Writing as Ministry by Angela Benson

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?

SigADB

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.

10 Replies to “Writing as Ministry by Angela Benson”

  1. Hi Angela – I can really identify with what you are saying. Especially point #2 – writing as a ministry. I struggled with this when I first starting writing – still do. I would think, “God needs somebody to hear this word – what if they can’t pay to hear it?” Then I think, well those who are supposed to hear will – if it’s His will. I have offered my books for free Kindle download , given away freebies and done workshops for free. I always feel like I am blessed more than those who receive these “gifts.” I guess it’s a matter of listening to God and doing what He tells you to do. If there’s someone that needs your message, He will make a way to get it to them.
    Keep on writing!

    1. Angela,thanks for this comment. You are so right about our ability to offer free Kindle books. I’ve done that, too, and it is a great feeling to give to people who may not have read you before an opportunity to do so OR free books as a way of thanking folks for having read you previously.

  2. Hi Angela. I see my writing of plays and Christian fiction as a way of writing about real life issues and also offering hope through applying God’s Kingdom principals and a way of causing folks to come to reality and depend on God’s methods for change. I have come to accept the fact that to charge for books is in the same category as receiving donations to the ministry. I often give books away for free because I am a giver and the Spirit leads me to do that from time to time. A Servant is worthy of its hire. As long as people are helped spiritually from my fictional plays and books, then God gets all the glory and God allows me to get some of the goods because oh His mercy. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I think your last thought about being a Christian business is right on point. There are many people out there who have ministries – and who regularly sell items and/or request money. They don’t give anything away for free. We are asked to “bless their ministries with a gift” so that we can be blessed in return. I’m not saying as Christian fiction authors we have to charge the moon, but I think it’s okay if we charge for the work that we do. As long as the stories we tell are given to us by God, we are doing what we are supposed to be doing. I don’t think we need to apologize or justify charging for the work.

    I don’t necessarily call what I do a ministry. But I hope that my words do minister to those who read them.

  4. I remember having a conversation with two author friends shortly before my first book was released. It was about the ministry of Christian fiction. I said, “I write what comes out of me and it happens to be Christian, but I don’t consider it a ministry.” They asked me why I felt that way and I replied, “The reader determines if they’ve been ministered to, not me.” Fast forward I’m releasing my 9th project and I think based on six years of emails and conversations with readers that I can say my books minister to people. For that I am extremely grateful. It blesses me every time I hear it. I sell my books. This is a business that supplements my income and I manage my inventory with that in mind.

  5. Writing is such a huge investment in time, if done correctly. It’s not easy to do full-time without some monetary support. Indeed, it is a business. There are so many moving parts. It’s hard to manage everything. That doesn’t negate the fact that it is also a ministry. If someone needs our work then God will make a way. He owns all the cattle on the hills. I believe that. And yes, if he moves a writer to share without cost, that is also a way he blesses others. Either way, anything that exalts God and teaches others to do the same is ministry. The reward for feeding his sheep is great in heaven. Keep working.

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