Training Writers to Lead

Writers who follow Jesus believe that God has given us life-changing truth to share and a dynamic medium through which to communicate that truth to a broken and hurting world: the written word.

Countless leaders throughout history have pointed to famous books, letters, and writings that have significantly impacted their lives and missions. Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, cites Kazuo Ishiguro’s Remains of the Day as an “impossibly perfect” literary work that influenced Bezos to push himself to achieve. Pharrell Williams, a prolific performer and producer, describes Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist as an epiphany that sparked intense reflection on his chosen life path and community. J.K. Rowling, author of one of the most beloved children’s series of all-time, credits Jane Austen’s Emma with making her a better thinker and writer.

Talk to anyone on the street, and they will likely have at least one book, essay, or treatise that profoundly influenced their worldview. The power to affect lives when a creator pours time, attention, and creativity into their work can create echoes of impact that will only be fully understood in eternity.

As believers in Christ, we have the greatest source from which to draw inspiration and understanding. We have the greatest model of humility, intentionality, and creativity. We have the greatest message to share!

We have the ability to make an eternal impact through our words. What an incredible gift and weighty call we’ve been given in Christ.

Developing Leaders Through The Austin Stone Institute

In ASI’s Writer Development Program, we use a simple framework as a lens through which to evaluate writing. This framework can be applied to any written communication from a text message to a novel to create maximum impact with the intended audience.

GOOD

We write clearly, because God is a God of order.

Writers must seek to clearly and consistently communicate their message to the intended audience. That means we must value grammar, structure, and consistency in theme and voice.

If our written work is hindered by unclear structure, confusing clauses, or a tone that doesn’t match the message, the audience will likely have a difficult time understanding the point of what we’ve written.

John Piper, theologian and pastor, goes so far as to say that one of the best ways a writer can love a reader well is to pursue clarity through paying attention to all those details (like grammar) that we can be tempted to overlook at the sake of the “more interesting” parts of writing.

We must ask ourselves, “Does what I’m writing embrace the clarity and consistency of the Lord?” If the answer is no, we need to go back and try again.

BEAUTIFUL

We write with intellectual, emotional, and spiritual resonance, because God is beautiful in all His ways.

Compelling and memorable work must first resonate deeply with the author. If the subject matter or story doesn’t mean something to the author, if they haven’t internalized it or spent time discovering all its hidden parts, the work will feel inauthentic and flat.

When written work is intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually beautiful—when the point of view and voice are authentic and layered—it can have a profound impact on the reader for a long time after they’ve finished reading. With resonance, a writer can take a reader down into the depths of man’s depravity, only to later propel them upward to the heights of endless joy in the hope of restoration. Beautiful writing makes it difficult for a reader to quickly move on to something else. It makes a reader want to chew on each idea and explore each emotion. It reflects the way that God’s Word draws in those who seek after Him.

We must ask ourselves, “Does what I’m writing lead the reader to see God’s beauty, affirm it, and rejoice?” If the answer is no, we need to dig deeper to find what first means the most to us, and then communicate from that place of personal impact.

TRUE

We write true words because God invites all people to come to Him and partake of His truth.

Writing can reveal truth in a variety of ways. It can draw back the curtain on subtle evil and contrast it with redemptive love. It can show world-altering truth about God through the details of daily life. It can provoke deep thought on the weighty things of this world and connect peoples and cultures through highlighting universal themes. Writing that focuses on truth can be a tool God uses to literally move people from death to life!

We must ask ourselves, “Does what I’m writing lead the reader to more fully understand the person of God or the state of man?” If the answer is no, we need to take some more time to explore how what we’re writing connects to the universal state of humanity in light of who God is.

What Does This Mean?

All goodness, beauty, and truth come from God. We have access through God’s Word and His Spirit to unending wells of creativity we can use for the glory of God and the flourishing of people.

When writers believe they are leaders, when they believe they have the power to influence for good, they approach writing differently. They will write with urgency to create work that clearly and resonantly communicates truth, because they remember the stakes are eternal.

This kind of skill-crafting requires time. It necessitates humility in soliciting, receiving, and employing feedback. It requires the unlearning of lazy habits. It’s not quickly or easily mastered.

However, the writer that truly wants to steward the gift of writing to bear fruit in the lives of others must be willing to put in the time it takes to hone the craft. These are the writers that are leaders—the brand of writers that others want to learn from and follow. These are the brand of writers ASI longs to develop, for the glory of God and the flourishing of people.

Are you a writer? A leader who uses the written word on a regular basis? Apply for our Writer Development Program to learn how writing can glorify God and lead people to Him. Time is short—applications are due May 31, so apply today!

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