This post was first shared in issue 28 of the writing advice column of my newsletter These Sacred Words.
I shared a few weeks ago about why I write, and in the days since sharing that I realized the reasons why I write are distinctly different from the reasons why I share what I write in an online public forum.
I’ve been thinking more about this lately. Maybe this is due to increased talk in my circles from some really helpful voices about what it means to be an “influencer.” And while I would definitely not lump myself in the category of ‘influencer,’ the nature of writing and sharing publicly compels me to consider my heart behind why I do it.
Oftentimes, before I share things with the internet world (especially more personal things), I ask my husband for advice. Last year he asked me some helpful and convicting questions that I’ve returned to often when I consider whether or not to share my writing publicly.
“Are you sharing your writing to be helpful; or to be perceived as helpful?”
“Are you sharing your writing to be spiritually encouraging; or to be seen as a person who is spiritually encouraging?”
These questions prick me deeply, and maybe they do for you too?
This might be why I’ve been so sporadic lately with my writing. I wrestle with my motives and I want to use this space to steward my life and my gifts for God’s glory and not my own. And when I feel I’m not doing that well, the most helpful thing I know to do is to take a step back and simply be silent for a while. I’m still working through these thoughts, but I do hope these questions are helpful to you as you too seek to discern your motives as a writer on a public platform.
I’m curious and would love to hear from you, have you felt this tension too? How have you navigated your motives as a writer?
4 thoughts on “On writing for consumption: why do we share publicly?”
Thank you for your honest and thought-provoking post. I think I have felt the tension you speak of with respect to every “ministry” activity I have ever engaged in, from teaching Sunday School to doing fill-in preaching. I think it is made worse because I’m a perfectionist, and because I didn’t receive much affirmation from my own father growing up. I think it is most acute when we do things explicitly “in His name” and especially when undertaking to “speak on behalf of God” as when explaining a scripture text or delivering a sermon. We want to do well to honor Him and give Him our best, but the residue of our old nature desires praise and affirmation with which to nurture pride, and well-meaning people are all too happy to praise us for our efforts.
I don’t believe we will ever be free of mixed motives in this life, but I do think we need to be careful and heed the Spirit and our conscience. With regard to ministry, I think we need to be certain that we are doing what it is the Lord has called us to do, endeavor to stay in step with His Spirit, and then proceed in faith and do all for His glory. That may be a good litmus test for any particular element of writing or preaching – does this exalt me and bring me glory, or does it exalt Christ and bring Him glory? It is compicated, though, because pride is so sneaky, but I would not let it paralyze me, rather pray about the matter until it is settled and then move forward in the Lord’s calling.
Personally, the writing I do is casual and not part of any special ministry or endeavoring to in any way speak on behalf of Him. Of course I want my efforts to honor Him and bring Him glory, and I would not want to write and share anything that dishonors Him! But I simply write because I find joy in doing so, and part of that joy is in the sharing with others in the hope of bringing a smile, lightening a load, sharing biblical truth in an engaging way, and even sharing elements of the gospel whenever it seems appropriate. For me, writing is a relational activity by nature. Of course, it is my prayer that the Lord would use what I do, but I leave that in His capable hands.
As far as wrestling with my motives, I try not to. If I waited until my motives were pure and perfect, I would never write again, and if I carried my motives in my mind while writing, it would drain all the joy from it as well as impede my focus. Instead I try to focus on excellence, considering the impact on those who will read what I write, and considering whether the product is good, wholesome, true, helpful, and something of which the Lord would approve. Then I trust that the Lord is more than capable of speaking to my heart if things start to go amiss.
Sorry this is so wordy and unorganized, but it is off-the-cuff. I hope it is helpful.
Craig! I am so grateful for all of these thoughts that you’ve shared. It’s so encouraging to know that others have wrestled through these tensions too. And it’s so encouraging to hear too how you have navigated this struggle in your own ministry. I love what you shared about not waiting until your motives are perfect and pure, because of course we will never be there at all times, and trying to walk that very thin line steals the joy of the obedience and the ministry. I really love how you said you focus on the impact it will have on those who will read it. If we’re focusing on how to best serve the reader and how to be obedient to what God has called us to…that’s all we can do! The Lord can use us and our work regardless and he is more than capable of redeeming our feeble efforts. I’m so grateful for you reading and leaving such helpful feedback! Thanks, friend!
Well said. We must not get hung up on the apparent success of what we do, but we must also never underestmate the use that the Lord may make of our efforts. I figure if the Lord uses all of my efforts as an instrument to help save one soul, then that is success enough for me. What price can you put on a life? By the same token, the only real measure of our success is our faithfulness to His call upon us (of course, only by His grace). I’m actually safer if I don’t see “results” because I am less prone to pride and my focus remains where it should be. God bless!