Pastor Keith Bowman talks about the book he wrote for his son, his new Adventist apologetics YouTube channel, and why state conferences should join the black conferences.
You are about to publish a book called New Earth Chronicles: Scars in Heaven. What is the book about?
The book follows a 19-year-old young man named Keiel on adventures throughout his solar system. It is set 6,000 years after the creation of New Earth. Keiel learns that he has a unique ability to fly without wings. That discovery initiates a journey to discover fascinating stories in a vault about people who lived on First Earth. Ultimately, Keiel is growing in his understanding of the character of God and God's government.
Where did you get the idea to create this book?
Scars in Heaven is a project that I started in 2014 when my son was born.
I love C.S. Lewis. His Narnia series has an interesting dedication page. It reads: “My Dear Lucy, I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result, you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it. I shall probably be too deaf to hear, and too old to understand a word you say but I shall still be your affectionate Godfather, —C.S. Lewis.”
I thought about this and wondered if I could write something that my son would read during the years he may not be interested in hearing my advice. Those years when Lucy had grown “too old for fairy tales.” Ironically, in our culture today, that is exactly what people that age are interested in reading. So, I wrote it with that age in mind: 14 to 18 years old.
Can you tell us about the illustrations?
The illustrations are being done by my good friend and colleague Nathan Hellman. He is a pastor at the Gladstone Seventh-day Adventist Church in Gladstone, Oregon. We have worked on a few different projects together in the past and I love his artwork. It is really a good style for the age I was targeting. They are a blend of a real person look with a bit of cartoon. We ran a successful Kickstarter that raised $3,200. With that money, I'm able to pay Nate to put a sketch illustration in each chapter of the book.
Will the book be part of a series, do you think?
Yes. I don't know if this book will be “successful” by the world's standards, but I will definitely be writing another book for my daughter. I will be starting on that as soon as this book is published. I already have a narrative in my mind that I'm feeling good about. She is four, so I have 10 years to get the next one to press, but I hope to get it done sooner!
Who is publishing the book?
I will be self-publishing. I'm still reviewing my options. I'm leaning toward Amazon, but there are some other avenues that I'm considering.
How will the book be edited?
My friend Nate is really an incredible guy. He is an artist and an editor and a theologian and a bit of a geek in the fantasy/sci-fi world. So, he is really the perfect person to team up with. He is doing the editing and illustrations.
How are people able to order the book?
The book will be available on Amazon in May. For now, I have created a Facebook page where people can ask to be notified when the book comes out.
Have you written a book before?
I actually have written a few books. They sit unpublished in my Google drive. I have written a book on Daniel, Revelation, and the Ten Commandments through the eyes of Jesus, and also converted it into a 52-week devotional. I tried to see if I could get it published by a small Adventist press, but my costs were estimated at seven to one (I would get a dollar for every seven I invested). It seemed a little too high at the time.
I also began writing a book about standing up for your faith while also being willing to challenge it, but I never completed it.
You started The Haystack as a hub for Adventist videos back in 2014. When and why did you end your association with The Haystack?
The Haystack was initially started as a hub for Adventist creatives to share their content in a curated fashion, while we at The Haystack also contributed original content. While there were periods of success, I don't know that I feel like the church ever really bought into it. I mean that in both the sense of the organization and the people. The North American Division is now in charge of it, but the Youth and Young Adult Department doesn't really use it in any capacity.
I know lots of folks out there who make videos and want to go “viral” with their YouTube channels or whatever but can't seem to join forces with an organization larger than themselves. So, it continues to be a car that ignites and revs and then shuts off. It would be cool if the next generation of collegiates and young adults ran with it with some vision.
Don't get me wrong, it has produced some really cool projects over the years from everyone who has ever been involved. In fact, my friends Andrew Ashley and Kendra Arsenault wrote, directed, and produced a mini-series that was just released on issues with sexuality in the Christian Church called #ChurchToo.
Andrew also worked with Mark Cumberiate on a very successful project about race relations in the Adventist Church called The Wound.
You are now working on a new video hub — a YouTube channel. Can you tell us about that?
It actually just came about randomly. I personally wanted to work on some videos on certain topics and make some responses to folks who are sharing stuff against Adventists. Next thing you know I saw a couple of other channels pop up and some folks contacted me and I contacted some folks and we started an apologetics channel. There are three of us making videos right now, and there are two others who want to join in as they feel like it.
The channel is called Sabbath Apologetics. It is very small right now, but we aren't seeking to reach everyone at the moment — we are just doing the work so that our videos can be used as a library for the future when people need to point to a video with the answers to their questions.
You recently put out a video calling on state (white) conferences to merge with the regional (Black) conferences. The regional conferences have long agreed, saying that there was no reason they should have to merge with the state conferences — the state conferences should just as well merge with them. As you have agreed. Do you think this could really happen? Why have you gotten involved with this issue?
I got involved because everyone should care about the things happening inside their church.
This is a polarizing topic. There are a lot of people on both sides of every issue in the church that don't want to hear or understand and appreciate the arguments made by the other side. It really goes both ways here. I'm really disheartened by all the anti-Christian rhetoric and approaches that we take in communicating with each other. I honestly could not care less about the way the world handles their business, but I feel very strongly about the way the church handles theirs. It must be full of grace from both sides. Our goal is to be like Jesus and live for Him despite our circumstances. If we can't share our thoughts and feelings in a way that honors Christ, then we should keep our mouths shut.
With that in mind, I want to listen to my brothers and sisters in Christ and evaluate what they are saying.
It is clear from the historical narrative that the Church was a perpetrator of racism. Some may disagree with me, but I think the Church has come an incredible distance away from the overt racism of parts of our past. Our current issues with racism, in regards to the structure, are lingering from the sins of our past and the uncertainty regarding the hearts of those in the present. These sins were those of light-skinned brethren against dark-skinned brethren. To me, it seems like the Christlike response for us who are light-skinned is to make a demonstration of love by humbling ourselves to the leadership of our dark-skinned brothers and sisters. This is the first and most important thing we can do as true believers.
Beyond my main point above, there are numerous other reasons why the conference lines should be reconsidered. Here are a few:
1. Our current system does not make sense with technology and the world of 2021 (including travel options and Zoom).
2. Many small state conferences are financial burdens on the North American Division.
3. Many small and medium-sized state conferences are emotionally stressed out by the burdens that they are trying to navigate.
4. There is duplication of conference positions over the same regions and territories.
5. Regional conferences are well laid out, for the most part, to oversee a larger territory.
6. Regional conferences have successfully been overseeing larger territories for a considerable period of time.
7. Regional conferences have room to receive state conferences.
8. Regional conferences would only need to add a few positions to their office to accommodate the growth.
9. We could reduce office employees and increase frontline workers dramatically by offering every state conference worker a position in a local church instead of eliminating their salary. This has the added benefits of providing more pastors to the field, adding pastoral specialties like local communication workers, local youth workers, and more local educators in schools, all without adding any salaries.
10. We could reduce conferences by about half (I have a suggested plan of what to do with the conferences).
11. People would know that there is another church in their town that they never knew existed before because the division of conferences made them unaware. All of a sudden churches right next to each other would be going to the same Pathfinder events and youth events and conference events.
12. Campmeeting and other large gatherings would be more multi-cultural.
Despite the potential challenges, I believe that it is time to write the final narrative and I would love to see someone with authority bring their conference to the feet of Jesus. I am optimistic that there are enough folks in state conferences who are committed to the unity of the church that they would celebrate this opportunity.
You are pastoring in the Hamilton Community Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee, now — part of the Southern Adventist University community. What is it like living there? You moved there from the West Coast, right?
I have been in Oregon and Michigan. East is very different from West. Oddly, I think the West leads the way in lots of categories in life, but the East is where reality happens. That sounds ridiculous, but that is kind of what it feels like moving back and forth. We are very happy to be in this area near my wife's family. This is where she grew up and it is going to be a great place for our kids (now seven and four) to grow up, too.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I've really moved away from being passionate about large-scale online ministry. I'm interested in local ministry these days. I want to really succeed in relationships with those who are close by me. I think God designed us to be local, to speak with people face-to-face, and to build communities in person. I still see value in dispensing information digitally, but I think community happens with one-on-one interactions. In five years, I hope to be living here in Ooltewah and pastoring at Hamilton Community Church.
What other projects are you working on?
One more thing that I'm extremely excited about is a new Bible study series that the General Conference picked up called “A Picture of God.” It is a Bible study that is really designed for the digital world. It starts with world religions and difficult questions people ask and then presents the story of the Great Controversy in a narrative through the lessons. I think it is worth people's time to take a look.
Keith Bowman received a Bachelor's in Theology from Southern Adventist University in 2008 and a Master's of Divinity from Andrews University in 2014. He is associate pastor of the Hamilton Community Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Read Keith Bowman's Spectrum interview from 2014 here.
Alita Byrd is interviews editor for Spectrum.
Photos courtesy of Keith Bowman.
We invite you to join our community through conversation by commenting below. We ask that you engage in courteous and respectful discourse. You can view our full commenting policy by clicking here.