A WRITING MINISTRY
I enjoy writing and view it as an extension of my ministry of the gospel and the advancement of the cause of Christ. During my senior year of high school at Mars Hill Bible School in Florence, AL I was the sports editor of our little school paper. Being “editor” meant that I wrote the one sports story (maybe occasionally two) for “The Areopagite.” (You will need to read Acts 17:16-21, 34 to see the connection between the name of the paper and the name of my high school). As I recall, Larry Harper, who was a grade behind me, submitted the winning name in a contest to rename the school newspaper. “The Areopagite” only existed for one or two years before it reverted back to its former name, “The Flashlight,” but I liked the name “The Areopagite.” I also served as one of two associate editors of my high school yearbook “Mizpah.” (If you will read Genesis 31:48-49 you will understand the significance of that name).
At Freed-Hardeman College I was privileged to take two courses in Journalism under Olan Hicks, founder and first editor of The Christian Chronicle. Brother Hicks was an excellent teacher and many of the things he taught his students were things he had learned from practical experience. We wrote articles and papers for the course and he was a tough critic and grader. It was while I was a student at Freed-Hardeman that my first article appeared in a brotherhood paper, the September 1957 issue of the then monthly (as I recall) Gospel Minutes. I will always be grateful to Dillard Thurman for publishing the writings of a fledgling young writer. He published several more of my early journalistic efforts.
My first articles for the Gospel Advocate began to appear occasionally in the mid-1960s, but I did not write extensively for the Advocate until I became a staff writer in 1973 at the invitation of the editor, B. C. Goodpasture. Through the years, I have continued to write for the Advocate. For the past twenty plus years I have been a regular writer for the quarterly publication The Spiritual Sword. Alan Highers, the journal’s editor, and I have been friends since our college days, and I have appreciated the confidence he has shown in me by asking me to write for this outstanding publication that goes all around the world. During my ministry in Jackson, TN I wrote a weekly religious column (“Sermon-Ad”) for The Jackson Sun. Later, in both Clarksville, TN and Selma, AL, I wrote a weekly column for the local newspaper.
Over the years, I have contributed articles to both national and regional Christian publications: The World Evangelist (edited by the late Basil Overton), Vigil (edited by the late Bobby Duncan), The Carolina Messenger (when it was under the able editorship of my good friend and former Freed-Hardeman College classmate David Pharr), The Alabama Restoration Journal (edited by Larry Whitehead), The Gospel Gleaner (edited by Andy Erwin), Magnolia Messenger (edited for many years by Al Franks until his sudden death last year and now edited by Dennis Doughty), and various others. In November of 2011 I began writing “Hugh’s News & Views,” a weekly email publication that is sent free of charge to anyone requesting it. From time to time, an editor of another publication (especially The Gospel Gleaner or the Magnolia Messenger) will ask for permission to use a “News & Views” essay, and I am always glad to grant such permission. Lectures that I have delivered have appeared in a number of published lectureship books: Freed-Hardeman University, East Tennessee School of Preaching, Faulkner University, The Fort Worth Lectures, The Spiritual Sword Lectures, as well as others. I have authored five books, all of them published by Sam Hester of Hester Publications in Henderson, TN. I have written chapters on various topics that have appeared in books compiled and published by members of the Lord’s church.
In my retirement years I have made extensive use of social media to advance and defend the cause of New Testament Christianity. I make no apology for doing so. As a steward of God and the gospel, I believe I have that responsibility (I Corinthians 4:1-2). In all of this my aim is to please God, not men (Galatians 1:10). Additionally, during these retirement years, I have had approximately 50 “Letters to the Editor” of The (Nashville) Tennessean published on a variety of contemporary concerns. I appreciate the many positive responses I have had from readers of these letters as I have visited and spoken at many churches of Christ in the Middle Tennessee area. None of this is intended as boasting, but only as an effort to be a voice for truth, righteousness, and common sense in our world.
Anyone who writes will make errors. My writings certainly have their share of errata in them. I was my own editor for my five books and I am my own editor for “News & Views.” One will not have to look hard to find mistakes in my writings. One of my books especially has two chapters that are riddled with errors. I thought I had proofread those two chapters, but after the book was published I realized that I had not. (I had changed computers and failed, unknowingly, to double-check all of the transferred documents).
Much of what I know about writing has been learned by being observant of good writing. I appreciate someone who uses correct grammar (I sometimes fail in this), who knows how to spell (it would take a genius to understand what some mean by words atrociously misspelled), how to capitalize proper names, how to properly punctuate sentences, how and when to use quotation marks, how to properly use parentheses, and other basic mechanics of writing that make for enjoyable reading. Even where emails and social media posts and comments are concerned I think reasonable standards should be followed. Some seem to think that it does not matter if they use periods, commas, colons, semi-colons, question marks, begin sentences with a capital letter, etc. or not. Some emails and social media posts are so garbled in punctuation, capitalization, and spelling that I have a hard time deciphering them. (Here I am not talking about the use of accepted email “shorthand”).
In closing, I offer these tips. “The comma and period are always enclosed within the quotation marks. [Example: “Thy word is truth.” – NOT, “Thy word is truth”.]. The colon and semicolon are never enclosed within quotation marks. [Example: “A little while, and you will not see Me”; – NOT, “A little while, and you will not see Me;”]. The dash, question mark, and exclamation mark are enclosed within quotation marks if they apply to the quoted material. [Example: His response was, “What is the question?” – NOT, His response was, “What is the question”?]. The preceding (except for the examples) is but a part of the guidelines used by writers for The Spiritual Sword as set forth by the editor and are taken from Webster’s explanation of the use of quotation marks.
In scripture quotations (as well as other quotations) it makes for a “cleaner” and more attractive look if the period at the end of the quotation comes outside the parenthesis that is used to indicate the source of the quotation. Example: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). I have learned most of these things simply by observing the excellent writing skills of others in books and journals. And while these have to do with only the mechanics of writing, observing them can add greatly to both the attractiveness and “readability” of any piece of writing.
I have said nothing about how to go about choosing a topic on which to write (most of the articles I now write for brotherhood journals are on topics assigned by the editors), deciding on what material to include in the document (in an article limited to a certain number of words or pages it is not possible to include everything that might be said), how to organize the material logically and creatively, or any number of other factors that are involved in effective writing. All of these are important factors if one expects to have his or her material published or if one expects others to read it.
Now check out this article and let me know where I have violated my own rules. I am sure there are errors in it.
May 19, 2020