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Baptism of the Imagination, Part 5

KC: I was just wondering why you'd write a book as opposed to just communicating through speech.

WV: A number of years ago, when I was in seminary, I tried to meet different successful people in ministry that I had contacts with through my father. One of the people I sat down with was Norman Vincent Peale. He wrote one of the most successful books of an earlier generation, sort of a motivational book--what today we would call "self help," but there weren't very many self-help books back then. It was informed completely by Christianity because he was a Christian minister. It was called The Power of Positive Thinking, and he had many books that followed after that. He started Guideposts magazine, based in part on what he saw being done with Reader's Digest, only more Christian and spiritual in content. It goes to millions in circulation worldwide.

Well, I sat down and asked him what advice he would have for a young man like me going into the ministry. The first thing he said was, "Preach Jesus Christ and him crucified." So, if anyone had any doubts about Norman Vincent Peale's orthodoxy that statement was pretty clear about what was absolutely central to him. Though he couched that in different ways and different books to people who wouldn't be open to just a plain presentation of the Gospel. The next thing he said has always stuck with me. He encouraged me to write--to write books, and to see how magazine articles could reach so many more people in an enduring fashion.

Think about this: Billy Graham has reached millions of people in his lifetime. In South Korea he reached a million people in one face-to-face meeting. Through television he has reached millions around the globe at one time. He's celebrating his 90th birthday tomorrow. Sometime soon he's going to be with the Lord. When he's gone I wonder how many people are going to watch one of his sermons on video or DVD; how many are going to listen on audio, and how many are going to read the printed word, whether a sermon or a book he wrote? I imagine that, over time, we'll see more people reading the written word. Maybe through the Internet, maybe not a book, but the printed word is probably, over time and after he's gone, going to reach more people.

There's no way to predict the future. Books could be as old as 8 track tapes sometime in my lifetime. It's hard to know, though. All we can do is look back and say, "What's God been doing in the last 2,000 years?" If you think about Jesus, how many people did he reach in his lifetime? And how many people did he reach because of the printed word? For some reason God has chosen to work through the printed word for 2,000 years; I don't think He's going to give it up anytime soon.

I think there's more mileage out of the printed word, but it depends on your gifts too. Some people are far greater speakers than I am and are going to reach millions of people because of their opportunity and their gifting, and they may not be great writers. So, you have to do whatever your gift is, but I think there's a lot more mileage with the written word.

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