Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

096: Navigating the Intersection of Faith and Writing [Podcast]

Your personal beliefs are part of your identity. What you believe inevitably ends up in your art. But how do you stay true to your values without alienating your audience? It can be kind of tricky.

Navigating the Intersection of Faith and Writing

No one likes being preached at or judged. I certainly don’t. I’d much rather prefer a friendly chat over coffee to listening to someone scream at me through a megaphone.

Some of you who follow my work probably know that I’m a Christian. It’s not something I’m ashamed of, but at the same time, it isn’t the topic of this blog. For some, that has been confusing. So I dedicated an entire podcast episode to answering that question.

This week on The Portfolio Life, Andy and I talk about how faith informs what I create and why this is an ongoing conversation for me. Listen in as we discuss the value of a diverse community and rejecting the idea of using the “right” words.

Listen to the podcast

To listen to the show, click the player below (If you are reading this via email or RSS, please click here).

Play

Profess truth without preaching

Most people I meet want to believe in something “more,” to believe they have a purpose, a calling, a destiny. We want to know why we are here and what our lives are about. A friend of mine years go said: “Everybody is looking for hope.”

Talking about this kind of thing with people from all walks of life are the kinds of conversations I enjoy the most — online and offline. I like talking with different people who hold diverse beliefs and ideas. Open conversations are where community is birthed, friendships are forged, and lives are changed. Those are the types of conversations I want to have.

Before Goins, Writer, I used to write on a personal blog about matters of faith and leadership. Truthfully, I felt limited by it because it closed off conversations. If people believed what I believed, they would tune in. But if they didn’t believe what I believed, they would tune out.

That is one of the reasons I’m so grateful for the diverse community of The Portfolio Life, GoinsWriter.com, and Tribe Writers. While faith inspires my creative work, it’s not the main theme. I don’t believe that’s the point of faith. It should fuel the work you do in the world, not be an end in itself.

Whatever belief system you have, even if it’s a belief in nothing, that’s still a belief. And I think it’s more powerful to give someone the opportunity to interact with that belief than it is to simply talk about the thing. It’s my opinion that we should meet as many people as possible and not seclude ourselves from those who think differently from us.

Show highlights

In this episode, we discuss:

  • Whether you should or shouldn’t talk about faith on your blog
  • How faith inspires art without being the subject of it
  • One thing everybody is looking for
  • Why two world-changing writers were at odds over faith yet remained the closest of friends
  • The difference between being ashamed of your beliefs and being intentional with your message
  • What Apple and Jesus have in common

Quotes and takeaways

  • If people want you to talk about something in a certain way, they’re never going to be happy until you talk about it their way.
  • Relationships take time to grow. Whether it’s face-to-face with a new friend or through a screen or book with a reader.
  • Belief is enough to stand on it’s own. You don’t need to sell it.
  • Through diversity we learn things about ourselves and each other, and become better versions of ourselves.

Resources

How does your faith inform your writing? How do you approach the topic in your art? Share in the comments

About Jeff Goins

I write books and help writers get their work out into the world. I am the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

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  • Nyakarima King

    Will listen to this conversation. Very interesting debate. I am a Christian and said that on my Kenyan blog but did not make this the topic. I also guest post for varied blogs without my faith shining through necessarily. At the same time I won’t guest post for all blogs out there. I don’t want to make Jesus sad.

    I’m starting a blog for an American audience in addition to the Kenyan audience one and when brainstorming what I would be able to consistently write about, I made the decision to stick to what I’m passion about; the things that define me. So my faith will come through in my writing but I’m hoping people just laugh at my articles; find the humor in them and not feel judged or condemned.

  • Exactly my tact Jeff, though I’m not sure I could’ve articulated it as effortlessly as you have in this post/episode. Interestingly, fellow believers who follow my work seem to just “know” or figure it out. So, I guess occasionally I’m exhibiting Christian-like tendencies without realizing it. 🙂

  • Love it! Connection and conversation is vital in a world where people gravitate towards a just-like-me belief system. Although my blog is faith-based and my audience is Christian women, I encourage community. Our faith will shine through our work whether we say it in words or not. Words have no meaning anyway unless we’re living by them. Sharing this!

  • Marlane Mazur

    Thanks for this Jeff. I’ve been struggling with this very thing. As I’ve shared, I’m using the 500 word challenge to write my book of: 101 Blessings and I am concerned about sounding too ‘preachy’, yet I really want to share how great the Lord has been to me through all my trials of life. Only since they’ve passed, I realized how it was the Lord in everything. I’m trying to use a little humor & sentiment & scripture all blended together & that is difficult, but I feel, very worth trying. Thanks again,
    for always ‘seeming’ to know what we need to hear! Lane

  • This is awesome, Jeff. Thank you so much for sharing your faith this way. 🙂

    This is such a breath of fresh air, and this just enlightened me on areas I’ve been thinking about recently related to my blogging.

  • Brilliant episode! I am trying to think through these very issues as I am a pastor and also write middle grade fantasy. My faith is all throughout the books I’m writing, but I hesitate to put the “Christian” label on them (though, they are in that category on Amazon), because I am very uncomfortable with many “Christian” books that assume a very specific worldview or interpretation, leaving no room for conversation. I avoid “preaching” through my fiction, and instead allow my faith to guide the story. Inevitably, themes such as hope, healing, forgiveness, friendship, sacrifice, and grace show up in the pages. For me, those themes are rooted in my faith, but my hope is anyone could read my fiction and enjoy it simply for the story. You bring up Tolkien and Lewis (heroes for me!), and I lean more towards Tolkien’s less obvious style of the Christian story being present in the writing.
    Again thanks for this episode.

  • Kent Faver

    Wonderful topic and so well done – bravo Jeff and Andy. Writers who have moved their voice toward a more spiritual direction – Brene Brown, the late Wayne Dyer, Oprah, and many others. Writers should feel free to write what is on their hearts. Wayne Dyer was vilified when his PBS specials became more spiritual in nature, and, as Jeff mentions, other writers are constantly questioned why they don’t write about faith more. Write as you are lead to write.

  • Laura Whitfield

    Jeff, I was just scrolling through my feed and stumbled on this. Thank you! I have really wrestled with this issue over the past few months. I know God gave me the idea for Defying Small and made it clear that I was to write a book, and I felt from the start that I wanted to reach a broader audience. Like you, my faith is the foundation of everything I am and do, and I believe I express it through my writing—sometimes subtly, at other times, more overtly. I have felt pressure lately from a few Christian friends who believe I should be more vocal about my faith. As I’ve prayed about that, I still feel strongly that I don’t just want to “preach to the choir.” This was so affirming. Grateful for you and your encouragement! Enjoy that baby girl. 🙂 Laura

    • Robin

      Well, it’s like what’s in Ecclesiastes–esp. the cluster of verses from which the popular song “Turn, Turn, Turn” was inspired. There’s a time and season for everything; when you need to be vocal, you will be. If there’s another way to say what’s on your heart, you’ll see it. I was also wrestling with this, as I’ve been accused of not being “spiritual” enough.

  • It’s the arena of faith and politics where many people, who would otherwise find common ground, diverge. Children have no trouble playing together on playgrounds. But we adults become dogmatic, judgmental and biased as a result of our intrenched beliefs. It’s no betrayal of our views to set them aside and find the humanity in others. That’s my two cents to your excellent discussion, Jeff!

  • bhardy6

    One of my mentors was close friends with Stephen R. Covey, and even now has the same book agent that Covey had. My mentor had a difficult time not explicitly teaching gospel principles in his writing, and sought Covey’s advice on the subject. Covey told him, “God loves all of his children. And He wants them all to have these truths.” This was very helpful for me, as I struggled for quite a while making this leap myself. For some of us, it can feel disingenuous. But I’ve come to the same conclusion you have, Jeff, and feel confident and hopeful. Thank you again for this extremely relevant conversation.

  • Thanks for this Jeff. I know I was guilty of asking you about this at the Tribe Conference last year. Anyway, after almost a year of blogging, I think I have a better idea of everything you laid out in this episode. Straight up, thanks so much for hitting this questions and subject. Andy and you rock.

  • Thanks for sharing, Jeff. I know I’ve asked you this question myself, mostly because I grew up and even now feel like more of a “Lewis” personality. But like Lewis, I completely agree with his quote,

    “The world does not need more Christian literature. What it needs is more Christians writing good literature.”

    I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say a majority of Christians who are also writers wonder about this question—how faith integrates with writing. I appreciate your response and I believe it clearly articulates a path many people secretly hope exists.

  • Dre

    Thanks for sharing, Jeff.

    I will be the dissonant voice here, as I am not a christian, but nonetheless, I feel sometimes certain principles of my faith do come through, as do other beliefs I hold.

    And personally, I think that’s expected — they are a part of me, as is writing. It’s quite natural, I think; in the end, writing is an intensely personal affair, so of course our beliefs and morals will shine through it.

    It’s a far cry from directly preaching at someone one — and in case of christians who have this struggle, as a non-christian, I would simply say: teach by example, not by telling. Much like we show, don’t tell, show me your faith through your actions and writing, not necessarily telling and preaching.

    Hope I didn’t inadvertly offend anyone. ^^;

    • Katrina Warren

      I love this comment. I am strongly Christian and I have found that this is my perferred method to daily interactions with people. I have found that being authentic with people about who you are & what you believe is more important and different than telling them what they “should believe.”

      Faith is such a personal matter & most people have to experience it themselves to truly believe. The bible even says things that point to God granting faith to us (http://livingtheology.com/Faith.htm) which I think means that I personally cannot “make” someone believe.

      However, I have found that people are more willing to interact with my faith when sharing it is not the anterior motive, but simply a part of who I am. I expect of my daily interactions that people will see & feel the outcomes of my faith in my life. I also have had people who have a totally different belief system share things with me about their beliefs that that has strengthened or informed my personal beliefs. Some of my strongest belief have been built based on some respectful conversations with an atheist who helped me question what I believe & have those internal conversations with myself to evaluate if it stand firm within me.

      Out of relationship comes true sharing. Anyhow, I hope I properly expressed my support for this comment (and the blog post).

      Great post. Very thought provoking!

  • Ginny

    I really enjoyed this podcast. It is something that I have been trying to put words to as I am starting a blog and an online business. I really appreciate you discussing this topic. I love the community and conversations of people discussing their faith through their art.

  • When I write fiction, I write with a Christian soul–not a Christian banner.

  • Thanks for sharing on this topic. It is something I have been wrestling with for quite some time in a variety of settings, with my blog, with a book I wrote, and with living out all the ways in which I know how to “love my neighbor as I do myself.” I especially loved the idea of summing it up in essence that when I sit with a stranger or new friend over lunch, I seek to create a good relationship. In my words, I seek to “love well” – first and foremost, in the way I relate to the person. If I speak directly of my faith, it would be in answer to a question he or she might ask, or perhaps in an effort to plant a seed in their heart or mind. Rarely would I see straight out preaching being effective – at least in our day and our culture. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts!

  • Wow I will definitely be listening to this podcast. My blog (which is called Fiction4Hisglory) is obviously based on my beliefs. I’m a Christian, and finding your blog, on which you have spoken of your faith, is one of the best I’ve ever seen, because you are true to your beliefs, yet also real. You’ve created a healthy mix of your beliefs and your career, one I admire.
    With me, though, I feel as if I have been called to write ABOUT Him, FOR Him, and BY Him. Most of my writing is Christ-centered, but on the rare occasion I do write something else (like the article of mine that was on TWP last week), it’s always for His glory. Hence my blog name. 🙂

  • I really enjoyed reading this, Jeff. The truth is- I’ve struggled with the same thing. I write on virtuousdisciple.com about some Christian/Catholic topics of faith, but I also end up organically writing some articles that have nothing to do with Christianity.

    I’ve mostly written a book that I aim to have published in the Christian community, yet I also want to write from a career and self-improvement based vantage point. Finding our voice in writing is not easy, it takes a lot of thought, as well as trial and error.

    I admire your authenticity and for pointing out these distinctions!

  • Erik

    “Before Goins, Writer, I used to write on a personal blog about matters of faith and leadership. Truthfully, I felt limited by it because it closed off conversations. If people believed what I believed, they would tune in. But if they didn’t believe what I believed, they would tune out.”

    This is me Jeff….to a T. What you shared IS timely. Looking forward to your webinar tonight. Thanks!