is the sense of honesty and realness and transparency that comes across in your books. Do you make a conscious effort to stay real or does that come naturally to you? Why is that important to you and your writing?
John Fischer: When I gave my life in service to God as a college student, it was on one condition. That following Him -- being a Christian -- would be real. He's kept his side of the bargain. I've tried to be honest about mine.
In your earlier books Real Christians
John Fischer: We have new ones as culture and society and people change. I see the big issue now being fear of the world and a desire to hide in the Christian subculture where we can be safe.
The In's and Out's Of It
by John Fischer
"In it not, of it," the statement was made
As Christian One faced the world, much afraid.
"In it, not of it," the call was made clear,
But Christian One got something stuck in his ear.
"Not in it, or of it," was the thing that he heard.
And knowing the world was painfully absurd,
He welcomed the safety of pious retreat,
And went to the potluck for something to eat.
Now Christian Two, he knew what to do,
He show those fundies a thing or two!
How will the world ever give Christ a try
If we don't get in there and identify?
So "In it, and of it," he said in his car,
As he pulled in and stopped at a popular bar.
"I'll tell them the truth as soon as I'm able
To get myself out from under this table."
Now along comes Christian Three jogging for Jesus,
In witnessing sweats made of four matching pieces.
His earphones are playing a hot Christian tune
About how the Lord is coming back soon.
"Not in it, but of it," he turns down the hill
And stops in for a bite at the Agape Grill.
Like the gold on the chain of his "God Loves You" bracelet,
He can have the world without having to face it.
While way up in heaven they lament these conditions
That come from changing a few prepositions.
"Not in it, or of it," Christian One thought.
But who in the world will know that he's not?
"In it, and of it," thought Christian Two.
But who in the world will know that he knew?
"Not in it, but of it," thought Christian Three.
But who in the world watches Christian TV?
And Jesus turns to Gabriel, shaking His head.
"'In it, not of it,' wasn't that what I said?"
(used by permission)
One of your books contains a poem that perhaps best illustrates how Christians have misunderstood Christ's intention for our interaction in the world and have created a Christian subculture. In your opinion, how and why did such a "counter-culture" develop and why is it such a danger for Christians to pull away from the world at large?
John Fischer: It developed out of a preference for the familiar and a desire to be safe -- to protect our kids from the world instead of prepare them for it. We created an alternative world with a Christian version of everything cultural so we could reject the world and still enjoy it anyway.
What do you think are the biggest trouble spots or blind spots contemporary Christians face in trying to impact their culture and develop ongoing, genuine relationships with people who may not believe as they do?
John Fischer: Most Christians are trying to prove the world wrong. The world is not wrong as much as it is lost. We don't know how to dialogue with our culture. We spent our time and effort fighting culture instead of making a difference in it.
Any advice for Christians who want to impact their culture rather than retreat from it or judge it from a "safe" distance?
John Fischer: Don't surround yourself with Christian things. Be a Christian in the world. The world doesn't need Christian music; it needs Christians making music. You can substitute pretty much anything for "music" and get the point.
Just as your writings have influenced many people in this generation, who are some of the writers and thinkers who helped to influence your views on faith and living out that faith? Why are they important to you?
John Fischer: C.S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, Frederick Buechner, Harry Blamires
Tell us a little about the concept behind the book 12 Steps for the Recovering Pharisee (Like Me).
John Fischer: The biggest errors of Christians are in attitudes of self-righteousness and condemnation. I felt the recovery model would suit breaking out of those attitudes well. Someone came to me after a talk and said my writing was like a 12 step recovery program for a Pharisee. I told them right then and there that I wanted that for a title of my next book. Two years later at the same event I was able to give that person a copy of the book!