This is the second of a two-part series written by one of OMF Literature’s long-time authors, Rev. William Girao, author of Being Single is Better, I Don’t Want to Feel This Way and his newest best-seller How to Live the Way God Wants . You can read the first part here
Some Pointers If You Are Going Into The Writing Ministry
If you could avoid the writing ministry, avoid it. But if the Lord is calling you to the writing ministry, here are some important pointers.
1. Don’t aim to become a writer. Aim, rather to be a faithful expositor of God’s Word; aim to be like Ezra.
“Ezra had devoted His life to studying the Law of the LORD, to practising it, and to teaching all its laws and regulations to the people of Israel.” Ezra 7:10 TEV
Writing must be a holistic ministry of lifelong study of Scripture, faithful obedience to Christ’s commands, and authoritative teaching of God’s message. Forget about writing a book for now. Concentrate, rather, on preparing your Sunday school lessons or Bible study guide or sermon with all diligence and seriousness. Give the same diligence to your preparation whether you’re teaching ten students or preaching to 1,000 worshippers.
If you want to know more on how to correctly interpret the Bible, get yourself a copy of my book, How To Understand the Bible Correctly.
2. Before you could teach or preach or write, you should have a message from God burning in your heart for our people. Before you could be a prophet, first you must have a prophet’s message. Writing becomes an extreme necessity only if your heart is bursting with a message to proclaim.
“But if I say, ‘I will not mention him or speak any more in His name,’ His word is in my heart like a burning fire, shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed I cannot.” Jeremiah 20:9
“Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” 1 Corinthians 9:16
Don’t write unless you have a message that is crucial for our people. Without a message, you are wasting the time of people who listen to you or read what you have written. Having a message from God could come to you only through daily meditating on and seriously studying God’s Word.
You also need to know our people. Listen more; talk less. Have a caring pastor’s heart and a priest’s intimacy with God in worship and prayer. Only then will you have a prophet’s message.
Read the news. Know what is happening to our land and to the world. Do personal counselling. Pray for individuals. But do all these out of genuine concern for people not because you are looking for writing materials.
Knowing how to write and having a message to write about are two different things. If you want to know more about having a message, get yourself a copy of my book, Preaching With a Message.
3. Write only when there is a significant demand for what you teach or preach.
After you have taught or preached or counselled are there requests for copies of what you talked about? Are there people asking your permission to use your notes to teach in their Bible study group or Sunday school class or sermon? If there are none or only occasional requests, there is then no demand for what you teach. There is no point in publishing your manuscript.
An important criteria before a publisher would consider publishing your manuscript is a sure market—the assurance that your book will sell. Would the members of your own church or organization, for instance, eagerly buy your book if published? If those who know you personally are not interested to buy and read what you have written, those who don’t know you would most likely be not interested too.
In the Philippines, the average print run of a book is 1,500 copies. Ideally, all 1,500 copies should be sold out in the first year of the book’s publication for the publisher to recoup the printing and marketing costs. If the book does not sell, the publisher loses money and may not publish any more of your manuscripts. Moreover, a book must continue to sell after the year it was first published. Otherwise it would be a losing investment to reprint it.
4. Carefully write down and file away everything you teach or preach.
I write my sermons and lectures in full, not just outline form. I write in longhand word for word, paragraph by paragraph even if I don’t read my sermons when I preach. Only by doing this would I have a full record of the messages the Lord gives me.
Write down your messages on suitable materials that you may then file. The value of a filing system is in enabling you to locate the material that you need at the time that you need it. If your present filing system is not doing this, then, change it.
If you find the electronic filing system effective, go ahead and use it. I, however, have friends who have lost important documents—including a final draft for a PhD thesis—because their computers crashed and they could no longer retrieve their manuscripts. I don’t have that problem in filing my handwritten sermons and lectures.
5. Allow time and experience for your ideas to mature.
Don’t submit your manuscript to the publisher hastily. Let your ideas first pass the test of time and experience. What may seem to you as a precious idea and a necessary corrective today for our society may be irrelevant ten years from now.
I have friends who had very strong convictions, for example, about marriage and raising children when they were still unmarried. Later, however, when they got married and had children of their own, they realized that the convictions they were so passionate about when they were unmarried were, in fact, unworkable and inadvisable.
Your writing should never be an ego trip. Write with humility. Don’t write about yourself and your accomplishments—about your “beautiful wife” and your “gifted children.” Avoid, as much as possible, using the pronouns “I” and “me” unless your personal experience is needed (as is the case with these pointers!)
6. Always use illustrations when you write.
Filipinos comprehend ideas mainly through the stories. Illustrate your ideas with a story, an actual event or a personal experience.
Not many Filipinos are history-conscious so avoid illustrations about Winston Churchill or Abraham Lincoln or some great missionary in the 19th century. Filipinos, rather, are attracted to ordinary, present and real-life happenings about real people. Notice how most Filipinos would read first the “side bar” or human interest stories in newspapers before the headline news.
Jesus extensively used parables in His teaching. Parables are down-to-earth, true-to-life stories involving ordinary people living their ordinary day-to-day life—farmers sowing in their fields, housewives baking with yeast, a shepherd missing one of his sheep. This is the kind of communication Filipinos respond to: story more than logical reasoning; narration more than enumeration.
Know our people’s story. But in writing about people, be sure that you don’t break the cardinal rule of confidentiality.
7. Writing must be preceded, accompanied and followed by prayer.
When I prepare my sermons and before I preach, I always pray. This is my a constant prayer: that my interpretation of God’s Word would be accurate and faithful; that I would have clarity of thought and language in expressing God’s message; that my application of God’s truth would be relevant and fresh to my listeners; that the Holy Spirit would give me deep insight into God’s truth; and that I would preach with moral authority and passion that reflects God’s own heart and the life-changing power of the Holy Spirit.
Since my sermons eventually become my writings, my prayer regarding my preaching is, then, also my prayer for my writings.
Daily I pray that the Holy Spirit would convince individuals to buy my books and read them; that every copy sold of my books will be used by God to help build His kingdom; strengthen His church; and bring about positive change in the lives of those who read them. I constantly pray that those who read my books would repent and put their trust in Christ, obey God more fully, renew their hope, be better Christian leaders and reverence God’s name more deeply.
Without prayer and the active work of the Holy Spirit, books would be mere words. We could write but only God could use our writing to change lives. We are fully dependent on God in prayer, for the Lord to use what we write to have results for eternity.
May God raise more Christian writers who are:
Men and women of the Word—with a prophetic message from God burning like fire in their hearts;
Men and women of passion—with a pastor’s heart of genuine caring, practical concern and deep love for our own suffering people and tormented land; and
Men and women of prayer—with a priest’s intimacy with God in daily worship and personal devotion.
May the Lord raise Christian writers who will be prophets, pastors, and priests for our people.
William Girao served as the senior pastor of Diliman Campus Bible Church for 17 years. He received his Master of Divinity degree from the Asian Theological Seminary . He is an ordained minister who also served as a staffworker of the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship for 17 years.
He is married to Dolly Inocencio with whom he has three children: Gary William, a medical doctor; Viju Jess, an educator; and Leah Dolly, a chemical engineer
His books are available at all OMF Lit Bookshops nationwide.