Hey everyone, I’ve got a treat for you today.
I’m featuring Jonathan Almanzar and Aaron Havens, and their new book, Crabgrass and Oak Trees. Unlike the bulk of Christian publishing lately, the book isn’t a memoir on doubt, or a heavy theological tome, or anything controversial that’s going to raise your blood pressure. It’s a book of parables, parables about the church, crabgrass and oak trees. It’s a quiet little book, it marches to it’s own beat, and you’ll be really glad you read it.
Oh, and Jonathan and Aaron started their own publishing company, just so they could give the world their book in all its glory. I don’t think I’ve ever woken up and said to myself, “I think I’ll start a publishing company today.” Most days, I have an internal debate about whether to take a shower or not.
The guys were cool enough to give some great answers for my questions, and supply a couple of copies of the book that you can win.
Jonathan, can you tell us a bit about who you and Aaron are?
Aaron and I have known one another since 3rd grade. We grew up on the eastern plains of Colorado and have ended up together from Miami to Mexico and back to Colorado again. We have been involved in Mega-Churches like Life Church and mini churches like The Pearl.
Currently I am a church planter in Pueblo, CO with The Pearl. Aaron is the Pastor of Spiritual Formation at Gunnison Community Church in Gunnison, CO.
The two of you have started a new publisher which you call Rhizome, and Crabgrass and Oak Trees is it’s first published book. For all the aspiring book publishers out there, how do you start a book publishing company?
It started around a kitchen table in Harlingen, TX with Aaron, myself, and John Cooper. We divided up the workload, pursued a few contacts, and were accepted by a great printer.
Wow, you actually make that sound easy.
We had multiple opportunities in the publishing industry but never found a good fit. We were discouraged at the amount of editing they wanted to do and how much our message changed. We learned a lot in publishing our first book and we would love to help others do the same. Our goal with Rhizome is to be a place where we can help people publish their stories while keeping their creativity in tact and treating them fairly.
The book is really a series of parables that compares the church to crabgrass. Where did the crabgrass imagery come from?
Two places. I spent a lot of time on the plains of Kansas which is described in the book, where crabgrass is abundant. I also spent two years trying to get a softer, greener grass to start in the hot summers of Mexico.
I can relate. I never thought I would care as much as I do about getting grass to grow in my yard. So, in your minds, what stands in the way of the Church living up to its full potential?
There’s three things in my mind. The church is afraid. Afraid we won’t have enough, afraid HE isn’t enough. Afraid our message isn’t cool enough. Afraid that people won’t follow unless their life gets easier and better. Afraid if someone “does” it better everyone will leave. Afraid of the Spirit. Second, we think that something great can’t happen, or we just aspire to less than the highest and best. Last is our pursuit of comfort. It’s not that comforts are wrong, it’s that always trying to be comfortable is holding us back.
You contrast the imagery of the church as crabgrass with the image of an oak tree. Turns out an oak tree church isn’t so great. What makes the church like an oak tree?
There’s a few ways the church can be like an oak tree. Churches, like oak trees can suffer from “invertedness,” meaning consuming your own fruits. It’s paying more attention to yourself than those around you. It’s longing for your name to be known rather than the King’s.
Then there’s the fact that everything we do, we do, because we CAN do it: An oak tree does what it can. Crabgrass does the impossible (which you’ll find out in the book). I look at our churches today and we spend a lot of timing planning to do things we can already do and then pray for God to bless them. Then we do them (because we already could or else we wouldn’t have attempted it). But it seems to me when I read my Bible that God was calling people to do things they could not do. Then they prayed, not for HIM to bless it but to bring it to pass. The Church needs to start looking at the impossible things.
What’s next for you and Aaron and Rhizome?
Aaron has started a leadership coaching service called White Consulting. I’m working on The Pilgrims Diary of Stolen Words. For that, I took twenty-four common Christian words and showed where they came from and what they truly mean. The results can be surprising and sometimes kind of gross. And with Rhizome, we are looking to jump into the publishing world and help as many people as we can. We will be running a publishing contract contest in the very near future.