When I started writing my four books several years ago (Back On My Feet, Jesus Killed My Business, A Girl’s Fathers and Too Busy to be Effective), I did not think much about been an effective Christian author. Being a Christian myself, I felt it was automatic that my content was Christian. This was until my husband shared with me a quote by Francine Rivers asking if ‘I am a Christian writer or a Christian who writes?’ The difference, as explained by Francine, a renowned American fiction author with Christian themes, is that a Christian who writes may weave Christian principles into the story, but the work can stand when these elements are removed. A Christian writer, on the other hand, is called to present a story that is all about Jesus. The Lord is the foundation, the structure, and Scripture has everything to do with the creation and development of the characters in the story. Jesus is the central theme. If you remove Jesus and Biblical principles from the story, it collapses. This explanation of the differences between the two terms has shaped my paradigm shift towards making Jesus the central theme in everything I write.
Let’s start by defining what effective Christian authorship means.
EFFECTIVE means to be successful in producing a desired or intended result. CHRISTIAN means relating to or professing Christianity or its teachings. CHRISTIANITY means the religion based on the person and teachings of Jesus Christ, or its beliefs and practices. And AUTHORSHIP means the state or fact of being the writer of a book, article, or document or the creator of a work of art.
Therefore EFFECTIVE CHRISTIAN AUTHORSHIP means to be successful in producing a desired or intended result based on the person and teachings of Jesus Christ through the writing of a book, article or document.
To understand this topic better, I went back to the basics and looked at five key points for Christian Authors:
1. Who Inspires you?
2. Are you paying attention to editorial excellence?
3. Do you have the right marketing strategy (Let’s correct some myths)
4. Why does God expect excellence from His children?5. Do you value your writing as a ministry?
Let’s go deeper on the first point. WHO INSPIRES YOU?
From the Scriptures, we see God as a writer – the first writer, having inspired the writing of the 66 books in the Bible, the all-time best selling book in the world. The divine inspiration of those that wrote the Bible originated from God because it all began in the mind and in the will of God.
All Scripture is God-breathed [given by divine inspiration] and is profitable for instruction, for conviction [of sin], for correction [of error and restoration to obedience], for training in righteousness [learning to live in conformity to God’s will, both publicly and privately—behaving honorably with personal integrity and moral courage]; so that the man of God may be complete and proficient, outfitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
The authority to write Scripture was given under God’s direct control. God decided to reveal certain truths about Himself through the Scriptures.
Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:7 Instead we speak the wisdom of God, hidden in a mystery, that God determined before the ages for our glory.
The message a Christian author writes must originate from God and must be about Christ and glorify God. John 12:32 encourages us that when Jesus is lifted up (in this case through our writing), He will draw men to Himself.
Our writing must become another way to worship the Lord. Giving all of ourselves to God as a thanksgiving offering (Francine Rivers).This shifts the focus from ‘what will my readers feel about my book’ to ‘what message does God want to pass to His children and the world through me’. If you have done a book before, you will appreciate what a game-changer this statement is. It’s very easy to get lost in market research to ensure you meet all the needs of your potential readers and miss out on what God’s message is.
HOW DOES GOD INSPIRE CHRISTIAN WRITERS? By the Holy Spirit
When Jesus was about to be crucified, He gave the promise of the Holy Spirit to the disciples in
John 16 (verse 5-15)But now I am going to Him who sent Me; and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts [and taken complete possession of them]. But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him (the Holy Spirit) to you [to be in close fellowship with you]. And He, when He comes, will convict the world about [the guilt of] sin [and the need for a Savior], and about righteousness, and about judgment: about sin [and the true nature of it], because they do not believe in Me [and My message]; about righteousness [personal integrity and godly character], because I am going to My Father and you will no longer see Me; about judgment [the certainty of it], because the ruler of this world (Satan) has been judged and condemned. “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear [to hear] them now. But when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth [full and complete truth]. For He will not speak on His own initiative, but He will speak whatever He hears [from the Father—the message regarding the Son], and He will disclose to you what is to come [in the future]. He will glorify and honor Me, because He (the Holy Spirit) will take from what is Mine and will disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Because of this, I said that He [the Spirit] will take from what is Mine and will reveal it to you.
From this Scripture, we see that the Holy Spirit is the One promised to guide us into all, full and complete truth. As you write that book as a Christian author, it is the Holy Spirit that should guide you on what to write or not to write. He is the one that convicts the world about the guilt of sin, the need for a Saviour, and about righteousness and judgment. The Holy Spirit knows what the readers you are called to minister to need, and so He guides you to write what they need and not necessarily what they want.
This point should form our basis in answering the question, WHY ARE WE WRITING?
We should write because God is always communicating with His people. He desires to pass a message to our readers through the content of our books. This helps us to focus on what that message is according to God’s will. This is not as complicated as it sometimes seems.
Philippians 2:12-13 gives us a very simple answer on how God works in and through us:
So then, my dear ones, just as you have always obeyed [my instructions with enthusiasm], not only in my presence but now much more in my absence, continue to work out your salvation [that is, cultivate it, bring it to full effect, actively pursue spiritual maturity] with awe-inspired fear and trembling [using serious caution and critical self-evaluation to avoid anything that might offend God or discredit the name of Christ]. For it is [not your strength, but it is] God who is effectively at work in you, both to will and to work [that is, strengthening, energizing, and creating in you the longing and the ability to fulfill your purpose] for His good pleasure.
As we put the message down, our confidence is in knowing that it is not by our strength or intellect, but it’s God who causes us both to will and to work (in our case to write) by creating in us the longing and ability to fulfill our purpose through that book. The dream you have for the book in your heart, is a longing put there by God. Our part as writers is to work out our salvation as we pursue spiritual maturity so that we are better vessels, vessels of honour worthy of the Master’s use. Our spiritual maturity and connectivity with God ensure that we don’t water down the message God wants us to pass to our readers.
Writing as a business should not take precedence. While we will need to sell the books we have written for some monetary gain or compensation, focusing on the money side can easily become a snare for Christian authors.
Matthew 6:33 tells us to “first and most importantly seek (aim at, strive after) His kingdom and His righteousness [His way of doing and being right—the attitude and character of God], and all these things will be given to you also.”
When we focus on what message God desires to pass through our writing and aim after His Kingdom and Righteousness, the sales, monetary gain, fame, recognition, acceptance and anything else we desire from our books shall be added to us. These cannot be our focus as they can easily hinder and interfere with the message.
We should write for God and to whom He has anointed us for. We have to write for God because it makes us value our work for eternity without comparing ourselves to other authors. God will guide us to whom our writing is for. There are more specific things that God will continue to tell us concerning our books, including, when to release the book, where the book will go to etc.
Apostle Paul was called to the Gentiles while Peter was called to the Jews. Not that any of these groups were better than the other, but because that is how God anointed the two men. When Peter went to some Gentiles, he was not as equipped to handle them and acted in hypocrisy (Galatians 2:11-13). We have to be in obedience to write for the readers God has anointed us for because that is where God’s grace will sustain us.
Our writing will be for a specific timeWhen the book is ready for public consumption, we should focus on doing all it takes to ensure visibility and accessibility. This would include marketing strategies, uploading on the different platforms available (social media, website, e-commerce, Amazon, Jumia, ebooks, audiobooks, etc) and selling through bookshops as the Lord will enable.
However, take courage if the reception is not what you expected. A book can be for a specific time (and not to excuse mediocrity and laziness of not working on marketing strategies). While Apostle Paul may have had some good impact with the letters he wrote to the different churches in the early church, the greater impact of his work was experienced long after he was gone from this world. At the time of writing the letters, Apostle Paul did not know that he was writing the Bible and more so that his letters would contribute significantly to the New Testament. It is stated that Paul wrote 28% of the words in the New Testament, that is 50,190 words out of the 179,011 words (in KJV 1769 version).
Another example is that of Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life – a book that CLC Kenya has sold in thousands of copies and has also sold over 30 million copies worldwide. Rick wanted to release the book earlier but the Lord held him until a specific time. If your time is not now, it will be at another appointed time.
Writing a book is like planting a tree, we might not reap the benefits immediately or even during our lifetime, but generations after us will. When we focus on writing for God as outlined in the previous point, we will be able to allow God to make everything beautiful at His appointed time.
Our gratification should be derived from GodWe should aim at seeking approval from God and not from men. Men’s praise is as dangerous to our souls as writers as is their criticism. This is because when we get used to men’s praises, which is usually based on their interests and point of view (and not necessarily or always on God’s will for us) when the criticism comes, it can easily sidetrack and discourage us. In John 6:15, the Jewish crowd tried to make Jesus their king and He had to run away from them because this praise (though it seems such a good thing), would have distracted God’s purpose for Him.
This also happened to Apostle Paul and Barnabas in Lystra (Acts 14) where after performing a miracle, the crowds started calling them gods. They had to run away from these praises and when they did not accept, the crowds stoned Paul and thought he was dead. After the crowds left, he stood up and went about His God-ordained purpose, to preach the Good News of the Gospel.
Let us look for validation from the one who began the good work (of authorship) in us and who will bring it to perfection (Hebrews 12:2).
What are the resources available for a Christian author?
a. The Scriptures. The core and foundational resource for a Christian author is the Word of God through the Scriptures. Whether we will directly quote the Scriptures or not, this is the foundation of our writing. And as we do so, we should be able to see Jesus through our writing.
“You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! John 5:39
b. The Holy Spirit. We have established that there is no Christian authorship without the work and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
c. God-Ordained People (Destiny Helpers and Connectors). God works through His people so learn to lean on others who are of good reputation and full of the Holy Ghost. This includes doing thorough research on what others have written concerning the topic of our writing to ensure our content is enriching for our readers. It also includes having mentors and peers we esteem checking our content to ensure doctrine is accurate and that the messaging is well done.
d. Universal Principles of SuccessThere are no great works that have been achieved without the principles of hard work, discipline, and consistency in executing a vision. Sometimes as authors we get mind block or stop having feelings of inspiration at one point or the other. However, we must keep pushing forward to achieve what God’s will for us is. Jesus at the garden of Gethsemane, just before His crucifixion, He cried to God that if it was His (Jesus’ will), He would ask that the Father takes away the cup of suffering. But immediately after, He tells God but not His (Jesus’ will) to be done but God’s will.
The cycle starts with a desire in our heart that we should write a message, then we apply the discipline of hard work and persistence in our writing, marketing and distributing the message. Then, and only then, do we experience the delight that comes from impacting real lives.
This impact is sometimes what we see and hear through testimonials from our readers. But also there is an unseen impact from people who hear our message but never get an opportunity to give us feedback. Even when we don’t get this feedback, we continue to write in faith, because it is our calling.
When our 17-year-old daughter turned into teenagehood four years ago, it was a critical time for all of us (as it is for any other family) as she tried to maneuver through the unfamiliar waters of teenagehood. For a couple of years, we were not sure how things were going to turn out and we did experience rough patches that left the dad and I worried and feeling a bit lost in our parenting journey. Among other things that God put in our hearts to do to help her find her footing, the dad invested in Francine Rivers’ novels (from Keswick Books & Gifts), as well as Julius Mwebia’s book Conceive Achieve (from CLC Kenya) among other books.
The collection cost us a small fortune but it was worth everything for our struggling teenager. When she started reading the novels, God used the strong Christian themes in Francine’s writing to minister to our teenager. In addition to the sermons she started to listen to, her life was completely transformed and that phase was quickly behind us. We have not and may probably never meet Francine to share with her how her writing made an impact on our family. In a similar way, we may never meet Michael Todd, or TD Jakes, or Joyce Meyer or Steve Furtick among others to thank them for getting our family from a sticky situation – but God sees the impact of their obedience and will reward them in this life and in the life to come.
So many people will be impacted by the message in your book. While some will reach out to you for feedback, so many others will enjoy transformation silently and move on towards their purpose and calling, greatly influenced by God’s message through you. Take heart.
The words we want to hear when we meet God are in Matthew 25:23 Well done, good and faithful servant, come and share your Master’s happiness.
My prayer for all the Christian Authors is, May our eyes of understanding be opened to understand what God’s will for and through our writing is. And may we be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man, so that we stay the course and achieve all that God desires through our writing. In Jesus’ name. Amen.