1. Excellent article and excellent question.

    I can only answer the question based on my interpretation for what God has called me (Parker)  to do. We are commanded to evangelize and spread the good news of the Gospel. The way we achieve that command is given to different people in many different ways.

    As a writer, I want to use my writing to benefit the Lord. I use my gift as an offering of thanksgiving for giving me the talent to write and as a vehicle to spread His word. Our stories, which range from the contemporary to the extraordinary, can be crafted to bring about His truths. It’s not JUST for evangelism but CAN include evangelism.

    As a radio show host, I have the great honor to showcase other Christian authors across spectrum who are more eloquent than I.  From authors who talk about sexual abuse to authors who explore the theistic conclusions of a multiverse, more often than not, in some way, the gospel is given. It’s such a humble privilege to be used.

    I liked the part where you mentioned how some people feel church isn’t church unless you have an altar call. I’ve seen this particularly in the Baptist denomination (I’ve been every form of Baptist you can think except a few) so I get why that happens. The illustration makes its point clear. While we can go back and forth on whether corporate church services should have altar calls and the like, I think we can be more flexible when it comes to our fiction.

    For one thing, not every author wants to evangelize through their writings. Sometimes, they just want to tell a good story that doesn’t include an evangelistic message. Others seek to make people think. I believe spec fict with a Christian message (subtle or overt) gives the author free reign on how they accomplish the task.

    All that being said, at the end of the day, we can use our writings to evangelize or not but only the Holy Spirit takes our small offerings and use them as He sees fit. A story written by one of us could be a bread crumb for a sincere seeker who may come to the saving knowledge of the Good News.

    Thank you for sharing! I can’t wait to hear the other responses.

    • Thank you for your thoughts, Parker!

      Oddly enough, I used to think the “preachy evangelizing Christian fiction” problem was relegated to “altar call”-style content in the story. But in fact some of the books I’ve seen are not like that. Their stories seem to recognize that “altar calls,” e.g. direct repent-and-be-saved/spiritual recommitment appeals, are unnecessary. Yet still they seem to reflect a mindset that the story isn’t “Christian enough” unless it includes some kind of passive-aggressive spiritually overt yet paradoxically Gospel-vacuous appeal to the reader, such as “take a leap of faith for the God who loves you.”

      I’m speaking of Christian fiction in general, here. I suspect that Austin and I will later in this series get more in-depth about specific Christan-authored fantastical stories that do things better — and otherwise!

  2. Paul Lee says:

    There is nothing in Christianity I would rather run away from than the duty to evangelize, because it carries many personally troubling ramifications — the many questions regarding soteriology (by far the bleakest kind of theology to think about), the duty to obey someone else’s Christian convictions instead of living my own way of experiencing Christ, feelings of hypocrisy and artificiality and the end justifying the means. I’m not trying to be a cool hipster by complaining about evangelism. Maybe my complaint means I’m not a real Christian and I’m going to hell. But this is how I see it.

    I love the Story. Telling the Story is at the heart of all our Christian traditions and creeds and symbols. But I hate how the practical application of telling the Story casts all of life under the shadow of hell. But I guess I always have loved ideals more than real things, unfortunately.

    • Paul, I often feel this way myself, especially in contexts that are not readily “convertible” to gospel-sharing moments, such as, say, municipal meetings.

      In this case I am certain God is merciful and recognizes our personality and emotional limitations. For example, I would not expect someone who just got out of a troubling spiritual-abuse situation to be “always on” for evangelism efforts when it’s all they can do to treat their own wounds.

      To paraphrase an “infamous” poem, sometimes Christ walks beside us and sometimes he picks us up and holds us close.

      I am not sure what you mean about casting all life under the shadow of Hell. I can understand that emphasis for someone who is willfully rejecting of our loving/holy Creator. It is not so for the Christian. And though it takes constant practice in Him, we can grow in confidence that the Story is so amazing and so Christ-exalting that all will indeed be right in the end — even punishments of the villains. But it is light, not shadow, that will be over all.

      • Paul Lee says:

        I am not sure what you mean about casting all life under the shadow of Hell.

        That anyone should go to hell is the most horrible thing. Going to heaven is the most important thing. Most people go to hell (Matthew 7:13-14). The most important thing is to stop people from going to hell, but it’s a losing battle, because most people are going to go there anyways–but we still have to try to convert whomever we can.

        My understanding of the more-or-less “official” (or at least explicitly allowed to be believed even when not taught in so many words) position of evangelicalism/Baptists is that the most important things for anyone to do are (1st) to ensure beyond all doubt that you are truly born again so that you will be saved, and (2nd) to share the Gospel with as many people as possible so that they too might be spared from an eternity of eternal torment. This is God’s mission or agenda for every believer (explicit teaching), the most important one (strongly implicit bordering on explicit), the only one that really matters (probably only what my brain is telling me).

        I know better, but I don’t really know that knowing better is truer for absolute certain.

  3. audie says:

    I work a fairly normal job. It isn’t a job associated with a church or para-church organization, so it’s not a job where I’m being paid or supported in order to speak about anything religious. I’m paid to do the work the employers want me to do.

    When it comes to such work, it’s not itself anything like a ministry. I do sometimes think about biblical instructions like “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God”. I sometimes recall that many of the people in the early churches were not ministry leaders or apostles, but people who were fairly normal for their days and places.

    For me, writing is a bit different then my regular work. In trying to craft a story, I’m not just trying to manufacture something that people might like, but I’m trying to actually say something that I think is worth both my time and effort to put it to words, and worth a reader’s time to read. I suppose that, in some way, the notion of people needing forgiveness for sins does come up as something that needs to be written about, even if it’s done so clumsily. It’s a universal condition, after all.

What do you think?