“Craft – an activity involving skill to produce something by hand” says my newly installed Oxford English Dictionary. The origin of the modern word ‘craft’ is to be found in the Old English word ‘craeft’ which combined the concepts of skill and strength together.
If there was companion dictionary, like the expanded translation of the Bible, then we might reach a better understanding of our topic, like this for our opening definition:
“Craft – an activity [worthwhile human endeavour] involving skill [proving one’s dexterity, competent, virtuous, masterful, graceful] to produce [make, invent, fabricate, construct, fashion, create] something [worthy, honest, valuable] by hand.
When we focus on those activities which involve hands, there is also an intrinsic underlying meaning, a deeper meaning. For instance, if you are a shipwright, a builder of boats, then you surely are using your craft to make something that is fit for purpose.
If you are a fisherman then you need to trust your boat. The boat builder knew that when he designed and built the boat, it would need to have numerous good qualities, you could even say ‘virtues’, that the boat users would need to rely on implicitly. It would need to be watertight, buoyant, stable, robust and strong enough to weather the worst storms and most of all it needed to be safe to protect the lives of the fishermen. When Jesus said to Simon-Peter, ‘Go out into deep water and cast your nets again’, the scriptures record that the nets began to break because they were so full of fish and the boats began to sink under the load. But sink they did not, for the boat-builder had done his job well. He had built a fishing boat that would not just take a big catch, but would stand up to a miracle.
Is there a craft of writing? I believe there is but it’s not what the textbooks say it is. It’s not the kind of skill you can simply learn and then apply. Not a mere crafting of words to make them sound good when read or spoken aloud. Not just a clever way of stringing sentences together or paraphrasing speech and drama to create an interesting story. Nor is it a means to earn lots of money. You can’t serve two masters.
No, it’s much more than all these things.
The key is in the picture shown above.
Simon-Peter, Andrew, James and John were all expert fishermen. They had good solid boats in which to fish on Galilee but Jesus saw something more than just the simple dexterity of their hands. He saw a dormant skill that was in their hearts and souls, a skill that was profound and could be used in the kingdom of God.
As writers, are we satisfied making good catches? Showing off our skills and craftsmanship so that others will applaud our artistry? Or are we like the disciples standing in the boat, willing to listen to Jesus and be obedient to him, and answer the calling of the Kingdom of God?
Our skill and craftsmanship is a God-given gift and as communicators we should always ask if our writing is fit-for-purpose and of great worth and value to the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth. Don’t settle with being a craftsman of the word, let the word craft you into being a disciple of the Lord