The Art of Witness, or a Huge Can of Worms

This week, our dear Kat Heckenbach attacked the topic of Christian writers attacking Christian writers in her post titled Put Down Your Sword…And Write.

Then it sort of blew up.

The comments I read were all on topic and graciously civil. I thank the readers of NAF for that. I mean, why attack each other when commenting to a post asking us all to just get along, live and let live, bloom where you’re planted, write the story God gives you, etc. ad infinitum?

I’m not mocking Kat. I promise. I loved her point, and it seems our readers did, too.

Her follow-up came Saturday with Christian Fishbowl. Another excellent post using, of all things, math to validate her argument that you may not find exactly what you want to find in a Christian bookstore. Only Kat could make math interesting. Well, maybe the Lioness could.


Kat’s first post stayed with me. I jotted some notes at work, of all places, and I’ll try to put them in some semblance of order here.

“Focus determines reality.” That’s what Qui Gon would have said to Anakin in The Phantom Menace if anyone dared to edit George Lucas. As writers, when writing, where is our focus?

If it’s on witnessing, should we aim our books at a secular market, ’cause that’s where the lost are found (I may get arguments on that. HA!)? Why preach to a choir? If you have a gritty story that demonstrates God’s love in a hard, “real-life” way non-Christians will understand, why are you worried about presenting it to, as Kat called them, the “fluff” crowd? They don’t want to read it.

If it’s on ministering to the “fluff” crowd, why worry about getting published in a secular market? Or being called “fluffy” by the outsiders? Hey, you’ve got the numbers on your side. Be a gracious winner.

Kat’s original point is she’s written on both sides of The Fence. Why shouldn’t she? If writing a harder story gets the unsaved interested in her writing, doesn’t that open a door for them to read her more overtly “Christian” stories? If her “fluffier” stuff (not that you’re fluffy, Kat) attracts fluffier readers, may they not benefit from seeing her reflected light in a darker setting?

I thought of Paul’s testimony in Galatians, chapters one and two, specifically. He tells how Jesus Himself gave him (Paul) the gospel to preach, and he went and preached it without confirmation from the authorities of the time, the Apostles. When the Apostles heard about it, they praised God (Gal 1:24).

I’m not saying all writing claiming to be Christian is. I’m not even saying all Christians will write stories approved by God (and if that doesn’t get some comments, nothing will). I am saying if God is in the writing, why are we seeking approval from man? Or the secular market, or the Christian market? Just write. God will take care of the rest.

One last point I feel compelled to make.

If you claim to be a Christian and you write, I encourage you to read, read, read… your Bible. Call me a legalist, but the Bible is the revealed word of God. Reading it, studying it, memorizing it, meditating on it is the best possible way to know it and share it with your audience, whoever that happens to be.

We’ll all stand before God one day. He’s the only Judge of our writing that counts. Write for Him and you may be surprised by the explosion of blessing.

About Robynn Tolbert

Born in Kansas and born again at age six, Robynn has published two novels and started her third. Robynn, aka Ranunculus Turtle, lives in Kansas with a clowder of cats, a patient dog and a garden.

25 comments on “The Art of Witness, or a Huge Can of Worms

  1. Yep, big ole fat can of worms. Thanks for adding your thoughts, Robynn! You are right on that putting God first is the key.

    Oh, and check out Mike Duran’s blog post from today. It touches on your “last point” about reading the Bible. http://mikeduran.com/?p=13098

  2. Thanks for the link. I’ve added Mike to my Blogs I Follow. Haven’t read his books, but he’s certainly willing to tackle the hard stuff on his blog in a calm, rational, civil way. Good for him. And good for you, m’dear.

  3. This article made me think of something else: that we should know our readers. If you are writing to the lost, then you should know the lost (not from a distance, but upfront and personal). And if you are writing for the Christian market, then know the Christians you are reaching (note here: not all Christians are alike, and not everyone wants a buggy and bonnet book).

    I bring this up because it amazes me the people who say they want to reach the lost, but have never really met the lost. There are even church planters who when finally asked, said they had never really mingled with the lost.

    How can you write to the lost if you don’t know their world? (not saying you have to go deep into the dark, but at least know their world… don’t just think you know it).

    And know the crowd of Christians you are writing for. After years of sitting on the fence, not sure who my audience was, I finally came to realize that for this particular series, I am writing for a Christian audience (the 20-30 crowd who are into speculative).

  4. I’ve found all these posts — Kat’s, Mike’s and Robynn’s — a very interesting conversation. So I asked myself to which audience do I write? And the answer … well, I dunno. I guess I just write what I want to write and whoever wants to read it, go right ahead. Granted, the main character finds a Bible — so it does get preachy. But I like your comment, Robynn — “Just write. God will take care of the rest.”

    Sounds like a plan to me!

  5. Great post, Princess Turtle.

    I’m not saying all writing claiming to be Christian is. I’m not even saying all Christians will write stories approved by God

    Isn’t that the truth. No finger pointing, but I have thought this very thing a time or two.

    • Ah, but who’s to debate that anyway? You might be surprised what I deem religiously crossing the line and that’s stuff that other people praise as by the Bible, let alone where different people draw their lines in the sand on “edgy”/”worldly”.

      I actually find it funny sometimes to have people worry about my stuff but then they tackle stuff that I would never touch.

      • You’re right, Ren. Hypocrisy is as much the human condition as condemnation.

        However, I believe Christians are called to hold each other accountable. We are family and we know, by Biblical standards, how we are to behave, first by Christ’s example and then by the explanations of the Apostles trained by Christ. Accountability must always be motivated by the love of Christ. There is a difference between “edgy” and “wrong.” We know the difference by dedicated study of the Bible and the discernment offered by the Spirit. Many things billed as “wrong” are often just “different,” but occasionally things billed as “edgy” are just wrong.

        That little paragraph could easily become its own book, but the caveat I have with “tell the story God gave you” is how often it can be used to justify doing whatever you want and calling it God’s will. I would say in those instances, the proof is in the fruit.

        This is the root of the debate for me between those who want their fiction “pure” in a doctrinal sense and those who want to challenge with different perspectives. Both have good reasons for their position but both should proceed with care and consideration for their fellow man, Christian or not.

        I can only say, when I encounter a story that sets off my spiritual warning bells, whether billed as secular or Christian, I put it down. “All things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial.” I’m learning to walk away from the “not beneficial.” Not learning fast enough in some cases, but learning. 🙂

  6. Just found this site and began following in the last few days.
    I am a little surprised to hear a lot of “why I write” “who I write to” …I, I, I
    I guess when I felt called by God to write, I also thought I should ask him to whom shall I write and what shall I write. I hope that as Christians we constantly seek His will and not our own.
    As Christians if we seek his will…and believe we are doing that which He wants us to do….then, no questions asked. And I do believe he has many different ways for us to write, and many different different people for us to reach.
    I think we should become prayer warriors for one another. The act of writing can quickly and easily become a little prideful (ok, very prideful) and it takes constant submission to His will. I’d love to know another Christian author is praying for me, that I will remain his will in my writerly life!

    I am in the very early stage of being called, just writing my own little blog. I already felt ME trying to take over and change what He asked me to do, and for now it is just to write from the heart, just to share my journey. But as I mentioned to someone else this weekend, I do not think He is leaving me here. He is only preparing me for what is to come.

    In Christ’s love my fellow writers!

    • I can tell you’re new, or you’d know “it’s all about me.” hehe!
      Sorry. It’s a running gag in my life.

      You sound serious, so I’ll try to join you there, because you’re right. A Christian’s purpose is to glorify God, but human nature is to focus on self. It is a constant war in this life.

      I’ve never considered my decision to write “a calling.” Not until recently. I just wanted to write good, clean books I wanted to read. I’m learning I rarely know what God has planned until way after the fact. I now hope my desire to write good, clean books is something He intended to use for His glory all along.

      Intercessory prayer is one of God’s real blessings. I pray regularly for my fellow NAF authors, my regular readers, my critique partners – pretty much those I’ve met along my journey to publication. There are so many people who love God and want to do His will. Our fallen nature allows us to connect with our fellow humans; our God gives us something real to say.
      Be blessed, m’dear. Welcome to the swamp.

      • I guess I did sound a little too serious…didn’t mean to. You nailed it here…that constant battle. I did want you to know, the I, I , I part was not directed at you, it was at all of us. I agree with you, we all stand in this flesh, all wanting it our way.
        So…I think I will just sit back, take in the swamp, get my feet wet, check out the “voice” of things around here. I tend to jump in a little too quick…
        Good stuff to think about!

  7. Hey, Writerly Wanna Be! Welcome to the writer-world! I’d like to share a link where I think you could get lots of encouragement for the journey!

    http://www.acfw.com/index.php/ This is the American Christian Fiction Writers main landing page, and–we have a prayer loop! 😀

    Robynn, I really do struggle with focus! Grrrrrr. (did you really have to discuss that right now?) Still, thank you for your thoughtful and timely post. I’m going to have to focus focus focus on some harder things to do today. It won’t be easy. I’m short on sleep. But–needful; OH YES. I wish they were writing-related. HUGS

    • Thanks for that info Krysti…I will keep that in mind. I am assuming you have to be a member to get in on the prayer loop?

    • Krysti, I have the phrase “Focus Determines Reality” in big, bold letters on my computer desk, but it often gets covered up by sleeping cats. hehe!

      I’m glad God used me to poke at ‘cha today. Take a nap and get back on track! 😉

      • Thanks, Robynn, I did! (take a nap, that is)

        Writerly Wanna Be; yes, you have to be a member to join the prayer loop, and other discussion loops. I think it’s about $45/first year; $40 every year after that, or something like that. Unless it’s gone up again this year, but I don’t remember paying more, so… 😉

        We’d make you welcome!

  8. Great post Princess Turtle,…I truly loved your post and am so glad you are as pretty on the inside as you are on the outside…..thanks for your wisdom.

    Mama Turtle

  9. Writerly Wanna Be , I am praying for you…WITH you. His will is what I longed for. What I cried out for. I asked Him many, many times, since I was 15 to “be real” in my life. He always showed up to make the intangible request…well, tangible.

    Before writing, before publishing, before “royalty checks” I wanted, I want, to be like Him. Amen to Robynn for saying read. the. Bible.

    He is The Author. He is the Word. For me…it is my destiny to write. It is His will to be like Him. To share Him. To love like Him. IN that Bible, He tells us these things. He asks us.

    I want to speak to the choir. And the thugs. To the straight-laced and the rascals. I want tell the “straights” as well as they “gays” that Jesus…Jesus is love.

    I’ve been noticed. Well, Christ in me. And THAT beats anything I could ever accomplish on my own. I was told, I make Christians look good. WHAT??? I bowed my head in humility. I teared. I WANT to be like Him. I want others to SEE Christ REAL in ME…I was like a child seeking his Father’s approval. “Daddy, see me Daddy? Am I doing it???”

    —In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. Matthew 5:16 NLT—

    I know, I believe I’m doing just that. But it’s not about me…it’s about Him.

    “As Christians if we seek his will…and believe we are doing that which He wants us to do….then, no questions asked. And I do believe he has many different ways for us to write, and many different different people for us to reach.”


  10. My Dearest Turtle,

    Ditto on what Mama turtle said! Great post!

  11. Read the Bible? What? You mean the story of the Ultimate creator and master guider of all the plotlines of history? Or do you mean the history book following the real journey of a culture, through creation and all their human stumblings and rise and fall patterns?

    Seriously, any writer who doesn’t know their Bible is really missing out on some of the most classic, loved, tragic and moving stories in the world. You know what they say, truth is stranger than fiction. If the Bible is “just a story”, the writer(s) is a master story crafter. Just saying.

  12. […] yesterday, Robynn brought in a different topic—that of reading your Bible if you’re going to be writing […]

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