James left us with some frightening thoughts.
In chapter 3, James wrote, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” (James 3:1). Teachers face a higher standard of measurement, presumably because they have the tremendous responsibility both to serve and to shape another person in his or her spiritual growth. We who write ought to feel the weight of this text, recognizing the gravity of writing about God for the instruction of others. We ought to write with fear and trembling as we attempt to speak of the ineffable. And yet, a healthy fear of the LORD shouldn’t paralyze us; it should enable us to write and to serve others well.
I’ve talked with people who felt a desire to write and a passion to serve others yet who also struggled with a fear of inadequacy. Maybe you fit that description. Maybe you wonder if you know enough to speak of the Lord, if you need a specific degree or a certain amount of experience to enable you to write. With so many voices already sharing their thoughts, maybe you wonder if your voice could really help. Maybe you see others with more education, more wisdom, and more creativity, and you don’t feel qualified to share anything publicly. Maybe you’re afraid of getting it wrong.
Take heart. The reality is that we’ll never be experts in God. No one who writes about the LORD, no matter how many degrees she holds or how much experience he has, knows everything. The study of God will always extend further out beyond our furthest reaches. This means that you finishing your degree, completing another year of ministry, reading another book, or studying a little while longer will not qualify you to write. Permission to write will not be awarded to you like a trophy upon passing a certain milestone of your spiritual journey.
So what qualifies a person to write about the Lord?
I’m reminded of those in Scripture who began to share their stories with others in spite of a lack of theological training. Remember the story of the blind man Jesus healed in John 9? Or the demon-possessed man in Luke 8? In both stories, Jesus performed a miraculous healing, the men were saved, and then the men either testified to the power of the Christ or were sent to so testify. Neither of the men spent time in theological training or devoted years to formal ministry prior to sharing. While theological training and ministry experience are great things, they don’t qualify you for ministry; they simply better equip you for the ministry you’re called to perform by nature of your relationship with Christ (Matthew 28:18-20). If you are a Christian, you are called to make disciples, teaching them to follow Jesus. Writing, then, is simply one expression of that call. This means that you can start writing wherever you are. If you believe God is leading you to share what he’s teaching you, trust that he can use your obedience for another’s good and for his glory. Remember Paul who “did not come proclaiming . . . the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom” (1 Corinthians 2:1). He preached the simple truth of the gospel and let God prove himself powerful (1 Corinthians 2:1-5). Trust that the same God can work through you in your writing. His power shines through our weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:9).
God’s ability to work in spite of our weaknesses does not justify shoddy workmanship on our part, however. We are still called to work for God’s glory in thankfulness to Christ (1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:17, 23-24). We are still to speak graciously, our words “seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6). Such writing takes time (the subject of my last writing post) and effort. While we don’t need to let perfectionism rule us (we all fall short of perfection), we need to realize that sloppy errors, cliches, and bad theology/hermeneutics can be frustratingly distracting to readers. Your passion, though beautiful, won’t necessarily shine through your poor writing. Instead, the opposite may be more likely. Your poor writing may keep your reader from seeing the message you so desire to share. So write, but always work to write better. We all have room for growth.
So what stops you from writing now? Or, to say that another way, what is your current excuse for not writing? If you believe God wants you to write, to take up the weighty calling of ministry by working with words, will you pray about taking some first steps? And will you trust that God can use your humble service for good?
Huge thanks to Maci Duncan for her editing work on today’s post.