It's All About The Writing

The writers’ strike which has stalled the creation of new film and television scripts for an indefinite amount of time has caused me to reflect on the fact that when it comes to music, theatre, and film, it’s truly all about the writing! The best actors and most skilled musicians simply can’t do much with mediocre material. Everything begins with that vision of the writer, with the craftsmanship of finely chosen words based on terrific ideas and stories.
I tested out the power of good writing when I served for a time at another church, and built a team of untrained actors to contribute dramatically to the weekly services. When I found outstanding scripts, and worked hard with the actors who possessed potential as well as fortitude, most often the moment would work and impact the congregation. On the flip side of that experience, I have observed our very best actors give everything they’ve got to a not-so-great script, and unfortunately the piece simply did not work or connect. I believe that good writers, and certainly great writers, are rare and remarkably gifted individuals who need to be highly valued, encouraged, and well-compensated to the best of our ability.

In over 30 years of ministry at Willow Creek, we have been graced with the high-level gifts of only about three or four “go-to” writers of dramatic material and probably 5 or 6 outstanding music writers. We also contract with some terrific writers who live out-of-state, because they make such an enormous contribution to our ministry. If you’ve got a gifted writer, a person who listens to God and crafts stories or songs that touch people, treasure that individual. I’m not suggesting we give these folks a pass on accountability or spiritual formation or any other standard we look for on our teams. But I am advocating that we need to create a culture where good writers can flourish, where they can be freed up to do their best work, and where they will know for certain that we recognize their need for refreshment of their souls and rest for their creative minds.

Whenever I personally face the blank sheet of paper (or more accurately, the empty computer screen) to craft a message for church or work on a chapter for a book, I remember all over again how terrifying it is to actually envision the end result, choose the right word for clarity and inspiration, and end up with something that has the potential to be used by God to impact a reader or a listener. I don’t consider myself a gifted writer. My respect for good writers goes very deep, and I challenge all church leaders to more highly value any of them who grace your community.

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