Blogger: Mary Keeley
Unless you’re an ostrich or a hermit it’s been impossible to ignore the plethora of cultural differences being expressed this year. Opposing worldviews are at the root of the divergence. Michael Boyle, Associate Professor of Pastoral Studies at Moody Theological Seminary (Moody Bible Institute), gave our Sunday school class eight charges on how Christians should engage with today’s culture. He was gracious to grant me permission to share them with you because the applications for Christian writers are important.
We shouldn’t be shocked that Christians are now a minority group in our once Judeo-Christian country. The Apostle Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 4:3–4 are more current today than ever before: “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”
Paul prefaced his warning in verses 1–2: “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”
The implication for Christian writers today is to engage with the culture in ways that draw readers toward Christ rather than giving them a reason to accuse us of being hypocrites, intolerant, and judgmental. It’s the highest goal for writers, and all of us who work in Christian publishing.
But the methods of a generation ago don’t work for today’s culture. I’m going to divide Professor Boyle’s direction into two blog posts so as not to overwhelm our processing and discussion of each one. Here now are the first four.
- Our battle isn’t against people but the spiritual forces of wickedness (from Ephesians 6:12). Are you like me in that often when faced with rival perspectives my human inclination is to respond defensively? As if God needs defending. For writers this might mean simply presenting truth as truth, whether in a self-help or Christian living book or through a characters’ reflection of character and behavior in your novel. No need for supporting explanations, which can come across as preachy to readers.
- When we suffer for our beliefs, we stand firm with gentleness and respect (from the Book of Daniel). Daniel gives us a vivid example during his captivity and service to Nebuchadnezzar. Always looking out for the king’s best interest, he quietly refrained from the lures of the Babylonian culture surrounding him, which brought glory to God. Daniel provides a measuring stick for Christian writers. Assess your work. If possible, ask a non-Christian friend if your book sounds preachy or if at least one of your novel’s characters reflects the qualities Daniel exhibited.
- Make the most of every opportunity by speaking with grace and that which is appropriate for that person (from Colossians 4). How well do you know your audience? Effective reflection of truth will be different for Millennials and Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers. Study your reader demographic to understand their priorities and concerns.
- We are to do good to ALL (from Galatians 6:10). How many times have you unwittingly said something that could be perceived as offensive or hurtful? I need to think back only a couple of weeks myself. We’re all works in progress in this area. This isn’t a reference to the ridiculous extreme of political correctness we deal with today, but rather to kindness and sensitivity. Next time you read through your draft, look for places one of your characters has an opportunity to reflect this better without messing with your plot.
What are your thoughts when considering these first four points? As I listened to Professor Boyle encourage us in each of these areas, my sense of purpose was renewed and I just knew I have to share them with you. What is your reaction? Do these first four items renew your special purpose as a writer?
Engaging with readers is different for Christian writers than it was a generation ago. Click to Tweet.