Last month I had the privilege of attending the American Christian Fiction Writers annual conference in Indianapolis, at which Tim Downs was the keynote speaker. And I gotta tell ya, his first address alone was worth the price of admission.
He spoke of the effectiveness of storytelling in a Christian’s (or anyone else’s) efforts to deliver a message. A person will refuse to listen if you get in his face with the facts. But if you illustrate it with an engaging story, the concept will sink in.
Rather than pounding the reader over the head with an overt salvation presentation, therefore, his stories plant the seed of it. It’s his goal to draw people’s thoughts along new pathways, perhaps introduce a possibility the reader might never before have considered.
I won’t dispute the validity of that. There can be no harvest without the sowing, and planting the seed is a vital step in the soul-winning process.
But sometimes, I wonder just what we are sowing.
A book I read a year or two ago is an example. It had a good plot and it held my interest from start to finish. But considering it was billed as a Christian novel, the theme disturbed me: Don’t be afraid, and do what’s right.
It sounds nice, yes. Even inspirational. But Christian? That phrase could fit with equal ease into any religion — or no religion. An Islamic terrorist might reassure himself with those words while he straps on a bomb. An atheist could use it to encourage bravery before a Creation vs. Evolution debate.
As the author said when I asked her about it, we don’t need to give the “Romans Road to salvation” in every story we write. But shouldn’t the seeds we sow at least be of the right species?
If you want to harvest wheat, you don’t plant crabgrass, even though crabgrass is easier.
Jesus told his hearers that the truth will set us free. But that liberating truth is dependent on another, more pointed one: In order to find the truth, we must follow Him.
Therefore, if we’re going to plant seeds of truth, Christ must be the kernel.
There’s certainly good reason to write “sowing fiction,” as Mr. Downs called it. But must we be limited to that?
As writers, we shouldn’t be ashamed to pull a few weeds, dig an irrigation channel, or stake a sagging branch. And if our Lord calls us to reap, let’s be willing to pick up our sickle.