f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: On a (New) Scale of 1 to 10 – Ministry or Worship

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

On a (New) Scale of 1 to 10 – Ministry or Worship

Let’s introduce the faith element to the equation in today’s scale. (Remember, these are new scales daily. What happened on yesterday’s scale is irrelevant.)

Many of you, I’m presupposing given the nature of this site, are Christians. Most of you are writers. I know you’re contemplative folks who tend to think things over, so I’m guessing at least once in your life you’ve thought about your writing as it relates to your faith.

So what did you decide?

As an editor, I see a lot of people who’ve decided that their writing is a ministry, a calling, a mission. Sometimes, they go so far as to mention that they’ve been supernaturally alerted to this calling and that I’d do well to heed the will and spirit of God and publish their 1400-page fantasy novel that will no doubt convert all remaining hold-outs. On this scale, these folks are a 1.

A 10 would be someone who would never consider sending me their work. Why would they? It’s not for men. It’s for God. It’s a part of their worship as much as prayer or music or any variety of things. 10s probably aren’t visiting this site, but if they are, a huzzah to you. There’s something understated and nice about people writing things in the quiet of the heart for God’s ears. It’s like locking yourself in a closet to pray rather than beating your breast on the street corner.

After that the scales shift a bit.

From my experience—and this should make all the rational sense in the world—most dedicated unpublished authors are doing this as much out of a sense of “worship” as anything. “I want to be published, but I really just love writing and want to keep doing it.”

Published writers, meanwhile, are confronted by the fact that what may have been conceived in the quiet of their heart is suddenly out in the world, beating its breast on the streetcorner. And depending on the response, it can open your eyes to the ministry of a book.

Ministry is always the trump card in these debates. We can argue all we want about the relative merits of various books but when men and women start writing letters to authors saying, “Your book changed my life. I’m a Christian because of your book,” what can you say in response? To God be the Glory. That’s about it. (Or, if you’re slightly more cynical, you can glom a quote from a coworker of mine who says, “If God can use Balaam’s ass…)

For my part, I’ve written on this topic before…and before again. It’s one of the foundational moments in my “writing career.” I pieced together an essay that was the first thing that went on my author site and later plagiarized myself fully in my blog on a Friday I was too tired to think up anything original.

I think it probably places me at about a 6 or 7 on this scale. I love being published, don’t get me wrong. I love the feedback I have with readers, even the loon who accused me of being a Mormon because I set some flashbacks in Ezekiel’s Shadow amid Zion National Park. But in the end, that’s not what gets me through the writing.

How ‘bout you?