Wednesday, August 24, 2011

“Don’t preach!” Linda proclaims preachingly

When you write your memoir, avoid a “holier than thou” mind-set.

You know what it’s like when someone corners you with this attitude: “Too bad you can’t be like me.”

I’ll always remember a social event in which a man preached me all the way down a hall and against a dining room wall with statements like (I’m not making this up): “Presbyterians are going to hell!” (Yes, he knew I attended a Presbyterian church.)

Did his rant make me change denominations? No. It only made me avoid him in the future.

I agree with Oswald Chambers: “The people who influence us most are not those who buttonhole us….” (My Utmost for His Highest)

If you want people to read your memoir, avoid a know-it-all manner.

An “I’ve arrived” attitude is a turn-off.

Instead of preaching at readers, humbly tell your story.

Rather than drawing attention to yourself, point readers to God.

Lloyd Ogilvie prayed it well:

“May I share what I’ve learned from You without pious superiority
and the lessons of life without arrogance….
I want to point away from myself to You—the Author of my life story.” 

Lloyd John Ogilvie

Since I’m flailing my arms up here in my pulpit:

Avoid “Christianese.” Steer clear of jargon your readers might not understand, phrases like:

  • I’ve been washed in the blood of the Lamb
  • living in darkness
  • redeemed from a dark past
  • decide to follow the Lord
  • cast your burden
  • bear fruit that lasts
  • climb the mountain
  • walk through the valleys
  • ruled by the flesh
  • washed in the blood of Jesus
  • the enemy
  • slave to sin
  • wash as white as snow
  • nothing but the blood of Jesus
  • walk of faith

Instead, use everyday language to explain exactly what such phrases mean. Even words like “repent” should be thoroughly explained for your readers.

Keep working on your WIPs (works in progress—rough drafts). Write in such a way that your readers discover your deepest message: that God is your story’s hero.


  1. Great advice! No one ever made a happy convert by buttonholing a person or browbeating them. Also it is so important to speak like a normal person to unsaved people so they know what we are talking about ;-)

  2. Exactly, Joyful! Speak like a normal person! I like that!


  3. Linda,
    Once again, this is excellent advice and very timely as I have been struggling with how to convey my faith without alienating my reader by making them feel I am trying to convert them. I simply want to share my story of my faith in God and how the power of hope through my faith has fueled my journey. You have provided practical tips that will serve as my guide. I will print this post and keep it handy as I keep writing.Thank you so much. It is perfect!
    Blessings & Hugs,

  4. Well written, thanks for sharing. Bright blessings, Shanyn (Strawberry Roan)

  5. Kathleen, thanks for your thoughtful words. Like I've said before, my prayer is that God will use this blog to help others, and if you've found help then God is answering! Bless you as you write your stories of faith, Kathy. You have an important message for others and step by step, you'll be able to get it in writing.

    Shanyn, thanks for stopping by. I hope you found some inspiration here. Be sure to come back next time!


  6. Great advice! And not just for writing. I'm taking notes for my every day conversations! :)

  7. You're right, Deidra. Thanks for the good reminder: everyday conversations, e-mails, Facebook.... I need to be careful of my attitude and my choice of words!


  8. Great ideas, Linda. Very helpful information! Thanks for posting. See you in the PBC!
    Pam at

  9. Hi, Pam, thanks for leaving your comment. Did you know I left a comment about your blog, and a link to it, in one of my recent posts? Here's a link, and scroll down in the comments section:

    You and I were on the same wave length!