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 (Manna 67: The Bible)
Writing for God
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Writing for God

T. Chen

What comes to your mind when you think of “writing”? For many of us today, writing a letter, let alone an article, seems like a very demanding task. Yet in this age of mobile phones, e-mail and the Internet, we do a lot of writing everyday! We write text messages, e-mails, blogs, comments… the list goes on. Why, then, do we find difficulty, or even dread, writing articles?

We may think of writing a proper article as a very serious matter. We feel we cannot write an article because it is not as “casual” as an e-mail or blog writing. We are afraid that we may not be able to write beautifully or coherently and may end up making a fool of ourselves or not benefiting anyone.


However, have you ever thought of writing as a way to serve God? The ancient saints wrote down God’s word according to His commandment and inspiration so that countless people after them could get to know God through the Bible. Many have come to believe in the true gospel of salvation through the written word in the form of flyers, leaflets, magazines or books.

A closer look into the Bible reveals that God Himself wrote: He wrote the Ten Commandments on stone tablets (Ex 34:1, Deut 10:2). God also commanded His chosen people to write His words on the doorposts of their own houses (Deut 6:6, 9), on large stones after entering the land of Canaan (Deut 27:1-4, 8), and on the tablet of their hearts (Prov 3:3, 7:3). He wanted Israel to remember His words so that they would guide them in their faith journey. God even told Israel how they should write:

"And you shall write very plainly on the stones all the words of this law." (Deut 27:8)

God wanted His people to write down the commandments “very plainly”, i.e., in a clear and simple manner, so that everyone could understand them.

These examples show that God places great emphasis on writing about His word because through writing more people can learn about the path of salvation, believe in Him and be encouraged in their faith.


What does it take to write about God and His word? Do we have to be deacons or preachers with profound theological knowledge? Do we need to be particularly good with words? You may laugh, but the answer is: no, not really!

Why not?

When we write for God, we are simply putting our reflections, experiences or teachings that we have gathered from the Bible onto paper. Our aim is to encourage the readers in their faith— not to entertain. Our tool is the word of God itself—not our eloquence. This is the greatest difference between secular writing and writing for the church.

For this reason, anyone can write for God as long as we have the heart to serve Him. We don’t have to worry about language, style or grammar—our work can still be edited afterwards. However, our content must be based on and firmly rooted in the word of God. In fact, the Bible connects all believers because it is the basis of our common faith. Sometimes, our personal experiences alone cannot edify others if they have not had similar experiences. But if we base our writing on the Bible, readers will be able to identify with our message much more easily, since it is God’s word that we all believe in and that binds us together. Moreover, what can edify more than the word of God?


So, how do you get started? A first step might be to write down reflections during personal Bible study time. Putting thoughts on paper is a good way to train us to organize our thoughts. In addition, whatever touches us concerning God’s word has the potential to touch others too, so don’t let it slip into oblivion!

Another way to start writing for God is to attend the International Assembly’s annual English Writers Retreat (EWR).


Simply put, the EWR aims to train up new writers for the church, as well as to produce new devotionals and articles for publication on the IA website and in Manna (magazine). Attendance is open to all—the International Assembly welcomes all brothers and sisters who are interested in serving God in the English Literary Ministry.

Although it is a writers’ retreat, and we do aim at producing articles during the one-week event, participants will not be taught how to “write”. Instead, they will learn how to study the Bible in greater depth and focus on spiritual cultivation through daily Bible study and prayer. These two factors are key to producing edifying articles. This is because good articles are based on good content, and good content must be based on the Bible and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.


The retreat usually starts off with an introduction to the English Literary Ministry and a collective brainstorming session on possible writing topics. This is meant to give the participants a clearer understanding of the EWR’s purpose and to get them ready to do some writing.

During the retreat, participants work on two types of articles: a devotional and a full-length article.


The first two days are usually centered on devotional writing. Devotionals are succinct articles with one main point. They aim to inspire readers and prompt them to reflect on their relationship with God. Since devotionals are short, they tend to be easier to manage. Apart from introducing different types of devotionals and their contents and purposes, the instructors usually share some tips and tricks on devotional writing. Participants also get to read and discuss various sample devotionals before they start writing.

Instructors lend a hand whenever participants need help with the writing, and participants have the opportunity to read and provide feedback on one another’s draft articles.

Full-length Articles

On the third day, the instructors normally move on to full-length articles. These are longer articles that we typically find in Manna.
After introducing the different article genres (e.g., testimonies, Christian living articles, exhortations, etc.), participants learn how to conduct in-depth studies of biblical passages and how to use different kinds of study tools. Together with the instructors, they learn how to analyze a passage in the Bible, pay attention to detail, research historical background and the original meanings of keywords. This can be a mechanical task at times, but the results are usually very rewarding. We are often inspired as we can gather many teachings and new insights through this process.

Now, some may ask, “What do I do with all my research results?” We usually organize our findings in a content outline that serves as the “skeleton” of our article. A content outline is a structured way of organizing our ideas and findings, as it requires us to define our article’s main message and decide on the content of its introduction, body and conclusion. Finally, once we have organized our ideas, we can start writing.

As with the devotionals, participants have one or two “peer editing sessions” each day where they form small groups to read and discuss one another’s draft articles. The instructors facilitate these group discussions but in most cases peer editing sessions quickly develop by themselves. Group members interact well with one another and everyone usually receives plenty of useful feedback.

After each peer editing session, participants can use the input they have received to rework and expand their articles. By the end of the retreat, most participants are able to submit at least a complete first draft.


After every EWR, participants generally leave feeling spiritually edified, having learned and shared God’s word, whether through writing, discussions during peer editing sessions, or daily Bible study before prayers.

Let’s see what past EWR participants have said:


“Great tips on ideas, structure and writing style for devotionals. 1 point, 300 words! Good that we were given sufficient time to write an actual devotional. The peer-editing sessions were extremely useful too. It takes someone else to look at our devotional in a different light to get better writing. Peer-editing also allows for our fellow writers to play the role of a reader and it was useful to see which parts of our writing helped/did not help our readers understand a certain biblical principle/passage better.”

Research and Passage Development

“Tedious, time-consuming but needed. It helped me learn a lot about the passage, which created more thoughts and ideas.”

“I learned a lot from the research and passage development sessions. So much more can be extracted from a passage and related verses; this makes our writing more biblically sound. TJC articles are different from other churches’ articles because we are led by the Holy Spirit and have the knowledge of the truth. Thank God that we focused more on the content rather than style. Found the peer editing sessions useful as well, as we see biblical teachings from others' perspective.”

What Was Most Challenging?

“Trying to make sure that my writing was relevant to the reader by providing specific examples and my own personal experiences. The structuring of the articles and trying to decide what information to include and what to leave out was also challenging.”

“Most challenging? Consolidating the ideas in my head and writing them out coherently on paper. I feel like I have got a whole mind map of information/ideas but how to bring across my one MAIN point? And with impact?”

In General

“Excellent platform for developing critical thinking and writing, especially for learning how to put spiritual experiences/insight into articles.”

“Overall, I think EWR has been a great experience. I really enjoyed everything that I learned this time and I am really hoping and looking forward to going to next year’s EWR!”


Writing for church is very different from writing for secular purposes. We are not writing to entertain or to transmit information; we are writing to share God’s word of salvation and to encourage each other in our journey of faith. These are tasks that God has entrusted to all of us, so why not give it a try and start sharing through writing?



Editor’s note:

If you would like to know more about the English Writers Retreat, please contact us at manna@tjc.org.



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Author: T. Chen