Proof-Reading Our Message

I’m studying the craft of writing, and one of the books I’m reading talks about the requirement for a writer to “take the reader there” in the story, wherever the “there” is that you want them to be. In other words, I know what I picture as I’m writing a story, but am I writing it clearly enough, descriptive enough so that what the reader “sees” is what I’m seeing? It’s common for new writers to assume that the reader will get the same picture as the writer, because the writer’s mind sees the full picture and fills in the gaps in the story.

At the Tuesday Bible study I go to, we were reading in Acts 4 and talking about what sort of message we should be presenting to the world. It hit me that perhaps many of us in the Christian community are like those new writers. We know what we mean to convey, and our minds fill in the gaps, convincing us that we’re actually communicating the Gospel accurately when we might not be doing it as well as we want to.

I’ve mentioned this book, unChristian by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, in another thread. They take statistical research from polling data and show exactly what this generation thinks about Christians, the Church, the Gospel, etc. Then they talk about what Scripture tells us, and how we might better reflect Christ and the Gospel to a world that doesn’t know Him.

To me, their research is like taking what we’re “writing” and giving it to someone to proof-read. As I’ve been writing, I’ve been reading my stuff to my wife. Seeing her respond how I want, laughing at a joke or saying “whoa” at something shocking, and hearing her thoughts on the story– that all tells me that she’s getting it. In those parts, I feel like I’m taking her “there.” Other times, I see how she doesn’t laugh at a joke or doesn’t respond to what I thought was powerful. When she asks, “What does that mean?” then I know I haven’t written that part well, and I change it.

I’m not saying go buy this book. What I’m saying is, the short version of the book is that the world sees us as hypocritical, only concerned with making new converts, anti-homosexual (opposed to the people, not the sin), sheltered from reality, too political, and judgmental (not in the good sense of making moral judgments about right and wrong, but condemning everyone who is “not us” and de-valuing them).

I know that many might say, “Well, Jesus said the world would hate us, after all, and the Gospel message is an offense, so it’s no surprise that people don’t like us.” I thought about why the Apostles were imprisoned in Acts 4 and 5. I realized that they were imprisoned because of what God was doing in and through them, and because of the power of the message they preached. The religious leaders wanted to stop the message, and trying to stop the Apostles was the way to do it.

In contrast, I thought about the unChristian people in my life and the evidence presented in this book, and I realized how very few of the people I’ve dealt with have had issues with the Gospel. More often than not, they haven’t even gotten around to dealing with the Gospel because they can’t stand the messengers. As a result, they don’t care what the messengers have to say.

All I’m saying is, can we honestly suppose that (in general) we’re doing a good job of “taking our readers there,” making sure that the image we see is accurately described in the message our lives convey?

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