Saturday, December 1, 2012

Reaching Non Christians by Laura Popp

Today, Writing with Hope, welcomes Laura Popp. She has served as a missionary to Asia. The picture is Laura dressed in costume.
Doesn't she look like a true maiko from Japan? She agreed to write a post for us that should help both our writing and witnessing for Christ.

Reaching Non-Christians

While working in Asia as a missionary, I strove to understand my “people group,” the Japanese. It wasn’t until I returned to the States that I realized I could do that with my writing. Instead of considering a “target audience,” I started seeing my potential readers as the “people group” God called me to. It’s my prayer that these five steps will help you define your “people group” and write for them.
1.) Know Them
I write young adult fantasy. When I imagine my average reader, I picture a teenage girl with a rebellious streak who believes a post-modernist view of religion (anything goes; it’s all cool). She’s searching for her destiny and purpose. So I hang out at anime and fantasy conventions. I spend time with Twilight and Hunger Games fans and check out their websites. I learn how they think, engage them in discussion, and work that into my books. To write for young adults, I have to love young adults and think like them.
2.) Less is More (Don’t Preach)
Christian authors often think that to relay a Christian message, it must be explained. In my novel Treasure Traitor, a character named Charis tells the protagonist Renagada that “King suffered in our place.” I didn’t spell out that King is Jesus. Nor did I explain the Greek meanings of characters’ names, except when it felt natural and pertained to the story. (Charis means “grace,” but Renagada only learns that through the course of their friendship.) I trusted the reader (and God) to let metaphors speak for themselves. Renagada doesn’t even believe (in the first book) that King’s sacrifice applies to her. For Rena to make that leap so soon would have felt forced.
3.) Story first
There’s nothing more annoying than commercials. When you take time out of your story to throw in something Christian, that’s how non-Christian readers view it. Whatever message you have should flow naturally from well-established characters or plot.
4.) Avoid “Christianese”
Words like “saved,” “born again,” “in the spirit” and “providence” may be steeped with meaning for believers, but to non-Christians you’re speaking another language. Avoid words you wouldn’t use outside a faith context. I even avoid the term “Christian” in Treasure Traitor, since that can have negative connotations for my people group. Know who you’re writing for.
5.) Author interaction
“Connect” is the latest buzz word. We can view social media as a golden opportunity to reach out to readers. Include “extras” on your website or in the book itself like discussion questions and chapter-by-chapter playlists. At the end of Treasure Traitor, I list several songs by Christian artists that my people group can relate to.
I challenge you to view your writing as a mission. Understand your people group and write for them.

Laura’s debut novel Treasure Traitor was published by Written World Communications this November. You can learn more about her books, articles, and travels or order Treasure Traitor on her website,

You can purchase her book at amazon:

Wow, Laura, your article gave me good food for thought. When I taught junior high and middle grades, I alwasy knew. "They don't care how much you know if they know how much you care." I was reminded of that when I read your 1st item. I wish you well on "Treasure Traitor." I'm anxious to read it. Thanks for sharing with me and writing with hope viewers. God bless you.

I apologize to Laura and to my viewers for not getting my post up earlier in the day like normal on Saturday. A writing deadline interfered. Can I hear an "Amen?"


Moonine Sue Watson said...

Interesting thoughts about knowing your audience.

Jean Ann Williams said...

Great article, ladies. All of it makes sense, but it is sad that we can't even use the word Christian to reach the young adults.

Bonnie Engstrom said...

This was a great interview. It's exactly what I try to do in my writing - not crossover, but inject biblical references in a natural way, FI, my heroine pick up a Bible and flip it open then ponder about the verse.

BTW, I don't think she meant for us to not use the word "Christian," but to not use it in a prostelitizing manner.

I would love to read Laura's books. They sound very special.

mary beth lee said...

Fantastic article! Thanks so much for sharing, Laura and Janet! I love the "commercial" reference. Perfect explanation.

Unknown said...

Thank you, Sue. I agree with Bonnie, I don't believe Laura meant we could never use the word Christian. Even kids use it occasionally, but they might be more likely to say, "Are you a Jesus girl?" or something a little more flippant.Jean Ann, you are so right, it's good common sense. Yep, Mary Beth, no commercial, no sermonize. Good stuff.

Melanie said...

Interesting article. Will keep those thoughts in mind when I'm writing.

Unknown said...

Thanks for commenting, Melanie. I agree. Laura hit it on the head.

Patti Shene, Executive Editor, Starsongs Magazine said...

Great post, ladies! I try to encourage my young writers who contribute to Starsongs to give readers just enough to make them curious about wanting to learn more without being preachy.

Laura, I'm so proud of you and so excited for Treasure Traitor. (You know why! LOL!)

L.J. Popp said...

Thanks for reading! Sorry I didn't have a chance to comment until now; I usually don't allow myself to do stuff like this on Sunday. But yes, Bonnie, you're right. I didn't mean that we can never use the word Christian. For my context, I'm writing YA fantasy and science fiction, so it would seem really strange for aliens on another planet to use that term. I guess it also comes from my experience abroad. The word "Christian," especially for people of other faiths, can have a "religious" and cultural connotation rather than meaning that we follow Jesus. I work with a lot of Muslims, and for them, "Christian," is a synonym of "infidel" and "Crusader." They look at American TV and think, "Those are Christians? What smuts!" So I NEVER use that term with them. I call myself a follower of Isa Al Messiah, which means "Jesus, the Messiah," in Arabic. Again, it's all about the people group you're trying to reach. This is very scriptural. Paul wrote about "becoming like" a Greek so that he could share Christ with Greeks. Too often Christianity gets mixed up with American/Western culture, but actually one of the coolest thing about Christ's message is that it's so cross-cultural. We need people to understand that they can still be Japanese/Arabian/Hispanic/whatever, and be awesome followers of Jesus. The end of the book of Revelation shows us a glorious gathering of tribes, tongues, and nations all praising the Lamb. That's what I'm looking forward to!

Sorry for the rambol! I'm really excited about this topic!

L.J. Popp said...

Just to clarify, if you're writing for Christians, or for an audience that maybe grew up in the church and has simply drifted away, Christian is a perfectly good word.

L.J. Popp said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
L.J. Popp said...

Oh, and if anyone decides to order a paper back copy of Treasure Traitor, they can mail it to me and I'll sign it, free of charge! You can contact me at for my address.

Robin Patchen said...

Great advice, Laura. It is so hard to reach the unsaved people groups in America. I think you have an excellent strategy. I loved your inference that you don't have to spell out all the Christian ideas, because God can speak to people through your words. Excellent point.

Unknown said...

Thanks, Laura, for clarifying that. You are so right. For those of us who've never visited Muslim countries or talked with them, we can't imagine how you must use other words to witness. Patti, thanks for commenting. I think you have a winner here. WTG.

Unknown said...

I agree with you, Robin, we need to concentrate on what being a Christian really means to us. In my YA book, Victoria and the Ghost, I don't use the word Christian. I do have church services, but I show how Victoria must forgive even when the behavior doesn't change ie acting like Christ.

Unknown said...

Laura, I admire your stand on not usually working on Sunday. I find I often have to squeeze it in between church services to get everything done, but I do respect your conscience on that. I would never allow it to interfere in my worship on the Lord's Day. That's special.

L.J. Popp said...

Thanks, Robin. I'm not an expert, but if anyone would like to contact me specifically about reaching Muslims or Japanese or Hindu or Buddhists for Christ, I'd be more than happy to share what resources I have. You can email me: laurapopp(at)

Amen, Janet! I try to reserve Sunday for church, Bible study, and rest. I find that when I'm on the internet, 10 minutes turns to 3hours and I didn't read my Bible or pray all day! I want my relationship with Jesus to be number one, and I find for myself that if I don't set aside specific time for that, it gets put on the back burner.

Unknown said...

Right, Laura, if we let our relationship slide with the Lord, nothing else matters. I've received several other comments by e-mail. Your article has been well received.