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How To Be A Good Writer

“Give me 26 lead soldiers and I will conquer the world.”

– Benjamin Franklin

Peggy Noonan was a speechwriter for both Presidents Reagan and Bush. She is called a hack journalist by some liberals. Yet she penned some of Ronald Reagan’s most memorable speeches. At a lecture she once gave to the students of a prestigious school of journalism, she offered the following advice.

Don’t study journalism. Study literature and history. If you want to write well, study great writers. If you want to be able to provide an interesting take on just about any subject, study history. These two subjects give budding young journalists far more grist for their mills, she reasoned, than the narrow topic of journalism ever could.

I remember when I came to interview for an editorial staff position with The Forerunner in 1989. The founding editors then, as many people have since, wanted to know if I had a degree in journalism.

Prior to my conversion to Christ at age 23, I began college as a psychology major, mainly because I was seeking for something I could do to help people. I found that the answer wasn’t in psychology. I then began taking English courses because, like many other students in the major or in online English degree programs, I reasoned, “These are books I would want to read eventually anyway.”

But what would I do with English? Speak it, read it, write it, teach it? The possibilities were both limitless and limiting.

It was only after my conversion when I considered becoming a missionary to foreign countries that I seriously applied myself to becoming an English teacher. I wanted to experience firsthand the Revival that is sweeping over the earth in these last days and work to bring a much needed Spiritual Awakening to America as well. At that time, someone suggested that I become a tentmaker, that is, a missionary like the Apostle Paul who supported himself through a much sought after trade. English teachers are, in fact, one of the professions in most demand in many foreign countries. As part of my teacher training, the School of Education at UMass/Amherst was at that time emphasizing the teaching of writing. I actually took a graduate level course entitled, “Writing and the Teaching of Writing.”

To make an otherwise long story short, I began writing more about my faith in Jesus Christ. I began publishing a little newsletter using the new technology of desktop publishing. Then in 1989, I was invited to join the staff of The Forerunner in Gainesville, Florida.

I never set out to become a “good” writer. I would tell people that I aspired to be a Revivalist and a Reformer. I hoped to preach the Gospel to the nations. Writing was just a tool to change the world, just as the shepherd’s rod in Moses’ hand was a tool to lead God’s people out of the bondage of slavery.

In the last 23 years of using writing as a ministry, I’ve been called a lot of things. Some people have said I am a good writer, a bad writer, a boring writer, an interesting writer and so on. It doesn’t matter to me. I hope they are impacted by my message and not my style. In fact, I don’t see myself as primarily a writer. However, as a teacher, I hope that people do pay attention.

According to our server statistics logs, over a million unique visitors a year come to this website. Although this indicates that I must be doing something right, even this is not what I am aiming at. In fact, the relatively good traffic this website enjoys came about as something of a fluke. In the mid-1990s, shortly before we launched Forerunner.com, I wrote a series of controversial articles linking the modern Wiccan religion with abortion. Even prior to the popularity of the world wide web, these article garnered some notice by our local press.

A year ago, an anti-abortion newsletter, The Champion, published a story tying the Church of Iron Oak to Melbournes abortion clinic and accusing the Wiccans of promoting child sacrifice. After the newsletter appeared, Zaleski [a local Wiccan priestess] says she was spied on and harassed, and house guests were pelted with oranges.

Such is the power of the 26 lead soldiers!

And as a disclaimer, I never advocated pelting witches with oranges.

When these Witchcraft and Abortion articles appeared on-line, I soon began to get up to 30 emails a day from various teenage Wiccans complaining about my bias against pagan religion. Soon Wiccans began posting links to my articles all over the web calling for other Wiccans to read them and work to have them removed from the Internet. Little did they know that the number of incoming links is exactly how search engines rank websites.

Not all the articles on The Forerunner website are by me. The most popular piece in fact is not. The number one article is a piece by Gary DeMar on Behaviorism, which averages about 55,000 hits per month. It is popular because many university websites link to it. The most popular article of length written by me is called, The Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It gets over 10,000 views per month. I am proud of this article because I put a few years of study into it before I wrote it. I hope that out of the thousands of people who find this article each year that a few get something valuable from it.

As I already have emphasized, popularity does not automatically equal good writing. Some bad writers are wildly successful and some good writers go unnoticed. This has always been the case. The “greats” of one generation are forgotten in the next and the “unknowns” become the idols of a new generation. Even beyond that, some talented writers and artists who are recognized in all generations promote a message that is as lifeless as the corpses they leave behind in the dust. What the world values most is seldom truly “great.”

The Bible itself is the most influential book of all time. Yet few critics consider it the greatest literary classic of all time. This was the argument that the pagans of the early centuries used to try to discredit Christianity. Early Christian intellectuals, such as Justin Martyr, Hippolytus and Origen sought to explain why Homer, Virgil and Sophocles wrote better prose than John and Paul – and why Herodotus and Plato wrote better history and philosophy than Moses and Isaiah. The early apologists for the Christian faith countered that the message of the Gospel was as priceless as gold, silver and precious gems, while the pagan worldview as expounded in its vast body of classics was as worthless as wood, hay and stubble that would soon be consumed by the fire of God’s holiness.

My advice to budding journalists and writers is to strive to be neither. Focus on the message, not the package. Content is worth a million times more than style. As a Christian, you become a “good” writer the same way you become good at anything else you set out to do. You do it for the glory of God and with the purpose of advancing His kingdom.

Your comments are welcome!

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Dr. Francis Schaeffer - How Should We Then Live? (DVD)

Special Two-Disc Set!

After 40 years of intense study and world-wide ministry, Dr. Francis Schaeffer completed his crowning work of scholarship – to present profound truths in simple film language. Dr. Schaeffer’s brilliant analysis of the past and predictions for current trends have proven so uncannily accurate that this amazing series still feels contemporary almost three decades after its initial release. Ultimately, Schaeffer concludes that man’s only hope is a return to God’s Biblical absolute, the truth revealed in Christ through the Scriptures.

Available for the first time on DVD, this documentary spectacular also includes intimate in-depth conversations with Francis and Edith Schaeffer. With the on-disc study guide, this presentation forms a unique course of comprehensive study. While this series forms an innovative analysis of the past, this outstanding work is more than history. Each episode focuses on a significant era, yet speaks clearly to 21st-century man with answers for modern problems.

$49.95 — ORDER NOW!

(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)

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Abortion Clinic 911 Calls (DVD)

Exposes the Dangers of Abortion to Women!

These shocking eyewitness accounts expose the dangers of abortion not only to unborn children, but to the health and lives women as well. An antidote to the smokescreens of the liberal media, these short clips show what really happens in and around abortion clinics.

Although the content is emotionally gut-wrenching, these videos have been used in church seminars and small groups to educate Christians on the abortion issue and to lead people toward a pro-life position. Contains 2 hours and 40 minutes of materials that can be shown separately.

Watch these pro-life videos on-line.

“These videos helped change my mind from pro-choice to pro-life. Your videos are what did it for me. I will be walking in next year’s March For Life in San Francisco.” — A. Jackson, California

“I was going to have an abortion until I saw your video. Praise Jesus!”
— M. Drew, YouTube Commenter

$4.95 — ORDER NOW!

(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)

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Amazing GraceAmazing Grace: The History and Theology of Calvinism (DVD)

Download the Free Study Guide!

Just what is Calvinism?

Does this teaching make man a deterministic robot and God the author of sin? What about free will? If the church accepts Calvinism, won’t evangelism be stifled, perhaps even extinguished? How can we balance God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility? What are the differences between historic Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism? Why did men like Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Spurgeon, Whitefield, Edwards and a host of renowned Protestant evangelists embrace the teaching of predestination and election and deny free will theology?

This is the first video documentary that answers these and other related questions. Hosted by Eric Holmberg, this fascinating three-part, four-hour presentation is detailed enough so as to not gloss over the controversy. At the same time, it is broken up into ten “Sunday-school-sized” sections to make the rich content manageable and accessible for the average viewer.

Running Time: 257 minutes

$19.95 — ORDER NOW!

(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)

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The Real Jesus: A Defense of the Historicity and Divinity of ChristThe Real Jesus: A Defense of the Historicity and Divinity of Christ (DVD)

Who is the Real Jesus?

Ever since the dawn of modern rationalism, skeptics have sought to use textual criticism, archeology and historical reconstructions to uncover the “historical Jesus” — a wise teacher who said many wonderful things, but fulfilled no prophecies, performed no miracles and certainly did not rise from the dead in triumph over sin.

Over the past 100 years, however, startling discoveries in biblical archeology and scholarship have all but vanquished the faulty assumptions of these doubting modernists. Regrettably, these discoveries have often been ignored by the skeptics as well as by the popular media. As a result, the liberal view still holds sway in universities and impacts the culture and even much of the church.

The Real Jesus explodes the myths of these critics and the movies, books and television programs that have popularized their views. Presented in ten parts — perfect for individual, family and classroom study — viewers will be challenged to go deeper in their knowledge of Christ in order to be able to defend their faith and present the truth to a skeptical modern world – that the Jesus of the Gospels is the Jesus of history — “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He is the real Jesus.

Speakers include: George Grant, Ted Baehr, Stephen Mansfield, Raymond Ortlund, Phil Kayser, David Lutzweiler, Jay Grimstead, J.P. Holding, and Eric Holmberg.

Ten parts, over two hours of instruction!

Running Time: 130 minutes

$19.95 — ORDER NOW!

(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)

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The Four Keys to the Millennium (Book)

Foundations in Biblical Eschatology

By Jay Rogers, Larry Waugh, Rodney Stortz, Joseph Meiring. High quality paperback, 167 pages.

All Christians believe that their great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will one day return. Although we cannot know the exact time of His return, what exactly did Jesus mean when he spoke of the signs of His coming (Mat. 24)? How are we to interpret the prophecies in Isaiah regarding the time when “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:19)? Should we expect a time of great tribulation and apostasy or revival and reformation before the Lord returns? Is the devil bound now, and are the saints reigning with Christ? Did you know that there are four hermeneutical approaches to the book of Daniel and Revelation?

These and many more questions are dealt with by four authors as they present the four views on the millennium. Each view is then critiqued by the other three authors.

$12.95 — ORDER NOW!

(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)

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