Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday -- The Writers' Porch--Don't Preach

Shortbread: How to Write Great Devotionals, Part 5—Don’t Preach

The point of writing devotionals is to inspire the reader. I once heard someone say, “Keep the devotion in the devotional." When writing a devo the most effective way to turn off the reader is to preach at them. In today’s culture, people do not want to be “thumped by the Bible.” They want to read something that will encourage them to seek a closer relationship with God.

When the writer wants to make a life changing point, the best way to phrase it is by using the personal pronoun of “I”. Use yourself as the example.

Never, never use phrases such as:

“You should do _________.” Or “God desires that you ______.”

It is best to write:

“I should do ______.” Or “God wants me to ________.’’

It is also permissible to use “we”.

“We should do _______” or "God desires for us to ______."

Does that make sense? Include yourself in the life application, so it doesn’t appear you are pointing the finger at the reader.

Another caution I would like to add is the use of the words always or never, unless you are taking it as a direct quote from Scripture. Remember the rule when arguing with some that you should not use the accusatory words of “you always" or “you never,” the same rationale applies in writing. It’s best to avoid words that imply an absolute or rigid thought. They come across as preachy.

One final note on the "don’t preach" rule. So many people today are unchurched. They do not understand or recognize our Christian lingo. Although it is familiar to us, we must not assume the reader understands. Here are some phrases that would not be understood, unless explained in the devo.

The Bride of Christ.
I felt convicted.
Washed in the Blood.
A living sacrifice.

Place yourself in the position of an unchurched reader. Ask yourself, “Would this make sense to my neighbors? Is this how I talk to them, or am I writing in Christianese? Who is my audience, and what am I conveying with each word I write?

Pray that your writing will be effective and life-changing. Ask the Lord to make 1 Corinthians 2:4 apply to your devotional writing. “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power.”(NIV)


Mary said...

Thank you again Susanne. I look forward to your Shortbread each Friday. I am learning so much from you. I thank God for leading me to your blog the week you started this series. God is faithful!

Have a blessed week,

Joyful said...

Like Mary said, thanks again Susanne. So valuable. Thanks for being so willing to share all you have learned and pass it on to us.

Keeping the devotion in devotional,