This is the second post in a series. Read the first post here.
Today I finished another round of editing my novella. After I completed it three years ago, I had a dozen or so writer-friends read through it and give feedback, which included two professional editors. As I begin to prepare for self-publication, I had over twenty volunteers read through it and offer feedback.
I’m amazed that, after so many readings by so many people, readers are still finding errors and mistakes. Even those who read with an eagle-eye and found ten errors did not find the typo that another reader pointed out.
I’ve long known the importance of getting others to proof your work. After a hundred readings, I still don’t see my errors. This recent feedback reminds me of the importance of multiple editors. No one person can see everything that needs to be improved. Nor does each editor always get it right. But many pairs of eyes will often get you closer to what you want it to be.
Yesterday, I offered a few thoughts on how good discipleship is good editing. The above lesson reveals an aspect of this truth. We need a community of people discipling us—not just one individual.
It is common parlance in evangelicalism to ask, “Is anyone discipling you?” or to say, “I’m discipling so-and-so.” Sometimes people hope to be discipled by a specific person (or boast that they have been). There’s nothing wrong with the idea of one-on-one discipleship, per se. But, I fear that too often, such an approach can encourage unhealthy practices.
Imagine an author who limits their suggestions, feedback, proof-reading, and so forth to one set of eyes. Their work would suffer. So will the person who only and always goes to the same person or small group of people for feedback and help in their spiritual life. The knowledge, perspective, and ability of that person limit their growth. No one Christian possesses all the wisdom sufficient to help you follow Christ.
Granted, just as there is value in having one editor who knows you and your work better than anyone else, there is value in having a partner in the faith who knows you the same (more on this in a future post). But I’m struck by the fact that the New Testament does not indicate that Christians ought to seek one person to “disciple” them.
The Lord commands ever disciple to “make disciples.” Moreover, the New Testament expects to see every believer in an accountable relationship with a local congregation. It each local church, believers relate to one another as brothers and sisters, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters—as a family. Each in relationship with one another helping the other to follow Christ. Each accountable for correcting and encouraging the other.
One of the reasons that getting feedback from multiple readers is that every reader comes with a different perspective. Male, female, old, young, blue-collar, white-collar, writer, non-writer—every person reads your material through a unique lens. Granted, we need not—and should not—take the advice of other readers (more on this in a future post). But those perspectives are valuable if you know what to do with them.
So it is with discipleship. If we only go to people who share our gender, ethnicity, or cultural circles, who love the same authors and theological systems, who are the same age and have the same marital status, or who we like and know well, then our spiritual growth will be hindered and stunted.