I started my first blog “Zweibach and Peace” nearly 3 years ago. At that time, my concept was simple: write on whatever I felt like writing about, for myself. If other people liked it, then fine. If they didn’t… oh well, at least I had my laptop as my captive audience. Yet it didn’t take long for my blog to morph into many other things. I began getting requests to join other blogging communities, to periodically write for magazines, to do book reviews, and most recently to do Vlogs. These requests have often been quite flattering for me because it shows that people actually read (and like) my stuff. Yet, it is because of these very requests that I have had to learn to exercise caution. I have had to be careful to ensure that my writing is primarily a ministry. That what I write is for God, not for myself. I have to constantly remind myself that the purpose of any blogging effort is to raise awareness and start or continue important conversations. It is about engaging people. It’s not simply about sharing my own opinions and experiences, but also being part of an online community where I read and learn from what other people have written. Including and perhaps especially when I disagree with almost every single thing they write. Blogging should be a way to open up your mind to new possibilities, but unfortunately, it can also be a way to become quite an egotistical megalomaniac. Below I would like to highlight the five WORST things creating a Christian blog can turn you into. In another post I will be addressing the five BEST things a Christian blog can create for you, but for now, in typical Canadian fashion let’s just focus on the negatives. Here are five things that can happen if you leave your attitude towards the blogosphere unchecked:
#1: The Ignorant Jabberer – This is the person who likes to pick arguments with people even though they have not done a significant amount of research. They will go on for pages about female submission, pneumatology, and evangelism as if they were an expert on the topic, but all they really have to go off of is the fact that they know a handful of Scripture verses. I’m not saying that you need to spend hours on every single post you write. That would be far too much to ask unless the purpose of your blog was to be heartily intellectual; however, you end up doing your audience a disservice when you jump on a trending bandwagon without even knowing the trends. Good blogging requires research. If you want to be a good blogger you have to be curious. You have to ask questions, try new experiences, read books, and realize that your opinion is not the only one that matters. If you have online opponents, you need to enter into their mind and ask yourself why they believe as they do. You need to come up with good reasons to counter their theology rather than just stating that you “disagree.” In fact, I would go so far as to say you should make it your aim to get to know your opponent’s theology even better than you know your own. This will really add some fresh and invigorating insight into your blog and make your readers keen on what you have to say.
#2: The Haughty Intellectual – The opposite of the ignorant jabberer, but just as dangerous is the haughty intellectual. This is someone who has done a lot of research, but frequently misuses their authority. They write at a level that is inaccessible for the general public because they are only interested in certain people being able to read their blog. The point of having a blog should be to help the general public engage in topics of interest and concern. It should propel commoners to action, not just people sitting in ivory towers. So when you write, don’t use big words unnecessarily when the idea could just as easily have been conveyed using modern language. Mix it up a little – quote from Karl Barth and Martin Niemöller, but also quote from Harry Potter and the Simpsons. Write in a way that makes it interesting to everyone. That way people will constantly come back to your blog posts and it won’t just be a “one-off” where a prof. from Yale happens to stumble upon your page, is unimpressed and never returns again.
#3: The Overly Persuasive Zealot – I’ve met a few of these during my short blogging career and in my opinion, they are the worst of all bloggers. These are people who love picking online fights for no other reason than that they get a kick out of arguing. They thrive on conflict. They may word their first post in such a way that makes it sound as if they are interested in having a conversation, but in reality they know what their opinion is and they aren’t going to budge. Sometimes these people have continually spammed my blog sending me multiple messages in one day before I have even had a chance to review the first one. I always try to be respectful when I answer anyone’s comments and I believe that part of the beauty of a blog is the ability to disagree. In fact, I can often learn a lot from someone who has come to an educated opinion that is quite different than mine. However, when these people stoop to the level of name-calling or insulting myself or other users, I have no choice but to remove their obnoxious and offensive posts. In short, don’t be like them. If you want to have a brawl, then go to your local bar, kick back a few beers and enjoy a classic flight there. Don’t bring it into the blogging world where people who read your stuff may be struggling, hurting, or confused enough as it is.
#4: The Narrow-Minded Single Celled Brain – This category is reserved for the select few who only have one area of interest. They may constantly blog about homosexuality, marriage, or singleness. They may constantly post cookie recipes or travelogues. There is nothing wrong with having a general focus to your blog, but it is also nice to have a bit of variety. We all have our favourite “pet” topics. There will always be categories you naturally flock to and others you want to run from and avoid. Sometimes because of our own experiences we can speak with great authority on certain issues (and we most certainly do), but other issues make us uneasy because we have never encountered those situations before. The best remedy for this is to find different places to write. I always try to throw myself into new experiences because I know it can produce interesting ideas for my writing. Occasionally I will go to a Christian conference and this will change my thinking on a number of topics (look up my IHOPKC blogs). I also have done some of my best writing at L’Arche because the experience was so different than anything else I have ever come across. Reading other people’s blogs is also a great way to come up with new ideas. There are usually patterns in the blogging world – most derived from the news and media. Read up on what people are currently interested in. Interests are constantly changing, so it’s important to try to write frequently. Don’t let several months pass without people hearing your voice because by the time you finally get around to writing that blog post on the stock market, the world will be caring about something else and you will have missed the boat.
#5: The Ideas Monster – Christian blogging is a great way to think about many topics you never would have considered before. Through blogging I have been able to explore areas as diverse as an Evangelical response to biodiversity, the Black Lives Matter Campaign, feminism, and healthy living. The more you expose yourself to ideas, the more ideas will come. This has happened to me countless times. I may be walking to church when all of a sudden, a brilliant idea comes. Then I can’t concentrate for the rest of the service because all the words start flowing to me. Or I may be in the middle of my shift at work and I can’t wait to be done to start typing up my thoughts. Having ideas is great – they are what make up the basis of your blog, however, you need to be careful. Don’t let the idea’s monster distract you from your present reality. Don’t sacrifice friendships and relationships for the sake of a blog. Don’t constantly look for sermon illustrations under every rock. And remember: only blog if you think it’s going to add something to the blogosphere. You may be an expert on the topic, but if everything that could possibly be said about the issue has already been said, best to stay away or write on something completely new. People usually get hung up on certain topics at certain times, however, they can only handle so much. If you are the 1005th person to write on Paris, people will probably not give your blog a second look even though you may have some really important things to say. Lastly, remember: some ideas are meant to stay ideas – not everything sounds as good on paper as it did in your head.
I hope these pointers help you to remember the purpose of your writing and to reclaim the joy of blogging. I know that it is easy to fall prey to all of these scenarios. I, personally, have ended up in all five of these categories (likely multiple times) over the past three years. Nevertheless, by remembering the authority you have as a blogger and by trying to use that authority and leadership in good ways rather than for an egotistical boost, it is entirely possible to make a huge difference through your writing. I hope you will be able to do just that.