Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith is an award winning writer, newspaper reporter, TV producer, playwright, and essayist. His work has appeared in a variety of places, from Haunts magazine to Zondervan's New Men's Devotional Bible. A three time winner of the American Christian Writers Association Writer of the Year award, he is also a speaker, musician, worship leader, ordained United Methodist minister, and a pretty fair banjo picker.

thomas Smith

God Said So

Secular and Christian publishers face similar issues: tight deadlines; print runs; where to put the advertising dollars to get the best returns; how to spot new trends; how to find a real gem in the middle of the slush pile; and how to attract new readers in a sound-bite world.

Even with all the similarities, Christian publishers have a rather unique problem to deal with.


Okay, God is not the actual problem. In fact, most people in Christian publishing circles are quite fond of God, talk to Him on a regular basis, and know His Son on a first-name basis.

The real headache lies in their dealings with writers who approach publishing as if God is their exclusive agent. And while it is appropriate and important for writers to ask God’s blessing on their work, some folks confuse Supreme Being and Supreme Agent. And that can lead to some interesting letters.

Generally they start something like this:

Dear Editor:

I am writing to offer you the opportunity to publish my novel titled, Buffy the Vampire Slayer Meets Godzilla at the Little House on the Prairie. It runs 500,000 words and is the first part of a trilogy. God told me to send the manuscript to you personally, so I know you will want to publish it as soon as possible . . .

Or it may be a little more straightforward: Dear Editor:

God gave me this story and then told me I was supposed to send it to you. You may send me the check and a contract today, and I will send you the story as soon as I finish it.

In the immortal words of Larry the Cable Guy, “If I’m lying I’m crying, and I ain’t shed a tear.” In fact, I’ll bet you a signed photo of Steve Laube and two used Brandilyn Collins typewriter ribbons that some editors and agents who are reading this column right now can pull a few such letters out of their files.

What these writers seem to forget is that if God told them to send the project to a specific person at a specific publishing house at a specific time, it’s not likely He would forget to tell the editor the project is on the way.

Please understand I am not making fun of writers who put God at the center of their writing. In fact, if we as Christians write anything from a book to a bumper sticker, the first thing we should do is to ask God’s blessing on our efforts. If God is not front and center in our lives and work, then neither one will have anything of lasting value to say, and both will be doomed.

Most certainly God guides and directs our actions and our efforts as writers, but the sad truth is we sometimes get so carried away with writing for God that we forget we are still expected to edit the work, do market research, and carry out the business of writing. If we do our part, God will do His. And we won’t have to tell anyone that He was the source of the effort.

It will show.

On a similar note, I have heard a lot of people at writers’ conferences and on online e-mail loops agonizing about their call to write. Are they called to be writers or not?

I know how tough a call to ministry can be. I am an ordained United Methodist minister and I served churches in North Carolina and Georgia for fifteen years before moving into this aspect of ministry. I remember being a high school student and telling God I wasn’t sure if I was called to the ministry or if I was doing the calling myself because so many people just assumed I would enter the ministry.

So I told God I was certainly willing. I just wanted to be sure He was the one doing the calling. Six years later I knew. And I didn’t agonize over it very much after I made the decision to let Him handle it. I just followed Him as best I could and trusted that the same God who created the heavens and the earth could get through to me if He needed to. My job was to be the best follower I could be.

So don’t make the question harder than it has to be. If you feel called to write, then write and dedicate your effort to God. If you’re not sure you’re called to write, but you enjoy it, then write and dedicate your effort to God. Ask for His guidance and write for His glory.

I’ve never heard of a case where someone asked God’s blessing, did something positive for His glory, and realized He didn’t want it.

Maybe instead of worrying about telling folks, “God told me to . . .” we should just do what we do for Him and let it stand on its own.