Writing as Ministry
Welcome back heroes. I hope you are having a grand week so far. I am actually on vacation. My original plan was to write for the entirety of my time off, but I decided that mentally I needed a break. Don't worry, I do plan on writing for at least four days of this ten day block, but for the first few days I am taking sometime for myself. My plan is still to have book 2 to the editor and to have a short story for JR Handley and his ever growing repertoire of Bayonet books anthologies by the beginning of May. God willing, it will be accomplished.
So, lets get into the topic for todays post. Is writing a ministry? Well, I would think most people would agree that it is. Such men as CS Lewis, Max Lucado, John Bevier, Watchman Nee, GK Chesterton, Augustine of Hippo, the Apostle Paul and many more are considered just as influential as any oral teacher. I would be willing to wager that every Christian has a book on their shelf or in their Kindle library from one of the predominate Christian writers. That being said, do you also have books from Frank E Peretti, Ted Dekker, Stephen R Lawhead or JRR Tolkien? I bet most of you would say no.
So than, as a group we can say that most of us consider writing as a ministry to be strictly relegated to teaching, study or allegory. If that is true, then what about those of us who are called to be story tellers? Should we simply retell the same story over and over again? Certainly as Anna Quindlen said:
“Every story has already been told. Once you've read Anna Karenina, Bleak House, The Sound and the Fury, To Kill a Mockingbird and A Wrinkle in Time, you understand that there is really no reason to ever write another novel. Except that each writer brings to the table, if she will let herself, something that no one else in the history of time has ever had." [Commencement Speech; Mount Holyoke College, May 23, 1999]”
So, should I as a story teller be confined to historical fiction or allegory? I think most of us would find this point of view not to be shared by the literary heroes of the faith. Certainly not by Tolkien or Lewis. Both men believed that writing was a call from God, but neither believed that writing as a ministry was simply meant for just teaching.
I have been to Bible College and I consider myself a person who studies the word. I have even written many blog posts that were teaching oriented, but, due to my lack of notoriety or letters after my name, no one read them. Now, I will admit that I can not expect people who don't know me to find and read my work, just look at my book sales, but I have met many ministers who have written books and no one bought theirs either. Does their lack of notoriety make them any less wise than the famous teachers? No certainly not, but if we are going to invest in a book we tend to pick people we know. That is understandable. I do the same thing.
Now, I can write a teaching book and those of my friends that don't disagree with me on my points, might read it. They certainly haven't read my novels, but one friend told me that she would read a teaching book if I wrote one. Knowing this person, I'm pretty sure she wouldn't. I don't doubt her sincerity, but I know that she would buy it a put it on her shelf and never read it. Both her lack of attention span and the usual prejudice to only read books from the big time ministers would be the reason. She might crack it open and read a chapter or two, but that would be it. It would make it's way back to her shelf and there collect dust.
So, should I simply not write then? I have stories that I feel God has given me to tell, should I put them on the shelf and never write them because they aren't devotionals, allegory or yet another historical fictional account of a Biblical hero? Imagine the world if CS Lewis or JRR Tolkien thought this way. CS Lewis found that his fictional works became more and more Christian, but he never believed that writing was strictly meant for that. His friend Tolkien and their writers group the Inklings would then have been a waste of his time. Yet, he met with them often and wrote with them. What he did believe, however, was that God invaded everything he created. This simple fact changed the very spirit behind what he wrote. Tolkien also believed that it was a divine call from God that he finish the Lord of the Rings.
Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
I find it telling that the very first scripture in the Bible is God being a creator. It is so intrinsic to his personality that it is the very first aspect of Him we are introduced to. In fact when it comes to his children mankind, he actually used his hands to sculpt us. This personal touch shows just how important mankind was to Him. Not only did he make us in His own image, but he sculpted us like a piece of art. As any creator knows, every piece of art they create has personal meaning to them. This is, in my opinion, why it is just more proof that mankind is more important than the rest of creation. It was a more personal creative process for God.
So moving on to what writing as a ministry looks like. Well, that is different for everyone. Some will be scholars whose passion will be center around teaching. These are the ones that have been elevated by most in the Christian community. Others, like me and JRR Tolkien, will gravitate towards stories. This will cause us to focus on fiction as a means to convey the ideas and principles God is showing us. Jesus Himself used parables, which are fictional stories used to convey spiritual ideas. This gives credence to the creation of fiction as a viable ministry.
Either way, it is all ministry if it is done out of a genuine spirit and for God's glory. Neither direction is more important or more ministry than the other, and if we want to foster creativity in our community then we need to understand this. I feel we have lost many to the world because we tried to force them into a mold that God never designed for them to inhabit. It is more than just creating our own Christian versions of things, such as contemporary Christian music or Christian television stations and streaming services. We need to allow our creatives to go where God calls them and to tell the stories God wants them to tell.
After all, JRR Tolkien would not have had the impact he did if his book had been forced into an only Christian community bookstore. C S Lewis would have shared the same fate if he lived in today's segregated world. Now, I am not against Christian television or Christian film companies. They serve a purpose and many people prefer to only consume entertainment from these sources. That's okay and I am not saying that you should go out and start watching material that you find personally offensive. Nor am I suggesting that Christians should create such art. I do, however, feel that we should be in the world but have our art radiate with the presence of God. We should create stories that inspire people and promote Godly ideals.
If we segregate ourselves, than we run the risk of becoming isolationists who have no effect on the people around us. Jesus told us to go. He didn't say go and hide together shutting the rest of the world out. He said go as ambassadors. An ambassador is someone who goes into a foreign country and represents the kingdom they came from. That is what we should be as Christians and especially as Christian creators. Creators have a unique way of connecting to and reaching the lost that others don't.
Most people are willing to give art a chance, even if it isn't their usual fair. They most likely won't, however, give art a chance if it is labeled and designed to alienate them. I know this thought is controversial to some Christians who feel that the only way for a Christian artist to truly serve God is to label his art Christian. This forces them then to live up to a certain standard and keeps them from falling into the trap of trying to use sin to draw people in. In effect, becoming worldly to reach the world. That's not what I am talking about here.
What I am talking about is allowing God to inhabit what we create. CS Lewis said it very clearly when talking about how he created Narnia:
Some people seem to think that I began by asking myself how I could say something about Christianity to children; then fixed on the fairy tale as an instrument; then collected information about child-psychology and decided what age-group I’d write for; then drew up a list of basic Christian truths and hammered out ‘allegories’ to embody them. This is all pure moonshine. I couldn’t write in that way at all. Everything began with images; a faun carrying an umbrella, a queen on a sledge, a magnificent lion. At first there wasn’t even anything Christian about them; that element pushed itself in of its own accord.
Interesting how he admits that his initial ideas weren't Christian, but that Christianity pushed itself in of its own accord. Tolkien has made similar statements about the Lord of the Rings. This is what I find to be a truth for all of us that are Christians and create. Jesus pushes Himself into our works of His own accord. If we truly love Him and walk with Him, then it can be no other way. He will always inhabit the creation if he inhabits the creator. He will push Himself in of His own accord.
So in conclusion, writing is a ministry if the person who is doing the writing belongs to Jesus. Whether through teaching and devotionals or fiction and non-fiction novels, it can all be used by Jesus to reach others. God will always use a vessel who allows Him to inhabit their works, and, will invade even if we didn't necessarily invite Him at the start. Teaching for the Christian and fiction for both the lost and the Christian. Everyone who writes can be used by God to reach others. So, if you write and you are a Christian, keep it up and allow God to use it no matter what it looks like.