Why Write?

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there, does the tree make a noise? If a pastor writes an article and sends it into the expanse of the internet, do the words have any impact?

Admittedly writing and the conversations about writing have felt a little bit like narcissistic navel-gazing. For sure I don’t want my writing to be without readers, or even worse, without sense. But I don’t always believe I have so much to say.

So, why write? Why attempt to put words to a page and ask you to consider my thinking and maybe even maybe hope that it makes an impact? That’s a very good question.

A few weeks ago the writing ministry that I lead, Gospel-Centered Discipleship (GCD), took eleven developing writers into a six-month workshop/masterclass to help them level up and grow in the craft of writing. Our first guest mentor, Jen Oshman, was tasked with speaking into the question above, why write? Her instruction to us as writers was to develop a mission statement. Simply put, develop a clear statement that will form and shape the framework for why you write.

I’ve struggled with various forms of inertia over the last several years in getting the gears moving on writing. For one; writing personally, even on a blog, was verbally abused right out of me. I was told it was a distraction, an idol, even a waste of God-given time and money. I quit writing out of fear.

The other issue was time. Writing takes work, it takes time, it takes a few things to say and some motivation to get it done. Thankfully, I’ve had some opportunities to piddle and plod here and there with various writing opportunities. I’ll keep up on those.

The greater takeaway from that conversation was something I didn’t expect — a challenge. Often, I struggle to write something and publish it on my blog or an article because I feel like I don’t have anything exceptional to say. I’m pretty ordinary, my writing is pretty ordinary. I don’t have a huge platform or pastor a big church.

So again, if a pastor writes an article and sends it into the expanse of the internet, do the words have any impact? If he’s worried about his metrics, impact, or reach… perhaps not. But if he has a mission, and an aim in his writing, then quite possibly his work will have a great impact (although it may never be known to him).

All of this to say, in a rather circumspect way, I have to write, and I have to write as an outworking of my pastoral vocation. When Eugene Peterson talked about his writing and pastoring as “virtually the same thing for me: an entrance into chaos,” I understood his attempt to bring clarity to what was chaotic in his thinking and living.

When historian David McCollough says, “writing is thinking. To write well is to think clearly,” I get what he means. I have to write sermon notes each week so that my preaching is as clear as I can make it before the deadline of actually preaching hits. But writing to manage chaos and writing to think clearly isn’t necessarily enough for me to pursue a reading audience. If that’s all writing is then, I shouldn’t probably post anything online and should just keep my writing to myself.

The thing is, I don’t think my gifts in writing are merely for myself. If they are truly gifts then my writing should be a means of benefitting others, which flows out in two ways. First, this means the Reformation doctrine of Soli Deo Gloria has to be close at hand. My writing must be under the scope of being “to the glory of God alone.” With that freedom in hand, writing becomes a Godward ambition.

The second outflow is that my writing is for you. I must work as a servant to whoever is reading what I write. The things I write, if written for the glory of God, should be efforts to help you know God and to glorify God yourself. The metaphor of a travel-guide comes to mind. I want you to see all that is in God well, as best as I can, with the result that you will love and enjoy and worship God “with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” This also means, my writing isn’t to be a means to an end for me. It’s not so I obtain a larger audience or a platform, or a book deal, or make money, or anything that brings an increase to me. I have to write with the posture to serve you.

Which leads me back to the whole point of this article; developing a mission statement for myself as a writer. GCD’s mission is to produce resources that will help “make, mature, and multiply disciples of Jesus.” As I’ve reflected on that purpose statement, and wondered about crafting my own, this purpose has resonated more and more for me.

The mission of my writing is to make, mature, and multiply disciples of Jesus. I want to glorify God and serve my readers, whoever you are, by helping you become, grow, and even reproduce yourself as a disciple of Jesus.

The bottom line is I have to write. Otherwise, I’m living outside the mission, which is simply a tree falling in the forest that makes no sound… and that makes no sense.

The Blog Is Dead; Long Live The Blog

Photo by  Joshua Ness  on  Unsplash

Photo by Joshua Ness on Unsplash

Around the internets, I’ve seen comments that blogging is on its way out. That being the case, I’ve decided it’s the perfect time to get back into it. You’ll thank me for my future-focused mindset and bucking the trends…. if the blog lives. 

In memoriam of the blog, he’s an “Everything That’s On My Mind (Almost)” list.

  1. Is it baseball season yet? I like what the Giants have been doing in their offseason to shore up the roster. January is a long dark month on the hot stove. 
  2. The #BCSPasCon18 was great this year. So much helpful on the Spirit and his ministry in my life, and in the church. Dr. Piper’s last plenary session was of particular help to me. 
  3. I’m concurrently preaching in Mark, writing a sermon from Psalm 119, and crafting a sermon series in the summer on the life of Samuel. 
  4. Gospel-Centered Discipleship had a great year. I’m excited about the future and the continued development of the resources and writing God has entrusted to us.
  5. Why does the eye doctor punish you for seeing well by dilating your pupils? 
  6. E.B. White now graces my site header. This picture inspires and astounds me. I’d love to have a shack to write in just like that. 
  7. Favorite vinyl right now? Over the Rhine Drunkard’s Prayer, War on Drugs A Deeper Understanding, U2 Songs of Experience.
  8. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ Preachers and Preaching is essential reading for anyone who aspires to stand in the pulpit and declare God’s Word. 
  9. Eagles by 5.
  10. I pray for no more snow this year. 
  11. I'm staring at you Long's Peak... this summer, let's meet.  

 

Give Thanks! — Gospel-Centered Discipleship

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Just over two years ago I received an email that piqued my curiosity. Somehow or another I had been put on a email list for an organization called “Gospel-Centered Discipleship” which I knew was an Internet resource committed to producing long-form articles to help “make, mature, and multiply disciples of Jesus.” Jonathan Dodson was the founder of the organization and his book by the same title had been profoundly helpful to me in my ministry.

When I got the email asking for article submissions and even book pitches I was intrigued. I liked to write, and I wanted to use my gifting to serve the church. Here was an open invitation to produce some materials that would benefit not only my local church but hopefully many others. I decided to respond and run a few ideas around to the editors for some articles. They were eager and excited that I would be willing to share and began to dialog with me about my ideas. Ben Roberts and Brad Watson began to encourage me to write more. They encouraged me to write a book. 

As I wrote, they began to provide helpful and more concrete edits for everPresentAfter completing the initial manuscript and sending it in, Jonathan Dodson jumped back into the process and gave some helpful and strong critiques to my first attempts. The book needed more focus and he challenged me to go back and rewrite most of it to make it a stronger book. Brad encouraged me to learn to “write tight” and make my manuscript as strong as I could.

As I labored in the late nights and during parts of my family vacations I was encouraged by the team that was very excited about the project. A new executive director, Brandon Smith hopped into the process towards the end along with Mathew Sims and began to help in the promotion and final editing of the book. As we worked together I saw they encouraged and cheered me and the project along. Launch day came and the book was met with an encouraging reception.

More than anything though, it wasn’t my idea or my execution of the idea that brought the project along or made it what it is. It was the team of editors, thinkers, and encouragers that walked along with me in the process. I am grateful for Jonathan’s push back on initial manuscript to make it a better book. Brad, Brandon, Mathew at the others at GCD have been strong supporters and encouragers. I’ve learned a lot, and grown to become a better writer because of their help.

Beyond my book, GCD produces a new long-form article three times each week from men and women all over the world who are committed to “making, maturing, and multiplying disciples of Jesus.” These articles have been wonderfully helpful to me at many different points along the way. In fact the book Make, Mature, and Multiply is a wonderful “best-of” compilation that serves those who will learn well.

Today I want to give thanks to God for GCD and all the editors, writers, and friends there who have glorified Christ by their work and helped me become a better writer as a result. I am in no way a great writer, but I’ve advanced mainly because of their support and encouragement. I hope that you will put GCD’s website in your queue of regular reads on the web and learn and grow as I have.

For more visit Gospel-Centered Discipleship.

New GCD Article and an everPresent Update

Today my latest article, "When People Can't Listen" was posted over at GCD. Here's an excerpt:

Frustration was brewing toward the Coleman family. Again and again and again Pastor Seth and the elders of the church had met with the family to encourage, counsel, and challenge them. Being the good “gospel-centered” church that they were, they demonstrated the glory of God and his goodness to them. They opened the Word of truth to them and called them to faith and obedience. They did everything “right” and by the book. Law, gospel, grace, and glory were all there in parts of their counseling. But the response of the Coleman’s hearts hadn’t changed. There might have been some momentary transitions in behavior, but they were really just momentary.

Visit Gospel-Centered Discipleship for the whole article. Be sure to check back in two weeks as well for the new site design there. I've heard it is going to be really helpful.

Also a few of you have asked lately what the status is of everPresent (my upcoming book). I'm very excited that it's in the finishing editorial phases and has a street date of March 17, 2014. There are a few places in the book that need a bit more paint and some touching up to do but the release is in sight and I am really eager to see it out and engaging lives. I asked my Gospel Community the other night to be in prayer for the launch that the Lord the would cause the book to bear fruit and help people live on mission well where ever they are at.

Will you please join me in that prayer?