Friday, December 13, 2013

Writing for a Secular Audience

On Dec. 21, 2000, a clear presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ was made on the opinion page of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, a secular, major metropolitan newspaper of about 220,000 circulation.

And I was the one who did it. (It was titled "Christmas Wrapping," and to this day I repost annually it on my Facebook page.)

Granted, I've worked for that paper for nearly 17 years in several capacities, so I had an inside opportunity. But being able to express an overtly religious viewpoint in such a forum reminded me of a few things.

1) Secular media in my experience are not inherently hostile to religion in general or Christianity in particular; however, some decorum is required if you want to publish anything of that nature. Most of the readership doesn't quite understand our convictions, so we have to break things down in a way in which it can comprehend. In other words, we have to think about what we believe, why we believe it and how best to communicate that to others. It can be understood as a mission field.

2) Those of us who feel called to do so in a secular medium require a certain amount of humility. For example, if such a piece is rejected by a mainstream outlet it may be, and probably is, because it just isn't good enough to be published. (Remember, at the level folks are experienced writers and editors and won't run anything that doesn't meet the standard. That's as it should be because our God demands excellence.) Besides, we also need to be inviting, not giving the impression that we want to force our views down others' collective throat; doing so would make us appear insecure about our faith.

3) Christmas is a good time to do so because it's a holiday that virtually everyone is aware of and most people in this country celebrate. It's thus a good time to talk about Jesus -- Who He was and is, His ultimate purpose.
(Let's also remember that Christmas always leads to Easter, of course.)

4) One of the emails I got in response to my piece noted that God often shows up where you don't expect Him, one of the lessons of Christmas; it said, "We expect a preacher to give this message but not in the Post-Gazette!" The writer was correct -- the King of Kings being born in a stable? Who would have thought of that? I was happy to play my role as a messenger and appreciative of the forum that I had.

5) St. Francis of Assisi once said, "Preach the Gospel and, if necessary, use words." Words are necessary, so we have the responsibility to use them well.
Remember, eternity is at stake.

So if you get an opportunity to convey God's truth to the world by means of writing to a secular audience, by all means take it. Consider the song "Thank You for Giving to the LORD" -- you just might meet someone in heaven who's there because of what you wrote.


Rick Nowlin serves on the St. Davids Christian Writers Association Board.

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