How to Write an Encouragement
There is a saying that goes, "Everyone has a good book in them." If you have a heart for the Lord and a message to share, then I am sure that sooner or later you are going to think about putting those thoughts onto paper.
So before you rush off to write your first best-seller I wanted to give you some invaluable tips on how to start where you are at. Often people ask Craig and I how we and our team are able to pour out so much that seems to just "flow" and I realized that what God has taught us is precious.
As with all gems though, they are not meant to be kept hidden, but displayed for all to see. So what I hope to do in this chapter is help you through writing encouragements that people really do want to read.
I am sure that there is a lot of treasure inside of you, but the truth is, if you do not present it properly, no one will see the value in it.
If you take each of the principles I am about to share here to heart, I promise that people will not only read everything you send out, but they will be ministered to by it as well.
The Art of OBL
There is a common term in the world that marketers use to "plug" their customers to get them to buy something. They call this a "KSL" this stands for a "Killer Sales Letter." The whole concept is to try and write in such a way that will convince people to not only read your letter, but to "Buy it Now" at the end of it.
As the Word says, the wisdom of the world is foolishness to God. No, the purpose of sending an e-mail, broadcast or even in writing a newsletter is not to try and trick people into receiving what you have for them. Instead, my dad came up with a term that we love and use here at A.M.I.
He said to us one day, "You know the world tries to sell its goods, but we as believers are offering God's people blessing." So he came up with the term, "OBL" and this stands for an "Offer of Blessing" letter.
By just saying that I am going to "write an OBL" puts the right picture into your mind. Whether you are sending a little encouragement e-mail to a friend, or writing something that many people will read, never forget that the purpose is to offer blessing.
By the time they have finished reading your letter, they should feel so touched by the heart of God that they want the blessing you are presenting to them.
What No One Will Ever Tell You
Now what I am going to share with you here comes from the years of experience we have had since going into ministry along with the many things God has also shown us.
There are just some truths that you never think of when you start pouring your heart out to others. Because you value what you have so much, you think that the moment your little encouragement hits their mailbox that they will be overwhelmed with joy.
The truth of the matter is, that just because you send someone an e-mail does not mean that they will read it.
I know that this shocked me the first time we started ministering to others. The stuff we have is gold and I naturally assumed everyone would want it! Boy, were we in for some surprises. Some folks read our mails, others skimmed them, but a whole pile never even opened the mail.
That is the harsh reality in this world of junk mail, SPAM and e-mail subscriptions.
The Reality of Ministry
Your encouragement is likely to get lost in a pile of other mail and periodicals.
Imagine that you are standing in a train station that is packed full of people. Everyone there is shouting as loud as possible to get their message heard. What chance do you think you have of people listening to you instead of all the others?
Because we are harassed each day by so many voices, people tend to block everything out. They are picky about what they read and they need a good reason to invest their time into what they do. Now before you judge them too harshly, remember that you are no different.
How much effort would you put into reading something that was boring and unanointed? So when you write, keep this in mind. However we have something to our advantage that so many others do not.
You might be one of those voices at the train station, but when you have the Lord at your side, you are like someone who is given a megaphone and made louder than others.
Many think that it takes charisma alone to be heard and so write off the power of the Holy Spirit. In our experience, I have seen our messages land up in places I could not imagine. Often I felt as if the Holy Spirit hand delivered those mails to in-boxes all over the world.
We have had so many testimonies where folks wrote in and say, "Well, I do not know how I ended up with your book or e-mail. To this day I have no clue how it ended up where it did, but I am so grateful, because it was just what I needed."
When we learn to depend on the Holy Spirit to deliver our message there is a peace. We can do our part and then leave Him to do His!
Even if people are blessed by your ministry, a very small number will tell you so.
Remember the story of the ten lepers that Jesus healed? Over two thousand years have passed and still man has not changed. Out of the ten only one returned to thank Him for His healing. Even then it was the one that was least likely to respond.
Out of all ten, it was the Samaritan that returned to give his thanks. As you pour out to others, you will come to experience the same thing. Just because no one writes back or calls you to say thank you, does not mean they were not ministered to.
No, this is where real ministry comes into play. It is during this time when you need to ask yourself, "Who am I ministering for?" Are you ministering for the glory, or are you doing it for the Lord?
Full time ministry sure tests you on this very point. You will find out soon enough if you are pouring out your ministry because you want people to think you are great, or if you really do want to bless them.
So do not be surprised if your testimonies come from the most unlikely places. They will come from those that are in the world and have given up all hope. They will come from those that you least expect it from and when this happens, sit back and relax. You are walking the same road that Jesus did and so you are in pretty good company.
You will be scrutinized to prove yourself – not your message
How often did the people say to Jesus, "who are you?" You would think that the miracles that He did were good enough wouldn't you? No, if even the Son of God had to give His credentials, do not think you will circumvent this part of the process.
The truth is, many believers cannot sense for themselves when something is of God or not. Many have not been taught to discern the spirit or to hear God's voice for themselves. So they cannot go on revelation and so instead they go on the naturalistic things that they see.
As Jesus ministered, as people were set free, His gathering grew. In the same way, be patient with the message that you have. It will take people time to believe you before they believe your message. It will take time for them to lower the guard and to take you at face value.
This is why it is so important to be "real" in your writing, as I share further down.
Unless they like the first line, they will not read the rest
This is a tough reality. Jesus sure knew His way around this one though. He stands up in the temple one day and reads a passage out of the scriptures foretelling of the Messiah.
He puts the book down, looks them right in the eye and says, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."
Ok, I do not think that all of us are keen to see if we could walk through the crowd, without being shoved off a cliff, but you have to admit that Jesus sure had a way with words.
He had a way of speaking that would leave people hanging off every word. They followed him for days to hear what He would say next. Do you see this happening to the Pharisees? You see there was a major difference here.
The people had to listen to the Pharisees out of obligation, but they wanted to listen to Jesus out of pure joy. Jesus did not need to convince them to follow Him. He did not need to tell them, "ok, now you better pay attention to this..."
No, He could keep them following Him and you need to learn this also. If you do not put effort into getting your hearer's attention do not think they will read the rest of it.
It is one thing if they are stuck in the pews while you ramble for hours and they have nowhere to run. It is another thing when you send them that same drivel in an e-mail. I think that we are all grateful in this day and age for sermons that we can "shift and delete."
As handy as you find that little delete button, remember that others are just as grateful for it and before you can bore them into a second sentence, your little gem will find its way to their trash box.
No one is obligated to read something just because you sent it to them.
This is a reality you really need to let sink in. Just because something lands in your mailbox does not mean you have to read it. No one is obligated to read what you write. So do not get discouraged if your precious gem ends up being overlooked.
You cannot change the world. Instead you must change yourself. If you approach people right, you will have the same success as Jesus and Apostle Paul did. Sure, not everyone loved their messages, but even their enemies read them.
Below I am going to give you some clear steps to follow in writing. So before you head off there, I want you to dig through something you wrote recently and to be prepared to hold it up to some scrutiny.
Then together let us take your ministry and get it published for the church to see!
Getting Your Message Out: Step 1... 2... 3...
Sometimes Paul wrote from prison and his words were so valuable they went all over the world. In an era where messages were delivered by boat and horse, you have to be amazed. Paul did not have e-mail or our modern mailing system.
However his books were so powerful that they were passed on from church to church – and this was way before it was even canonized and officially documented as scripture!
You and I can only hope to get this kind of circulation, but it is going to take a few things to achieve this. Firstly, it will take the anointing. Secondly, it is going to take a revelation and thirdly, it is going to take some common savvy to get that revelation across.
I will be helping you with the third point in this chapter. So pay close attention and take notes. In fact, I encourage you to pull out an old encouragement you have written and compare it to the pointers I give you here.
It's first thing in the morning. I have a steaming café latte in my hand as I load my mail. My in-box fills up and my eye skims over the hundreds of voices trying to get my attention.
What is it that my eye will rest on? Well, what are the mails that catch your attention?
The first thing I usually look at is who the e-mail is from.
The second thing I look at is the subject of the e-mail to see what it is about.
If an e-mail lands in my in-box that comes from some mysterious e-mail address, I am not very likely to read it. The same rings true if I receive something in my physical mailbox. I do not trust envelopes that do not tell me where they come from.
I like to read stuff from people that I know first. I like the mails that are chatty and telling me something I want to hear. I leave the mails I feel "obligated" to read at the bottom of the list.
This is why the first step into the door is the subject of your letter, the title of your article or the title of your book. Just ask yourself, "Would I want to read this mail?"
In personal experience I find that keeping the subject line practical and friendly gets the best response. Things that are controversial and personal are also likely to be noted. Which letter would you rather read?
One that reads: "Coming soon in August"
Or one that reads: "I have something special picked out for you?"
By being personal in your subject, more people are likely to trust you enough to read what you have to say.
The Opening Line
These are some random opening lines that I put together to prove my point. When you read the opening line of your letter, does it make you want to read the rest of it?
Your first paragraph should give some kind of promise and hope. Think of a good movie that you watched recently. If it does not catch you in the first five minutes... you are bored! The same rights true with writing.
Make your opening line count. People will quickly forgive some boring bits in the middle of your writing. However, if you do not catch them with the first line, they will never get to read the parts where you are truly anointed.
A good way to keep the attention of your reader is to start with a story or illustration. Think again of Jesus. He did not teach a single thing without using parables. Follow His lead on this one. Jesus stands up in front of the crowd and says, "The sower went out to sow... " Everyone was dying to know what this sower did and what happened to him.
They clung onto His words and followed the story to the end. Everyone loves a good story, so do not be afraid to spill your guts and tell a story worth listening to.
2. Main Part
Dealing with "Blah Blah"
Prophets are the worst. (Note that nifty opening line there? Now I bet you want to know why prophets are the worst and what on earth it has got to do with my subject "blah blah!")
It is the truth. When it comes to the art of "blah blah" prophets are the worst at boring you to death in writing.
Think about the last very boring sermon you sat through. The speaker had one or two points of interest and then kind of ran out of things to say. So they "circled the airport" so to speak. Then because they had to fill up the rest of their 40 minutes with something, they went ahead and rambled on and on about nothing.
Half way through the message you start to phase out. All you hear in your mind is (blah blah blah). Well without realizing it, you tend to put all that blah blah into what you write as well.
While we need "filler" words, people get bored when you start going off the deep end. Hmm, let me see if I can give you a good illustration on some good prophetic "blah blah" here.
The Lord in His infinite grace has called you to fulfill the special purpose in your life. And so I pray that you will indeed fulfill this purpose in His Kingdom and do all that He has called you to do. For even though that purpose is not always clear, know that He has a plan. He has called you and He will surely open the doors.
So continue to move forward on your journey and to have the courage to take His hand into His Kingdom. For as you walk, you will be encouraged. Then as you are encouraged, you will surely discover your full potential and so be lifted up... blah... blah... blah...
Now it sounds all nice and flowery, but honestly... I am bored! I can make more of an impact with the same message if I just said:
Never forget that God has called you to do something special. So rise up! Step forward and as you do, God will give you the power to succeed.
The best way to get around the "blah blah" is to write your heart out at the beginning. Fill the pages with all of your emotions and thoughts. Then once you are done, go back through your writing and just delete all the boring bits.
Reword the "blah blah" and make it snappier. Do not try to edit while you are flowing out or you will edit out the anointing!
No, let the anointing flow and then edit. If you can do that even a fluffy prophet could be interesting to read!
Get Down to Earth
I was desperate. I had no choice but to get a technician on Online chat with my software problem. Every time I asked a question, he used so many "canned" responses that I was not sure if I was talking to a real person or one of those annoying automated voice systems that ramble on about "Please press 3 for billing."
Unfortunately, some writers sound like that. All they do is regurgitate all their bible knowledge and "canned" teaching. Not once do they tell you what it did for them. You see that is the secret. It is not just the teaching that is important, but how real it is to you.
When Jesus spoke about the woman looking for that lost coin, it is clear that this is something he witnessed himself. When he spoke about the sower or the businessman, he spoke from experience. He spoke about things that he saw in his own life.
Write Like you Speak
He was not just telling someone else's story. In the same way, when you write, use the same language you do in real life.
The best way to do that is to imagine the person you want to reach standing right in front of you. How would you speak to them? How would you say it? Then just write that all down. Not only will it make you more real to your reader, but you will be interesting as well.
Get to the point
When you get to the end of your writing, you need to leave the person with something to do. There needs to be a point of all that writing.
You cannot just share an illustration at the beginning, build their hopes up and then keep them hanging. At the beginning of this chapter, I told you that I would give you some points on writing encouragements.
I have now done just that. In fact, at the very end, I will give you some points to compare your own writing to. I am a lover of "step by step" but you might want to apply the conclusion differently.
Refer them to the Word. Refer them to another teaching or convey a challenge that will change their lives. If you have taught on dealing with sin, then conclude on something to do that will deal with that sin.
It is great to talk about walking in the spirit and how we must do it, but unless you conclude with the how all you have done is speak words into the air.
You might have filled their heads, but you have not changed any hearts. So conclude with the how and your message will stick.
Put it Together.
1. Make sure that it is clear where this message is from. Adjust the "From" in e-mails to include your full name.
2. Make your subject personal and relevant to the reader. (Never leave your subject blank!)
3. Make that opening line count. Ask someone you trust to read your opening line and ask them if it makes them want to read the rest.
4. Continue with a story or illustration that paints a picture for them to remember.
5. Pour out your heart with all the emotion and thought you can muster.
6. Write like you speak. Read over your example and ask yourself, "would I say something like that in real life?"
7. Conclude with the how.
8. Finally go through and edit out all the "blah blah" and grammar mistakes.
Above all, never forget that it is not about being perfect, because this is an Offer Of Blessing. Whatever you write and however you write it, remember that it is meant to be a blessing to God's people.
So how about it? Ready to put these principles into practice? If you need some help and positive criticism, you are welcome to send us your writing and we will be happy to help you out.
So this is me, putting a megaphone in your hand and giving you full license to SHOUT!
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