Last week, Ami McConnell shared such a beautiful story on the ACFW blog. If you missed it, you'll definitely want to check it out at this link. Ami shared her experience at the Southern Festival of Books, and how the transparency of a confessional poetry session brought everyone in the room to tears.
This story got me thinking. I've been asking myself a lot of questions about the takeaway value from my books as I polish up my proposal (for the ten thousandth time). Questions like, "What do I want people to come away from this novel with?" "How do I want them to feel?" "What do I hope God teaches them that He's taught me as I've written this story?"
But all too often, these questions presuppose something: that we are on the higher ground from our readers.
In fact, I think a lot about our Christian walks presupposes the very same thing. This is a problem. This is pride.
Now, I'm not suggesting we waffle around when it comes to the calling, the vision, and the clarity of the word of God. I wouldn't suggest watering down the Gospel to appeal to more readers. But I also wouldn't suggest towering over them with it.
Let's be honest here. Maybe of us are used to Christian lingo. We've been in the church a while. Personally, I've been a Christian since the watered-down-Kool-Aid-and-felt-board days of Sunday School lessons. It's very easy for us to become condescending without even realizing what we're doing. We don't have a higher stake in the kingdom of God simply because we've been in it longer. Just because we are mature on our spiritual journey does not mean we can afford to not be vulnerable with our readers. In fact, I'd say the opposite is true. I know I mention Robin Jones Gunn often on this blog, but this approach is one of my favorite things about her writing. She is so, so wise, and yet I have never felt "preached" at or put down as a young woman reading her books. Even as a teenager girl reading her books.
The point of most effective ministry is the point where we are most broken, for it is then we rely most upon Christ's strength.
It's all too easy to hide behind a barrier in our writing and hope to teach a lesson to our readers. But what if instead of instructing readers, our goal was to open up communication with them? Even to the point of opening up an eternal conversation with the Maker of their being? He can do a much better job of answering their questions anyway.
Have you ever been in a conversation where you felt someone was talking down to you or trying to teach you something? How can we stay honest and avoid condescension in our writing?