By Carolyn Tomlin
Correspondent, The Alabama Baptist
A retired pastor asked a friend who owned a pickup truck to stop by his house. Once there, he loaded several heavy-duty plastic bags into the back of the vehicle. “Drive me to the city dump,” said the elderly minister.
Once there, he pulled the large black bags out and stepped a few feet away. In a few minutes a bulldozer buried the contents. With a questioning look on his face, the friend asked, “Sir, what was in those bags?” With tears streaming down his face, the older pastor said, “Sixty years worth of sermons and notes — my life’s work.” This true story should not have happened.
Perhaps this elderly pastor is similar to many pastors today. As a young man, he intended to publish his work. Procrastination became his friend and he found reasons not to write.
Denise George, an Alabama writer and author of “What Pastors Wish Church Members Knew” encourages church pastors to write to publish.
“When pastors write and publish they reach far beyond the walls of their churches with the message of Jesus Christ. A book can reach out to thousands of people around the world. A magazine article can reach millions of people — lost souls who need Christ and/or Christians who need encouragement.”
As a pastor, what keeps you from writing? Do you fall in the category of believing in one or more of these seven reasons? Or do you seek the truth and use writing as part of your ministry? You decide.
Reason #1: I don’t have the time to write. Pastors are busy people. They have congregations with numerous needs.
They prepare one, two or sometimes three sermons each week. Many serve on state or regional committees. It’s understandable that they can’t add writing to a busy schedule.
Reason #2: My English isn’t perfect. I don’t write well. In Exodus 4, God called Moses to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt, but Moses replied, “I am slow of speech and tongue” (Ex. 4:10). Moses asked the Lord to “please send someone else” (Ex. 4:13). God allowed Moses’ brother Aaron to go with him, and God instructed him what to say.
As with Moses, if God calls you to do something He will walk with you. God will give you wisdom and courage to complete the task.
Reason #3: I’ve been rejected by traditional publishers. Self-publishing is gaining respect. You don’t have to have a printed book to be a published author. According to one report, e-books are selling more than three times the number of printed books. Createspace.com allows you to place your own work online for a small fee, but talk to other pastors who have published e-books. Can they recommend someone to format your book for Amazon and Kindle? Online publishing is part of the modern world. If a book is available on Amazon, you have worldwide distribution. Readers in India, China, Brazil and many other countries have access to your work.
It’s been said that a publishing company may spend approximately $65,000 to publish a hardback book. Unless you have a track record in publishing and have already been a top seller, not many companies will take a chance on a new author.
Reason #4: My sermons are prepared for my congregation. Mike Wakefield, a former pastor now serving with LifeWay Christian Resources, says, “One of the best things you can do to be a better speaker is to write. The boundaries of deadlines and word counts will help you be more concise and teach you to choose your words carefully.”
Instead of one congregation, pastors who write-to-publish “speak” to thousands of people each month and millions each year. Your audience is not only your congregation but the world.
Reason #5: I don’t understand how to promote a book. Beware of advertisements that promise huge sales or quick success. Remember the old adage, “If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.”
Be your own representative in promoting your work. The larger traditional publishers will offer some promotion but it’s usually up to the author to set up book signings, media contacts, book reviews and other marketing techniques.
Serious authors realize that promoting a book takes a lot of time and energy. By using social media, you generate interest in your book and you enlist readers to help you promote.
Reason #6: I don’t know how to start writing for the Christian market. Take advantage of workshops that offer the basic foundations and provide guidance for more experienced writers. George, co-founder and instructor of the Boot Camp for Christian Writers, says, “Writing is a skill, and a skill can be learned. We love to write, and this Christian ministry helps those who want to write and publish for the magazine and book market.”
Two resources that help people publish are the Writer’s Market 2018 and The Christian Writers Market Guide 2018.
These resources list valuable information about book, magazine and newspaper publishers, including contact information, the type of books or articles they publish, how to submit, payment arrangements and tips for receiving a contract instead of a rejection.
Reason #7: I need something to do after I retire. Why wait until retirement? Writing is the perfect second career for pastors. You can start a writing career and use this as an avocation while serving a church.
Then after retirement, writing can become a vocation. This is one job that requires very little equipment or expense.
And the good news: there is no retirement until you make the decision to stop work. You can work at home, no car expense or travel, no fighting traffic. Share what God has blessed you with to educate, inspire, inform and entertain others.
What if the Apostle Paul never wrote? Writing for the Christian market extends far beyond the church walls. Readers need the gospel of Jesus Christ in a world that needs to hear what they have to say and what Scripture teaches.