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News for Friday, October 25, 2013

From Both Sides of the Pulpit
Is God Calling You to the Ministry of Writing?
By Johnnie C. Godwin
contributing columnist, Baptist & Reflector

Is God calling you to the ministry of writing? Probably not! But He could be calling you to write for Him. That’s what happened to me. In the amazing maze of God’s calling, He led me into the ministry of preaching — then later into the ministry of writing. I’ve been a published writer for more than 50 years. But growing up, I never wanted to become a writer. At age 7, I got saved; at age 15; I surrendered to preach. But I didn’t surrender to write. Yet, at age 25, I got my first article published and entered the ministry of writing as well as preaching. What happened? Simply put, God’s will unfolded in my life (Ephesians 4:1). If God includes writing in your calling, it’s another step of obedience to say yes to a multiplied ministry.

Testimony of one called to write. When I felt called to preach, I was humbled and scared too. But I could talk, and I was ready to prepare for ministry. I planned on getting my training and pastoring a local church the rest of my life. What a high calling! I definitely didn’t see writing in my calling or want to become a writer.

In public schools, I learned about writing errors and seemed to be prone to commit all those errors. I split infinitives; ended sentences with prepositions; committed comma blunders, and left participles out there to dangle on their own. In college English grammar course, I made a C. My giftedness certainly didn’t seem to include writing.

So how did I ever become a writer? Becoming a writer occurred gradually and out of a growing sense of God’s calling. Talking came natural. I had to learn to write. Preachers have to talk, but they don’t have to write much. Rudolf Flesch basically taught good writing is good talking put on paper.

I began to write letters to editors about my beliefs, and they published what I sent them. My letters turned into articles. Editor E. S. James and others felt I had a gift for writing. They encouraged me, and James published my first article in The Baptist Standard. The value of writing began to show up as expanded ministry.

Writing has built-in values worth considering. When a person keeps a journal or writes, he preserves his personhood. Not even Alzheimer’s can take away that record. Published writing multiplies a message to untold numbers of readers. I pastored small churches in Texas and still love doing interims in them. Along with my preaching, I began to write curriculum for Southern Baptists and also reach hundreds of thousands of readers. Writing turned over to God can become powerful.

For more than 50 years, I’ve written, edited, published, and trained others to write. One of the stewardship joys of my life has been to help others find their own ministry of writing. One of those became a state paper editor. Another became a professor who taught writing in one of our seminaries. Others have written curriculum or books. And during that time, writing has continued to multiply my own ministry. I wrote “What It Means to Be Born Again” and saw it published in six different languages. But always, to God be all the glory!

Writing goes where you may not be able to go, stays where you can’t stay, and lives when you’ve died. Writing lets you share your message around the world. People’s responses to shared truth changes lives. Writing can make a difference in time and eternity. Besides the Internet trivia explosion, there is God’s divine design and truth to be shared in print. Writing may be a calling.

The why of writing is more important than the how. My understanding of God’s calling is much broader than when I was a teenage boy and young man. I’ve come to understand that God’s calling is more like an amazing maze that He guides us in for all of life. If we keep on saying yes to His calling, He will make the varied expressions of His calling clear to us at each age and stage of life. Early on, I didn’t want to become a preacher or a writer; but in God’s providence, I became both of those. And I have found ongoing joy in those expressions of ministry. To God be the Glory!

Interestingly, when I felt compelled to put my convictions in writing for publication, the pedantic rules never got in the way. I discovered many English rules were false, pharisaic, and never really had a good basis. For me, the why of writing outweighed the how. I quit worrying about grammar and just obeyed God by writing. I believe in good grammar, but God has also called editors to fix the mechanics. Only you can express the convictions of your heart.

This column has taken me a few minutes plus a lifetime to write. Maybe next time I’ll talk more about how to write and get published. In the meantime, consider whether God is calling you to the ministry of writing.

     Copyright 2013 by Johnnie C. Godwin. Write the author: johnniegodwin@comcast.net.

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