Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Road to The Remnant

Three months after I finished the first draft of Christian Mythology, I finished the first draft of its sequel, The Remnant. That was about six years ago. A few writer’s conferences, writing classes, and a whole lot of prayers later, I have learned a few lessons about those manuscripts.

The first draft is not the final book-ready manuscript.

The way God personally teaches me is not the way most people prefer to learn when they read non-fiction books.

The craft of storytelling does not come naturally to me. It is a learned craft. There are some great teachers out there willing to help.

I put all that together along with disposing of my fear and loathing of editing. Yesterday my pastor told me how much he enjoyed my first book, Biblical Quality. Knowing what I know now (I self-published it in 2000), I told him it was a terrible book that perhaps one day I would re-write. It just wasn’t God’s priority right now. I think the reason he liked the book was because we share two similarities: we’re both engineers and tend to think like logical engineers; and God teaches us in that same way. So he liked the dry, logical, straightforward, lacking in story method present in that book. Bottom line – that first book requires a lot of editing if it will ever sell. It’s still a warm concept on the CBA bookshelves so….

My favorite storytelling teacher is Donald Maass. He has a few books out on the subject. What makes them appealing to me is his prolific use of real, published examples. Sometimes he is fortunate to provide pre- and post-published examples so readers can see the difference a little editing can make. I get that. Good process stuff. And if I like the book(s) he cites, I can buy it and then really soak in some good fiction. Someone once said if you want to be a great fiction writer, you have to also read a lot of great fiction. Sounds good to me. I recently divulged to my Sunday School class that I read a Karen Kingsbury book. That evoked a load chuckle from one woman. “You? But that’s so unlike you!” Sure, most people don’t know that this ice-cold logical engineer also loves a good chick-flick or even some good chick-lit. Even an engineer needs to let off steam sometimes.

Right now The Remnant remains in first draft form in the ethereal world of my laptop. Instead, my historical fiction novel is on the front burner. I’m immersed in storytelling, learning the craft, and putting it on binary paper. In the meantime, God is reminding me of the stories that went into writing The Remnant. At the same time, I am living the story real time, committing it to memory, and waiting to write it down later.

Christian Mythology was all about the sins and false teachings that have shut down the Church and blotted the Bride of Christ. The Remnant follows up with the glorious people and work of Jesus’ Body in these last days. It is a picture of what the Church should be doing in stark contrast to the institutional programs we take for granted as normal going to church routine. It is about being the Church.

The problem is there are so few examples. There is no one like Donald Maass who has put it into a book showing the before and after effects. Very few have dared to put the denominational church under a microscope and dissect it in light of God’s Word. We just assume that everything lines up. Some, like me, are willing to challenge this. Some excellent books on the subject include Mere Churchianity by Michael Spencer, Radical by David Platt, and Jesus Manifesto by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola. The latter gentlemen have a bunch of other books on the subject which I have not read yet like Pagan Christianity (with George Barna) and Reimagining Church.

But so far, we all struggle with putting together a book which says, here is what Church looks like from God’s Word. Of course we have God’s Word to guide us. We just want to have somebody living it for real so we can put it in print, copy it, and give it to other people who love God and desire to do His will. Uh oh - are we saying that all these other Christians in these mainstream churches don’t love God and don’t desire to do His will?

No. Not all of them. There are some who nod in agreement with us. They groan deeply in anticipation of Jesus’ return, broken by sin, saddened by the rampant deception in the churches teaching for Christian doctrine the myths of man. They want the real thing. They want God’s pure, unsullied, intended from the Beginning life and work of being God’s people – His remnant.

The ones who get angry at posts like this are most likely the same kinds of people who Jesus disputed in no uncertain terms – “Pharisees! Scribes! Hypocrites!” You’ll read books like the ones mentioned above and beat your chest and say in agreement, “That’s right. I’m glad I’m not like that. Off with their heads!” But in reality you are like the Pharisee praying in the temple, “Lord I thank you that you did not make me like other men.” Meanwhile, the remnant prays in a corner, beating his breast, “Lord, have mercy on me!”

While a book sale is a book sale, The Remnant is not for the Pharisees. It will just be more fodder and ammunition for them to twist to their advantage. Yesterday my pastor preached about Acts 13. He said that the reason Paul’s sermon was successful, one preached seven times in the book by one person or another, was simply because it was preached. He told people the truth, the right truth.

While I understood what he meant, I also found the loophole. The right truth is relative in the eyes of many Christians, church organizations, and denominations today. Pick any subject in the Bible and sides will be drawn. They will be equally armed with Scripture to defend their positions. The unlearned will sit on the sidelines and either wonder how this can be that God’s Word can be wielded as a weapon between groups who both call themselves believers, or else they will militantly join one side or the other and continue to promote the attacks and defenses.

Sadly, the books we write sometimes get used as vehicles to continue this fray. But nothing is worse than this, as Harper Lee wrote in To Kill a Mockingbird, “"You are too young to understand it ... but sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whiskey bottle in the hand of--oh, of your father."

Perhaps you see the quandary I am in. I want to write the story for The Remnant. I just have to live it first. I mined all the truth from God’s Word. He taught me a bunch. Now it has to become real. God wants it real, not just words. He wants His Church a glorious Bride ready for His Son. I have no idea what to expect on this journey. I suspect it will not be as easy as writing the first draft.

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