Ministry or Malarkey Series (MOM)
I have a “devotional-type” book – Life Letters – that I wrote for a series of life-study lessons for our Women’s Bible Study. It is obviously a MINISTRY book, something that leads people directly (do not pass GO, do not collect $200) to the Bible and the people who fill those living, breathing pages.
I also have a thousand-gazillion-kabillion fiction stories; some written, most still awaiting delivery into the ink-world. But when each of these stories is birthed, it is cover-to-cover MALARKEY. It’s all a pack of lies, fairy tales, imaginary friends, nonexistent places, etc. with a few historical, spiritual or logistical truths thrown in to give it credibility.
So. The question of the hour…. Can Malarkey be Ministry?
We’re almost halfway through the month of July already – can you believe it? After taking last week off from the MOM series to celebrate our great and–by the grace of God–still free country, I had to re-group my thoughts a little. So I looked back over my list of “issues” regarding Inspirational Fiction and came across a few that I really DO want to address before I go any further.
Must a story have a Biblical reference to be considered Ministry?
Let’s state the obvious and get it out of the way. If there is a Biblical reference of any kind, it’s pretty much a slam-dunk that the story qualifies as ministry because the Word of God does not return void. (Isaiah 55:11 “So will MY word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.)
So what if there is no Biblical (Scriptural) reference? Does that eliminate the ministry aspect of a story?
Of course not. Take C.S. Lewis and his Chronicles of Narnia (CON), for example. Not one mention of God, not one mention of prayer, not one mention of Christianity or even a Biblical reference. If you read any of his non-fiction, you will gain a much deeper understanding and greater appreciation for the allegorical aspects of the CON, but readers of CON don’t need to be told that C.S. Lewis was a believer to know it. The wild Aslan IS God. No one comes away from these stories without full awareness of that.
What makes C.S. Lewis’ novels ministry, then?
Biblical Truth. There is no denying that the series is rife with Biblical Truth. Every battle, every meal, every hunt, every chase, every reunion, every journey, C. S. Lewis paints Biblical Truth into every word he writes. I know, I know, there are some who argue his ideas of Universalism and other doctrine, but I’m talking about ministry, not doctrine.
So how about a NOT so obvious piece of literature? At one time in my life, this book had a huge impact on my decision to cut-and-run or stay obedient: Stephen King’s The Stand.
The premise of the book is a post-apocalyptic world where survivors are drawn either towards good or evil leaders, with the book ultimately culminating with a confrontation between the two groups. The story is one of personal redemption, of hope even for those who seem hopeless. There is a definite delineation between the seductive ease of evil versus the struggle of the heroes to overcome their own fears and weaknesses and misgivings so that they can take a stand for good. Theologically correct or not, there is one scene in which a deaf-mute Nick Andros explains to Mother Abigail (the God-fearing, 108-yr-old leader of the good guys) that he doesn’t believe in God. She simply states that it doesn’t matter because God believes in him. That message alone made me sit up when I read it – the idea that God loves me so much that He would believe in me even when I walk away from Him! A remarkably empowering message for the faith – truly inspiring! Although there is little or no reference to Scripture, and the story is written in true King form: blood and guts, gristle and horror, dark acts of depravity and evil, the overwhelming message is one of hope. I’m a side-lines Stephen King fan – I have read enough of his work to recognize and applaud his remarkable gift and I have read enough of it to know that I don’t want to read very much of it…. However, this book was truly inspiring and the scene that I mentioned above has often come to mind when I am struggling with darkness. So does it qualify as ministry? It sure ministered to me….
Then there’s John Granger, who has written Looking for God in Harry Potter, a theologian who claims that J.K. Rowling’s series is actually allegorical and full of Biblical Truth. While I love the series (we read each one of the books out loud with our children and when questionable issues arose, we used the opportunity for discussion – books are WONDERFUL doorways for family talks!), I’m just not sure that I would go that far.
Same with J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings (LOTR). Ooooh. Stepped on some toes, didn’t I? I am an AVID LOTR fan and OF COURSE I can see the allegorical potential! I mean, a nameless man from nowhere will rise up and be the Savior of all? Hey, isn’t that the plot of Harry Potter, too? And the legendary King Arthur? And The Hunger Games? And the list goes on.
My point is that sometimes literature is excellent literature with incredible messages of redemption and hope that CAN be used in ministry… but they weren’t necessarily intended for ministry.
So maybe the real issue is this: What is the author’s intention? Is it the author’s intention to inspire, to bring hope, or is it to simply tell a good story?
Let’s look at two of the authors I mentioned and I’ll show you what I mean.
C.S. Lewis: In every one of his books, fiction, non-fiction, auto-biographical, etc., the message he pens remains consistent with his faith and his intent to inspire us to move forward and upward. I would not hesitate to pick up ANYTHING by Mr. Lewis and read it.
Stephen King: Out of all of his books, I have on my bookshelf maybe five that I can think of – The Stand, Insomnia, The Green Mile, Shawshank Redemption, and his delightful book on the craft of writing, On Writing: Memoirs of the Craft. I have read others, many that I wish I hadn’t, and I have learned to be VERY selective about his books. Why? Because although I have read much in his work that inspires, all too often, this incredibly gifted writer leads his readers to a deep darkness…and leaves them there. His intent? Most of the time it’s to scare the pants off of us readers by expounding on the depravity of human nature and evil. Most of the time, he writes in a message of hope or redemption of some kind, but usually it comes at a great cost to both his characters AND his readers. I’d like to think that Mr. King believes in the same God that I do – some of his writing declares it loudly. But much of it promotes something else, too, and so I continue to pray.
So I must ask myself:
- Is it my intention to craft a great story? Or is it my intention to write a great story that inspires hope and redemption?
- Do I write my stories that are consistent with what I KNOW is true? Or am I writing things that might need a warning label for those who would be offended or even more lost because of the words that I write?
- If I do not include Biblical (Scriptural) references in my stories, do I write about Biblical truth? If I do not use the Name of Jesus in my stories, do I stay consistent with what He teaches?
I’ve already talked about C.S. Lewis, J.R. Tolkien, and Stephen King, but here’s two who might be of interest to you. Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee are co-authoring a series called The Books of Mortals. Both of these authors write edgy, thought-provoking, inspirational fiction and fit in well with the topic of this post.
He is best known for stories which could be broadly described as suspense thrillers with major twists and unforgettable characters, though he has also made a name for himself among fantasy fans.
Tosca Lee: She says on Facebook: People ask me often what it’s like writing with Ted. “Is he weird?” they say. “Does he really paint his nails/eat small children/write from a dungeon?” Of course he’s weird. As weird as anyone else who grew up with cannibals. As strange as your average seven million bookselling novelist who lives mostly on peanuts and barbeque in Texas and, you know, speaks an obscure language known only to remote tribes in Papua New Guinea. Or as weird as you and me. And yet, the questions persist. “He scares me,” author friends confess in low tones. He scares me, too. Because, you know, it’s just not healthy to eat that many peanuts.
She also adds… Snippets of the work day, below. It’s up to you in most cases to guess who’s saying what.…. But you’ll have to go to her FB page to read some of their disturbingly delightful dialogue yourself.
About The Books of Mortals. Three novels. Two authors. One last chance for humanity.
Many years have passed since civilization’s brush with apocalypse. The world’s greatest threats have all been silenced. There is no anger, no hatred, no war. There is only perfect peace… and fear.
But a terrible secret has been closely guarded for centuries: every single soul walking the earth, though in appearance totally normal, is actually dead, long ago genetically stripped of true humanity.
Fleeing pursuit, with only moments to live, a young man named Rom stumbles into possession of a vial of blood and a cryptic vellum. When consumed, the blood will bring him back to life; when decoded, the message will lead him on a perilous journey that will require him to abandon everything he has ever known and awaken humanity to the transforming power of true life and love.
But the blood will also resurrect hatred, ambition and greed at terrible risk.
Set in a terrifying, medieval future, where grim pageantry masks death, this tale of passionate love and dark desires from master storytellers Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee peels back the layers of the heart for all who dare take the journey.
Besides the Bible, what are some books that have ministered to your heart?