In the hundreds of articles RELEVANT published online and in our six print magazines throughout this year, it was easy to see what was popular with our readers by tracking social media shares and comments. But likes and retweets don’t tell the whole story, and there were several articles we as editors felt deserved more attention than they received.
There were many articles we felt were worthy of highlighting, but we narrowed it down to 10. Here are our editors’ picks for 2013:
“Hey, Brother” by Donald Miller
We had heard Tony Hale was a fan of our magazine and we knew Donald Miller was friends with him, so having them interview each other was a no-brainer. The question of how to do it was the thing since, at the time, Tony’s filming schedule had him flying around the country. Don said it wouldn’t be a problem to conduct the interview over Skype, which turned out to only be mostly true. His Internet connection was so bad, he ended up chatting with Tony from the only place in his house that got a strong wi-fi signal: his closet.
“What the New Pope Means for Evangelicals” by Stephanie S. Smith
Hard to believe now but, back in March, nobody had heard of Pope Francis. Nobody, that is, except for Luis Palau, who had actually struck up a friendship with Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio—the man the world would come to know as the Pope. He offered us his take on what Pope Francis might mean for the world, particularly as it relates to the still complex relationship between Catholics and Evangelicals. It’s great fun to go back now and see how prophetic Mr. Palau’s thoughts ended up being.
“Suicidal Tendencies” by Tyler Charles
Our first issue of 2013 was probably our toughest. Bands we’d lined up to interview suddenly backed out. Features we thought we’d have in place were suddenly delayed. We were scrambling for articles when, suddenly, the statistics on suicide caught our attentions. We knew the numbers were bad, but we didn’t know quite how dire America’s struggle with suicide had gotten. It was almost instantly clear that it was an issue we needed to address and, grim as it was, “Suicidal Tendencies” ended up being providential.
“Over the Rhine” by Tyler Huckabee
Every now and then, you interview someone who is just such a refreshing and inspiring presence to be around that you want to stop interviewing them and just listen to them. Or adopt them. Over the Rhine’s Linford Detweiler was just such a person. He was kind, wise and articulate—every question seemed to lead him to some deeply profound soliloquy on the importance of beauty and art. He gave out a few thoughts in that article that we will be talking about in our offices for a long, long time.
“Chasing the Dream” by Emily Miller
We had heard nothing about 12 Years a Slave when some of their people called us up to see if we’d be interested in talking to the cast and director. So you can imagine how stunned we were by a movie that’s now being hailed as one for the vault. It also set off a long conversation about not just where our country has been, but where it is and where it’s going in regards to race. In a year rife with stories that reminded us (if you needed reminding) of how prominent racial tension remains in certain parts of the country, we used Steve McQueen’s film as a jumping off point for the larger conversation about racism in this country and our churches.
“Can We Know God?” by Jonathan Martin
This article seemed to dare us to do it justice. The thoughts were so honest and beautiful and pure, we were almost afraid to make any edits on it. It’d be like trying to add notes to a Beethoven symphony.
“20 Christianese Phrases We Need to Stop Saying” by Jon Acuff
Jon Acuff, noted expert in Christianese, hit the nail squarely on the head of which phrases need to be banished from any decent person’s vocabulary. Let us all herald 2013 as the year that “Doing life together” finally got its long overdue critique.
“Virgin Territory” by Emily Miller
This year saw many prominent Christian authors and bloggers question the way the Church talks about sex and “purity.” Yes, they said, encouraging young people to save sex for marriage is important, but the conversation often takes on a shaming tone, viewing the 80 percent of unmarried evangelicals ages 18-29 who have had sex as “less than” or “damaged goods.” In this article, we explored how the idea of abstinence and purity go beyond just “who put what where?” We were encouraged by the response of readers who are working to have more honest conversations about sex within the Church.
“Yes, God Will Give You More Than You Can Handle” by Michael Hidalgo
Anytime a story challenges a commonly-held understanding of a Bible verse or spiritual principle, we know it has the potential to connect with a lot of readers. But the reason we loved this piece so much is that beyond just examining the context of a specific phrase (“God won’t give you more than you can handle”), it actually looks at how the misinterpretation and misquoting of it leads to a misunderstanding about our relationship with God. And how seeing it in a new light can actually help us grow closer to Him.
“Why Aren’t More Intellectuals Believers?” by David Denison
Why is Church culture in America “unfriendly to intellectual scrutiny”? This piece, which looks at the lack of intellectualism in the Church, does a great job of examining the fine line between the deep devotion of faith and the intellectual wrestling that can often accompany spiritual belief.