Publishing is a scary business. It doesn’t matter if it’s a book, a video, a Facebook post, a blog, a Tweet, or an Instagram; whenever we press “publish” we just don’t know what’s going to happen.

Actually, come to think of it, we do. We’re going to get criticized. Sure, we may get some “Five Star Reviews,” some “Likes,” “Retweets,” “Shares,” and “Hearts,” but today it’s almost certain that we’re going to get some pain mixed in as well–the pain of rejection, the pain of mockery, the pain of dismissal, the pain of critique.

That’s why some people never press “Publish.” It’s why some of the best books ever written are never published. The fear of a negative reaction makes us retreat, often under the cover of false humility. Not publishing makes for an easier and more comfortable life. It protects our fragile ego and allows us to continue to be a critic rather than be criticized.

But, despite all the risks, many of us still venture forth, take a deep breath, press publish, and put our work out into the public domain. Then we wait for the response.

Then, crickets. Nothing. No one, or hardly anyone noticed. Not even a “Like.” Not even one one-star review?

Or perhaps some praise comes along, some encouraging comments, some good reviews. We receive it gladly. The ego basks in the acclaim of a total stranger. We’re tempted to re-post it, call attention to it, and exclaim how enlightened and discerning these readers are. But we’d rather be known for our humility than our pride. So we bite our egos and hope and pray that someone else will do the self-promotion for us.

Then, the dreaded first critique. Ouch! Then another. Double ouch! By the third, we are writhing on the floor and wishing we’d never written a word. We think, “Can I round up all my books and burn them so that no one ever knew they existed?”

Or, like some authors, we write lengthy painstaking defenses of our work, and how all our critics are wrong, and how they have mischaracterized and twisted every word, and how they are so dishonest and stupid and probably haven’t even read the book.

Or we can learn from our critics. Maybe they have a good point or two or three or more. They’ve wounded us, but the scars will stay with us and teach us to think better and express ourselves more accurately, more biblically, more comprehensively, and with better balance in the future.

And sometimes we just need to laugh–at the critics, at the criticisms, and yes, even at ourselves. One Amazon reviewer described my most recent book as “Tragically representative of modern-day American Christianity.” What can you do but laugh? The only surprise was that he still awarded it two stars!

There’s only one book I’ll defend to the death, and its author is God.

  • Les

    My only conclusion of the negative reviews posted on Amazon is that the reviewers read the wrong book for the problems they were facing.

  • Alasdair Macleod

    Thanks for this – it is a very honest article. There is a real vulnerability in public work, even work for the Kingdom of God. There is ultimately only One for Whom we work, and whose verdict matters (Colossians 3:22ff), but it is nonetheless important to encourage one another in our labours. After reading this, I want to take the opportunity to say in a public forum what a blessing David Murray’s ministry has been to me over the last twenty years. I can remember what must be some of his very earliest published work, the articles he used to write in a children’s magazine called ‘Young Foundations’, addressing current affairs in the UK in the late 1990s from a Christian perspective, and how interesting and helpful I found them as a young person. During my ministerial training, I was hugely helped by his written lectures (still used by his successor Mr Beers after he moved to the States) on the Old Testament, especially on ‘Preaching Christ from the Old Testament’, which I think is one of the most vital subjects for our day, in stimulating truly evangelical preaching from the whole of Scripture. It is no exaggeration to say that every time I preach now from an Old Testament text, I am working on the foundations of understanding that Dr Murray laid – along with my lecturers in person. I have also greatly enjoyed each of the books he has published (I recently bought Reset, and am looking forward to reading it), and many excellent blog postings. Although he felt compelled by the Lord’s call to leave Scotland for America, we have continued to benefit over here from aspects of his ministry. My prayer is that he will be strengthened to serve the Church of Christ for many years to come.

    • David Murray

      Alasdair, it’s very kind of you to write in this way. It means a lot to me. Very much appreciated. May God continue to make you a blessing to many.

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