fiction is modern-day parables. I have some friends who said, “Our
books are clean enough to go into a Christian bookstore, but they
don’t. What makes a Christian fiction
I told them that it’s not what’s
not in the book (language, sex, or gratuitous violence) that makes the
difference, but what’s in it: some degree of faith content. There are
also two types of Christian fiction: those that encourage and entertain
the faithful, and those that are for nonbelievers and to possibly plant
a seed. The second case is what I want to talk about today.
There is a difference
between a calling and an offering.
There are two ways to write for
the Lord: to be called, or to choose to write, in which case it is an
offering. If we are called to write, God will prepare us, but it will
happen in His time. Not only will He prepare the story, He will prepare
the author. If we have decided to do write, we will do it out of our
own ability, and our works will be well received if we do them right
and if our intentions are something He approves of.
There is a difference
in writing for consumption by the faithful and in trying to reach an
In the first case, the faith
content should be strong and broached early. In the second case, the
goal is to get readers hooked into the story before showing faith
content. Coming under conviction is a difficult thing even for
believers. It can push nonbelievers out of a story and make them put
down the book. That content should never be aimed AT them, but they
should be witnessing what you want them to see in the interaction
between the characters.
The story is king.
Parables were entertaining. The
object was to interest the hearers until they figured out what they
meant. The object of Christian fiction is the same. Whether we are
entertaining or encouraging a believer, or trying to interest an
unbeliever and get them committed to reading the story before they
realize there’s faith content, the story has to pull them in and keep
them reading. The message should never overshadow the story.
our faith to ourselves.
The reader should never realize
we are sharing our own faith. That’s for the more overtly religious
books: devotionals, commentaries, studies, witnessing, and so on. If
our goal is to reach out to nonbelievers, we should not be in a hurry
to share that faith. I’m not talking about misleading them but to get
them committed to the story before we start showing faith content so
they will keep reading. The degree of content is
matter how much we might want to do it, we are not going to take
someone from no faith to a decision for the Lord in one little story.
If we overdo it, we will probably push them out of the book. There are
those who sow and those who harvest, and it is very rare that those of
us who write get to be in on the harvest. Most of the time we are
planting seeds that someone else will nurture and still someone else
will harvest. But it takes all three.
How about quoting
Of course if it fits the story.
But there aren’t that many people
know Scripture word for word and
can give the exact chapter and verse, right? People who talk about
Scripture in conversation paraphrase it, don’t they? Then when
actually reading Scripture, I make it word for word with
the chapter and verse. That makes it far more realistic, although some
publishers differ with me on it. but not to the point of changing it,
What is our goal for
A secular writer who doesn’t
have sales in the five figures doesn’t have a successful book. A
Christian writer who sold only one book but it changed somebody’s life
is a success. That doesn’t mean we don’t want to sell more. We all want
our books in as many hands as possible, and I’m sure all of us would
like to have a little financial reward as well, but for most of us,
money is not the primary motivation. In order for us to have the
greatest possible witness with our words, it’s necessary for us to be
very businesslike with our approach to getting those books out, even if
money is not our primary motivation.
Must a book absolutely
have a message?
No. A first book probably does
for a writer to get established as a Christian writer. Once
established, books can have varying degrees of faith from a very strong
message to none at all. We need good Christian entertainment too.
The last thing I want to mention
is God’s timing. If God has called us to use our writing for Him, then
it will be done in His timing. Sometimes it can take longer to get
published if we are writing under a calling than if we are trying to do
it as an offering. Why? If it is a calling, He is going to prepare us
and help us, but until our writing is what He wants, and until we are
what He wants us to be, publishing is not going to happen. Hey, after
all, every one of the significant people in the Bible, including Jesus
Himself, were prepared for the task God had in mind for them before
they went to work. Why would we expect to be any different?