This subject has been covered before by smarter people at our agency, but I am hoping that Steve Laube considers imitation truly the greatest form of flattery!
Every aspiring or experienced Christian author is alerted to avoid mentioning that “God told me to write this book” when speaking to an agent or publisher. Why is that?
Reason #1: Working within the Christian publishing world there should be an assumption that authors are motivated by God, that agents seek wisdom from God in deciding who to represent and that publishers are seeking God’s guidance in the process of deciding what to publish.
Reason #2: Invoking God’s guidance when talking to an agent or publisher could be viewed as an attempt to manipulate whether you intended to or not. I am very sorry to say that over the years some authors have done that intentionally and frankly, it poisons the well for the genuine good-hearted author.
Years ago, in a meeting with a group, an author asked if they could pray for the discussion we were just about to have. Of course, we agreed. The prayer was a good start, until the author asked God to make the rest of us in the meeting see things the way they wanted…because, of course, the author was on a mission from God and the rest of us evidently were not.
Reason #3: Should your book be published, a God-led editor will be asked to join you in a journey to make your book the best it can be. Was your motivation to invoke “God gave this to me” an attempt to avoid being edited? You need to check your real motivation.
Reason #4: Using “God gave me” language elevates you (intentionally or unintentionally) to a position of authority or importance over a group of people who will be spending a lot of money to publish your book. Rather than trusting their experience and wisdom, you are appearing to elevate yourself above them. At a time when teamwork and collaboration is important, you have just broken that down by declaring your opinion more valid.
Sorry for the tough words on all this. My intention is not to offend anyone. This entire issue is about heart-level issues, which are truly between each of us and our God who gives us the strength and wisdom to do anything.
By simply assuming that people working in every aspect of Christian publishing are on the same page spiritually, it can avoid a lot of misunderstandings and questionable motives…whether real or perceived.
To end on an uplifting note, here is an example how all this really comes together.
Many years ago, working with an elderly pastor on a project, I received a phone call from him in the morning telling me that he had a dream the night before and God spoke to him, giving him some new things to say. I asked him to send us this “new material” given him because we were concerned about “creating Scripture”. After receiving the material, our team reviewed it and smiled.
This dear man of God, who had studied God’s word for decades, had dreamt Scripture. All the hours immersing himself in the Bible came pouring forth in a dream as if God was speaking to him personally…which he was.
The words given him were from the Psalms and God spoke to him in soaring words to encourage an elderly servant. It was God’s gift to him that night.
Rather than doubt whether someone hears from God, I’d rather assume that God is always speaking to each of us who love him.
Excellent post. I tried to explain to my sister why I would never use this language speaking with agents and editors. I knew why it bothered me, even before I had read not to do it, but this lays it out clearly and concisely. Thanks!
A humble thought: Let’s not confuse God’s commands with God’s purposes.
So, playing along…even if a writer is absolutely convinced that God prevailed on him or her to write the thing, it doesn’t necessarily follow that God intends for the book to be a bestseller, published to the planet!
Sometimes writing is just God’s trick for getting us quiet, helping us to slow down. It might be meant to be a perfectly private exercise. And that’s ok!
That’s a great perspective Becky.
I definitely agree. I would be foolish to pretend I know what God has planned for my writing. Sure, I believe He wants me to write, that He gave me the desire, but I have no idea what end result He has planned.
Thanks for the post!
K. Douglas Brown
Thanks! Very thought provoking. This is a challenge for the Christian journey in general. Sometimes we play the God card usurping the interaction we need from our brothers and sisters in Christ. Sometimes we might say, “I’ve prayed about it and God wants me to _____.” Granted praying about something is a good thing but how do you argue with someone who’s prayed about it and feels that God want them to do or not do something? The body has many parts and the parts all need each other (I read that somewhere). Perhaps writing/editing/publishing is a microcosm of the Christian life in general.
What a great post, Dan. And so spot on. It seems like every aspect of publishing brings up heart-level issues. Lots of dying to self as the original story undergoes tweaks and some changes via others who partner with us on the journey to publication.
One assumption I can agree with (I try not to assume things normally, if you know what it makes…..) is when you said “people working in every aspect of Christian publishing are on the same page spiritually.” Going into the process with this mindset should help keep an attitude of humility.
Thanks for sharing these thoughts. They are truly valuable!
This is so hard for me – I agree the assumption is we are all trying to follow God’s lead in our writing so there is no need to preface your pitch with this information. I had never thought someone would use it to avoid editing. But when you think about how our writing should glorify Him, whether it’s Christian living or fiction, God seems to come up a lot. I often find myself saying something just like that in response to a complement about my writing.
So my question: Would that be a bad thing if an agent or editor complements your writing in a meeting?
Others can weigh in on this too, but I don’t think you can ever go wrong giving God credit after a compliment. He gave you the ability/gift, he deserves it. A number of replies today mention humility as a key. God accomplishes far more “in spite of us” than “because of us”. That’s a hard lesson to learn.
I’m old enough to have reminded of that fact a lot!
Someone needed to say it. Another reason might be that nobody really cares.
Dan, this post is making me sigh with relief. I have not heard God tell me to write anything. I write because I love to and because I love the idea of inspiring others to seek God more intimately.
Today I will be driving to pick up my daughter from her friend’s house–not because God told me to–but because she asked me to, and I love her.
When people say that God told them something I get nervous. But when someone does something out of love, then I’m all ears. Yes, I’ve experienced what can be described as nudges and inspiration–but I don’t tend to sit around waiting for them.
I plan to wear out my new copy of Self-Editing for Fiction Writer’s before I begin the query process, because God gave me a brain and common sense (I’m hoping I didn’t miss that lineup).
Blessings ~ Wendy ❀
I’m so glad you brought this up. Most men (women) on their high horses will get knocked down.
How can you argue against the God Card?
Have you noticed no, absolutely no salt is man-made. Sugar, yes, salt no. It is all God given from the sea or land deposits. On the other hand, when the salt is all gone we cannot replace it. We are the salt of the earth. I’m not about to tell Him “Sir, a little too salty here.”
I’m going to leave the salt mines to God.
This is why, Chicago Dan, I don’t say, “God told me…”
For me, I have to totally reject the premise that “Every aspiring or experienced Christian author is alerted to avoid mentioning that “God told me to write this book” when speaking to an agent or publisher”
For me, there is nothing wrong with SPEAKING the acknowledgment of God in our work. When I read this yesterday I thought to myself that I should thoroughly consider this viewpoint and then move on. It was my full intention to do so.
This subject continued to resonate in me throughout the day and into the night. At about 2:30 AM this morning, after extensively (involuntarily I might add) and recurrently dwelling on this issue, the correct answer (at least for me) is, always has been and will continue to be, LISTEN TO THEM and keep an open mind.
Romans 10:17 Consequently, faith comes from HEARING the message, and the message is HEARD through the word about Christ
Nehemiah 2:18 I TOLD them how the hand of my God had been favorable to me and also about the king’s words which he had spoken to me. Then they said, “Let us arise and build.” So they put their hands to the good work.
For me, my attitude is that you never know who you are talking to. Of course there will be charlatans and false prophets. I have faith that God will reveal them to me. I thought of Moses. God DID tell him to “SAY” (that means speak out loud, audibly) …..
Exodus 3:15 God also said to Moses, “SAY to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers–the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob–HAS SENT ME TO YOU’ “This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.
God told Moses TO TELL THEM, OUT LOUD, THAT GOD SENT HIM! In my humble opinion Moses was not “playing the God card”. He simply obeyed God’s instructions.
There are many other examples where God did indeed TELL someone to do OR SAY something, I am not offended in the least when someone makes that proclamation, never have been. My Father protects me against false claims. God has awarded the gift of discernment to me, along with the many other gifts, much like He has given to many of us.
Psalm 119:66 Teach me good discernment and knowledge, For I believe in Your commandments.
Ecclesiastes 7:12 Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: Wisdom preserves those who have it. …
Ecclesiastes 9:16 So I said, “Wisdom is better than strength.” But the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are no longer heeded. …
To get to the point we never know who we are really talking to. In their time Moses, Nehemiah, Noah and many others were not given creedence by many of their contempories.
Matthew 10:41 He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward
Deuteronomy 18:20 ‘But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’
I haven’t even begun to expound about Noah and how his contempories regarded him. In some ways writers are like Noah(working alone, many times disregarded, sometimes scoffed but NEVER being dissuaded from their vision or dare I say, assignment, from God). Noah wasn’t concerned with upsetting the “locals”, neither should we be.
I am convincd there are individuals and organizations (yes, even companies, agents and publishers)) that are playing an important part in God’s plan. .
Psalm 98:9 LET THEM SING BEFORE THE LORD, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity.
Lastly, as a reward for reading this post to conclusion I urge you to go to YouTube and enter “THE HOOTERS – All You Zombies (Lyrics) .” God Bless!