Friday, March 13, 2009

The Dirty Secret of "Christian" Publishing

But seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. – Matthew 6:33

The other day Rachelle Gardner blogged about preparing for success in publishing. The point of the post was that once an author signs a contract with a publisher there will be demands placed on the author’s time. Near the middle of her post she writes:

Do you participate in several church or social activities (Bible study, weekly golf date, book club, whatever)? Understand you may need to curtail them for a season... or permanently.

First, let me say that anyone who chooses to write is not going to be able to do that without changing one’s schedule. If nothing else, an author will end up watching less television or reading fewer books. That goes with the territory. The problem I see here is the recommendation that a Christian author remove herself from church activities, including Bible study, “for a season…or permanently.”

We could say that this is a matter of priorities. If it is, I will say that no publisher--I don’t care if it is Abingdon or B & H, Thomas Nelson or Zondervan-- out there that can hold a candle to South Park Baptist Church. Even if were able to touch millions through my writing, that would be secondary to the efforts of the local New Testament church in which the Lord has placed me. Jesus could have established a publishing house, but he established a church and told them to share the gospel with those around them. Publishing is a wonderful thing, but only if it enhances the work of the local church. But it is more than priorities.

You’ve heard the advice, write what you know. That is more than advice. That is definition of what a writer does. If a writer doesn’t have experiences to draw from, he has nothing to write. There must be a balance. A writer must write, but he must also find time to spend with people. If he doesn’t, he will lose his ability to relay those social interactions to his readers. That golf game with his buddies may be as much a part of his writing as the time he spends typing his novel.

When we look at church activities, it is similar to other activities, but it is more. Many Christians have gotten the notion church attendance and Christian service are the same thing. A Christian might rise on Sunday morning and say, “I’m going to church to serve the Lord.” She goes to midweek Bible study and says, “I’m going to church to serve the Lord.” If Bible study is Christian service then there is no harm in trading one type of Christian service for another. Isn’t writing a Christian book a form of Christian service? Then there is no harm in replacing time spent at church with time spent working on the book. Or is there? We all know that Hebrews 10:25 tells us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together, but why?

Let us hold fast to the profession of our faith without wavering (for He is faithful who promised), and let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as ye see the Day approaching. – Hebrews 10:23-25

Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works. Why are churches to assemble? Because by doing so the members of the church help each other to hold fast in their faith, to love and to do good works. Church attendance is not the good works the writer of Hebrews is talking about. Churches are like a power source from which we recharge our batteries so that we can go out into the world and do the work that God has called us to. Good churches keep us on track and doctrinally sound. As Christian writers, we are putting words out there in an attempt to tell people something about God. If there is anyone who needs what church attendance and Bible study provides, don’t Christian writers need it more than anyone? Instead of putting aside church attendance, Bible study and church social activities when we get that big contract and struggle to find the time to meet our deadline, we need more than ever to immerse ourselves in the Word and surround ourselves with other believers, so that the stress of the situation doesn’t give Satan the opportunity to use our words as a weapon for his own purposes or to discourage us to the point we are unable to serve the Lord.

If the demands of Christian publishing are such that they pull Christian authors away from their churches, then this truly is a dirty secret. The end result can only be that Christian publishers will be plagued with authors whose writing is hollow, theologically inaccurate and harmful to weak Christians.