Thursday, April 21, 2011

Will Write for Right Profit

DAY 44 OF 46 - Maundy Thursday

Here's a joke for you: How do you get a professional theological blogger off your porch?

Answer: Pay him for the pizza!


For the past year, I've been using this blog as a resume in the hopes of landing some sort of writing job. Along the way, I've relied on a heavy dose of critiques, criticisms, and exhortations regarding contemporary Christianity for topics.

Perhaps not surprisingly, although most of what I've written on this blog has done a good job of expressing my opinions, it has failed to resonate well with most people who've read it.

It did help me land a monthly spot on the Singles channel of, for which I've been extremely grateful. But to be honest, this opportunity owes at least as much to my good friendship with the editor of that channel, and her willingness to give me a shot, as any writing skill of mine.

Lessons Learned

Nevertheless, a monthly article on a well-respected evangelical website does not a writing career make. That's become one of the big lessons I've learned from this 16-month blogging experiment. My editor at Crosswalk says a lot of what I write is "sticky content," meaning it's not easily ignored or considered irrelevant. So I have plodded on, hoping that some employer needing a writer will get stuck to my style.

Not that my style is for everybody. I realize that I've got enough New England frugality in me to be blunt, and enough New Yorker moxie in me not to really care. Yet I also have just enough Texas swagger in me to want to try and impress you anyway.

Another thing I've learned has been that most Christians don't really like thinking about why they do the things they do. Many of us tolerate restrictions on what we consider to be fun because we assume that's part of suffering for Christ. Sure, we eagerly absorb heady teachings of celebrity preachers and other professional Christians, but it's like perverting the cycle of osmosis - what first gets absorbed into our soul gets re-absorbed back into the world after it doesn't find a place in our lifestyle. We tend not to like the sticky stuff that we can't shake off; the challenging bits that make us ponder, evaluate, reassess, and maybe even - gasp! - change.

Which, combined with my New England starkness and New York frankness, has exasperated my Texas-bred desire to be liked, because the issues about which I've chosen to write and the positions I've taken aren't widely appreciated by most people. No surprises there. I kinda knew that going in. What has surprised me, however, is the reluctance of most people to reconsider things they haven't really thought out well for themselves to begin with.

Microscopic Beads of Sweat

Consider, for example, one of the most stubborn fallacies of the modern evangelical church: that the only place unsaved people should hear the Gospel proclaimed is, well, in church.

That has been one of the biggest justifications for the distressingly irrelevant seeker-sensitive movement. And even as Reformed theology trends back into mainstream evangelicalism, the abdication of personal evangelism seems to continue unabated.

Now, when I use the term "personal evangelism," a number of people automatically flinch, or wince, or have microscopic beads of sweat pop out across their forehead. Right? You react the same way I do when I hear an electric guitar in a corporate worship service! But at least I'm justified in my negative response; nowhere in the Bible is illegitimate sound supported as a legitimate way to praise our Lord. Yet exhortations for personal evangelism run rampant.

Hey - I used to be scared about personal evangelism, too. Until I realized that all of us who are saved do it every day, whether we realize it or not. Except some of us are more effective at communicating the truth of Christ than others, and some of us don't communicate much of anything edifying at all.

From the jokes we crack to the jokes we laugh at, from the way we treat subordinates to the way we interact with employers, and from the way we drive to the reasons why we speed; these all become part of the dialog regarding our view of the Gospel that we share with people around us.

Those of us who rely more on our culture than the Gospel for affirmation, fulfilment, direction, and inspiration probably do a worse job of modeling the Fruit of the Spirit that we could.

And when I try to point out that cultural benchmarks and trends don't provide the valid guideposts we believers should be using in our faith walks, I get all these blank stares.

Although we're taught to dislike making judgment calls on one culture over another, don't we make those hierarchical values every day anyway? Most middle-class wage earners consider the ghetto thug culture bad, but talk about discriminating against certain cultural influences in church, and people think you're intolerant.


What Barbara Mandrell Taught Me

As I compose my essays for this blog, and my articles for Crosswalk, I try to combine just enough unbiased logic with a hearty dollop of honest-to-goodness truth. For the most part, I'm not writing anything new.  I'm just rephrasing stories of life from my personal perspective. I have not tried to invent new terms or launch new philosophies, except for the brilliant artwork of Christoph Neimann, whose genre I coined as "digital colloquialism."

Can I tell you a secret?  I know I'm not the world's best writer.  I remember an interview given by country-western singer Barbara Mandrell back in the mists of time, when she was at the height of her fame.  She freely admitted that she wasn't the world's best singer.  She wasn't even in the top 100.  But she could sing, and she wasn't half bad.  Which put her right in the middle of thousands of other people with good talent, but whom none of us knew.  Mandrell said that what made her a star wasn't her being the best singer in the business, but being an exceptionally savvy marketer and promoter of herself.

Of course, you can draw all sorts of inferences from the fact that hardly anybody born in the last 20 years knows who Barbara Mandrell is.  And since Mandrell herself was banking her career on publicity instead of incomparable talent, perhaps she knew she had to make hay while she could.

Well, I don't even own my own field yet, so making hay seems a little out of the question. And I'm not crazy about the marketing part of Mandrell's story.

But I've been told I have the grain needed to make the hay.  I've just gotta figure out where to find a field.

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