I am sharing the backstory of some of the important events and thoughts that have led to the newest book project that I am working on.
My first published work was almost 10 years ago now. I did a small project with Intervarsity Press called “Following God” (it was later retitled “Following after God” because there was an author who claimed they had the title first, but that’s another story).
I had a lot of fun doing it, and at the time figured it was only the beginning of what would be a steady flow of books that I would write. Within months I had my second proposal to a publisher, and that too was accepted. But I ultimately decided to cancel the project and halt my process of writing. There were a number of reasons for that, but here were two of the big ones:
1.] I sensed God telling me to. I hope that doesn’t sound overly spiritualized – it is honestly what I felt God leading me to do. It took time for me to understand the reasons why, but I think I eventually figured it out. I think God was doing something in my life, and for that to happen some things had to go.
Though there was/is nothing wrong with working at a resourced mega church or being a published author, they can easily create a veneer of false strength and wisdom. God was clearly moving me into a new era of faith building, of reliance on God, and of deepening in character. Part of this faith building process would require me leaving Willow Creek and planting a new church. Another part of this process required me to put a pause on my writing aspirations. I sensed God wanted me to dedicate myself to a local ministry context that happened under the radar and outside of the public eye.
2.] I sensed God telling me to wait until I had something important to say. When I was working on my second book proposal back in 2002, someone told me something that has never left my mind. “If you want to be a successful Christian writer,” he said, “you need to repackage that which people already believe. They don’t want to hear new things. They want to be reminded of what they already believe.”
It is quite possible that this person was just speaking out of his own pain, and I certainly don’t believe this is true of many of the great writers. But he was someone that was knowledgeable of the industry, and this statement really impacted me. God used that conversation to spark introspection about my true motives for writing. Was I just trying to put a new spin on that which was already a popular idea, add some fancy marketing to it, and then sell a bunch of books? Did I have something to share and contribute that was really meaningful, or was I just looking for that which would get published?
This process was part of why I stopped writing at the time, and it led me to make a pact with God. I committed to God that I would never attempt to write a book unless God put a thought in my head that could genuinely contribute to what was happening in our day and age. I promised God that to the best of my ability, I would avoid writing for self aggrandizement or self promotion. I would only take a stab at it if there was something pressing that seemed worthy of addressing; a contribution worthy of putting my best efforts into its communication.
Those are the two reasons I have not attempted to write something up until now, and they are the same reasons why I have embarked on this latest journey. There is something that has been forming in me for some time. There is something I have been seeing that, though it often feels quite elusive, I think like I am closer to putting my finger on.
The phrase that I have been using to describe this developing idea is “Something’s Missing.” I will share 3 different versions of “Something’s Missing” over the next 3 posts, and I would love to hear your reactions to each one. My thoughts on each were shaped by interacting with different groups of people in each case, and the “Something’s Missing” appears to be very different for each group, at least on the surface. Yet, in my humble opinion, what’s missing may not be as different as it might first appear.
Thank you for reading, and please engage with me as I share over the next 3 posts what seems like is missing…