“If you want to change the world,” Martin Luther urged, “pick up your pen and write.” Or, to state the case more fully, if you want to change the world, you must change the church; if you want to change the church, you must pick up your pen. That is precisely what the apostles did. To build the church, the pillar and ground of truth, they wrote epistles and urged everyone to read them (1 Thess. 5:27; Col. 4:16). If God favored the written word and chose it as the means of preserving the truth in all generations, what further argument do we need for promoting a culture of writing, especially among those with teaching gifts (Eph. 4:11)? If Paul, the inspired writer of over half of the New Testament, requested books in his dying days (1 Tim. 4:13), how much more should we ensure that current literature is available for the saints and those in ministry?
Samuel Logan Brengle made a case for how to maintain the holiness standard and considered writing to be an essential element:
We should constantly read and scatter holiness literature. We should produce this literature within our own movement and urge our young people to read everything we have published. Let us scatter these books everywhere. Let us sow all lands deep with this literature, then we shall surely reap a harvest of great richness and prepare the way for the generation which shall come after us.
We pay homage to Wesley, and say that we would be like him, but his works fill a bookshelf while ours barely fit in a file folder. If writing is vital, why do so few people write? Why do those who write lack force and clarity? I propose four reasons:
Fear of criticism. Writing requires courage. There is permanency to the written word that is unequaled by preaching or teaching—even when it is recorded on video. When one consistently publishes his thoughts, it is inevitable that he will promote some error or imbalance. To write, then, is to invite criticism and know that some of it will be well-founded. But why should we fear? Do we not profess to be serious about sanctification? Is any man truly sanctified apart from correction by a community of his peers? With eyes wide open, a writer must charge into the lion’s den with only his pen and a correctable spirit.
There is permanency to the written word that is unequaled by preaching or teaching.
Lack of discipline. Some have good intentions to write, but do not follow through. Others insist that they do not have time. But everyone has time or should make time. If one writes 500 words per day (the number of words to this point in the article), one will write 82 books of average length in the next 25 years. If one only wrote a paragraph as long as this one, one would still complete 16 books. But unless we start to pick up our pen every day, we will forget these compelling facts and write nothing.
Too focused on quality. Many writers, especially those who are bound by fear, have “quality over quantity” as their motto. They spend hours editing a single page and even then they are disappointed with the product. A superior maxim is, “practice makes perfect.” To encourage me to write consistently, one of my mentors shared an illustration that I am often reminded of.
Two groups of potters were incentivized to produce pots. One group was paid sheerly for the quantity they produced while the other group was paid for the quality of their work. The surprising result was that the first group had not only a larger volume of pots, but also the best quality pots. Although their first few pots were poorly made, they honed their craft and soon surpassed the ability of the tedious pot makers.
Quality is the goal, but it is hard to achieve quality without quantity. Even if you delete your first one thousand pages, it’s important to start writing and releasing your work as soon as possible. Start journaling. Start writing short articles. Just start something.
Lack of concern. Sadly, some capable people still fail to write because they do not feel the weight of its necessity. What else can be said to convince them? I do not know. But convince them we must. While it is true that some lack the capacity, intellect, or training that is required for serious writing, there are far more men and women in the church who should be writing but are not.
Be courageous, be disciplined, hone your craft, and remember that the church must write or die. Will you pick up your pen? You might just change the world.