But when it came to my own writing, I started to get pangs of conscience. If writing was going to be my profession, shouldn't it reflect my most important life work: answering the Great Commission? “ ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation’ ” (Mark 16:15, NIV). I felt strongly convicted that my writing should further the work of the gospel for as long as God gave me opportunities to do so. That was about twenty-five years ago, and I feel the same way today. I briefly toyed with the idea of writing a secular book, but God reinforced my calling to write Christian material. For me, it was a much needed affirmation and a nice opportunity to recommit my work to Him.
I asked some other Christian writers for their take on this difficult question: Christian, secular, or both? Check out what they had to say and then join the conversation. Who knows, you may discover your next favorite author, book, or calling below:
Recent Published Work: The Scarlet Cord, Daughter of the King, A Hero’s Homecoming, Here Today Gone Tomorrow, and A Sharecropper Christmas.
Recent Published Word: A Very Present Help, and Paths of Righteousness. Currently working on There Abideth Hope, hopefully available by the end of this year.
Recent Published Work: The Angelmen Series: Amity of the Angelmen (Book 1), Asher of the Angelmen (Book 2), Coming soon: Caedmon of the Angelmen (Book 3), as well as Books 4-8!
Recent Published Work: He’s Got Your Back Junior-Earliteen 2015 Devotional Book, Signs of the Times, Insight.
Recent Published Work: Epidemic, Dark Circle
Suspense for Sensitive Readers, group on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/144752-suspense-for-sensitive-readers
Shakira R. Thompson
Recent Published Work: High Noon Justice
Kay D. Rizzo_
Recent Published Work: Prodigal Daughter, Northern Lights, Rebecca’s Crossing
Recently Published Work: Coming Back Through Grace
Recently Published Work: Ellie's Window (Surrender), Called to Rebellion (The Key To a Single-Hearted Love for Christ)
Recently Published Work: Faith In Forgiving
Do you write Christian or secular material, or a combination of both?
Carlene: There’s a varying amount of faith in my books, always with a Christian worldview.
Sharon: It was about ten years ago that I started writing Christian fiction and that is where my interest has stayed. Since God gave me the ability to write, I want all my stories to be a blessing, not only to people, but also to my Lord. My desire is to be an encouragement to those who read my work. I have often heard a preacher say that when God gives you a talent, you need to use it for His honor and glory. When talents are not used for the purpose they have been given, I believe that they are slowly lost. As long as I am able, I will use what He has given me to the best of my ability to draw others to my Lord._
T.C.: Christian. I have children who like to read, but when we go to the library to find books, I find way too much questionable material. I want my kids to have interesting books to read that point them to God and godly thoughts rather than vampires and sex.
Nancy: Christian material only. I never even considered writing secular material because my writer’s “voice” is devotional-inspirational. I started writing Christian material to bring people hope. It seems that the best way to do that is to share my thoughts and feelings, share stories of people I know, and share scriptures from the Bible.
J.P.: The line between secular and Christian art should be invisible, but it’s not. It’s perhaps more pronounced than in any other career. Think for a minute: you wouldn’t ask your nurse if she’s a Christian before she takes your temperature or a plumber which church he attends before he comes to fix a leaky pipe.
There are three reasons that I chose to write “secular” fiction (ugh, even that label gives me the heebie jeebies). Here they are:
a) I tried writing “Christian” fiction and it was ugly. I thought I was “supposed to” write this and only this because I am a person of faith. Well, my attempt would have been painful for the reader—thank God it never got that far.
b) In her very powerful book, Walking on Water, Madeleine L’engle stated, “To try to talk about art and about Christianity is for me one and the same thing, and it means attempting to share the meaning of my life, what gives it, for me, its tragedy and its glory. It is what makes me respond to the death of an apple tree, the birth of a puppy, northern lights shaking the sky, by writing stories.” Faith and art are intertwined.
c) Christians already know God. What about those who don’t? As a person of faith, I’m called to “be light to the world.” But not to those who already have light—we’d likely just blind each other.
Jesus often taught using stories (parables) and there’s a reason for this. We can relate to stories. We can imagine ourselves within the story and it brings facts and messages to life. Stories are the ultimate communication tool and if a Christian is telling a story, it will contain light, no matter how much gloom is also present.
Because I write in the mystery/suspense/thriller genre, there is a lot of darkness in my subject matter. I write about murder, rape, epidemic outbreaks, and other bad things happening. But no matter what we write, we can never outdo the bad guys. Look at your Bible and you’ll find it full of accounts of all sorts of horrible deeds: sodomy, torture, gang rape, murder and more. Does that make it a bad book? Of course not!
But while horrible, terrible things happen in the world, it’s my choice as an author to glamorize and play up the degenerate acts or to skim over them and focus on the story itself.
And ultimately on a hope that good will conquer evil in the end.
Shakira: I now mainly write Christian material and have always but there have been times where I have ghostwritten for secular material. I was ghostwriting for a minister who was writing a secular fiction novel. I’d previously worked on a Christian nonfiction book for her as well.
Kay: Christian. I only have so many years to share the love of Jesus to others.
Louisa: I write for the Christian market now but for many years tried hard to write for the secular market. However, personally I found it difficult to write any scenarios or characters without the knowledge of God in the framework or lives of the characters and told that my work was good but not apparently marketable, please remove the Christian outlook etc. Eventually, my heart and relationship with God changed and grew and found that all my work had the Lord's hand print all over it which made me laugh when I reflected back on my journey with Him. At the end of the day, I just could not imagine life in my work or my characters without God in it.
Sandy: I write Christian material in a way that those who have not yet begun to follow Jesus will enjoy, be inspired by, and find challenging to their existing life and worldview.
Jessy: I write Christian stories as an obedient response to God's command to lead the readers to Him. My personal painful experience has been God's instrument for me to discover His will for me—to share my story and create a story for His glory. Through that heartbreaking experience, He allowed me to experience His supernatural grace so I could extend forgiveness to the person who've hurt me and share it through a story.
Hazel: I write Christian related stories. I base most of my writings on my experiences and as I see things. I want to share, encourage, and inspire other people who read my writings. I am fascinated by writing Christian material only, as I want to deepen my relationship to God through that. And yes, I hope my writings may inspire hopeless people. For me, it’s a gift when you can write. Each of us has a unique talent of writing to reach out to our readers. But one thing we want for our readers is to be satisfied, learn from our writing, and be encouraged by it. As for me, I’m not looking only to entertain readers when they’re bored but also to remind them that good things still exist.
Why? What contributed to your choice?
Sandy: Oh that's easy. God has given me this gift, therefore I feel a strong, pulsating, need to honor Him by using it for His pleasure. I have come to see that when we are actively involved in using our gifts and talents, they become as prayer to us for God becomes intimately involved in the process.
Shakira: I was born and raised in the church so Christian material is all I know and what I’m pretty much able to relate to.
Carlene: It doesn’t feel like a choice—more like an imperative to incorporate themes of faith, hope, and love into the stories I write.
Sharon: Only writing Christian novels blesses me as I hope it does others. In no way has it been a hindrance to my writing. Each day as I work on my story, I get more and more excited about finishing it, having it published and then read by others.
T.C.: I started writing picture books that were not specifically Christian (though a couple were), and was not able to get them published before moving on to Christian YA books. Writing Christian work, I feel I have a ministry that pleases God and not just a hobby or a way to make a few extra dollars.
Have you always written strictly Christian material? If no, what changed?
Carlene: When I became a believer in Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world, I developed a sudden passion for creative writing. I don’t know that this was a decision at first. A book was a way to capture and express my new feelings, and the result was A Hero’s Homecoming. It’s a romance intertwined with a spiritual journey.
Sandy: I was quite the radical 60's kid when I was in high school. I wrote all kinds of things that I thought were deep and world changing, only to find later in life that they were trite and full of illogical ideals. Everything changed when I met Jesus heart to heart.
Jessy: No. I have started secular stories before but I wasn't able to finish it as I was depending on my wisdom which is limited. God reminded me that my interest in writing is "from" Him and "for" Him alone. So I surrendered my dream as a writer and asked Him to reveal what He wants me to write that could bring glory to His name.
If yes, why did you decide at the beginning of your career to write Christian material only?
Kay: I didn’t make a conscious decision. Every few years, after a book gets rejected, I decide to ‘make a few tents’ like Paul. I peruse a few Harlequins and quickly lose interest. It’s not my ministry; it’s His. He keeps the ideas flowing. I have more book ideas than I have days to live.
Most important to me is my influence over the lives of Christian women, especially the young. I wouldn’t want to do anything or write anything that might cause them to doubt or to stray from their commitment to God.
Do you feel that only writing Christian material has been a blessing or has hindered your work as a writer? Why or why not?
T.C.: Writing Christian definitely limits my audience. There will always be those who are looking for books that “push the limits,” especially teens who are trying to figure out their new hormones. And of course, those who feel they will be “preached at” and want nothing to do with Christian books. But, there is also that group, albeit smaller group, who finding it freeing to read books that do not make them nervous. While a lot of times it is the parents who seek these books out, I also find there are many teens who are seeking to please God in all they do. I want to help them!
Nancy: Only a blessing because when I hear people say that my writing somehow touched their lives, I know that I’m doing what I’m supposed to do—making a difference in this world for God. Also, when I write, I feel a closeness to God that I don’t feel otherwise.
Shakira: My works are definitely a blessing to me first and then I hopefully pray that they are a blessing to others. While I have written both secular and Christian material, they all still had some spiritual themes throughout them which made it easy for me. Now that I’m mainly writing Christian material, the income has been slow to come in, however, I’m definitely more satisfied.
Sandy: A blessing! It's been a huge blessing. I so often feel like God is whispering in my ear, "Sandy, I have a story that needs to be told, and I want you to tell it.” As a woman I have many words! What a privilege it is to use those words to the praise and Glory of God.
Jessy: Writing Christian material has been definitely a blessing. Through this, I'm not only sharing what God wants me to share but in the process, I'm having a closer relationship with my Creator. Since I acknowledge that my wisdom is limited, God pours His blessing through the words, scenes and dialog that can be included in the story. And it will always be a blessing to be used by God to display His glory.
If you are a Christian who writes secular material, what contributed to your choice?
Carlene: Some of my books are centered on faith, while in others it is merely an undercurrent. I think it’s important to maintain the integrity of each story. Forcing Christian content into what should be a more secular tale doesn’t work for me.
What kind of secular material do you write? Is there secular material you wouldn’t write? How do you draw the line?
Carlene: I love to tell all kinds of stories, but I draw the line at erotica. However, I don’t try to pretend the stork brings babies. The Bible is a good guideline. It mentions lots of unpleasant behavior by stating what happened without going into erotic details. As a reader, I avoid books where sexual attraction is used as a substitute for love.
If you are a Christian who writes both, what contributed to your choice? Is it hard to separate the two? Which field brings you the most work? The most satisfaction? The best income?
Kay: Income? Ya’ gotta’ be kidding! It’s at royalty check time I am most tempted to whip out a secular romance novel. But then, money is only paper. Goes up in smoke in an instant. I’ve never been in this business for the money. Just ask my patient hubby.
Sandy: Income is never a part of my thinking when it comes to writing; which is a very good thing because, quite frankly, my earnings are nothing that will buy me a villa in Italy. Because I write strictly Christian material, I have to say, I don't separate the two. That's because I see the secular world as an extension of Christianity. To separate the two, I believe, does a disservice to Jesus Followers and those who have not yet given their lives to Him. If Christ is indeed, above all, in all, and through all, how can we draw a line in the sand between the two? Isn't this why the veil was torn in two? There will be plenty of sifting and dividing when the Day of the Lord comes. Until then, our job is to be in the world, with the Word, while striving to not become the world's mission field. Life isn't tidy. But Jesus has come to clean it up, from the inside out.
Thank you so much to my guests! If you have a question or topic you'd like to see addressed, let me know.