I recently met a woman named Abigail who asked me for ministry advice to be an effective worker in the Kingdom. She asked about general ministry and also writing.
The first piece of advice I gave her was to get rid of static. Static includes conflicting thoughts, wonderings, and uncertainties about what God may or may not be directing her to do. I don't think that God makes our decisions for us, nor do we need to read the signals, hints, and subtle cues in order to decipher His will.
I often talk to people who feel as though they are receiving a lot of conflicting information from God. I will respond by suggesting that they leave God out of it for a moment. Of course, I am not trying to isolate God from the decision-making enterprise, but I think a lot of “God language” is confusion-causing static.
Rather, I think God has left decision-making up to us. He has given us the means to make sound decisions. Those means include His Word, where we find His moral will and teachings regarding wisdom. And He gives us wisdom provided by counselors.
This isn't a different refined technique for finding God's will; it's a different system entirely. It’s the biblical model. We're not trying to find "God's will." Instead, we're trying to make a sound decision in a biblical fashion by applying morality and wisdom.
Scripture does not teach that God makes our decisions for us, nor did the disciples practice this belief. The disciples were not sitting around waiting for God to tell them what to do. They were out moving, acting, and fulfilling their responsibilities to the Great Commission by using the gifts they were given. Paul says in Ephesians that we are to redeem the time for the days are evil, so sitting around waiting to decipher what God is telling us is a big mistake.
I know this is iconoclastic and that I'm going against the grain of what is often taught on this issue. A lot of people believe we're not supposed to do anything unless God tells us to do it. That directive is not found anywhere in the Scriptures. David got in trouble once for stepping out when he shouldn't have, but I think David was a special case. We certainly see nothing like that in the New Testament and we find no general directives like that.
So first, get rid of static and realize that God has given you the responsibility to make a decision. Then, you can begin to survey the options you have and work through them, with some counsel, but ultimately with the understanding that the decision is yours to make.
Secondly, be a steward of your gifts. Referring to 1 Peter 4, how do we know where to serve? We take what we have, and we begin using it. The list of the gifts in 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, and Ephesians 4 are not exhaustive. They are incidental to the larger point, which is that everybody plays a part in the body of Christ.
The whole body working together accomplishes God's purpose for the church. Of course, that means that we have to be making our contributions. Find out what yours is and start doing it. If your gift is helps, for example, start making yourself available to help in whatever way is needed.
When I started making myself available, my mouth was moving most of the time. It became apparent fairly quickly, in virtue of the feedback I was getting, that I had the capability to communicate. I found that the more I trained, the more my skills improved. Communicating God's Word was an area in which I could, and wanted to, specialize.
Once you get rid of the static, take responsibility for finding a way you can contribute. In addition, be a steward of your gifts. Once you start making yourself available in the body of Christ to serve the body of Christ, other Christians are going to give you feedback as to what you're doing well. The more you engage your gifts, the more effective you become.
Part of being a steward of your gifts is to be the student of your craft, whether it is writing, speaking, teaching, or something else. The kind of work that I do entails radio, writing, and speaking. In order to be a student of my craft, I ask: How can I write more effectively? How can I speak with more clarity and more persuasion? How can I be a more effective talk show host?
My third piece of advice is to bloom where you are planted. You have to start somewhere, so take advantage of every opportunity you have to serve in the place where you find yourself right now.
When I was a new Christian, I won some people to Christ and began a Bible study sitting on the floor in my Westwood Village fraternity house at UCLA. Although I only knew a little about the Bible at that time, I knew more than they did, so I had something to pass on. I gave what I had, and I boomed where I was planted.
Later, I had the opportunity to participate in a summer outreach project in Hawaii. That was another opportunity to develop my gifts. Continuing to grow and hone my craft has eventually led to where I am at right now, 40 years later.
There's nothing particularly clever about my journey. People have asked me how I've arrived at where I am now. It's not that magical. In fact, it's pretty pedestrian. I got rid of the static and took responsibility for deciding to use my gifts as wisely as I could. I tried to be a steward of whatever gifts I had. I became a student of my craft, and I tried to bloom where I was planted.
Jesus said if you're faithful with smaller things, then you may be given larger things. There is nothing wrong with smaller things if that's the opportunity God has given you. The Spirit distributes gifts and opportunities as He wills.
Here are three more thoughts I'll add for Christian writers. First, never lose a thought. Like lightning striking the same place twice, coming up with something brilliant twice in a row doesn't happen often. So, you want to write it down or record it when it does.
Secondly, gather your thoughts together. Once I gather my thoughts, I construct them into a shape. I organize them in an outline before I begin the wordsmithing process. Most writers don't start with the first line. Rather, they begin by gathering, then they organize, and lastly, they begin wordsmithing.
Finally, repurpose. Think of how your writing can be used in more ways than one. For example, I've used my conversation with Abigail as a radio topic and a blog post.
Book suggestions for writers: