This year in particular I have been receiving both fiction and non-fiction proposals from writers who are upset about where the church is headed and where the country is going. Many have a lot of criticism and few solutions for the problems they see. They have the Jonah rather than the Pauline message, which the Christian public is not anxious to read about, so publishers tend to steer away from books like that—unless the author has gained national credibility, such as Francis Schaeffer had in the 1960s and 1970s.
We are all aware that the megachurches tend to have a very positive message, which is reflected in the pastors’ books. Both churches and books get a strong response, with growing attendance and increasing book sales. Is that a valid role for writers, especially during a depressing economic climate?
Eugene H. Peterson writes in his introduction to the Book of Micah in The Message: “Prophets use words to remake the world. The world—heaven and earth, men and women, animals and birds—was made in the first place by God’s Word. Prophets, arriving on the scene and finding that world in ruins, finding a world of moral rubble and spiritual disorder, take up the work of words again to rebuild what human disobedience and mistrust demolished. These prophets learn their speech from God. Their words are God-grounded, God-energized, God-passionate. As their words enter the language of our circumstances, men and women find themselves in the presence of God, who enters the mess of human sin to rebuke and renew.”
I had to read this Introduction over several times as I tried to comes to terms for how that might occur today. Is it a Christian journalist who fled for his life from Zimbabwe because he wrote articles critical of the dictatorial rule of the government there? Is it a journalist from Pakistan reporting on the shooting of two Christian leaders as they left a courtroom exonerated of blaspheming the prophet Mohammed—and evaluating the performance of the judicial system? Or is it writers broadcasting the Gospel via shortwave into Afghanistan in four languages? Could it have been Bruce Olsson singing the message of Christ’s life and death and resurrection while swaying in a hammock in a large longhouse in Bari territory on the Colombian/Venezuelan border, until then not penetrated by any white man? Maybe it is blog writers analyzing what they are seeing around them in this country.
The question that keeps coming to me is: Are the words “God-grounded, God-energized, God-passionate?” I get the impression that much of what I am seeing in book proposal form is generated by anger, usually because of a perceived failure in a local church to deal with a situation the writer is angry about. Or the anger has a civic basis, a national basis. I have realized that until anger is replaced by compassion it can strike the wrong targets, be only an outburst and not a perspective on how God might change the setting, the particular situation, the persons involved. I remember that in one job in publishing seeing a marketing director exhibiting neither humility nor caring about his staff or associates. It troubled both my wife and I, so we prayed a simple prayer, “Lord, either change him or remove him.” Not many months later the Lord removed him.
We must remember that Jesus is the light of the world, that we as Christians indwelt by the Holy Spirit are also to be lights in our generation in our environment. When that light is “God-energized” it can have a powerful effect as it illuminates wrongdoing, sin and pervasive evil. When it is “God-passionate” it will shine brightly with love, not hatred. Jonah had to find that out the hard way. God had to use a plant that grew overnight and withered the next day to illustrate that God was in control, and his love was stronger than the anger of Jonah.
At what stage is your message? Is it merely an expression of anger, or does it come from a God-filled heart eager to see God work his life-changing power in others, in our society?