Spiritual Growth for Christian Writers
Spiritually-minded people write better Christian books and blog posts.
The problem is, it is far too easy to stray away from the Lord. No, not in extreme ways like getting involved in drugs, sex, and rock ‘n roll. We drift imperceptively away from him. The Lord remains in our thoughts but not at the forefront of our thoughts. It becomes a matter of unintentional neglect.
Keeping our eyes on the Lord in the hubbub of a busy life is not easy. It requires intentionality and a certain level of intensity. Here are ten things you can do. Each step will bring you closer to Christ.
1. Read through the Gospels in a week
They focus on the person and work of Christ, and theological debates are minimal. You can bask in his glory. Did you know the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) total only about 84,000 words in most English translations? The average reader (200-300 words per minute) can complete it in about 6 hours.
Many people start at Matthew and get bogged down in the genealogy of Jesus. My advice: Scan it and get to the meat of his life and teachings. The genealogy is there to demonstrate the lineage of the Messiah to Jewish readers. We accept that Jesus is the Messiah, so the genealogy is just icing on the cake. If you wish, you can take a deep dive into the genealogy. Right now, you want a mountaintop view of the landscape of the life and teaching of Jesus to refresh your spirit, so at this point read, don’t stop to study anything in depth. Make notes of things you want to explore as you read, and revisit them.
Bonus plan. When you finish Luke, jump immediately to the Book of Acts. That’s where Luke continues his story, and it is a thrilling one. Then return to John to get his unique view of Jesus.
2. Start a scripture memorization plan
Learn one new verse each week. Repeat that verse in the microseconds you have when your mind goes blank as you write. Pick your verses. To get started, memorize these your first month: John 14:27, Galatians 2:20, Colossians 1:16, and Joshua 1:8.
Why do I rank this so high on my list of spiritual growth steps for writers? It’s because of how our human brain works. The brain is a storehouse of information that we need to constantly feed with the data we get from what we see, hear, and experience. As we go about our daily lives, our brains are in the constant process of reorganizing that information so we can apply it. This happens in a universal way, but this cognitive process is especially important to Christian writers. Our creativity does not come to us in a puff of smoke; it is a result of what is stored in our brain cells.
And that’s why Christian writers want to memorize scripture. We want that information and those values already percolating in our minds so we can draw on them as we write. We may not quote the scripture directly, but it will be part of our thought processes.
3. Invest a minimum of 15 minutes each day in prayer
Confess your sins and be in intercession for others. Keep a list of people and situations to bring before the Lord. Write down answers to prayer in your journal.
I keep my prayer reminders simple. I have a 3 x 5 card on my computer printer and I reach for it each morning. There is a space for the people and situations I pray for on a regular basis and a place where I add new people or concerns. Answered prayer gets a checkmark. Periodically, I transfer information to a fresh card. I toss my old cards, some of which I used for many months, into a shoebox. I refer to them when I get discouraged. Those cards remind me of God’s faithfulness and fill my sails with a fresh breeze of God’s Spirit.
The method you use doesn’t matter. It only matters that you have a method. Appear before the Lord each day with thanksgiving, and with your petitions.
4. Start a journal
As you read through the Gospels, memorize verses, and pray, write down how the experience changed your perspective. For example, write down the times and places memorized scripture came to mind and encouraged you. Track your feelings about the challenges and blessings of your life. Write a few sentences every day. Include the date so you can see your consistency and commitment to the spiritual growth process.
How much time should you invest in writing your journal? It may be just a few minutes each day. However, some people start each new day reflecting on the previous day, and record events and feelings in detail. They include challenges they faced and lessons learned. It is good to be able to look back and see progress. It is also beneficial to be able to look back and see that you are repeating thoughts and actions that hinder you. There is nothing like seeing bad patterns to motivate you to improve your way of life.
A journal has a hidden benefit for Christian writers. Not only is a journal a good place to record your writing ideas, but it is a good way to ignite your writing fire each day. Warm up by writing in your journal, then hop to your current writing project.
5. Let people know you care about them
We have all heard the old saying that Christians are “so spiritually minded that they are no early good.” Ouch! That rings true for Christians, but for Christian writers in particular. We feel we are doing holy work, and it is compounded by the deadlines set by others or that we set for ourselves.
My 90-year-old neighbor woke me up to my own dereliction in this area of life. I’ve known her for more than a decade and I noticed her decline is becoming more rapid. Yet, she was still driving her electric cart to the grocery store and doctor’s appointments. I felt led to do something about that and now drive to these places. Does it disrupt my writing schedule? Yes. But I care about the well-being of this neighbor, so I take her transportation needs in stride.
There are many ways to let people know you care about them. Write and send an encouraging note or email to one of the people on your prayer list or another friend or neighbor that comes to your mind. Pick up the phone and call someone. Take a walk in your neighborhood and talk with your neighbors and tell them you appreciate them. Do some of these things at least once a week.
6. Donate to a different ministry each month
As a Christian writer, you are participating in advancing the Kingdom of God. But it’s a good idea to help others in their Kingdom work as well. Be aware of the needs around you and seek to meet a selected need on an ongoing basis.
You don’t have money to donate? No worries. Your writing talent is a valuable way to contribute to different ministries. Offer to contribute to a newsletter or to write promotional material. Hone your news release skills, write them, and distribute them to local or online newspapers.
I did this at the start of the Russia-Ukraine war. A ministry I value was sending people and supplies to help people under fire in Ukraine. I partnered with them by writing regular news releases about their activities and sending it to my list of 175 Christian news outlets. I wanted to do my part to help, and you can do the same in your sphere of influence.
As we walk close to the Lord, we are compelled to help others with material, spiritual, or emotional needs. We can do that by donating money or services to Christian groups.
7. Take care of your body
Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. This means having a plan and implementing it. Eat healthy food, exercise, and get regular medical checkups. The Lord will enhance the quality of your writing when your body is functioning as he intended.
It is not hard to take care of yourself in these ways. It does take intentionality, however. It is easy to skip exercise or to miss regular health checkups. You must put all health care events on your calendar, and do they like any other task when the time comes. Good health is often not much more than good habits.
Be creative as you seek ways to take care of your body. Find an exercise video you like on YouTube.com and do the exercise before you eat lunch each day. You might be able to make the most of your time by doing things like walking a few times per week with your accountability partner. Think outside the box about things you can do to take better care of your body.
8. Take care of your mind
Most of our mental damage is self-inflicted. Do not allow yourself to be distracted by worry or negative self-talk. Do not let past shortcomings, mistakes, perfectionism, or guilt ruin your walk with the Lord today. Stay optimistic. Give your burdens to Jesus, and he will give you rest.
This self-inflicted damage is not only limited to our thought processes. You can take care of your mind by taking care of your overall health. Exercise, healthy food, and getting a good night’s sleep all contribute to a sound, active, creative mind.
One thing I do to keep my mind facile is to always be in the process of learning new things. Other people find that supplements, like Inositol or Choline, help them. Discover what helps you best take care of your mind.
9. Keep your household in order
This is a far-reaching element of spiritual growth. Why? Because it means giving a high priority to your spouse and children. Even though your writing is important, you need to stop and care for the people you love. Sometimes it means you need to just listen to them, and sometimes it means you need to take a break and attend to deeper needs.
As Paul told Timothy: “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8).
It may mean preparing meals, taking care of pets, or keeping the interior of your home as organized as possible. It may mean spending some time in lawn or garden care and maintaining the exterior of your home.
How can you find time to write and do all this too? One answer is to become a more productive writer. Anyone can learn to write 1,667 words in an hour or two, and that means you can complete a 50,000-word first draft each month.
10. Find an accountability partner
Do you have a difficult time following through on a plan as I have outlined here? You may wish to find an accountability partner. I have found the best accountability partners are fellow writers. They usually understand the creative life and what it takes to succeed at it.
Pray for each other and encourage each both in your writing project and also in spiritual growth. Be in contact by coffee together, by phone, via Zoom, or at least three times per week. Bounce ideas off each other. Share your successes and failures.
It is good to have a writing friend like this. Yet, remember this is not merely a social time. You’re in it it to be accountable to the Lord and each other. Put the Lord first in your conversations.
If you have followed the Lord for any length of time, you know that spiritual growth lists are easy to develop. The problem we all face is maintaining consistency and growing closer to the Lord day by day.
That is the reason we tend to stray from God. It is a part of our carnal nature. We can all learn from Peter. Of all the disciples, he had the firmest resolve to follow the Lord. He said nothing would separate him from the Savior. Yet, in his humanity, he denied the Lord repeatedly (Luke 22:54-62). The rooster crows in all of our lives.
That, of course, is why we need a Savior. He saves our souls but he also has the power to save us from ourselves. Following Christ is about commitment. It is also about a constant recommitment to continue our spiritual growth on a daily basis. If we intend to be disciples, we must be disciplined.