Vonda here: Okay, friends, today kicks off four Parting Words Fridays that will be unlike anything you’ve ever seen here, or probably anywhere else for that matter! As many of you know, I just returned from teaching at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, where one of the highlights of my week was hearing author, speaker, and threat to society, James Watkins deliver his keynote, “Your ‘Write’ Role.” Another highlight was when he agreed to let me share the message with you over the next four Fridays!
So pull up a chair, put on your creative-thinking-and-real-life-application-hat, and hear Jim’s heart for Christian writers and speakers, Part 1.
Your “Write” Role, Part 1
by James Watkins
Turn with me to 1 Corinthians 12, as I read from the New Living Amplified Paraphrased King James Watkins Version for Writers:
Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If a writer should say, âBecause I have not been published in Charisma, I do not belong to the body,â it would not for that reason cease to be a part of the Body. If the whole body was writing for Guideposts, who would write for take-home papers?
But in fact God has arranged the parts of the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many kinds of writers, but one body.
1. You have an important role in Christian writing
How many of you truly believe that you have an important role in Christian writing?
Writersâ conferences are the absolutely worst place for you to feel important! Hereâs what happens. You visit the website or look at the brochure, and there they are: âimportantâ writers who have written fifty New York Times best-selling books, won âmajor awardsâ and spoken to thousands around the world.
And there you are having not written fifty New York Times best-selling books, not having won âmajor awardsâ and not speaking to thousands around the world.
And to be perfectly honest, I look at the conference faculty bios and wonder What am I doing here giving a keynote address?!
Okay, I do have books with Zondervan, Tyndale, HarperCollins, but most of my books are with small houses. Yes, Iâve spoken around the world, but mostly in cement-block churches with tin roofs and circus tents (no editorial comments, please, about clowns). And, while four of my books have won national awards, but not one has been a best-seller.
âHi Iâm Jim. Iâm critically acclaimed, but commercially ashamed.â
So, if youâre feeling a little overwhelmed and underqualified, I feel your pain. But my most âpainfulâ event was a book signing in Seattle sitting next to Frank This Present Darkness Peretti. Frank had a line as far back as Nebraska; I had one or two people at a time in line. He was frantically writing âFrank.â âFrank.â âFrank.â I was writing little essays:
Dear friend, thank you for stopping by. If you can just stand there for just a few minutes until someone else comes, I wonât look like a complete loser. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Oh, here comes another person.
3 John 2, Jim
So, youâre not alone if youâre sitting here at this writersâ conference feeling less than important. But hereâs that verse from 1 Corinthians 12 again.
But in fact God has arranged the parts of the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 1 Corinthians 12:18
In your Bible, circle that name âGod.â Then underline that verb âarranged.â God has arranged the body of Christian writers. He has you right where he wants you to be right now!
I hope and pray you feel safe here this week. It is so easy to feel all alone as a writers among people who just donât get you. Here, youâre with your fellow peculiar people.
And most important, you are with fellow parts of the Body of Christ.
When you speak at churches in India, âhonored guestsâ are outfitted with a gigantic floral arrangement around your neck, so you look like a Kentucky Derby winner. Plus, you have to take off your shoes when youâre on the platform. So there I was, the only white man in the entire church, dressed like a winning thoroughbred, in my sock feet, and they started singing âLord, I Lift Your Name on Highâ and suddenlyâI felt right at home. I belonged!
I felt that same way in our two trips to Africa. I was with my brothers and sisters! Okay, I was white brother who canât dance, but I was family!
But it is so easy to lose our sense of importance with three deadly Câs:
Comparison: Back to the conference website or printed brochure. Maybe youâre thinking I havenât had 50 books published. I havenât been interviewed on national TV. I havenât spoken to a stadium filled with fans. So I must not be an âimportantâ part in the body of Christian publishing.
So, we move onâand down . . .
Copying: Iâm going to write like Max Lucado. Iâm going to get on the national talk shows. Iâm going to be a great Bible teacher like Beth Moore.
And when we all, inevitably, fail, we move to the third level:
Criticizing: We move from feeling inferior to them to feeling superior to them. I can write better than E. L. James. Okay, anyone can write something better than Shades of Grey. Iâm a better, deeper speaker than so and so.
I love Eugene Petersonâs paraphrase of Galatians 5:4-5:
Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Donât be impressed with yourself. Donât compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life (Galatians 6:4-5 MSG).
Comparison is a killer of creativity! And worse, a killer of your unique design as a writer. (Weâll talk more individuality later.)
For now, you may want to write this down:
I am important not because of who I am,
but because of Whose I am.
Give that a second to sink in, because it just may be the most important thing youâll hear all week. More important than âWrite tight,â âShow, donât tellâ and âAvoid adverbs.â Even more important than âDevelop your brand and platform.â
My very funny friend, Jeanette Levellie, who has written two hilarious books reminds us, âGod has already defined you. You donât need others to tell you who you are.â
And from the founder of the Christian Missionary Alliance, A. B. Simpson:
Many Christians are in the place that the Lord has appointed them, and yet the devil is harassing their lives with a sense that they are not quite pleasing the Lord. If they could just settle down in the place that God has assigned them and fill it faithfully and lovingly for Him, there would be more joy in their hearts and more power in their lives.
So, you have an important role in Christian writing. But the enemy is ruthless. If he canât convince you youâre not important, then he will try to make you feel youâre more important than you are! Look at verses 15-18 (New Living Amplified Paraphrased King James Watkins Version for Writers):
A writer for Decision cannot say to a writer of a church newsletter, âI donât need you!â And a best-selling author cannot say to the one who writes letters to the editor, âI donât need you!â
On the contrary, those writers who donât command six-figure advances are indispensable, and the writers who donât appear on the cover of Todayâs Christian Woman deserve equal honor as those who do. And the writers who are never interviewed on Christian talk shows are just as necessary as those in the spotlight.
Paul is incredibly honest in acknowledging that there is an earthly hierarchy in the church and in Christian publishing. So, we need to maintain that careful balance that, âI am incredibly important, but Iâm not any more important than anyone else . . . despite what the world may say and, particularly, despite what Christian publishing says!â
Moving on to verses 24-26:
But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.
If one part receives a rejection slip, every part suffers with it; if one part signs a contract with Tyndale House, every part rejoices with it (1 Corinthians 12:24-26)
Copyright Â© 2015 James N. Watkins
Bio: Jim wears more hats than his Aunt Luella!
*Associate acquisitions editor for Wesleyan Publishing House
*Conference speaker throughout the U.S. and overseas
*Director of programming for St. Davids Writersâ Conference
*Editorial advisor for ACW Press
Vonda again: Thank you, Jim! Now friends, isn’t that a powerful application to us as Christian writers and speakers? Be sure to come back for our 1st Tuesday post next Tuesday and then return for more insight next Friday from Jim Watkins’ Your “Write” Role, Part 2.
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Hilarious–but real–writers’ take on 1 Cor 12 by @JamesWatkinsCom via @VondaSkelton #amwriting (Click to Tweet)
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