Writing for God
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.
WRITING TO SERVE GOD
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.
CAN I WRITE FOR GOD?
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!
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
WHAT IS THE 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.
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.
WHAT DO PARTICIPANTS SAY ABOUT EWR?
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
“Tedious, time-consuming but
needed. It helped me learn a lot about the passage, which created more thoughts
“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.”
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?”
“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!”
START SHARING THROUGH WRITING
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
If you would like to know more about the English Writers
Retreat, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.