“You’re wasting your time,” he said. “You should be writing for the people outside the body.”
My friend and I sat on stiff coffee shop chairs, resolute on our opinions of whether I should be a Christian writer or a writer who calls myself Christian. There’s a world of difference between the two. The former title seemingly excludes all non-Christians from my work. However, the latter title opens me up to both audiences.
My friend argued that the latter title was more effective.
We differed on opinions then, but throughout my writing career, I often wonder if he was right. I wonder if the Great Commission means that I should write to unbelievers rather than pigeonhole my writing to Christians only. I wonder which is more effective for God’s purposes.
I can’t deny that by labeling my writing as “Christian,” I detract a large audience. Yet, on the other hand, if it is not in my nature to write non-Christian pieces, then my work would suffer, not attracting Christians or non-Christians.
It seems this is an all too familiar battle for Christians sharing their work to the world. We want to be smart marketers who attract the right audience. We want to brand our work with the right terminology. So the question is: will attaching the “Christian” label to our work give us an advantage or a disadvantage?
For a long time, I reasoned that I shouldn’t be a “Christian” writer because that would be shaming my outreach.
However, what I’ve learned is, keeping away from the “Christian” label doesn’t necessarily make you any more successful with your work; in fact, it might even hurt it.
Wrestling on this question of whether to be a “Christian” writer, I arrived upon Paul’s letter in the Bible. Paul did not believe in Christ for most of His life before the time He wrote 2 Corinthians. In fact, he was commissioned to preach to the Gentiles. Yet, in his second letter to the Corinthians, he tells them something interesting.
He says in verse 10:15-16:
“Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our sphere of activity among you will greatly expand, so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you.”
This is Paul’s outreach plan. Build up the faith of the Corinthian Christians to be mature, and watch them carry out His influence to farther regions. Basically, he was speaking to the Christians, and it turned out fine.
Paul knew that by speaking specifically to the Christians in Corinth, he would be able to expand his influence. I wonder if the same applies to some of us.
Pointing to this verse isn’t to say we should always aim our work toward Christians. The point is, it’s o.k. to label your work as “Christian.” It’s o.k. to be a Christian writer, artist, photographer, entrepreneur, musician, teacher, etc. etc. It doesn’t hurt your witness, and sometimes, it doesn’t hurt your success either.
When it comes to branding your work as “Christian” or not, the important question to ask is whether you’re a producer or an artist.
In his book, Dream Year, Ben Arment discusses two ways in approaching a vision. You could be the producer or the artist. The artist is the one who does the work and delivers. The producer, on the other hand, equips artists to succeed in their task.
We might believe that being the artist, or the one who carries out the message to unbelievers, is the only way to approach the vision of Christianity. But truth is, we can be producers. We can be the people using our work to build up the faith of other Christians, much like Paul did.
If you are a producer, it actually benefits you more to label your work as Christian. Then, you’ll be attracting the Christians you want to equip and send out.
All this to say, you must decide what badge you want to wear. Being “Christian” with your work doesn’t mean you won’t be drawing those outside of the Body to witness the Church. It’ll just mean you’ll be equipping Christians to make a better impact.
The choice is yours. Choose what badge fits your outreach best.
Photography by Jeff Sheldon
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