Preaching or Storytelling?

Every so often the discussion comes up in Christian circles, with writers and readers both:

What makes Christian books…Christian?

When does a writer go from storytelling, to preaching?

How much is too much?

On the other hand, what makes a spiritual message “watered down?”

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told the disciples that “You are salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” (Matt. 5:13)

From this verse, I understand that we believers give a flavoring to the world that can’t be found anywhere else. Saltiness is distinctive. You can tell when it’s there, and when it’s not. Have you ever tasted a salt substitute? It’s kinda-sorta salty, but not the same thing.

The next verses tells us that we’re “the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:14-16)

From these verses, I understand that if we’re the light of the world and let our lights shine, our good work will point others to God and bring glory to Him.

What does that mean? How exactly do writers let their words become salt and light, so readers enjoy the flavor and can clearly see a Godly message?

As readers, is there such a thing as too salty, too much of a message for us? When does the story fall to the side and the message take over? Is that a bad thing? Worse, when does a message become watered down and turn into just “a positive, feel-good story?”

This is where writers must know their audience, and think about who they’re writing for. Of course, we writers never know who’s going to read our book. For example, authors who’ve had a title release as a Kindle freebie are open to a myriad of reactions/reviews from readers, especially those who aren’t believers and who find the salt overwhelming in a book. And by overwhelming, that could be as simple as a character praying over a situation they face. This should not surprise us, as what comes naturally (or should) to a believer, is as unnatural to an unbeliever as a fish trying to breathe air.

I have to admit that when I’m reading, and a character starts “sermonizing,” as in telling another character “this is the lesson that you are learning through this situation,” I will start to skim if it goes on for very long. That’s my confession for today, I suppose. What about you? Thoughts? Reactions? Thrown tomatoes?

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