I have been blogging consistently for less than a year now (I know—I’m about a decade late), and I’ve been following some conversations on Christian blogging from Tim Challies, Samuel James, and Trevin Wax. (Each of these pieces is worth the read, so I recommend you start there if you’re interested.) What follow are my own thoughts as a newbie Christian blogger. I hope they’re helpful.
Central to the discussions has been the role of “personal” Christian blogs (what Challies calls “blog blogs”) in reference to the rising interest in group and ministry blogs (e.g., Desiring God, TGC). Is the apparent decrease in personal blogs something we should lament? (Challies says yes.) Is there a place for editing in Christian blogging? (James says yes, and Challies probably agrees.) How has social media been affecting the Christian blogosphere and how should we respond? (Trevin Wax addresses this a bit.)
Rather than getting into the specifics of these questions, let me present my own perspective as a newbie Christian blogger. You should know, also, that I was a professional writing major as an undergrad, so writing is a lifelong passion and endeavor for me. I’ve published many articles and several books now, but blogging is a new venture.
The Benefits of Personal Blogging
As I see it, here are the benefits of personal blogging for Christian writers. (Look how much I’ve already learned: I’m writing a listicle!)
- It gives writers a reader-engaged outlet for creative expression. That might seem like a drawback for more conservative types (and I was more conservative myself), but the benefit of personal blogging is that it gives writers access to readers who can give them feedback on their creative efforts. This is invaluable to me, since writers are made to serve readers in the first place.
- It lets writers deliver their unique, God-given personality in a fuller format (in ways social media cannot). Here’s where I think Trevin Wax’s article is insightful. We can’t express ourselves as precisely and robustly on social media such as Twitter and Facebook. Those media are designed for a different kind of expression: shorter, bite-sized pieces of our lives, which seldom give readers a well-rounded picture of who we are and what we value.
- It gives you a place to practice what you’ve learned from gifted editors. Good writing happens in community. Editors are a gift from God, and they’ll teach you A LOT about your own habits and weaknesses (as well as strengths). But at some point (and this is partly why I started my blog), you have to practice what you’ve learned. You have to take responsibility for the craft. Personal blogs give you that opportunity. It’s scary, but I think it generates more gravity for the craft of writing; it gets writers to take what they’re doing more seriously, if approached with circumspection.
The Benefits of Group and Ministry Blogs
In light of the above, I can sympathize with Tim Challies’ lament. But I can also appreciate the comments that Samuel James has offered. So, here are some benefits I see to the rise in group/ministry blogs.
- Group and ministry blogs lead you into a community. I said that good writing happens in community, but it can be tough to find your community, your “tribe,” as Seth Godin puts it. Writing pieces on a ministry or group blog can help you identify your own community of writers, and the corresponding community of readers whom you want to serve. I wrote (and still submit pieces occassionally) for Place for Truth, Reformation 21, Reformed Forum, Modern Reformation, and (quite some time ago) First Things. These publications and others (Journal of Biblical Counseling, Westminster Theological Journal) helped me to find my community of writers and readers. I’m still in process, but they’ve given me a great head start and been a HUGE encouragement to me.
- Group and ministry blogs remind you of what you always know but try not to mention: you need to be edited. There’s no way around it, and no writer that I know would contest: writers need editors. They need help with revision, recasting, adjusting, replacing, deleting. You can’t do that on your own as well because you (as the writer) can’t see your work with foreign eyes. You need a foreigner to report to you about your own country, so to speak. Otherwise, you won’t grow as much.
- Group and ministry blogs help young authors get noticed. This is probably the most popular benefit among young writers (i.e., guest-posting). Writing on someone else’s blog (be it personal or ministry related) is time-tested advice for young writers in our day. This is related to the first point: larger group and ministry blogs lead you into a community.
Where Do Christian Bloggers Go from Here?
So, what’s next? I don’t know; I’m a newbie, remember? But I will say that, as someone who feels called to a lifetime of writing, personal blogging shouldn’t go away, and neither should group/ministry blogs. There needs to be a balance of individuals and communities, of diversity and unity. So, if personal Christian blogs really are tappering off, as Challies suggests, that’s truly something to lament and respond to. But as a writer, I’m not personally discouraged by that trend, because I know why I’m writing my blog, what I hope to learn along the way, and whom I long to serve. Maybe the Christian blogosphere needs more intentional bloggers: writers who set out to start something not on a whim or even a suggestion from a mentor, but after prayerful and thoughtful reliance on God, with a goal and purpose that will not, ultimately, be demolished by future trends, though blogging will certainly adapt to those trends.
There you are. Thoughts from a newbie Christian blogger. I hope all of us, as Christian writers, continue to grow in community with each other and in our excellence for the craft, knowing that the greatest Word the world has ever known will always communicate in a more glorious, beautiful, and personal way than we could ever imagine. Long live the Word.