writing for secular publications
This MTI blog series aims to help you and your readers sharpen your skills in communicating faith matters to secular readers – skeptics, seekers, and the spiritually disinterested.

Here’s an idea for extending your writing influence.  Maybe it can help enlarge your borders. I hope so!

This Reaching Secular Readers series seeks to help publishers and writers analyze non-believing readers and effectively point them to Jesus.  Bravo, if you’ve been including in special Christian publications and websites content to reach secular folks!

But maybe God could also use you to write outreach articles for secular (mainstream) publications and websites.  Those publications could expose you to people who might never receive or read a Christian magazine or newspaper, or never visit a Christian website.  You would be meeting these readers on their own ground, via media vehicles with which they may already feel comfortable.

The principles discussed already in this series can help you craft your articles for this audience and appeal to their media gatekeepers to consider publishing your material.

Perhaps the following stories can inspire you.  The first I related in a previous article predating this series, but it’s a good illustration for this theme.

A university newspaper

A few weeks before Easter in 1971, I began to wonder why no one had published an article on evidences for Jesus’ resurrection in our university newspaper, the Duke Chronicle.  I was in my final year at Duke and had been following God for about three years.  Our campus considered itself intellectually sophisticated, I reasoned.  The resurrection evidences were sound; students and professors needed to know this.

“Why doesn’t someone write this article?” I grumbled to myself.

Then, after several days I began to wonder, “Maybe I should write it.”

What a novel idea!

Incorporating insights from my mentor, Bob Prall, and others, I wrote the article and took it to the editor, who was Jewish.  He read it as we sat in his office; I prayed silently that he would run it.  After a few minutes, he looked up and asked, “Can we put this phrase in italics?”, referring to the punch line at the end of the evidences: “Christ is risen.”  While I had been praying, he had already decided to use it.

It ran opposite the editorial page (here, page 7).  Encouraged by this reception, I approached the local city newspaper late one afternoon, but encountered a lone editor on deadline who was too busy to talk.  Next door, I showed the article to the local radio station manager, who very warmly invited me to record it in his studio for broadcast that weekend.

More to come

God had used my efforts to spread His word – and the truth that Jesus lives – via the mainstream, secular media.  This excited me.  But I had no idea what lay ahead.

The Lord began to use other versions of the short article.  Campus Crusade for Christ published it in a newspaper distributed at their Explo ’72 music festival in Dallas featuring Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, and Billy Graham.  An estimated 150,000 attended.  Later CCC (now called “Cru”) used it in a nationally circulated university outreach publication.  Students and campus workers worldwide used reprints as conversation starters.

Local newspapers small and large in the US ran it – from the North Myrtle Beach Times to the Long Beach Press-Telegram.  Over time – now over five decades and counting – it’s taken on a life of its own.

Global reach

The fact that Easter keeps rolling around each year certainly helps.  The Manila Bulletin, in the Philippines, published it in their Easter Sunday edition (250,000 circulation).  The Salvation Army ran it in their Easter War Cry magazine (1.2 million circulation).  The American Tract Society turned it into an outreach pamphlet in English and Chinese.

Now it’s on the web and – by God’s grace – has been used by websites and publications based in nations including the US, Canada, India, United Arab Emirates, Australia, the UK, Brazil, and Mexico.  A Chinese website used it in text and audio formats to help Chinese speakers learn English.  People send it in emails to their friends and acquaintances.  Like the Energizer Bunny®, it just seems to keep on going, and going and going.®

God gets the credit for all this, of course.  He did the raising; I simply told the story, as have many others.

You can use it, too.

You can use the article, too, gratis (the simple republishing permissions information is here).  The article is here in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Chinese.  Maybe it can help your readers or someone else you know understand that Jesus lives, loves them, and wants to meet them.

So, the next time you find yourself grousing about “Why doesn’t somebody do something?”, be careful.  God may have a task ahead for you.  You never know where it might lead.

San Bernardino Sun

In 1995, I felt impressed to contact the opinion editor of our local newspaper, the San Bernardino Sun, to see about “op-ed” (opinion pieces often printed opposite the editorial page) writing possibilities.  I prayed, then phoned to ask about his editorial needs and guidelines.  I asked permission to send him an opinion piece. It was about Christianity and racism, tied to a then-current news item.  (The Southern Baptists had just apologized for their racist past.)  I sent it, but heard nothing back.

A week or two later, I called to see if he had read my article.  He had not, but said I could drop by to meet him personally.  When we met in his office several days later, he still had not read my op-ed, but we had a nice visit.   I left some writing samples and he said he would read my column.

Several days later, still no response, so I called again: “Did you get a chance to read my opinion piece on racism?”

“Oh, yes, I read it.”

Long pause.

“Um, I was wondering what you thought of it.”

“Oh, I liked it.”

Long pause.

“Do you think you might want to use it?

“Oh, yes, we plan to run it.”

That was the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship with the Sun that continued through his two successors and survived corporate reorganization and acquisition.  Over the years, even after I moved out of the area, they ran many of my columns.  This helped provide a platform to get material in other US papers and secular websites and into a syndicated column.

God gets credit for opening the door.  Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes.”

Pitching editors is not always easy.  Editors can be tough sells sometimes.  Trust God for ideas and inspiration and to work in gatekeepers’ hearts.

Jesus Revolution

Perhaps you saw the popular Jesus Revolution movie in 2023.  It starred Kelsey Grammer (Frasier) and Jonathan Roumie (The Chosen).  The Washington Examiner published RWC’s article.

Jesus Revolution movie: ’60s turmoil, radical responses.  “Is God Dead?” a 1966 Time magazine cover asked.  A 1971 Time cover heralded “The Jesus Revolution.”  What caused this cultural shift in the radical 1960s that still impacts us today?  Kelsey Grammer (Frasier) stars in a new film that tells part of the story: how a hippie, a drugged-out teenager and a straight-laced California pastor linked up to bring hope to millions.  (Short op-ed)  Washington Examiner version

The Examiner website has 15 million monthly unique visitors.  MSN.com republished the Examiner article.  (“MSN, powered by Microsoft Start, offers high-quality news from the world’s most popular and trusted publishers to nearly half a billion monthly unique visitors.”)

MSN’s chat featured diverse comments about the article.  Some samples:

PK:  Religion is the first element planting fear in the human brain, fear hell!

CB:  I hope that some of those that feel that religion, faith, the Bible, and Christians are all about judgement, control, and fear will go see the movie and give the truth and love that are real a new chance to guide their lives.

IA:  Religion is a tragedy of human thought.

NH: I totally agree.  Don’t waste your time on it.  But you should definitely develop a one on One with the Lord Jesus.   Don’t leave this world without Him.


RO:  If you have questions about the Bible or what salvation really is according to the Bible go to got questions dot org to post your question.

So, the material is sparking thought, engagement, and outreach.  Secular publications, secular readers and believers in Gospel conversations…Great Commission outcomes we all desire.

These are just a few stories to whet your appetite.  I pray that God gives you creative ideas, favor with secular editors, and many, many open doors to get your faith-related content before readers of mainstream publications and websites.

Want to know more?

Gratis online resources:

  • Many of the video, audio and article resources included in this Reaching Secular Readers series will help.  Check the links at the end of each article in the MTI series.
  • My Washington Examiner articles will give you an idea of the types of faith-related content that this secular publisher has run.
  • The Audience Map is a Cru interactive online tool to help Christian communicators analyze their audience and develop ideas for reaching them for Christ.  Easy to use, global in scope, and research based.  It includes videos and many questions to help you think through skeptics, seekers, the spiritually disinterested, nominal Christians, and more.  Offered as “Your missional guide to seeing and loving people in the digital age.”

by Rusty Wright. Rusty is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents.  He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively.

Copyright © 2024 Rusty Wright

Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

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