Write the Vision (08/08)

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By Rocky Grams

Recently, I received a partial royalty’s check from the sale of my mother’s book, Mujeres llenas de gracia.  It was $500, which was one fourth of the total.  My dad paid taxes and then split the difference between us kids.   I was impacted by his generosity but way beyond that, I was so moved by the fact that my mother’s works are still blessing so many others, more than eight years after she went to be with Christ.  The number of copies sold in one year was eleven thousand three hundred and forty!  A couple of mega churches picked the book up for their cell group ministries.   Since then I heard one lady share that she reads Mujeres llenas de gracia every year as a devotional exercise.  Others have mentioned using it in their ladies’ Bible studies.

Students here in Buenos Aires have mentioned riding the commuter train and using a very creative evangelistic method.  They stand and in a commanding voice, read aloud portions of  Familia fe y felicidad, my parents’ book on the family.  Then they preach about family values and give a salvation message.  Some have used the book in jail ministry or read portions on the radio.  Influence goes so far beyond those that were in my parents’ classrooms.

In the headlong quest for accreditation for our institutions of theological preparation, for recognition and acceptance within and beyond the denomination, it seems to me that we are overlooking a critical way to gain access—that is quality writing, published and unpublished, on the web or in bookstores.

I make it a point in every subject I teach to let the students know I believe that some of them are called to be writers and that they have the potential to write textbooks and poems, songs or messages or devotionals.  The idea is to plant the seed of a dream and hope the Holy Spirit will combine it with their rash obedience and make it happen.   

I remember when Dick Nicholson wrote a very good article on the revival in the midst of the move of God here in Argentina.    “Wish I had done that a long time ago,” I thought to myself.  The seed of an idea was planted to write on the waves of revival and the amazing testimonies we have witnessed.  Edgardo Muñoz, friend and fellow servant, said one day:  “Let’s co-write a book on the revival.  We’ll call it El otro avivamiento.” Encouragement came from many sources.  But after five years of attempting to have the book come together, it took the concerted participation and editing of Dr. Carolyn Tennant from North Central University to help shape the final outcome. 

How do we go about forging a network of writing servant leaders and Christian educators?  We must inspire writers, help to train them, empower them to publish and finally, work together with them to distribute their works. 

Inspiring writers can take on many different shapes.  We must do our best to write constantly ourselves.  Show the way by doing what we want to see them doing.  Luisa Walker certainly impacted thousands by her writings.  The most important piece of equipment she took to the mission field was her typewriter.   She has been in glory for a while but I’m still using her materials in my Evangelism classes.  Her basic course for new believers has impacted thousands.   Thank God for inspiring Melvin Hodges to write what he had in his heart.  What an impact on the work his writings have had across Latin America and on missions endeavour in other continents.    When Ralph Williams wrote up the Reglamento local, he never dreamt he would be giving so many countries the tools to plant churches in an orderly fashion and retain the fruit amongst the pressures of conflicting influences.  Floyd Woodworth impacted my life and the lives of many other ISUMistas with his writing and his enthusiasm and example. 

When ETAGE was founded in Brazil, over 20 courses were written in four years.  Despite the fact that of the 55,000 pastors in the Assemblies of God of Brazil half were illiterate at the time, soon the number of students of the fledgling school had swelled to 7,000.  Bruce and Karen Braithwaite and Bernard and Doris Johnson were critical in the foundation stages of inspiring others to write.  It took us a while to catch on to the vision, but soon IETE was birthed here in Argentina, initially with courses translated from Portuguese.  But since then mostly Argentine writers have produced 28 courses for the first level and various others for the following levels.  Even pre-ministerial courses have been written.  At present, we have over 6,000 students in IETE.  Most of these learners of theology and Bible would not be involved in training had a team not inspired the writing of materials that connect. 

The next critical step is training writers.  From the first years of ministerial training on, we should make it part of their student experience the opportunity to express themselves.  The Pentateuch teacher could have the kids write about the ten plagues in Egypt from the perspective of a newspaper reporter.  The language teacher could have them write vignettes for the radio and then take them to a Christian radio station to read them on the air.  Esteban Espíndola, the graphics designer for Edifiquemos magazine, teaches our missions students how to create their own website.  Having a venue to express what is being learned motivates them immensely.

What a surprise is was to hear Linconl Medina (yes, that’s how you spell it in this case) state during the evaluation hour of Homiletics I that he had used the rhetoric tools he had learned in class to write songs.  He and his wife, Pilar, soon produced their own music CD that did very well.  One year various students combined with Silvia Muñoz and Sherry, my wife, to produce a choir CD that was totally original.  Our own students wrote the songs and others composed the music.  Major effort and major expense but the dividends in ministerial students motivated to dream and produce their own material are invaluable.

The fact that both ISUM and Facultad are training people to produce well researched monografías bodes well for the future of these institutions and the ministers they are training.  Once again, it takes major effort to teach the students the structure of a research paper and all the steps starting at choosing the topic, narrowing it down, doing research and staying away from the temptation to copy and paste a bunch of plagiarized pabulum.  It takes so much time and effort to correct these monografías but the dividends are great for the student in gaining self respect and in knowing she can dream big and see creative and original thoughts come to pass. 

Floyd Woodworth and Steve Rexroat and a few others used to hold writers’ workshops in different countries.  This kind of activity is sorely needed to find, train, motivate and even launch new writers.  Why not hold a few of these and then hold a contest to see who writes the best article on, say, Christian Education or the compassionate touch of the Church or the move of the Holy Spirit in their country.  The best two articles would win a trip to Israel and the best ten would be published and made available at cost.

One of the many aspects of the Cuban Assemblies of God that has impacted me is their penchant for well-researched writing.   EDISUB ministerial level courses have been produced on a mimeograph for years.  I am convinced that one of the critical reasons there has been such explosive church growth there and such a move of the Spirit is the fact that the base was laid for the participants in revival through training and much of it through the carefully delivered written word.

The next step is helping writers with distribution.  Finding a publisher that will accept a work can take years.  Why not motivate each educational institution to publish its own books?  Self-publishing is very accessible at between $3 and $5 per book.  If we work as a team and make sure there is quality control, we can see the birth of many articles, poems, magazines and books.  

Another very viable option is the web.  Stephen Covey writes in The 8th Habit:  From Effectiveness to Greatness that we must help others discover their voice.  This generation has especially discovered its voice through the connectivity made available by the World Wide Web.  What a series of surprises the book The World Is Flat by Thomas Friedman brings our way.  The barriers that kept people isolated from influence have fallen.  Access is the name of the game and evidently, as Jesus said, “the children of this age are wiser than the children of light” because the first are taking full advantage of connectivity. 

Each Bible Institute could start with its own website or blog and have the teachers post articles.  The World Wide Web has given anyone access to a potential audience of hundreds or thousands.  Mike Shields was sharing with me that he just started Facebook and in one month has 230 friends!  Most of them found him.  Many want to see the little comments he posts about his never boring days.    Cost is not the issue any more.  Having something to say and making it available in an attractive and predictable format is. 

One of the very worthwhile portions of our recent furlough was participating in the   leadership track seminar at General Council, especially the writers’ workshop.  I was introduced to the book Writers on Writing:  Top Christian Authors Share Their Secrets for Getting Published, which expanded my thinking a great deal.  One specific chapter really blew my mind.  It is the article by Keith Drury on “Columns and Editorials” where he shares about his weekly column to provoke people to think.  He got in on the ground floor in 1995 when there were very few Christian websites available.  Since then, www.TuedayColumn,com has at times even affected the secular media.  Drury would receive about three or four e-mail responses a week when he started writing in 1995.  That number grew to 50 or 60 responses a week and now it is over 100 per day.  That sounds like influence to me!  Something to say and the discipline to post it every Tuesday.   Wow!

Finally, let’s build a network that will help us distribute and market the written word.  One chorus sold in the U.S. is enough to pay for half a house and a truck for the song writer.  Not the case in Latin America.  Yet.  There has to be a way that Christian novelists or song writers can actually receive worthy honoraria in Latin America and the Caribbean.   Getting the word out about, say, a new book on homiletics that Rodolfo Polignano, one of our teachers, wrote is so important.   What other original materials are out there?  Though Conozca is a great venue online and has hundreds of hits per week, it would honor the writers so much to make available a printed, bound of the articles for each year.

The Faith and Action series is the result of a very dedicated team of writers, editors and graphics design people placing at the disposition of the church their vocation for the Kingdom.  But if the distribution network does not kick in, thousands of ministers in training will lack valuable tools for their development.  Let’s put some teeth in textbook requirements for many of our courses.   “El que quiere celeste, que le cueste,” is a saying that is right on.  We are delivering training and the resultant access to leadership that is very valuable.   Let’s get the word out about the written word.  Let’s be passionate enthusiasts of developing writers and playwrights.  Let’s believe God for new songs from a Caribbean or Latin American outfit similar to Hillsong written and performed by our own students.  And, as Dick Nicholson and the Apostle Paul so aptly declare:  “Don’t muzzle the ox that treads out the grain.”  Allow the writer in some way to share in the rewards of his work. 

Inspire, train, give access and help distribute.  Four tough but valuable exercises in faith and in commitment to the Body.


Friedman, Thomas L., The World Is Flat, A Brief history of the Twenty First Century, Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2005 and 2006)

Watkins, James N. Editor, Writers on Writing, Top Chrstian Euthors Share Their Sefrets for Getting Published, The Wesleyan Publishing House (2005)