4 min. to read.
Last weekend I hosted the Writers Advance. I want to talk about it briefly, but before you click away thinking this doesn’t apply to you, give me about four minutes. This retreat reminded me of something crucial to healthy spiritual growth.
If you’re not a writer, you might not know that writers’ events are a big deal. There are many. They tend to feature famous keynote speakers, break-out sessions for learning tricks of the trade, constant networking, and the coveted chance to meet editors and publishers.
These events are fun and often helpful, but they present an instructive tension. These events gather writers to talk about writing, listen to others talk about writing, and celebrate writing. Do you see the tension yet? Writing is the reason, but nobody at the event is actually writing.
Much of modern Christianity functions in this same way. We spend so much time learning about our faith, listening to others talk about their faith, debating the implications of our faith for life, but somehow all of this doesn’t necessarily translate into how we live. Learning has always been a part of Christianity, and rightly so. After the Reformation, though, Christianity became hyper-focused on ideas. We act like God’s highest priority is that the propositions we hold in our brain are formulated correctly.
The earliest followers of Jesus did not call this thing we’re doing a religion, belief system, or a philosophy. They called it “the way.”(Acts 9:2, Acts 19:9, Acts 24:14, Acts 24:22) In scripture, John and Paul both repeatedly refer to faith as a “walk.” The tangible steps we take daily are the reality of our faith.
Here’s where Christian faith and writing are similar. Writers become better writers by writing. We grow in faith by living our faith.
When I designed the Writers Advance, I knew what I needed as a writer. I suspected there were others who wanted the same thing. I wanted an event that gave me time to write, along with gentle motivation to keep moving forward. That meant getting rid of things most people like. Keynote speakers. Many specialized training sessions. Networking. Noise and bustle. Getting rid of those created space for the main thing—writing. How might this lesson apply to our apprenticeship to Jesus? Think of the parallels.
We Christians love that “big conference feeling.” Great speakers. Moving music. Listening to proven experts talk about what worked for them. (Or reading their books!) Intellectual discussion and debate of theology and application. We love the feeling of being in a room with other people on the same page—singing together, praying together, learning together. Now, those things have their place (just like big writers conferences) but let’s not get confused. Maturing as a spiritual person requires something more than this.
We grow in our faith by practicing our faith. We become better forgivers by forgiving. We learn how to “bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ” by bearing one another’s burdens. We become people who see and understand the “least of these” (Matthew 25!) by being with them. We grow in our ability to hear the Spirit by listening for the Spirit and then obeying what we hear. We discover how to encounter Jesus in scripture by sitting with scripture and reading it for experience rather than information.
Do you see where I’m headed here? We encounter Jesus by walking with Jesus in tangible ways, doing what Jesus said to do, among the people Jesus called us to serve.
Consider this principle in your own life. How much of your life of faith right now is about learning? Thinking? Reading? Debating? How much of it is about the event, and all the fun things we can do together in a big room? Then compare. How much of your life of faith is just doing the things Jesus said to do?
This is how we grow. We don’t just believe Christianity; we do it. We don’t just declare Jesus as our Lord and Savior; we enact that reality by following in his steps.
Oh, by the way, this is not a sales post, but if the idea of this kind of writers event intrigues you and you’re a writer (any genre, any skill level) who wants to invest in moving your writing forward, check out The Writers Advance. I do two of them each year, and I expect them to sell out. More info here.