I should have titled this post, Things that make you go, Hmm. What I’m going to do is share with you some of my incomplete thoughts on writing Christian fiction and ideas I’ve heard around the Christian fiction community. These really are incomplete ideas so feel free to help me think them through completely.
1. Some Christian fiction writers equate their novels to the parables that Jesus told. While I sorta understand what they mean, I’ve always found the connection a bit of a stretch. A parable wasn’t 300-400 pages long. Jesus didn’t charge $6-$25 to read one. Also, Jesus didn’t get upset when someone re-told the parable and gave away the ending. That was sorta the point of the parable. I think likening Christian fiction to parables is a way of elevating the work, but I’m not sure it needs that kind of elevating. Christian fiction novels are something good but they’re not parables.
2. If writing is ministry, what does it mean that in order to benefit from the ministry one has to buy the book? I’ve never said this aloud but I’ve always equated selling a book and calling it ministry to Rev. Ike selling prayer cloths. If it’s going to bless somebody, why do they have to pay for it? If someone has a need and you have the means to meet it in a book, why do they have to pay for the book? Well, the obvious answer is “writers and publishers have to eat, too” which I certainly understand. I want to make money just like any other writer, but what is the role of money in ministry? When do we tell our publishers to reduce the cover price so more people can have access to the books? When do we take a pay cut so that book prices can be lowered or books can be given away?
3. I went back to the apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 9) to get some clarity on the relationship between ministry and money. I’ve always focused on Paul’s bold statement that he worked so the church couldn’t claim any hold over what he did and said since he didn’t depend on their money. That supports my notion that the money you live on doesn’t have to come from your ministry. But Paul was also a sponsored missionary in that he lived off the support and gifts from the church communities to whom he ministered. So how does that translate to those of us who see writing as ministry?
It is difficult for me to conclude that if our writing is ministry the only way for folks to get ministered to is to buy the books we write. That’s too capitalist for me. If it’s ministry, we rejoice when books are shared, bought used, borrowed from the library, downloaded from the Internet. All because our purpose is to get the message out. But we have a dual purpose–to get the message out and to get paid. How do we reconcile the two?
Maybe instead of writing ministries what we have are Christian businesses (in most cases, sole proprietorships) that are run according to Christian principles and that produce novels that present the truth of the gospel in stories that reflect our contemporary society. By definition, a business has to make money to survive so it’s natural for a business to charge for its products.
I don’t think using the “Christian business” terminology takes anything away from what we do as Christian fiction writers. As Christians, we are called to do everything “as unto the Lord.” This applies to our jobs, raising our families, writing our books, everything. So what do you think?
Angela Benson is hard at work on completing revisions for her fifteenth novel, The Summer of Me. It’s due to her editor in two days! She can’t wait for you to meet Destiny and Daniel.