The Editor as Servant

For over three and some years, I had the opportunity to serve as the managing editor of The Journal of Discipleship and Family Ministry, a semi-annual periodical published by the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  As managing editor, my duties included soliciting potential contributors, overseeing subscriptions, and editing articles.  Although there were administrative aspects of the job I enjoyed, my favorite part of the work was my role as editor.  But this wasn’t always the case.

Shortly after I was handed my first set of articles to prepare for an upcoming issue, I found myself loathing my work as an editor.  The labor was time-consuming, tedious, and demanding.  I had to acquaint myself with the accepted style requirements, read slowly over texts multiple times looking for mistakes, and constantly make painstaking decisions over small yet highly significant matters of word choice, sentence structure, and grammar.  And, adding to my discontent: I had to do all of this work without any recognition.  Once a given issue was printed, no one would know how much time or effort I had put into preparing the articles for publication. The author and the author alone would receive credit for the work that bore his name.

I am thankful that it didn’t take long for the Lord to arrest my drift into self-pity.  My resistance to enter into unrecognized labor and my feelings of discontent were fueled mainly by my failure to view my role of an editor as the role of a servant.  I did not see that the joy of editorial work is found primarily in making another look good, not seeking recognition for myself.  It started to become clear that the primary task of the editor is to serve the writer by making his contribution read as well as possible and thereby serve the other editors in helping produce an excellent publication.  The editor is a servant.

But you don’t have to have formal position in order to serve others as an editor.  If you have a gift for recognizing good writing and a knack for showing others how to write better, then offer your services to those around you.  Instead of wallowing in self-pity because your work may go unrecognized, find joy in helping others get noticed.  Do what you can to turn poor writing into something decent, and good writing into something great.  You may not get noticed, but you will get joy. And that’s better anyway.

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