Thursday, 16 July 2015


Faith-full Writing from Liminal Living.

My friend recently received some very useful feedback regarding his manuscript from his publishers. They suggested that his narrative required a tweaking of character developments, dialogues, and even chapter formatting to make the story more urgent and flow faster for the reader. In short, to help make his novel even more impacting, he needed to make it ‘edgier’, even a little ‘unstable’. In a world that is apparently becoming increasingly more unstable by the day, it seems counter-intuitive to consider adopting a state of instability in our writing. However, I propose that this edginess is exactly what we are called to, and if embraced, would dynamically enhance our story telling and its Kingdom impact on peoples’ lives.

Studies of Life Science have discovered that when an individual/system is "in a state of equilibrium, it is less responsive to changes occurring around it. This places it at maximum risk" (Pascale, Milleman, Gioja . 2000 . p 6). Comfortability makes things weak. On the other hand 'The Edge' or "Sweet Spot" - described by Frost and Hirsch (2011 p.90) as 'Liminality' - is considered to be a state that is essential for health, growth and vital living. By extension then, a person who is not experiencing liminality is potentially not experiencing all that life has to offer. Liminality describes the lifestyle of committed followers of Christ who impact the world by their humble self-denial.

Consider the apostle Paul's experience of life that seems to presuppose a challenging liminal lifestyle [1].  Having lost his life for Jesus sake (Gal 6:14, Matt:16:25), Paul felt he had 'nothing to lose'. We do well to emulate him (1 Cor 4:16), and express this kind of abandon in our writing, in our stories, our characters, and even our dialogues. Consider also how Jesus’ love is best illustrated by his own sacrificial example (Phil 2:3. vv 6-11). This could mean we might need to be more willing to experience some pain [2] 
  • When did it last cost us something to produce our writing? 
  • Are our characters a reflection of a comfortable life or ones that disturb preconceived ideas and the status quo?
  • Is there an expression of self-denial (and love that gives all, rather than self-aggrandisement) being highlighted in how we write, what we write, why we write, who we write for, what we write about, the characters we design, the heart they express, the narrative we create, and the themes we design ?

This is not a call for recklessness, but faithfulness. There is an apparent safety in non-liminal living, but God often calls His people out of comfort zones to more fully express His heart.
This is what “stepping out in faith” means. Consider Peter, Joshua, Ruth, Esther and others throughout history that we recognise as faithful people. They took faith-filled risks. They are the characters of inspiration. They are life stories of raw challenge to our own lives. To emulate their faithful living just might help make us whole, and inspire others to live more wholly. Greene and Robinson (2008.p 196) explain it this way: "unless the church is equipping believers to embrace a life of self-denial that adopts the values of the Kingdom of God, and repents of self-orientation it is rendered ineffective".

My friend’s publisher’s advice that he make his novel ‘edgier’, and even a little ‘unstable’ is perhaps valuable advice for us as Christian writers too. 
When we express a faith-filled urgency, and self-denying creativity in our writing, a powerful Kingdom impact ensues     ...........................................      And great story telling happens.


Frost, M., Hirsch, A. (2011) The Faith of Leap. Grand Rapids: Baker Books.

Greene, C., Robinson , M. (2008) Metavista : Bible, Church and Mission in an Age of Imagination. Carlisle UK : Paternoster.

Pascale, R., Milleman, M., Gioja, L. (2000) Surfing the Edge of Chaos: the Laws of Nature and the New Laws of Business. New York: Three Rivers.

[1] “I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.........”
 (2 Corinthians 11:23-27, Acts 9:15-16)

[2] Learning to love means “putting oneself on the line and embracing risk, even likelihood of pain and suffering"(Frost & Hirsch. 2011. p.88-89). Our aim should not be to escape pain but to learn to embrace it to make it grow us. "To Love is to suffer... and that's probably why we don't do it well." (Frost & Hirsch. 2011. p.89). Growing brings pain.

On the Edge. Shane Brigg overlooking Israel. 

Shane Brigg has a passion for mobilising young people to transform their world in Christ. This is evidenced by his nearly 30 years of Youth work including Chaplaincy in Schools, University ministry, developing youth networks, international leadership, and recently team pioneering a missional church community in a university. He is a trainer for Harvest Bible College, a Chaplain serving in 3 schools, and an innovative and adventurous disciple maker. He has a particular talent for story telling that engages young audiences and has several writing projects underway including a series of sci-fi-fantasy based teen novels that express the core theological and 'gutsy' principles of Ephesians. Shane is married with 2 young adult teen children. He loves being outdoors, engaging interculturally and expressing creative pursuits.


  1. Great thoughts, Shane (I have a son named Shane). :-) I agree that stepping out in faith is moving out of our comfort zones. It's hard though, isn't it? This writing life is not for the faint of heart. I love the last part of your post. I have had a hard time deciding if this is what God would have me to do. I finally discovered it is. After much soul searching (as my mother would call it). Thanks so much for this.

  2. Thankyou Robyn. Yes stepping out in faith can be hard. Maybe that is the point. Perhaps true faith-full living is being willing to listen to God's voice with the attitude to be obedient no matter what He says. That may often mean He calls us to go beyond our self-securities and step out on the water, out of our comfortable boats (whatever they may be). The edge may appear dangerous. But if we are willing (despite our abilities) to respond to God's call in obedience it is actually a more fulfilling way to live our lives and express our writing.

  3. When truly touched by Jesus we cannot help but be 'forever ruined for the ordinary'. This 'living on the edge' is not a place for the faint of heart. Jesus challenged us to live a life of radical faith where we can turn in completely different directions at a moment's whisper from the Holy Spirit - no comfortable routine. I crave this sense of equilibrium at times but invariably if it seems to linger too long, restlessness comes to upset it..... one of life's challenges has been to realise that perhaps this liminality is to be embraced and supposed instability, ever changing, should be viewed as a positive not a negative. Human nature tends to want to create systems and rules to control and to effect particular outcomes but the life of faith that a christian is called to, I am understanding more and more, is a life filled with only just enough light to see the steps we need to take today and where tomorrow's path may look very different. A life completely submitted to God and unencumbered enough to be free to respond and change direction at a moment's notice. To those of us who like order and security and planning thngs out this must surely feel edgy, living radically, perhaps chaotic and irresponsible but though I can relate to some of these feelings of discomfort there is also such a sense of freedom and excitement. Like the pearl living through constant irritation in the shell, are not the adverse circumstances of life and our subsequent surrender to the process perhaps the greatest example of how this living on the edge, a life of radical, ever changing, unpredictable faith has the greatest effect on shaping our character and creating a more dynamic environment for even greater faith-based living. Thank you for this great blog, it has been such an encouragement. I love being challenging to see things differently and here is scientific proof of the positive aspect of embracing supposed irritants or negatives, letting go of the need to fight to control the uncontrollable and in fact seeing that 'unstable' aspect of life as a positive - Jesus said we would have trials in this world but He overcame and when we follow His path, we walk in that same destiny. This is just another aspect of why we need to throw off the cares of the world and cease worrying about conforming to the world's standards of how we should look, act, be.

    1. Gil, inspiring response. Thanks and bless ya heaps :) As we step out on the edge we remind ourselves that our position is not one of superiority because we have dared and won, but of humility because we have heard, and obeyed. Sometimes that obedience doesn't necessarily look like victory the way the world sees it. as Jesus said...... we need to lose to win, die to live.............

  4. Fabulous post Shane. My middle step child is also Shane - wonderful, strong manly name. Perfect name for a warrior of Christ. I loved how your post really made me think about whether or not I am too comfortable as a writer. I don't think I am, especially as I am just a novice. However, I agree with the above comments; we do need to remove ourselves from our nice, safe comfort zone. Like Robyn, I am leaving it to God whether or not He wants me to go down this road - I think He does and I truly hope He does. I went through a phase or stage where the closer I drew myself to God, the harder the enemy worked against me. I seem to have had the monkey off my back for a while, but I know that I must be vigilant. Also I need to be true and believable, accounting and allowing for just how difficult this world can be for most. Gillie, may I quote you? "Like the pearl living through constant irritation in the shell, are not the adverse circumstances of life and our subsequent surrender to the process perhaps the greatest example of how this living on the edge, a life of radical, ever changing, unpredictable faith has the greatest effect on shaping our character and creating a more dynamic environment for even greater faith-based living." I love this example of the pearl, and you have put it so eloquently. I couldn't have expressed this better myself.

    Congratulations on your debut blog post Shane. This is wonderful and kept me reading until the very end. Also it has given me a lot to think about as I cruise or pace through my day.

    Thank you.

  5. Josephine-Anne, thanks for your encouragement :) There is s song that I remember very keenly from my role in the musical Godspell. The lyrics presented back then in "By My Side" were a challenge to me as a new Christian and maybe after nearly 30 years I am starting to 'get' what was meant by the words
    "I'll put a pebble in my shoe
    And watch me walk (watch me walk)
    I can walk and walk!
    (I can walk!)

    I shall call the pebble Dare
    I shall call the pebble Dare
    We will talk, we will talk together
    We will talk about walking
    Dare shall be carried
    And when we both have had enough
    I will take him from my shoe, singing:
    "Meet your new road!"
    Then I'll take your hand
    Finally glad
    Finally glad
    That you are here
    By my side. "

  6. Great post Shane. I confess I hadn't heard the word liminality before - and I googled it. Wow! Thank you for something new to ponder on. It's true that God calls us often out of our comfort zones. Just as we get settled in sailing in calm waters, He brings a storm that shakes us. But oh the beauty of the rainbow from it! And how wonderful to sail in new waters afterwards.

    Thank you for the challenge for some edginess in our writing. As Christians - we are not called to comfort and stability I agree but to explore the world one day at a time with a new liminality each season. As writers too. Thank you Shane. I accept the challenge! :)

  7. What an inspiring post, Shane. You were certainly a trailblazer when I knew you at Uni all those years ago and it's great to hear how your ministry has continued to take risks over the years. It's easy to stay in our comfort zones, but I've received some of my best feedback when I've taken a risk--especially when I've written about personal issues I didn't really want to write about. I find that's when God can most touch a reader.

    I'm currently writing my debut novel and it's also been a huge leap of faith. Sometimes I feel that what I've envisaged is way beyond my ability to pull it off. But God keeps helping me and giving me the next bit of the plot. It's a hair-raising ride, but so worth it in the end to be able to touch people with our writing.

    Good luck with your YA Sci-Fi series. I'll look forward to reading it :)

  8. Thanks Shane. Food for thought. I suspect I may be already doing it - the surrendered risk--taking thing - in my life and my writing - but will need to look at it more closely to see. Good to take a fresh look and be challenged .Thanks!

  9. Thanks Shane for your post. I find (like Nola) that God challenges me to write about personal issues that I rather not write about. Yet as I get out of my comfort zone I find God not only enables me but also grows me.

  10. A good reminder that the Christian life is not for the faint-hearted, and neither is the life of the writer.