Saturday, December 5, 2009

Being a Christian Writer in a Changing World

We are living in the end times. The wildly popular Left Behind series put this on everyone’s minds. But they are a work of fiction and believers have varying opinions on what part of the books is true or not true, whether things will work as they depicted it or not. However we feel about it most believers think that we are living in that time.

The Apostles worked feverishly because they were concerned that they could not get their work done before Jesus returned for them. They expected it not only within their lifetime but lived with an immediate expectation of the event. I believe that is actually what God has in mind for all of us, to live our lives as though he’ll be back at any time.

There are many, many people who do not believe in the second coming. They say we’ve been looking for it for two thousand years and it has never happened so it isn’t going to happen. You know I’ve lived over 60 years and have never been run over by a train, but does that mean it can’t happen tomorrow?

Others do believe it, know what the Book of Revelations says and since they feel they can’t do anything to change things are just content to wait for it. We could do that, but is it what God wants us to do? Or does he want us to do what the Apostles did and work feverishly to get our work done before we are called home? I think we all know the answer to that one.

So how do we do it? If we are a writer and want to use those skills for the Lord, how do we go about it? I believe there are two ways to write for the Lord, to decide we are going to do it in which case it is an offering, or to be called to do it in which case it is a divine assignment and an obligation.

I know some people believe all Christian writers have been called but I’m afraid I don’t believe that any more than I believe that everybody who would like to preach has been called by God to do so. But let me quickly say I have no argument with those who believe otherwise and have no compulsion to have them see it my way. I’m just saying what I believe.

I wrestled with this myself. I decided I wanted to use my faith in my writing, but was it a calling or an offering? To tell you the truth I really didn’t want the obligation of it being a calling. The testimony on the process that I went through deciding what God wanted me to do is in the writing testimony at my website Let me just say I felt I was only a fiction writer, and it couldn’t be that I was being called to do it. Then my instructor smiled and said, “Yes, you’re only a fiction writer, and Jesus only told parables.”

I got the message.

Then I learned the next big difference between the two. If it was an offering, then it would be made out of my own skill and ability. If God was assigning me the task, He would see that my ability, skill and even character was molded to fit the requirements. Every time I stalled out in my writing, a sermon, Sunday school, Bible study or something else would provide EXACTLY what I needed, and I would be underway again.

Then came doubt. It wasn't going as fast as it should. If God wanted this, shouldn't it be happening faster? Bigger? Surely I had misunderstood the call.


No, all things in God's time. Look at how long it took Him to prepare Moses, Abraham, the Apostles, even how long Jesus himself was prepared before he began his ministry. All the figures of the Bible were prepared before God used them.
Who did I think I was that I thought I could just start writing and have immediate success? I realized patience was all-important particularly if it was a calling and not an offering.

Waiting, that’s a tough one.

If it were up to us, we'd lay out the whole plan so we could see every tiny aspect. We'd most likely disagree with parts of it, want to change a lot of it, and oh yes, have a back-up plan ready in case God's plan and His timing didn't work. Perhaps that's why God doesn't show us the whole thing at once. He knows we'd want to get our own ideas and our own timing involved.

Then I discovered that callings change. I came to realize that the first book in my Mysterious Ways series was a calling but the other two in the series were offerings. I have no problem with that. A sincere offering I’m sure is well received and blessed, but God was not in them in the same way that He was in the first one.
My calling changed. I started feeling led to work as an agent, to help others get their words out where they will serve the Lord. Even though I continue to write, I started feeling I could have more impact by helping get more content out there. I turned my attention to that and specifically to helping new writers get published for the first time. I can’t afford to represent ALL new writers of course, but I have had some success at it.

So that’s my pathway here. How about other Christian writers? I think we all have to go through a vetting process of finding out what God really wants from us and then try to decide the best way to get it done.

If in fact we are in end times and we all want to use our talents to the best of our abilities to serve the Lord then it behooves us to prepare ourselves as best as we can, constantly work to perfect our craft while we wait on God’s perfect timing. The time may indeed be short and if it is, we all want to be about the Father’s business when it comes.


Lynda Lee Schab said...

Wonderful post, Terry.

I do feel called, as well, and yes, it is a huge responsibility. Sometimes I let my own selfish ambitions get the best of me but when I do, God always has a way of reminding me where my talent came from. My ego's been bruised more than a few times. LoL. But the important thing is to stay tuned in to the voice of the Holy Spirit and to the direction He wants us to go. That still small voice isn't always so hard to hear when we take time away from all of our distractions to actually listen.

Thanks for sharing your story.

Diana Flegal said...

You eloquently expressed my heart also.I went to bible college, spent time on the mission field and served as a pastors wife.I was blessed by it all but what God had for me to do changed as well. One day I had a talk with Him and said, can I be paid to read Lord? I love to read. In fact that is something I am really good at. Is this something you gave me a desire for? And here I am, working on the Hartline Team with Joyce, Tamela and Terry and so thrilled to be used to get others words in a place where they can have an impact:-)You rock Terry, and I am so proud to be associated with you and to witness what God has occupied you with. After all, we are to occupy until He comes. We are blessed to be doing this aren't we?

Loree Lough said...

As always, a deeply insightful post. Thanks, Terry. And congratulations on the book of poems. I can hardly wait to read that, too!
Blessings on your weekend,

Sarah Baughman said...

Thank you for this post; I found it encouraging and uplifting. I have loved to write, but for several years I was unable to due to the demands of being a wife, mother, and working. Now that I'm home with the kids, I have found time to write again. I also found that God has been preparing me during that time to be a better writer and a better story-teller, as well as shaping my ideas and thoughts of God and humanity and His love and grace. What a blessing and a privilege to be able to tell others of His mercy in Christ!

Jeanette Levellie said...

Terry: Thanks for clarifying what has often confused me: the difference between a calling and an offering.

May both be blessed of the Lord in your life,

Sandi Rog said...

Terry, thanks for your encouraging post. I wish I could say I write because God "called me" to do it. There are plenty of better writers out there that He can use. He doesn't "need" me. But I do love to write! And because I want to please Him, I write for Him. Okay, in all honesty, there is a book I completed that was totally for me. But I've come back to it and twisted it, cut it, and revamped it until I knew He'd approve (yes, sometimes my tastes aren't what they should be, or so I discovered). Now the novels I'm working on are truly for Him, and I hope He likes them. Not that He needs entertainment. It's just so much fun to serve Him in this way. Ya know? And when I get stuck on a sentence, a word, a pargraph or a chapter, I just give Him a call and He helps me out. Don't know why. You'd think He has more important things to do with His time. Maybe He thinks it's fun too?

Okay, enough rambling. Terry, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. And if we're truly in the end times, I better get back to writing before my time runs out! Heck, we can't take these material things with us to heaven, BUT . . . we'll have our memory, won't we? If I don't finish my stories while I'm on earth, I'll just share them with Him verbally when I get up there. LOL! Maybe he'll decide to hold off on ending time. He knows how I can TALK.

writer jim said...

Mr. Burns:

I appreciate, and agree with your words. Thanks

writer jim said...

Actually, I'm curious.
I've noticed agents say that if a writer says God TOLD them to write a book; there query would be disregarded. Do you feel that way too, or do you actually believe God does tell some people to do specific things...even write a book? Thanks

Terry Burns said...

I do believe God tells us to do things ie the "calling versus offering" that I was talking about. When agents say this most of the time they are talking about people who think God gave it to them verbatum and nothing can be changed. I believe the last time this happened was when He directly participated in writing the Bible. From that time when God wants a book written He inspires or calls the person to do it, provides the inspiration, gives strong moral and spiritual direction, and very much controls the content of the book. However, I believe He expects the person to have the skill to do it and even get whatever help and editing that they need to make the book what it needs to be to serve Him. The ones that are immediately discounted are the people who say they they were given to them as is and cannot be changed in any manner. However, God has from time to time changed the way He works and if somebody contacts me with something that the finger of God wrote on the wall as he did in the Book of Daniel I will surely represent it and will fight to see not a single word or comma is changed.

writer jim said...

Mr. Burns, Sir:

I'm amazed. You are very kind to answer my question...and that was my first comment on your blog. Your answer made me laugh at times...and yet it was also EXACTLY what I believe your response should be.

When a person fully obeys God, they sometimes are surprised by how wonderfully involved the Almighty is in peoples' lives today. God bless you.