Thursday, January 14, 2010

Write your own scripture, with these 7 easy rules

1. Prepare the way by experimenting with a variety of Bible translations

Before you start producing your own scripture, you need to practice some actualization with traditional scripture. And you need to prepare your congregants for the transition.

When preaching on Bible passages, it's best to vary translations. This serves a couple of purposes. First, no one will be able to pin you down if your message seems to contradict their translation. Sure, it looks like it might say that in the NIV, but here in the New Living, it says something quite different! Citing a variety of translations keeps potential critics off balance and allows you to get away with much more. Second, it is easier to mold scripture to your own purposes if you can use a broad selection of versions. If you don’t find that the New King James supports your point, you can always use the Amplified or the Message to drive it home.

2. Quote an equal number of cultural authorities along with the Bible. If you use three verses from the Old Testament, throw in three quotes from Albert Einstein, Rosa Parks or Bill Gates. This conditions your congregation to place less weight on ancient scripture and more weight on culturally relevant materials.

3. Ramp it up. After your congregation has become accustomed to other “scriptural” references besides the Bible, ramp it up. Use slightly more quotations from popular personalities and slightly less scripture.

4. Make sure to throw in lots of statistics. Statistics lend authority to what you say. They support your word and make you look reliable and knowledgeable. Use survey results, polls, marketing reports or whatever else seems authoritative. Sprinkle statistics liberally in each message, replacing verses of scripture with hard facts whenever possible.

5. Use the words and ideas of popular, current experts and church leaders. By quoting Rick Warren or Joel Osteen, you  consistently highlight those voices that Jesus-followers should look to for information and understanding. They, in turn, will quote you or your fellow leaders from time to time. When leaders quote each other and offer respect and fidelity to each other, your congregants will look to both them and you for answers, and that’s right where you want them.

6. Elevate your own words. Once you have broken down the expectation of scripture-laden messages by introducing other authorities, you can begin to elevate your own messages or parts of messages as scripture. You do this by introducing your points and ideas with phrases like “God says that…” or “God wants us to know that…” or similar constructions. Experiment. Be daring. After all, we are no longer bound by convention. It's a new day. Be bold, and behold!

7. Try publishing a how-to book or a fill-in-the-blank workbook. Jesus-followers are first and foremost followers. They don’t just follow Jesus. We are the leaders; they are the followers. If you write a decent, Christian how-to book, they will be hanging on your every word, Twittering you, posting links to your blog, coming to hear you at conferences and buying the next dozen books you produce. They will FOLLOW you. They will scribble notes about what you say and – well – they will treat what you say just about the same way they used to treat scripture. When you've published a couple of books for the masses, then you can take the next step and start publishing books on leadership for those also wanting to get in the game.