by Terry Burns
Some will not agree with me on this, and that is surely okay, but I know a lot of Christian writers think all Christian writers have been called by God to write. I don’t believe that, any more than I believe everyone who has thought about preaching has been called by God to the ministry, or called to be a missionary, or other such callings.
I believe a calling is specific and when God does it He will ALWAYS confirm it more than one way so we will know for sure that it is His will and not something we are rationalizing ourselves, thinking something that we want to do is in fact His will. Most of us are really good at rationalizing.
You see I believe there are two ways to write for the Lord. It can indeed be that we have been called to do it, or we can do it as an offering. What’s the difference? If it is indeed a calling we are being asked to write HIS book and He will direct and inspire us in the writing. Chances are it will not be a success until it is exactly what He wants . . . and may not be a success until WE are what He wants.
That’s the difference between the two, in the first case the Lord is asking us to write HIS book, in the second case we are writing OUR book and offering it to him. Not that we won’t still get help, direction and encouragement but there is a difference in whose book is being produced.
Also I believe there are two ways to write as an offering. The first is to feel that God wants us to write for Him. This is a calling too, but differs from the one above in that the writer is being called to serve, but not the specific project. To keep from confusing the two I think of this as an encouragement rather than a calling. The second way is for us to decide we want our writing to serve Him and WE initiate it, wanting to write something we hope will honor Him and will be well accepted. In both cases we are writing our book and offering it to the Lord.
I gave this talk as a keynote at a conference and when I finished you would have thought I had given an altar call. Writers came streaming down the aisle, some of them crying. They said it in different ways, but the thrust was “You have lifted such a weight from me. I have always heard writers talking about their calling and I was so ashamed because I’d never felt it. I thought of quitting because it was obvious God didn’t want me to write the way He wanted other people to write. Now that feeling is gone and I can’t tell you how eager I am to write my book and lay it at His feet.”
A calling is not necessarily permanent. For example, we often see ministers who later decide they have been called to some different form of service. Book projects can be the same way. As an example here, I did a three book series for David C. Cook and the first book, “Mysterious Ways” was definitely a calling and I found out why after it released. The other two books were without a doubt offerings and I knew it as I wrote them. The only difference is one was His and the other two were mine.
Does this make sense to you? If it does, where does your writing fall under this definition?
Terry Burns has been with the Hartline Agency for over ten years, five years as an agent, and has a substantial list of clients, a growing list of credits, and a reputation for presenting to conferences all over the country. He’s a member of the Association of Author’s Representatives (AAR).
What a great distinction.Thanks for sharing this. I have felt called to encourage through my writng. Sometimes it is an offering and sometimes it is a calling. I encurage by writing skits involving church members with limited acting skills but a desire to offer a performance to Jesus. The skits are customized to capture the talents of each individual. I am called to encourage when I write articles to help struggling ministries to get some PR. It is a calling when a specific project won’t leave my head until it is on paper. I offer my talent in different writng areas and am surprised at the ones that God blesses me monetarily. I don’t always write for the Christan Market but that can be either an offering or a calling depending on the project and how strong the Holy Spirit is present as I write.
Terry, your clarity is such a blessing. It confirms what I have known in my spirit for years. You are right. That revelation is so freeing.
I appreciate this post, Terry. I am one who has always wanted to write and I’ve always seen it more of a guilty pleasure than a calling.
I don’t have a story that God gave me. I just love to write. And while I want to use my writing for God, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with writing to make a living, and not feeling the need to preach the gospel in everything you write.
I also think that God may call people to write a book but not call them to publish. If he calls you to write a book he will provide for you, but he won’t necessarily make you rich and famous. I think that’s a little bit of a disappointment for some writers who are sure they’ve been called.
Terry, I’ve been afraid to voice the same opinion, but was afraid I couldn’t move fast enough to avoid the lightning strike that would surely follow.
Calling or offering, it’s still wonderful to serve God through the written word. Thanks for what you have done and continue to do in that regard.
Appreciate you sharing.
Wow! Much to chew on here. Thanks for clarifying this! Still wondering about a couple of my books I felt “called” to write. Now working on an offering book. I’m less motivated this time around, unfortunately.
Thank you, Terry! The course you taught this year included a long discussion about this. It shaped the way I view my work – which projects are written because of a calling and which are written as an offering. Your insight into this is very powerful! Understanding this truth has been a great encouragement to me as a writer.