How to Be a Christian Author without Embarrassing God
Tony Campolo wrote a book a while back titled Following Jesus without Embarrassing God. In it Campolo challenged Christians to let go of practices and attitudes that had very little to do with Jesus. Campolo’s goal was for more of Jesus to come through.
As an editorial director for Baker Publishing Group I work almost exclusively with Christian authors, which is both my joy and my passion. Every day I get to help authors write about the most sublime and sacred truths the world has ever known.
That’s why I want to write this post. Sometimes we Christians do things that make the rest of the world squirm, including other Christians. We are good news people, but sometimes we get in the way of the good news, and that includes me.
So, with a nod to Tony Campolo, I humbly submit the following ways to be a Christian author without embarrassing God.
Don’t say, “God told me your publishing house is supposed to publish my book.”
Whether God did or not, you don’t have to tell us about it. Honestly it freaks publishing people out, and we’re tempted to say back to you, “God told us to run away from you!”
One of the most powerful things we Christians can do is faithfully and transparently tell others why we believe. Avoid putting on airs.
Stop proof texting.
Proof texting is when you pull Scripture out of your butt to serve your own needs and make you sound smart or spiritual. Don’t do that. Have some respect for the text. Keep it contextual and organic.
Find some friends with whom you can be real about your struggles.
The thing I’ve noticed about high-profile Christian authors who end up in the news for moral failure is that they lose connection with, or never had, friends with whom they can be real. It can feel so dang risky to share our real stuff with others. Modern culture with its emphasis on the individual and success makes it all the more difficult. Take the risk and do it anyway.
Avoid using big Christian words just for the sake of using them.
There is an appropriate time for terms like justification, sanctification, soteriology, and eschatology. But it is inappropriate and off-putting to use these terms to prove you know them.
Evidence that you care about the world.
One of the most unpleasant things about us Christians is our tendency to stay within our subculture and not engage others who are different from us.
Avoid using Christian subculture language.
Christians are a subculture, and it’s natural for subcultures to develop language that is particular to them. But this language changes over time, it varies from place to place, and its audience is limited. I’m thinking of expressions like “quiet time,” “it blessed me,” and “I just need some time in the Word.” In your writing strive for language that will communicate to the broadest audience possible.
Live a beautiful life.
We Christians make a bold claim. We claim that Jesus is the answer to the world’s problems. If that’s true, we ought to live the most meaningful, beautiful lives. We ought to be able to tell the best stories, harbor the most hope, and be the most self-giving people anyone has ever seen. If you and I live lives like that, people will naturally want to read what we write.
What else can Christian authors do that will reflect well on Christianity? What should they avoid doing?
Chad Allen (@chadrallen) serves as editorial director for Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group. He works with such authors as Mark Batterson, Miles McPherson, Dr. Larry Crabb, Alister McGrath, and Chip Ingram. He blogs about writing, publishing, life, and creativity at www.chadrallen.com and lives with his wife and two young children in Grand Rapids, Michigan.