Monday, November 1, 2021

How Studying Scripture Makes Us Better Writers

by Kristen Hogrefe Parnell @khogrefeparnell

Spending time in God’s Word helps us develop a relationship with God and grow in obedience to His will. But did you know a study of Scripture can also make us better writers?

This truth dawned on me the other day. One of my practices is to read through the Bible each year. Recently, I spent a morning in the gospel of Matthew and the book of Psalms. Matthew was a tax-collector-turned-disciple who experienced God’s power to transform his life. David, who authored many of the Psalms, had a life full of change, victories, and defeats. God used these human authors, and thirty-eight others, to present Scripture’s unified message.

Different experiences shaped their writing, even as we writers today have our own unique voices. In our Bible reading, we have the opportunity to learn not only from the message of Scripture, but also from the methods used to communicate it.

#1: Authenticity
If I had to choose just one word to describe the Psalms, it would be authenticity. Many chapters are pure poetry, and the Psalmist often bares his soul before God. I see myself in the verses of repentance and grief, joy and hope. I am so grateful for the Psalmist’s transparency in sharing his journey from places of discouragement to praise-filled worship, because it challenges me that when I’m discouraged, I too can “yet praise” my God (Psalm 42:5).

Does our writing have the kind of authenticity that helps our reader identify with the message? 

#2: Attention to Detail
As a former tax-collector, Matthew was hands-down better with numbers than I am. If I had been called to record the feeding of the five thousand, I would have stopped at one hundred and said “along with many others.” But Matthew counted five thousand men “besides women and children” (Matthew 14:21). His example challenges me to check and double check my sources and the plausibility of my fiction writing so that readers won’t trip over details or facts.

Does our writing reveal careful research, accuracy, and detail? 

#3: Hopeful Message
Some of my favorite passages are the “even if” ones, the ones that offer hope and perspective when God, in His sovereignty, doesn’t answer prayers the way we want. 

The Apostle Paul is a good example. Although we don’t know exactly what “thorn” or physical struggle he endured, we do know it was so painful that he asked God to take it away three times (2 Corinthians 12:8). God did not change his circumstances, but God changed his perspective. Instead of complaining, Paul chose to glory in his weakness, because it powerfully showed Christ’s strength (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Does our writing point readers to the God who is sovereign over our lives, even in the hard places?

#4: Practical Examples
Matthew, Mark and Luke record Jesus’ parables, which someone has defined as earthly stories with a heavenly meaning. These practical stories deal with topics like sowing and reaping, searching and finding, making poor choices and repenting. Listeners then and readers today can relate to them and apply the principles to their own lives.

Is our writing practical? Does it reveal truth that resonates with readers and leaves them considering their own lives after the story ends?

#5: Enduring Power
This is just a short list of the lessons Scripture can teach us about being better writers. The most important lesson of all is the gospel’s enduring power to change lives. Christ’s redemptive sacrifice and resurrection give meaning to our lives—and pens. Whether we write fiction or nonfiction for the Christian or mainstream markets, our words have the power to touch our readers with the hope of the gospel. 

What is the last Scripture passage you read? How might it teach you to be a better writer?


Kristen Hogrefe Parnell writes suspenseful fiction from a faith perspective for adults and teens. Her young adult dystopian novels, The Revisionary and The Reactionary, both won the Selah for speculative fiction, and she signed with Mountain Brook Ink for a new romantic suspense series, coming December 2022. Readers can learn more about her upcoming release and receive a free novella by joining her newsletter at She and her husband live in Florida and enjoy sharing their lake home with family and friends.


  1. Beautiful. Scripture is powerful and transforming--not just our character or walk with Jesus, but for our writing as well.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Julie. It truly is transforming. Blessings to you!

  2. Wonderful reminder of the power of scripture in our writing lives. Thank you!

    1. It's my pleasure, Kay. Thank you so much for your comment!

  3. The Scripture I read today was II Samuel chapter one. I marvel at David's ability to say good things about the one who caused him so much grief (Saul). I stand amazed at David's resilience and his poetic nature. He could be both tough and tender. Yes, studying Scripture has been a great benefit to me personally. David was such a good writer.