Bringing Preachy Back, Baby

finger-924109_640Once upon a time, I memorized the modern rules of Christian writing:

  • Avoid sounding preachy.
  • Stay away from “Christian-ese” – words that only people in the church understand.
  • Don’t be a Bible-thumper.
  • Weave the gospel into your story but don’t be obvious.
  • Never sound judgmental or condemning and whatever you do, don’t mention hell.

Once upon a time, I believed those rules but not today.

Today, I’ve decided it’s time to break them.

First of all, if you’ve been to the movies lately or watched network OR cable television, you’ll notice that “preachy” is in, baby. I hear sermons from fictional characters on a daily basis.

Oh, they’re expounding a different gospel than I believe but their sermonizing could hold its own, stylistically, against the great revivalists and Bible-thumpers of the early 20th century. Save the environment. Advocate for this social change. Mold yourself into this type of political correctness. How dare anyone disagree with this particular life choice? Today’s sitcom and HBO writers are the Matthews, Marks, Lukes, and Johns of a new social agenda and they’re preaching with every monologue and punchline. Why should I hold back?

Jesus never did. That’s right. Jesus was preachy, people. He walked around telling people to repent. He called them on their sin. He told people outright they could end up in Hell if they didn’t turn from their ways. Yes, He was an engaging storyteller but what He wove, not so subtly, into some of those stories, is that many people will spend eternity separated from God. There is no stealth in the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man. It’s obvious and blunt.

Second, no matter what language I use, no matter my word choice, there are going to be truths and ideas about my faith that will sound like gibberish or utter nonsense to people who are not seeking Jesus. The Bible says (and yes, I’m thumping it as I write this), that the gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing and that the “natural” person doesn’t accept the things of the Spirit of God because they are spiritually discerned. Paul wrote those words and he would be an authority on this phenomena as he was once so hostile to the gospel, he persecuted and imprisoned Christians. When he had a personal experience with Jesus, he crossed over into understanding.

I enjoy the challenge of finding fresh ways to communicate Biblical truth but the fact is that no matter how carefully I craft my words, on some level, the Spirit of God must be at work. I find it remarkably refreshing these days when someone just tells the truth straight out – “Loved One, get your act together with Jesus or your eternal future is bleak.” The church has created some words for concepts that we own, people. Yes, communicate with love and clarity but don’t be afraid of the words in your own story.

Finally, as a writer and communicator, I believe it’s important to speak the language of the people to whom you’re trying to communicate. Modern people are losing the ability to parse nuanced conversation. When everything is reduced to a soundbite, a ticker headline, a tweet, or a status update, it’s time to lose the cute cover and simply state the naked truth. The airwaves are thick with deception so truth can’t afford to stay back in the dressing room adjusting its petticoat.

Think about the days of Noah. He was surrounded by men and women engaged in such evil practices, our loving God’s go-to plan was complete annihilation. Have you ever been surrounded by dangerous thugs or walked through a crowd of prideful, jeering scoffers? Did you entertain the notion of subtly debating with them?

Of course, not. They aren’t subtle people so you used plain, direct language. Yes, they might be engaged by a well-told story but the meaning had better be clear because it’s a crowd that’s always looking for “what’s in it for me.”

The Bible (I’m thumping again) says this is where we’re heading. The end will be as it was in the days of Noah. So if we’re communicating in those times to those people, I say we communicate with their language. It’s only fair – to them.

Writers know that it’s important to know the rules so you know when to break them. It’s time, loved ones. It’s time to challenge some of the rules of Christian writing we’ve accepted like a flock of willing sheep and own, not only our stories, but our way of telling them.

Stop looking around at everyone else, people. This is a conversation between you and the Bestower of your creativity. What story do you have to tell and how are you called to tell it? Own it. Stand by it. Release it into the fray with excellence and with prayer.

It’s time to bring preachy, back, Baby – just like Jesus.

Because sometimes lambs roar.

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    The Conversation

  1. Judith Robl says:

    Love this post, Lori! I’ve always said a half of a truth is the whole of a lie. If we love these people – all of them, not just the ones in our immediate circle – we must tell them the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Thanks for putting it so very well.

  2. Jan says:

    Right on, Sista! It’s time we speak out – speak truth from the Word – before we lose the privilege to do so openly. Yes, we will anger some, confuse some, and offend some, but some – those who are ready to hear the truth will have open hearts and be saved. It’s worth it.

  3. Bruce Cunningham says:

    You have no idea how helpful it is to read this.

    Ultimately, after all of our niceties,there is Heaven, and there is Hell. It’s true anyhow.

    Thank you for using your gift so. The real Jesus is no doubt pleased.

  4. Every time I read your words, I’m inspired to engage as the me I am. And I can’t thank you enough for that. Just yesterday I considered this admonition, “So do not throw away your confidence it will be richly rewarded…” (Hebrews 10: 35 NIV). When my legs get wobbly and mess with my insides, it’s way too easy to shrink into my skin. So thanks. Thanks for the admonition to stand strong – even when standing on wobbly legs.

  5. Joyce says: