Monday, February 12, 2007

Earl Creps on Writing

Earl Creps is the Director of the Doctor of Ministry Program at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary and the author of Off-Road Disciplines.

The Doctor of Ministry Team at AGTS spends many hours helping our participants become better writers.

After five years of trying to sort out the issue of academic writing we have developed resources, tools, teams of editors, training experiences and a host of other aids.

This month I tried something new suggesting to our participants that they ask someone to lay hands on them believing that the Holy Spirit would pour the grace of written expression into their lives and ministries.

Some of the strain of writing comes from the idea that it involves only technique applied by arduous effort. Where is the grace in that? Where is the power of the Spirit?

The most important thing to happen this week for me was a change in my perspective on writing that developed out of a conversation with one of our participants. We need to think of writing as a spiritual discipline, not just a professional practice.

In other words, writing forms me spiritually by…

1. Maximizing my influence: after our sermons have all disappeared into thin air the only thing that remains of our ministry is what we have written. Even our mp3’s do not have the impact of our books and articles. Realizing the potential of writing packs the exercise with missional implications and consequent responsibility.

2. Attracting the inspiration of the Holy Spirit: no one would want to preach without the feeling of both speaking for God and speaking in God’s power. But we seldom think of writing this way. As a gift of expression, the written word is just as eligible for the Spirit’s anointing as the spoken word. In fact, if the Bible is any indication, perhaps it is more eligible.

3. Bonding me to a community: all professional writers know that creating their product is a team sport. Our Team frequently reads each other’s articles or chapters to provide helpful feedback. All of our work passes through the hands of editors, managing editors, etc. In fact, Steven Lim says there is really no such thing as writing, only re-writing. Done correctly, then, the discipline of writing will make me vulnerable and accountable to other believers.

4. Bringing me to the end of myself: staring at a blank computer screen while a cup of coffee cools off on your desk is one of life’s really painful experiences. The shortage of time, energy, and words that haunts most writers has a way of making the composition process feel desperate and impossible. One of our graduates described putting her head down on the desk in a moment like this and just begging God for help and strength. She produced a brilliant paper for a D.Min. class which I am sure will be published as a journal article. When we decrease, God increases.

My point here is not about academic writing per se, but the ways in which any form of this art can shape a professional writing ministry that forges enduring influence for the kingdom of God.

If you disagree, put this phrase into Google: “Purpose-Driven Life.”

My major recommendation: re-write something


Since completing the manuscript for Off-Road Disciplines, I have been reflecting on the little-discussed ministry of writing.

No one ever achieved influence by reading books, only by publishing them. Yet writing is usually regarded as either a craft or a business, seldom as a ministry calling.

Drawn from my own experience with Off-Road Disciplines, here are a few reasons why we should think of writing as a ministry, a calling, not just as a skill set.

1. Writing is a long-haul process: Publishing my first book has taken half a century, so at this rate I will have been dead for twenty years before the next one comes out! Seriously, the influence that comes from being a producer is a life-time investment.

2. Writing is in God’s hands: I asked my friend Margaret Poloma (who has published a lot of good books) how she managed to do that. Her reply was simply that she prays and waits on God. Oh….that.

3. Writing depends on relationship: This book happened because an Executive Editor from Jossey-Bass heard me give a talk at a conference. Unlike 50% of the audience, she actually stayed until the end. Right place/right time.

4. Writing involves lots of pain: My writing proposals have been shot down so many times I have lost count. For example, right now I am awaiting word from a publisher on a book idea that has been rejected something like 35 times. Being a producer is not for the fainthearted.

5. Writing begins with small things: While a first book has taken over 50 years, the truth is I have been writing articles, curriculum, blogs, etc. for a long time. Doing small pieces for Sunday School publications provided the opportunity and the practice I needed.

6. Writing creates obligations: My very first professional writing assignment (during the first Reagan administration) happened because a district officer, Gene Petty, went out of his way to connect me to an editor. Everything stems from that one moment. Thanks, Gene. Now, it’s my obligation to open the door for the next person.

7. Writing is about hard work: Steven Lim, our Project Coordinator, says there is really no such thing as writing, only re-writing. He is right. Perseverance is the core discipline, not grammar.

8. Writing is costly: The hours consumed by reworking drafts will come from somewhere. Stanley Grenz told me once that his writing penalty was being able to read less. I have found this to be true as well. Everyone pays. The only question is how.

9 Writing is worth it: Creating compelling, well-organized text trains the mind even if the words are never published. Moreover, the influence of printed or electronic text is hugely greater than our spoken words in the long-term. With the internet available 24/7 no one needs to wait for a publisher to take their writing global.

10. Writing is servanthood: Apart from the motivation to serve the Church and the world, writing does become just another profession. So it comes down to love. If the words spring from my love for God and for people, then writing manifests the fruit of the Spirit. If the words come from some other source, they manifest something less.

My major recommendation: write something; then re-write it.

my website

- from Dr. Earl Creps' Amazon Blog

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