Monday, March 6, 2017

Why Is Engaging with Our Readers Crucial?

In February’s blog post we looked at some ways to engage with our readers. I ended that post with a question I’ll answer this week:

Why is connecting with our readers so important?

When we engage our reader with our writing, we create in her thoughts, such as I like this writer.  She makes me laugh and makes me think. She seems like someone I can relate to and someone I can trust.

This connection leads our reader to ask, What else does this writer have to say? Let me keep reading. And this is a good thing! We want our reader to keep reading! As she continues to read, soon she discovers our lives are about following Jesus. Our answers to questions and problems are found in Jesus.

As Christian writers we are not the stars of the show. Our writing must shift to shine the spotlight on the true star of the show, Jesus.

We use all of who we are– our personalities, our thoughts, our skills, our experiences – to give God glory, not ourselves.

Here’s an example of a writer doing this well from one of my favorite books: Your Sacred Yes: Trading Life-Draining Obligation for Freedom, Passion and Joy by Susie Larson 

We feel the ache in our soul when things don’t go the way we’d hoped. We feel frustrated with ourselves when we stumble in the same ways we have for years.  What’s the answer? Look up. Ask Jesus to help us see the worth in our story, the worth in our souls, because we belong to Him.”

Do you see how that works? Susie relates to personal journeys, but then focuses on Jesus.

Praise of our writing is encouraging and intoxicating.  But if we camp out there, the place where our reader thinks we’re awesome, we are in danger of pride and we’re in danger of being nothing more than a self-help book.

So to glorify God with our writing, we must put our reader friends in touch with Jesus.  We can imagine taking our reader’s hand, placing it in the hand of Jesus, and promising her, Jesus is the Life-Giver, the Way, the Truth, and the Lover of your soul. In His love you will find all you need.

Melanie

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Are you submitting writing for magazines, guest blogs, or other publications? To present a professional product, you’ll need an editor. Melanie Chitwood, the author of this article and Next Step writing coach, has written two of her own books and edited many others. For more information about her editing services and how she might help you with your project, click here.

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Well-Seasoned Messages

This week I’m working on a daunting writing project.  Mostly it’s overwhelming because I consider myself more of a speaker than a writer.  Crafting written words continues to be a big learning curve.

It occurs to me,  however, that there is one area in which I’m not struggling.  The message I’m being asked to write is well-seasoned because it’s my personal story.  I don’t have to work at coming up with illustrations since I’ve been living this message most of my life.

Great messages are always well-seasoned, simmered in prayer, time and thought. (Click here to Tweet)

Jennifer Rothschild says we’re to shoot for crock pot messages instead of microwave messages, and I think she has it just right.  As stewards of a message, we need to be learners before we become teachers.  (Click here to Tweet)

For me, that means allowing God to speak to me through His Word–Bible study, commentaries, and much prayer–before I write one word of a message.  The faithfulness of God never ceases to amaze me when I’ll honor Him by humbling myself as a learner.  He brings all kinds of things into my path to season my messages.  There will be a sermon with just the right phrase, a devotion with a heart-rending story, a personal interaction that becomes an application…the list goes on and on.

In this season when we anticipate the fragrances of turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pies wafting from our laden kitchens, let’s determine to create well-seasoned messages. The Master Chef can be counted on to make them irresistibly  tasty to our audiences!

Amy

Note:  I wrote about how I’m learning more and more about the craft of writing.  Today I didn’t intend to do a plug for Compel , Proverbs 31 Ministries’ new subscription writing training,  but I can’t help myself.  I am a subscriber, and I cannot begin to tell you how much the lessons from Lysa TerKeurst, Lisa Allen and Glynnis Whitwer are helping me.  Please, please take a few minutes to take a tour of the information page.  I think this is a tremendous opportunity and value for writers at all stages.

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Authenticity

A truth I already believed was reinforced at my speaking event this weekend.

Authenticity is powerful.

In the middle of one of my points, I felt God’s gentle nudge to share a personal story about a painful event in my family.  Even as I told it, I felt a familiar inner resistance.  It’s the part of me that wants to hide and protect.  It wasn’t until after the event I knew for sure that I had actually been following God.

Three women approached me to talk.  One woman has a painful story of her own, but she hasn’t told it yet.  Just like I have, however, she has experienced healing and the power of God in such a way to compel her to share.  I was able to encourage her to seek God about His timing and perfect opportunities to share.

Another woman wanted to thank me for being “real”.  She said often she’s reluctant to even come to women’s events, because she just can’t connect to speakers who appear to have it all together.  The thing that struck me as we talked is how many other women probably consider her as someone who wouldn’t struggle with comparison.  She herself is lovely on the outside, involved in ministry and connected in the church.  It reminded me of how we ALL have places of insecurity and comparison

The third woman is currently going through the same issue I told the story about.  I was able to share and encourage her that there is something good coming from this distressing experience. I told her the follow-up on my family’s journey and how God was able to further strengthen us through the hard season.

These interactions are pictures of why I believe vulnerability and authenticity are so powerful.

1.  Authenticity shatters the foundation of negative comparisons.  As my friend Renee Swope says, “When we compare, we compare our insides to others’ outsides.”  We break down wall-generating comparisons when we’re willing to turn ourselves inside-out.  When we share our own insecurities, hurts and failures, we then get to paint God as the ultimate hero He is. (Click here to tweet this.)  It puts all of us humans in a place of awe on the level ground of the cross.

2.  Telling our stories is part of the redemption of those very stories.  Do you have a place in your past that you’ve hidden?  When a secret is exposed, it gives the story the chance to be part of someone else’s healing.  Amazingly, offering your vulnerability for someone else’s gain becomes part of our own healing.  What a beautiful cycle!  Full redemption comes when the pain of telling our story becomes less than the joy received from seeing others’ freed by it. (Click here to tweet this.)

Have you seen examples of the power of authenticity in your own writing and speaking?  We’d love to hear your stories!

Amy

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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

One Important Thing

Sometimes it’s the simplest truths that resound the loudest.  That’s how I felt when I attended Micca Campbell and Wendy Blight’s breakout session at She Speaks called “Your Most Important Message”.

The truth is this:  Being called into a gospel ministry means that you should share the Gospel.

Now I know this may sound like a no-brainer, but how often do we forget?  It’s easy to get caught up in sharing our latest and greatest understanding of scripture or life transformation without sharing about the highest calling of all–relationship with Jesus.

Micca and Wendy used pieces of their personal messages to illustrate two powerful ways of weaving in the Gospel message.

Use Scripture:  Maybe you haven’t revisited delivering a basic salvation message using scripture in a long time.  I watched as Micca effortlessly and comfortably shared a series of memorized scriptures to illustrate how Jesus takes us from our lost and sinful state and brings us into a limitless relationship with Him.  It was beautiful, poignant reminder that there is power in God’s Word.

If you need a little refresher, click here to read Campus Crusade’s Four Spiritual Laws or click here to review salvation’s plan woven through the book of Romans.

To read Micca’s story of how God’s Word was her rock when she became widowed at 21, read her book  An Untroubled Heart.

Use Your Story:  I’ve heard it said that sharing our personal salvation story is one of the most powerful ways to share relationship with Jesus, because no one can argue with what you’ve experienced.  I listened to Wendy’s story of her youthful salvation and then how she survived a horrific rape only to struggle through to a new understanding of the reality of Jesus.  It was real, and it was powerful.  (You can read her story in Hidden Joy in a Dark Corner.)

Your story is powerful too even if you’ve told it hundreds of times.

Psalm 116:1314 says, “I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.  I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people.”  I think one of the vows we need to make is to take every opportunity to offer salvation to our audiences.  We need to make Jesus the hero of every message and bring weary hearts to Him.  It really is our most important message.

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