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Sunday, July 28, 2013

How to Write for the Glory of God

If you are a writer who is a Christian and have been involved in discussions with like-minded writers, I'm sure you've heard this statement before: "My goal in writing is to glorify God."

I'm not saying this isn't a valid goal, but that it gets misused. In short, my response might be, "That doesn't means what you think it means." Here are three of the messages sent by that statement that I see as misusing it.

If you're writing for any other reason, you're on the wrong track.

In confusing overall vision with purpose-goals (more on that in a bit), people tend to dismiss any other reason—like entertainment—as an inferior goal that denies the goal of glorifying God.

Quality doesn't matter since I'm doing it for God.

Most people probably don't literally mean this or wouldn't come out and say this, but it is the message sent if the statement is in response to someone's goal to improve their writing or set a high bar for quality work. Some do use the phrase to mask laziness.

Any story that fails to present the Gospel and refer, allude, or represent Jesus is failing to write for the glory of God, and is inferior.

The phrase tends to be code words for "true Christian writing" that directly promotes God and the gospel in the proper way. I'm not saying this type of writing should be avoided (I've written some of it), but that can be a worse witness to God than a story that never mentions Him. Being overtly Christian in content does not qualify as glorifying God.

In my experience, people who use that phrase often don't fully understand what they are saying or they wouldn't use it when they do.

The key point often missed is the route to glorifying God in our writing is by successfully fulfilling the purpose of the work.

It should be obvious and clear that not just our writing, but our whole life should be done for the glory of God. Therefore, that isn't a goal for a specific part of our life, but a purpose for all our lives. But how does any one part fulfill that life-vision?

Let's use the example of our driving. Yes, our driving should glorify God. How does it do that? By successfully navigating one's passengers to their destination as safely as possible. By obeying traffic laws out of consideration for others' safety. By acting as if everyone else on the road is more important than yourself. To let your light shine through your actions. By effectively and successfully fulfilling the purpose of driving a vehicle: to get people and cargo safely and efficiently to their destinations, including others on the road, in a Christ-like manner.

We glorify God when we effectively fulfill the purpose of a task in a manner that provides a good witness to what God has done in our lives. To look at it from another angle, what we do, we do unto God. So whether one is witnessing, singing, cooking, reading, or writing, we give our best offering unto God in each task.

For fiction, what is its purpose? For some writers, they admit to only writing to please themselves. They don't care if anyone else is ever interested in reading it or have any message they wish to communicate to the masses. For them, if the story pleases them, it has fulfilled its purpose. But still, what is that purpose?

It is the same as anyone who picks up a work of fiction to read: to be entertained. Whether your audience is yourself or a group of readers, the main purpose of a fiction story is to entertain that audience. If it fails to do that much, if fails to fulfill its purpose.

"But I'm a reader, and I like fiction with a message." All well and good. I'm not saying other goals cannot exist alongside entertaining your audience. Rather, if your story is boring, doesn't engage the reader, few are those who will ever read that message. It is unlikely you'll continue reading a message oriented story if you find it boring and bland, no matter how much you prefer message-oriented fiction.

If fiction fails to entertain, it fails at everything else, including glorifying God. Because that is the main point of reading fiction. In some cases, not entertaining can be a bad witness for God, especially if it includes a gospel presentation or uses Jesus as a character.

It is the equivalent of putting a Christian bumper sticker on your vehicle and driving rudely. You'll do more damage to God's glory than help it.

In effect, not to have entertainment as the primary goal of writing fiction is to fail to glorify God. Being entertaining doesn't mean it replaces the purpose of glorifying God in your writing. It means it supports it.

That is why as a fiction author, my goal is to first entertain. Doesn't mean there aren't other issues of content that could effect how well a story glorifies God. Only that if I fail to be entertaining, I've already lost that battle no matter how well I execute the rest.

Instead, I allow God to use a story for whatever message He might have for people, even if it is to plant a seed, make someone realize being a Christian doesn't equate with boring, inferior stories, or whatever. Because if my work doesn't get read, whatever messages I have will not be heard.

For me, that does not glorify God. To fulfill that goal, I have to write engaging and entertaining fiction stories.

How do your goals in writing support glorifying God in your stories?

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