Today’s question is from a pastor who asked, “How should Christian leaders approach ghost writing?”
I think that is a good question. One of the things that is problematic is that when somebody says, “ghost writing,” sometimes it is hard to understand what is meant by that. I think it is wrong for somebody to misrepresent himself. We have this phenomenon going on with a lot of Christian authors who are putting out books that they have never even read. Not only did they not write them, they didn’t read these things. Somebody else has just written this, in toto, and put this person’s name on it. And I think that is a misrepresentation. I think it is deception, and I do think that that is wrong. And I think Andy Crouch’s article about that was right, that there is in some ways a performance going on that is not accurate.
Having said that, I think there are aspects of what some people might call ghost writing that really are expected. And I don’t mean expected just in the sense of the way an industry works, but for instance, a letter. I think there is a difference when a pastor of a local church is sending out a relatively pro forma letter—“Thank you for coming to our church this week. I have enclosed some information about our church.” Sometimes that is written by someone else. He has approved it. He has signed it. I don’t think there is a problem with that. I think there is a difference between that and his church newsletter. And I think it would be wrong if somebody is doing that by paying somebody.
Having said that, I think there are aspects where sometimes you will have pastors or leaders who are having people who are not ghost writing, but they are really essentially coaching. They are coming in and taking material that maybe there is a really good preacher who is not a good writer or who does not have a particular gift at writing. These people are coming in and taking his stuff and saying that this is what you have done, and I am organizing this, or I am giving you some coaching as to how you should do it. I do not think there is anything morally wrong with that.
Tim Challies did this piece about how we talk a lot about the evangelical celebrity complex. What we don’t talk about is that there is a bloodlust and a joy in taking down evangelical celebrities. So it’s almost exactly what happens in the secular world in Hollywood. There is a lot of time spent building up the Kardashians and keeping up with the Kardashians, but then there is a whole lot of other joy that comes in tearing them down. And there almost seems to be a delight in that in a way that makes me cringe to see it.