Young and up-and-coming authors often ask me for advice on the craft of writing. Especially the art of writing books.
An oft-repeated question I get has to do with critics and how to deal with them.
One must first understand that not all critics are created equal. There are three main types. And each one deserves a different kind of response.
I address the topic in Three Kinds of Critics & How to Deal With Them.
Another question has to do with being misrepresented by others, including self-professing “fans.”
Example: A fan of Francis Chan is teaching that we need to destroy all church buildings because they are evil and start having church in coffee shops and houses.
Chan, of course, was blamed for promoting this concept because at least one of his “followers” was promoting it.
I have no idea what Mr. Chan believes or has written about this (I’ve only read one of his books because Patheos asked me to review it), but I seriously doubt that he teaches what this fan of his claims.
Another example: A self-professing fan and follower of John Piper was going around saying that only Reformed people are theologically correct, and therefore, everyone who doesn’t follow Calvin’s 5-points is a heretic and is in danger of hell-fire.
I don’t follow Piper, but I’m fairly certain he doesn’t teach this. But someone who heard this fan of Piper’s concluded that this idea came from Piper himself.
Charles Manson was a fan of the Beatles. Regrettably, Manson credited the Beatles for starting his supposed Helter Skelter race war which was supposed to be spawned by Manson’s ability to persuade his followers to brutally murder a group of innocent people.
Manson blamed the murders on the Beatles. According to Manson, the Beatles were communicating personally to him through some of the songs on their White Album.
When the Beatles were asked about this, their comment was something like, “Just because he claims us doesn’t mean we claim him. What he did has nothing to do with us. Manson was an extreme version of people who have come up with all kinds of crazy ideas and blamed the ideas on others,” or words to that effect.
While this example is extreme, the Manson story teaches us in bold relief that just because someone claims to be a fan of a particular artist (whether musician or author), doesn’t mean that the self-proclaimed fan is accurately representing the artist.
A final example, just for good measure: Someone once told me that one of my professing “fans” — a person I don’t know and have never met — was saying that the church is messed up so all true followers of Jesus must leave their churches.
This person didn’t get this idea from me because I don’t believe it, and I’ve even taught against it.See How (Not) to Leave a Church and Why I Love the Church.
In addition, those who have read my work are aware that I’m a strong advocate of community. I’ve even gone on record stating that the Christian life doesn’t work well without being in a relationship with other believers.
Rewinding 20+ books backward, in my 2008 book with George Barna, Barna and I warned readers against misunderstanding the point of our book and using it to divide God’s people. (That warning appears twice in the book.)
Several years ago, I was one of the presenters with a small group of pastors and teachers. One of them, a staff writer for Christianity Today and an Anglican leader, proclaimed in front of everyone – “I’ve read Frank’s book From Eternity to Here and Reimagining Church and this man loves the church!”
He made this statement after being misinformed that I was “against the church.”
It was a telling moment, and it underscored the power of misrepresentation, which he powerfully corrected in that meeting.
I have many friends who are authors, and some of them are bestsellers. Yet I can’t name one of them who hasn’t been profoundly misrepresented by some of their professing “fans” and “followers.”
Bottom line: If you’re an author, writer, blogger, speaker, or artist who is making a powerful impact on people, some of your so-called “fans” are going to utterly misunderstand and misrepresent your message and your work.
So get used to it.
If you don’t want to be misrepresented, then don’t bother writing, teaching, or speaking.
(By the way, as hard as you try not to have “fans,” if you produce something that changes people’s lives, there is no way to stop people from admiring what you’ve done . . . even if you do your best to keeping pointing them to Jesus and away from yourself.)
Remember: Jesus of Nazareth had a lot “followers” who misrepresented His teachings, and He still does today. Just because a person claims to be a follower of Christ doesn’t mean that they “get” what He’s about. And it doesn’t mean that He claims them.
So take heart. “If they did it to me, they will do it to you.”
Thankfully, when it comes to ministry of any kind, the Lord paved the way for all of us.
See also A Word to Authors – Aspiring and Actual.