Interview with Tom Wacaster
Tom Wacaster has written several good commentaries. I appreciate his work very much.
Most writing sites focus on fiction, specifically novels. We cannot neglect non-fiction. If we will spread the gospel, we will do so with articles, books and commentaries that move the hearts of men. Tom has committed himself to that mission. I am honored to share this interview with you.
Read especially Tom’s thoughts on spreading the gospel online.
1. How did you get started as a writer?
My writing started while I was attending college at East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma. I took some English and journalism classes (a must for those desiring to write). I was working with the Southwest church of Christ at that time and we had a weekly newspaper column which gave me ample opportunity to be introduced to the world of journalism and public writing. I soon realized that there was great power in the written word. I took the time to further study the writings of successful authors in the Lord’s church, and sought out their good points and bad points.
2. Tell us about your books.
The first book I published was a commentary on Galatians. I wanted to get my feet wet with writing books, and my goal was to eventually write and publish a series on Psalms. I began publishing “The Songs and Devotions of David,” and completed the first volume in 2002 covering Psalms 1-24. Since that time I have completed all 150 Psalms in a full seven volume set. While writing and expanding my notes on the Psalms I was encouraged to put my notes on Romans into print, and this was my first hard back book, “Studies in Romans.” This book is now used in four of our preacher training schools and has had a wonderful reception by brethren. Two years ago I published “Studies in Hebrews,” and this year (2010) I have published a remake on “Studies in Galatians” combined with “Studies in Ephesians,” also in a hard bound book. I am nearing completion of my commentary on Revelation, “John’s Vision on Patmos,” and hope to have this to the printer before year’s end.
3. What is your mission as a writer?
I consider books an extension of my preaching and teaching. It is, as I have noted in the preface to a couple of my books, a “written Bible class.” I suppose it would be accurate to say that my goal in writing is the same as my public preaching and teaching – to expose as many people to the word of God as possible.
4. What do you feel are your strengths and weaknesses as a writer?
One of my weaknesses is that I occasionally get too “technical” for the average reader. I have tried to make my writing such that the common man can get some benefit from my writings.
5. Where do you get ideas for your articles?
I get my ideas from the daily newspapers, current events, simple situations that arise in life, quotes that I happen to read, etc. I remember that someone in my journalism class once said that “each day our lives provide volumes of seed thoughts which can lend themselves to writing ideas” (that may not be an exact quote, but the gist of the statement has stayed with me all these years). Of course when it comes to writing a commentary the ideas come right out of the text themselves. I have learned that much of God’s word lends itself to natural homiletic outlines if the student will simply take the time to dig them out.
6. How important is writing to you?
I consider writing a top priority in my communication of the word of God. I realize that the things I write will be left behind when I have cast off this tabernacle and gone to be with God. I feel much like one preacher who, while knocking doors in a campaign, came to realize that the week was running out and that it would be impossible to knock every door. But, with a quickened step, and an increased enthusiasm, he decided that if he RAN from one door to the next, he could cover much more ground. This he did for the final two days of the campaign and was able to knock on many more doors than if he had walked. I feel sort of like that. I have several “volumes” in mind that I would like to get published over the next ten years. If I spend some of those extra moments writing rather than watching television or golfing I can get more done. By the way, I sold my golf clubs about the time I decided to get serious about publishing some of my books.
7. Are you an avid reader? How does that influence your writing?
When I was doing local work I set a goal of reading one book a week. I managed to do this each year for more than 25 years. My mission work has forced me to cut back somewhat. At the suggestion of brother Robert Taylor, Jr. I began reading my New Testament through once a month in 1976 and have never backed off from that noble goal. I have attempted to read the Old Testament twice a year. You would be surprised how many “seed thoughts” for articles you can glean from the word of God. There is not doubt that my reading has influenced my writing. Each of us has our own “style” of writing. Likely each of us has been influenced by someone who we considered a great writer.
8. What is the power of the written word?
The power in the written word is that the thoughts of the author are in a permanent form. One might listen to a sermon, but oral communication alone has its weakness. Words might be misunderstood, or misheard. But in writing, the author can think, meditate, and reevaluate his words before they go to print. But with oral communication, once the words have been spoken they must go where they will. In addition, the written word gives the reader the opportunity to read, re-read, and then read again. Therein is the greatest power of the written word. Before leaving this point let me hasten to add that preaching the word orally certainly has great value seeing that God said that it was through the “foolishness of preaching” that He would save men.
9. Describe your editing process.
When I write a short article I usually re-read it several times to myself. Then I call my wife in and read the article aloud to her. As for my books, I usually write the rough draft, then go back through editing my thoughts, cutting out unnecessary sentences, words and/or paragraphs. I go through the book a third time proofing each chapter. Once I have proofed the chapter myself I send it to two or three individuals who have agreed to help me proof my book before going to print. Once their input has been studied, evaluated and incorporated into my writing, I then read the final product at least one more time before going to print. Interestingly, even with that pain-staking process I still miss typographical errors from time to time.
10. What lessons have you learned as a writer?
Someone once said, “When you write a book you spend several years developing the book, several dollars getting it printed, and then several more years explaining yourself to your critics.” I have learned that communication, whether in oral or written form, is a difficult process. Perhaps more than anything else, my writing has helped me to take a little more time in my preaching and teaching to be a little more precise in expressing thoughts and ideas.
11. What do you see as the future of sharing the gospel online?
The internet, in my estimation, is the tool that God has given us to reach the billions of souls who are lost. It is impossible for the small number of New Testament Christians to orally preach God’s word to all the lost. But with the amazing world of the internet, doors are opened with souls we may never see face to face. Though others could attest to this fact, I have had a couple of occasions where those who are not members of the Lord’s church have contacted me. One individual who was a member of a main line denomination said something to the effect: “I don’t know how my name got on your email list, but I am glad it did. Please keep sending the articles.” I encourage all of our preachers, young and old, to develop some kind of website and preach over the internet. If you cannot write, then borrow from others, and make as much material available to the lost world as possible. The more seed we sow, the more harvest we will reap.