Friday, September 2, 2016

Teaching Through Writing—Writing Against the Grain

by Bruce Brady @BDBrady007

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 29:18-20 NLT).

The command to go and make disciples isn’t restricted to church-related activities. It should be evident in everything we say and do. And though our words may not always specifically direct our audiences to the Lord, they would do well to reflect His truth and desire for each of us. The words we write and the way we use them should always honor God.

“There are enough people around already who can verbalize orthodoxy on paper. What we haven’t got is writers who can join truth and wisdom about God from the Scriptures with personal communication that hits the heart, that makes you realize that this writer is a person talking to other persons. That this writer is trying to search me in order to help me and I must let him do it. There is a certain art and craft in writing in such a way that it gets to the reader’s heart... and I would say to my budding writer, ‘now this is a craft you must learn.” —J. I. Packer

The challenge to write for God above all else demands our attention to honing our craft until we express ourselves without leaning on the crutch of appealing to our readers’ lusts. It’s a never ending quest to produce stories that reach their hearts and point them in the direction of lasting, positive change.

“A divine calling to write is a calling from God, through God, and for God. Until the writing is for God, it is not a calling from God. So we move from truth discovery through writing to creative expression — through writing to the role of a servant in writing — which I described earlier like this: the impulse to instruct and awaken and delight and transform people into obedient worshipers of Christ. Instruct in the infinite expanse of truth, awaken to the glory of God radiant through all that he has made, delight with craftsmanship of poetry and diction and style and story, transform people into those who enjoy God with us and walk in a way that pleases God.” —Desiring God by John Piper

Writing scenes of explicit sex, graphic violence, and profanity can only serve to continue society’s downward spiral toward ever-greater hatred and hostility. We’re called to rise above and show people there’s hope for a better world.

Let’s also remember that while our words may be intended only for adults, there are few things children can’t get their hands on. When the bad guys cuss, children will pick up the language and use it. Plus, villains can better express their intimidating messages through carefully chosen words with greater emotional depth.

I’m not saying the agents, editors and publishers who encourage writing the way people speak are wrong. Their business acumen is borne of experience in a sales-driven world. What I am saying is we need to credit our readers with intelligence and offer them great writing without using words that slap the face of God.

As my friend and fellow writer, Charles Huff said, “Of all who have lived, a miniscule number have their fame and approval last hundreds of years after they have died. But we have been offered the ability to have our acceptance last an eternity. It will happen if we follow Jesus’ example to seek God the Father’s seal of approval instead of men’s.”

What are your thoughts? Please share them in the comments. Let’s keep the conversation going.

Writing Against the Grain—Teaching Through #Writing - @BDBrady007 (Click to Tweet)

Bruce Brady is an author, writer and playwright. His work has appeared in Focus on the Family’s Thriving Family,, and on stage. Currently, Bruce is working on a Young Adult Novel about a boy who must deal with the death of his dad, being bullied, and helping his mom through her grief. His first five pages took third place in the ACFW South Carolina Chapter’s “First Five Pages” contest.

When he’s not writing, Bruce spends time learning from and helping other writers. He serves as Mentor of Word Weavers International’s Online Chapter, and as a member of Cross ‘N’ Pens, The Writer’s Plot, ACFW’s National and South Carolina Chapters.

“My dream is to entertain my readers and give them hope as they travel the rocky road of life.”


  1. This is something I have felt God impress on my heart. I'm not one to cuss or use that in my writing, but the importance of writing for and through Him is so apparent. Thanks for the encouragement.

    1. You're welcome, Joanna. Have a blessed weekend.

  2. "and offer them great writing without using words that slap the face of God."
    A beautiful/horrible word picture, Bruce. Masterfully written and powerfully true.

    1. Thank you, Lori. I appreciate your encouragement. It means a lot to me. Have a blessed weekend.

  3. My characters do cuss, mostly in moments of frustration. If they don't act like "normal people" would in a given situation, then, as a writer, I have no chance of connecting with the reader. I write against the grain (subject matter) to entertain--and, with any luck, impart a few morsels of wisdom I've gleaned. What's more important to me is the state of a character's heart: It has to be in the right place. In my heart, I believe that's what God intends me to do as a writer.

    Thanks for the uplifting post.

    1. Thanks Linda. As is true for us all, you have to follow the leading of Christ. Have a blessed weekend.

  4. I understand your point. I'm writing a memoir detailing horrific sexual abuse. I tone down descriptions but include enough that the reader can understand what a seven-year-old felt when her father came in the room and did horrible things. I use the milder curse my parents used. My projected audience are people who have been abused similarly and people who work with abuse victims. My memoir includes some occult experiences from my anything but God phase and therapy sessions. Hopefully the descriptions reach people similarly lost as I was
    Throughout my story I include God and my failed attempts at healing in venues that don't include God. I put in my doubts, questions, and fears. My book's goal is to show that only God can provide real healing and peace from the past.

    A priest friend of mine read my story and said, "The other day I met someone with a similar past as yours. Because of your book I knew the right things to say to help them."

    One of the pagan people prominent in my past recently lost his wife. With my pastor's permission, I made contact. Wrote to him "Thank you for saving my life. I want you to know I am a Christian now, but God used you to save my life until I could come to HIm." He did. I had given up on God when I was eight and when I stumbled into this pagan group I was counting down the hours, minutes, and seconds until I could kill myself, based on a promise I was forced to make to not kill myself until my 18th birthday. I had given up on God who I assumed was the Great Abandoner, and God used what satan meant for harm for my good, to preserve my life.

    Sometimes to reach those who are hurting, you have to let them know you know what they are going through. Before I was a Christian I rejected those who approached me using only Christian terms. Some Christians came up to me and told me I was going to hell if I didn't mend my ways, or words similar. I now know, had I not accepted Jesus, that would have been my fate. But their words did nothing to attract me to a loving Father God. All I saw was another example of the Great Abandoner rejecting people.

    Had they approached me from where I was and walked alongside me, they would have had greater impact. During my first counseling session with my pastor, I said, "But Pastor Don, I'm a good witch." He didn't fall off his chair. He showed me what the Bible says about witchcraft and then said, "Tell me about your father." We talked for two years before I accepted Christ. He showed me Biblical truths, but also met we where I was.

    Through writing my memoir I've discovered where God was in the midst of the abuse - in ways that are truly remarkable and will share those with the readers. For example, during my father's rapes I went to an imaginary world with a loving imaginary mother and father. One day I asked God where was He in the midst of the abuse. He told me in my spirit, "Who do you think your imaginary mother and father was?"

    Another time He revealed to me, when I was healed enough to not let it put up a barrier between God and me, that He was in the NOTS. what did not happen. I did not go insane, did not get pregnant, etc. Until I understood God as a loving Father, that would have been off-putting. For a long time I wanted God to be pro-active in stopping my abuse. And NOTS was not my definition of pro-active. It took healing and walking with God to understand that.

    Please excuse this long response, but if I want a person to walk with me towards their healing, they need to know I understand. I am not super graphic, but enough to let someone in a similar situation know I've experienced what they have.

    So, while I see your point, I think that reaching certain people may require a different response.

    Thank you for what you shared.

  5. Thank you, Heather. I understand where you're coming from and agree that we must be able to relate to those who are suffering similar situations. I appreciate you baring your heart in this comment. I know it takes great courage to do so, courage that can only come from God.

    I apologize for those "Christians" who did nothing more than judge and condemn you. Sadly there are too many church goers who insist that Christianity must be done their way.

    I happy you know the true love of God and want to share that with others, especially those who've endured the same circumstances. And I'm not saying you must do so my way. All I ask of my readers is that we seek God's will for our writing before we write, as I know you do.

    Thanks again for sharing. May God continue to richly bless you.

  6. Great thoughts, Bruce! As Christian writers, our words should always reflect Christ and challenge others to follow and serve Him. It's impossible to do that if we choose words that and scenes that displease Him and can possibly become a bad influence on readers. I believe we can still reflect the reality of life by "telling" rather than "showing". There's enough dirty entertainment in the world today; as Christian writers, we're called to be a light in the industry.

    Thanks for sharing this!


    1. Thanks, Tessa. It's good to hear from you, and I agree with you. have a blessed weekend.

  7. Bruce, Great words of wisdom. Thank you. My son and I are writing a YA murder mystery that involves human trafficking. Our first novel together. It will be my second book. I pray for a delicate balance of truth and wisdom. The topics we cover in the story can be gruesome and perverse. My desire is to educate not corrupt. My son is an adviser for the book. The main character is a 15 year old with Asperger's( just like my son). I am grateful that he does not know the specific detail of human trafficking. I pray he never will. I know God wants us to write this so He will give me the delicate discernment.

    1. Thanks Cherrilynn. I pray He gives you all you require to tell a story that needs to be told. I know trafficking is a very real, growing problem that is being ignored by the mainstream media. God bless you and your son in your writing.

  8. Whenever I let myself be discouraged by low numbers or no comments, I think of Edward Kimball, a little-known star of history. In his book, A Passion for Souls, D. L. Moody describes Mr. Kimball: "I don't remember what he said, but I can feel the power of that man's hand on my shoulder tonight. It was not long after that I was brought into the Kingdom of God." In my best hour, I can only hope that my words nudge one reader a step or two closer to the Kingdom. Only God knows the full effect of what we write.
    So, so good... Thank, Nancy

    1. Thanks, Nancy. I too pray the Lord blesses your words, and your readers through them.

  9. Thank you Bruce for your encouraging words. I pray that my written words will always honor God and bring my readers closer to God. I love John Piper's words “A divine calling to write is a calling from God, through God, and for God. Until the writing is for God, it is not a calling from God." Thanks again for you uplifting post.

    1. Thank you, Sheryl. If we all learn to write for Him only, He will take care of getting our words in front of the people who need to see them, whether that be an audience of one or millions. And the writing process will become much less complicated.

  10. As I was reading, the thought of a color palette came to mind. Comedians go blue when they inject profanity into their routines... and Christian content tends toward a rather drab beige... not wanting to offend anyone except maybe interior designers. I mean, there are Christians who won't say the place 'Hell' in polite company for fear it being confused for profanity. While others will flirt at the edge of profanity by slyly using the same.

    Just because comedians use blue doesn't mean Christians have to remove it from their palette (just that bitingly hard shade) Peter cursed, and Amnon forced Tamar. Do I need to use John Piper's overly color saturated prose to write with, to describe Peter's denial? No. Neither do I need to use the desaturated 'urban' palette a lot of recent crime dramas draw on to convey gritty, dark despair.

    The thing about the colors David used (2 Sam 23) they were vivid, numerous and pure. I don't need to use explicit language to convey the darker side, but that doesn't mean I have to eliminate everything but beige from my palette.

    Appreciate the article and the thoughts it prompted.

  11. Thanks, Mr. Smith. I appreciate what you're saying and I'm not suggesting that Christians write in beige language. I recognize that hell is a real place, as is heaven, and not necessarily profanity. I also recognize that much of the writing out there that uses cursing to express frustration, anger, and attempts to intimidate. These stories could be so much better if the authors used more specific words to describe the situations and characters. After all, when I think about the way profanity is used, it really doesn't convey a message other than the user is frustrated or angered for some unspecified reason and can't otherwise articulate that feeling. So my message isn't so much a stance against foul language (I've used it many times) as it is a cry for all of us to stretch ourselves to find the words that clearly express our messages.

    I thank you for your thought-provoking comments, and pray great success for your writing.