The first time my good friend and publisher, Dave Hail, said to me, “Sow what’s in your bag,” I knew this was the point at which writing bestselling books starts. What comes immediately to mind is Jesus—his words, stories, parables, similes, teachings, and discipling others. He sowed what was in his bag.
“Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow….”1 Jesus’ parable about a sower illustrates this first pointer for becoming a bestselling Christian author. Authors sow the words, stories, dreams, visions, experiences and memories, studies, thoughts, feelings, hope, faith, and love that’s in their bags. In addition to a sower (the author), two items are essential for sowing—seed and a bag. Books begin with words, the seeds, which grow into thoughts, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, anecdotes, illustrations, teachings, messages, pericopes, chapters, sections, books, etc.
You don’t need a Harvard vocabulary to write or speak, but you need words particularly suited to listeners and readers with whom you must communicate. My grandparents and parents hooked me on playing Scrabble® at a young age. In those days without video games, board games like Parcheesi, checkers, chess, Monopoly®, Risk®, card games, and the like were king of my free time. To entertain myself, I would organize fantasy tournaments and play Scrabble® for hours, days, and even weeks on end. Of course, I had a dictionary at hand and would look up words, read definitions, practice using them in sentences, and put together endless combinations on the board.
Over the years, as I spoke and wrote, the power of words impacted and empowered me to become an author. My ongoing prayer has been, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.”2
Stories fascinated me. I loved to read books, especially biographies. The most impactful biography for me was A Man Called Peter, written by his wife, Catherine Marshall. His remarkable journey to become first a preacher and then Chaplain of the Senate inspired me. Most life-changing for me were Bible stories creatively written for young readers by Elsie Egermeier, Egermeier’s Bible Story Book. I loved the pictures and read it from cover to cover dozens of times in my elementary years. That laid the foundation for me to read, study, and love the Scriptures.
By speaking and writing books, telling stories, including anecdotal material, providing illustrations, and painting word pictures, I learned much about communicating to listeners/readers life-changing and impactful ideas, concepts, and truths. I started collecting stories by memory and writing them down from magazines, newspapers, sermons, teachers, politicians, and other writers.
By whatever means you can, collect and remember stories;
they are the salt and pepper of speaking and writing.
Dreams and Visions.
One night after reading Egermeier’s retelling of Isaiah’s vision (Isaiah 6), I fell asleep replaying that fiery scene over and over again on the screen of my mind. In the middle of the night, I was awakened startled by a thunderous boom with almost blinding light filling my room. My body tingled with fiery shock and awe. A voice spoke to me about speaking God’s words to the world. I asked for his hot coals to touch my tongue like he had done for Isaiah. In that moment, the ancient prophet’s vision was etched eternally in my mind; his visionary calling became mine. As he had become a preacher and writer, so I desired to be taking God’s good news to the world. Decades later, Judi and I would have the privilege of traveling to eastern Europe, Brazil, Canada, India, Southeast Asia, and throughout the U.S. taking books, teachings, and recordings (radio and television) to others.
Bestselling books often start with a dream, vision, or even a nightmare. The bestselling Lord I Wish series’ book, Lord I Wish My Family Would Get Saved, started with a dream, or rather a nightmare with me seeing my brother at God’s judgment among the goats. I awoke trembling in fear, drenched with sweat. Taking a shower at 3:00 a.m., I wept and cried out to God, “Why isn’t my brother saved?”
“You are the reason,” the Spirit whispered. For the next week, the Spirit convicted me of the sinful walls I had built between myself, my brother, and even God—walls of spiritual arrogance, a critical spirit, faithlessness, and prayerlessness. That book poured out of me going out to tens of thousands in English, Chinese, and Portuguese. Through their agreement in prayer with me in reading the book, not only were scores of family members saved, my brother was also wonderfully redeemed.
God may have used a dream, vision, or even a word spoken through someone else to convict you to write the vision down:
Write the vision
And make it plain on tablets,
That he may run who reads it.
Throughout the Scriptures, we are commanded to both “hear and obey.” Stop procrastinating. Just do it. Write your book.
1 Mark 4:3
2 Psalm 19:14