C.S. Lewis once said, “The first business of a story is to be a good story”(A-Z Quotes). He is speaking as a believer but also as a creative. With Christians in the creative sphere, particularly in writing and music, I have found there to be two main types of artist.
One that writes what I will call ‘very Christian content’ and another that creates more subtle works hinting at their Christian or moral origins - creatives like LeCrae, C.S. Lewis, Melody Carlson, Veronica Roth and Switchfoot. These people, particularly the first two, I have looked up to and found much inspiration from.
As a writer of fiction, my dream has always been for my books to be on the shelves of public libraries, not just tobe read among Christians.
LeCrae breaking the mould
In 2009, LeCrae made the conscious decision not only to make the Christian references in his music more subtle, but to move his life from Memphis across to Atlanta, Georgia, the nerve centre of the southern rap scene.
One of his primary objectives was to make meaningful connections and friendships with other musicians in the city, with the gospel in mind. LeCrae was widely criticised by the Christian community for these changes and accused of compromising, particularly in his lyrics.
In an address to a group of college students at a southern university, he explained that his aim was to reach as many people with a message of love and the gospel as possible, and he personally felt limited to a small audience bymaintaining explicitly Christian lyrics.
Since making this move, he has made connections with major rap artists and his sphere of influence has grown exponentially.
Prioritising quality content
“The world does not need more Christian literature. What it needs is more Christians writing good literature.” - CS Lewis(A-Z Quotes)
The same holds true for any creative endeavour. While there is nothing wrong with explicitly Christian content, I think that at least when it comes to creative fields, the work has to be good in and of itself - even to a non-believer’s eyes and ears.
LeCrae might just embody exactly what C.S. Lewis meant when he said, “We needn’t all write patently moral or theological work. Indeed, work whose Christianity is latent may do quite as much good and may reach some whom the more obvious religious work would scare away(A-Z Quotes)”.
Reaching the unreached
The point is that explicitly labelled Christian content will rarely be viewed by an unbeliever - the very people Christ tells us to reach. While there is nothing wrong with sermons and theological blogs and articles - heaven knows we need good, strong theology - I have written a novel manuscript and dream of a wider audience than just Christians.
While I love Christians, the local church, and believe in encouraging one another, my heart burns for the lost. So dare I leave the comfortable 99 and go after the one? My heart burns for the one, it weeps for them.
And so does Jesus’. We are all called to different things and, as Christians, everything we do should be to the glory of God, whether writing stories, baking cakes or fixing cars (or broken legs).
So I will not be submitting my novel to Christian publishing houses later this year.
For the young girl who’s just gotten pregnant and considering an abortion.
For the yearning teenage boy whose father will never say he’s proud of him.
For the woman who lies down exhausted from hearing her husband speak of her worthlessness.
For the 25 year old who’s just become addicted to drugs because they can’t face their grief.
For the person who has run away from home in the night.
For the woman who’s wondering if anyone would notice if she just never showed up to work one day.
For the older man who regrets his life choices and wonders if there is any redemption for a man such as him.
I want to give these precious souls the chance to read words that might just give them hope. That might answer their question with, “Yes! You too can be redeemed. All hope is not lost.”
Knowing what you’re called to
While my fiction writing is currently a little more subtle, I do have a blog that is very overtly Christian. Recently God asked me if I would be willing to continue writing this blog if my audience never grew?
It was a test of my humility - quite challenging. I’m okay if my audience never becomes huge, but if my book does get published, I would like to include a link to my blog so that if people look me up they can find a very overtly Christ-centred message.
In conclusion, I believe that there is a place for both kinds of creative - that both glorify God. You need to listen to what he’s saying about the kind of specific thing he wants you to do. Which kind of creative are you?
Lil van Wyngaard is a staff writer for a Melbourne based stationery company. She also blogs on the side and has her first book in the drafting stages (planning to submit for publication later this year). Lil is an extrovert and loves entertaining at her home with her husband Jacques, yet can often be found reading or at the gym. She is an SEO copywriter, educated at Deakin University and also has a passion for all types of dance. Lil worships at New Gen City Church and is involved in youth and young adult ministry with her husband.