A few months ago, RFTG published a review of the children’s book The Sower by Scott James (Crossway, 2022). In the time since the review was published, RFTG Editor Zach Kendrick was given the opportunity to ask Scott a few questions about the book and about how his work as a physician and pastor influence his writing. What follows are the author’s responses to questions submitted by the editor.
Scott James is a pediatric infectious disease physician and serves as an elder at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama. He is the author of Advent- and Easter-themed family worship books as well as the illustrated children’s books Where Is Wisdom? and The Littlest Watchman.
You have written several children’s books in the past. Why are you drawn to write books for children? Do you view it as part of your calling?
Writing devotionals and children’s books is simply an expression of my love of family discipleship. For me, the focus is primarily on a very local expression of that love: discipleship within my home. Everything I’ve written has grown out of my own family’s practice of family worship, with a simple goal of communicating the gospel to my children in clear and compelling ways. Beyond my household, I also think about how God might use what I’ve written to help other families in my local church. Honestly, reaching a wider audience through publication isn’t on my radar when I’m writing, but it’s a lot of fun when it happens after the fact. Deep down, I just I love helping families grow together in Christ, and I do consider that part of my calling.
Although you have written several books, in your day job you work as a pediatric infectious disease physician. How does your work as a medical doctor impact your writing outside of a clinical setting?
As a pediatric doctor, I’m often walking with families through very difficult circumstances. To serve them well, I need to be able to communicate in a trustworthy and effective manner, particularly as I talk directly with kids about some really weighty things. After many years of these conversations, I’ve come to the firm conclusion that kids are much more perceptive than we give them credit for. I take this mindset into my writing—yes, seeking to communicate in an understandable, age-appropriate way, but also respecting my audience enough to know they can handle big concepts. I love helping kids think through the rich and weighty truth they encounter in God’s Word.
In addition to your work as a medical doctor and author, you serve as an elder at your church, The Church at Brook Hills. How does your work as a medical doctor and author impact your role as an elder?
Looking back, I can see how the Lord has used my life experiences to help me as a pastor. Working in healthcare has given me a heart for vulnerable people; crafting words as a writer has helped me understand how important it is to communicate clearly. I think both of these truths have made me a better pastor. More than anything, no matter what role God has placed me in—husband, father, physician, writer, pastor—he has shown me that I can’t do it in my own strength. I am acutely aware of my dependence upon him.
Let’s flip that previous question around. How does your role as an elder impact your work as a physician and children’s book author?
Oh, yes, this is definitely the case. Consciously so. I bring a pastoral, shepherding mentality to all these areas. In my mind, these vocations are not compartmentalized, but are varied expressions of the ministry to which God has called me. In all of it, I’m seeking to glorify God and love others, whether through medicine, story, or pastoral care.
Have you done any writing outside of your work as a children’s book author?
Yes, I love to write all kinds of things. I used to have a monthly parenting column, I enjoy writing gospel-centered articles and essays, and I’m sometimes drawn to poetry and short fiction. Also, I run a research program at work, so I write and publish a lot of scientific manuscripts in medical journals—but you wouldn’t be interested in that unless you have a hidden love for virology!
The story of The Sower is a parable about God nurturing the seed of the gospel throughout redemptive history. This is to show children the beauty of the biblical storyline and clearly present the gospel. Why is it important for children to have an understanding of the meta narrative of the biblical storyline?
I think it’s important to help children (and adults!) see the unified storyline of Scripture. If we’re not careful, it’s possible to teach the Bible to children as if it’s just a collection of unconnected stories. I love helping them connect the dots and see how everything ties together with Jesus at the center. The Bible itself weaves the thread of this central storyline all throughout its pages using recurring themes and images. Tracing these motifs from start to finish can be a wonderful way to help children see the big picture. That’s my hope with the gardening/cultivation imagery in The Sower.
The illustrations by Stephen Crotts are stunning. My understanding is that he based the illustrations on an old style of wood-carved printmaking. How does Stephen’s skill as an artist point to the creative nature of God, and how do his illustrations not only enhance the story, but help tell the story of The Sower?
Stephen is a phenomenally talented man. His woodcut style is distinct and beautiful, with an organic feel that embodies the imagery of The Sower perfectly. I became familiar with his work through the art he contributed to Andrew Peterson’s Behold the Lamb of God album and concert, and I had his tone in mind when I wrote The Sower. Andrew introduced us and we became fast friends. Stephen is a faithful brother who has a healthy appreciation of art as an expression of worship. I’ve learned so much from him and I’m thrilled to be able to partner with him. I think he’s a perfect collaborator for a book that aims to highlight God’s creative glory.
How do you hope that the Lord uses The Sower in the lives of the children and families who will read it?
My prayer is that God will use it to plant biblical truth deep in the hearts of children. The garden metaphor can help children grow in their understanding of God’s creative, cultivating character, so my hope is that once they see that imagery in The Sower, they will begin to recognize it all throughout the pages of Scripture.
Do you have any future books in progress?
I have a mini-book in a biblical counseling series (think of those pamphlet-size books in a church lobby) coming out later this summer and will also have a small contribution in an upcoming Study Bible. I have a few different ideas for children’s books rattling around in my head—I’ll let you know how they turn out once I write them down for my kids.
Zach Kendrick is the editor of Reading For The Glory.
Editor’s Note: RFTG would like to thank the author for generously taking the time to provide thoughtful answers to the questions above.
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