The role of a Christian publisher

Erik Peterson, a wise man and good friend, handed me this quote from Of God and Men, by A. W. Tozer. Although Tozer was writing about pastors, Erik adapted this excerpt to describe Christian publishers . . .

The Church is God’s witness to each generation, and her publishers are her voice. Through them she becomes vocal. By them she has spoken always to the world, and by them God has spoken to the church herself. The testimony of her godly laymen has ever been a mighty aid in the work she seeks to accomplish. But her laymen can never do, and assuredly are not called to do, the work of her publishers. By gift and calling the Christian publisher is set apart.

It is not enough, however, that the publisher of God print the truth. He has no right to take up a reader’s time telling him what is true merely. It is a doubtful compliment to any book to nod the head and say, “That is true.” The same might properly be said if he were doing no more than reciting the multiplication table. It also is true.

To be effective a book’s message must be alive; it must alarm, arouse, challenge; it must be God’s present voice to a particular people. Then, and not till then, is it the prophetic word and the publisher a prophet.

To fulfill perfectly his calling the publisher must be under the constant sway of the Holy Spirit; and further, he must be alert to moral and spiritual conditions. All spiritual teaching should be related to life. It should intrude into the daily and private living of the readers. Without being personal, the true publisher will yet pierce the conscience of each reader as if the message had been directed to him alone.

To publish the truth it is often necessary that the publisher of God know the people’s hearts better than they themselves do. People are frequently confused and inwardly at cross-purposes. The anointed publisher must speak to this confusion with clarifying wisdom. He must surprise his readers with his unsuspected knowledge of their secret thoughts.

The work of a publisher is, in fine, altogether too difficult for any man. He is driven to God for wisdom. He must seek the mind of Christ and throw himself on the Holy Spirit for spiritual power and mental acumen equal to the task.

— from Of God and Men, by A. W. Tozer (Wingspread Publishers; pgs. 21-22)

Seven reasons to stop reading a novel

Randall Payleitner reads more than I do, and the books he recommends are always worth reading. Here are his thoughts on what’s not worth reading.

(1) It has sustained periods of boringness. Plenty of good books have slow spots, but if you’re fighting sleep or reading pages at a time without retention — maybe it’s time to move on!

(2) It’s offensive. If you don’t want unhealthy moral or spiritual content filling your brain space, don’t let it.

(3) The argument or storyline is weak. Whether the author lacks perspective or rigor, it’s not your problem. If it’s poorly put together, find a better argument elsewhere.

(4) It’s not living up to its billing. When you discover a book isn’t what you signed up for, feel free to let it go.

(5) It’s too long (without good reason). Some of the best books ever written are really long — but they have to earn every word!

(6) It’s irresponsible. There are typos. Half the text is bold or ALL CAPS. The design is confusing. It’s an obvious money grab. When the creators of a project don’t take it seriously, why should you?

(7) You keep thinking of things you’d rather be doing. Unless you’re studying for something, reading is voluntary. If your “gut-feeling” says, I wish I were done with this, grant your own wish.

How to stop reading a novel

A novel may be a friend, companion, and traveling partner — but it’s not a person. If it isn’t working out, let it go! No one will be hurt, and you’ll have more time for the next one.

Here are two ways to walk away from a novel — and tomorrow we’ll explore seven reasons why you should stop reading one (a guest post from Randall Payleitner).

The slow fade . . . 
When a story doesn’t interest me, the characters are artificial, or the writing is vapid, I wander off. Readers can be drawn into anything — even a giant, floating peach. But if the peach isn’t floating your way, drift elsewhere.

Rejection . . . 
I’m patient man, but we all have boundaries. When my good faith interest in a story is violated by a celebration of the intolerable, I don’t drift off. I walk away. Fiction is not theoretical — it’s experiential. The reader lives in the story, and if the story repeatedly violates my convictions, I choose different company. Which is OK. That author probably wouldn’t choose to spend time with me either.

Point of view is not what divides us

Let’s say we’re opposites. Faith, politics, morality, lifestyle. Does that make us opponents? I doubt it. I heard from three outspoken souls last week. Two shared my convictions; the other did not. Here’s what happened:

— One ranted.
— One criticized.
— One engaged my interest and made me think. Even though we disagree.

Our convictions don’t polarize us. It’s how we communicate that drives us apart. Whether writing, speaking, or conversing, be generous with respect. It’s the surest way to make your point — and a friend.

Characterization, Beowulf style

Whether rearing children, growing your soul, or writing a novel, it’s hard to beat this bright line from Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf:

Behavior that’s admired is the path to power among people everywhere (page 5).

When writing for young men

Society can give its young men almost any job and they’ll figure how to do it. They’ll suffer for it and die for it and watch their friends die for it, but in the end, it will get done. That only means that society should be careful about what it asks for.*

When writing or publishing for young men, it’s crucial to visualize what outcomes you’re hoping for. Are they worthy of the readers you’re serving? Are you aiming high enough? Young men, properly motivated, possess an irrepressible will to achieve and prevail. Honoring your reader’s potential is the lynchpin of your message.

* This statement appears on page 154 of War, by Sebastian Junger. A sobering and thought-provoking snapshot of the war in Afghanistan, War also speaks to the nature and strength of America’s young men.

Wanting and doing

Characters want, therefore they do; desire drives the action. It is what makes characters real, and it is the writer’s job to connect the characters’ wants to the reader’s own longings. Like characters, readers want justice, love, redemption, freedom, connection. Desire propels. Mistakes, irrevocable blunders get made. The story quickens.

But while characters want things desperately, only rarely can they have them. Drama lies in the frustration of desires. (From WORD CRAFT: Driven by Desire, by Carol Edgarian)

Does our writing resonate? If our characters breathe, wince, and cheer, our readers will do the same.