September 25, 2020

A Blogosphere Reality Check

pajamas_bloggerJust a quick note to all of you regular IM readers. I’m in the thick of writing a book. Approximately 20 chapters in this project, and I’m about 6 in at this point. Deadline is late October, but here’s the kicker. My book has to be 80% material never appearing elsewhere. In other words, no book of reworked blog essays. Given that requirement, the book is pretty much all original material, though you will find some of the concepts and ideas familiar. This is going to put some real pressure on my blogging, especially in the fall. So I appreciate your support and patience in advance if you see a few more iMonk 101s, etc. than usual. I believe the final result will be worth it. I’m very excited about what I am writing and I’m having a great time moving forward.

The best Christians I know- prayerful, deep, Bible saturated, holy, patient, loving, Jesus shaped Christians- have absolutely nothing to do with the blogosphere. Nothing.

The blogosphere is a great place to talk, but a very poor place to do anything. It’s a great place to talk about doing something, but a poor place to do anything that doesn’t operate on talking. I’m pretty sure I know how Jesus feels about that.

I read an interview yesterday with a big dog blogger who was sure that if Paul were around today, he would be a blogger. I respect this fellow’s Biblical insights, but nothing in the New Testament indicates that to me. Personal church planting efforts. Extensive personal involvement in disciplemaking. Extensive mentoring and follow up with churches and individuals. Purposeful writing for specific churches. If he would have blogged, that would be great, but I have absolutely no evidence that Jesus or Paul would have blogged. Very likely not.

A while back I heard another well-known blogger estimate his audience numbers. The number was simply astronomical. (He made no claim to know the exact number, by the way). Many times what I would say, and I know my audience numbers well right now because my publisher wanted them. The fact is that at least half of those numbers are incidental visits. A much smaller number are people seriously engaging anything on this blog. For thousands of readers, it’s just looking at a headline once a day and moving on.

I don’t know how you view the numbers generated on the internet, but I’d suggest we all take a deep breath for a moment. Even if we are reaching into a large audience that likes to get their information from this medium, much of that is because of the way we’ve learned to “swim” in the medium. Not because we are great writers, great Christians or
“pastors” of a massive cyber-flock.

The idea that standing for “orthodoxy” in the blogosphere is a significant help to the church is also likely very exaggerated. The blogosphere is front loaded for overheated, generally (but not always) meaningless argument and debate. Youtube. Blog comments. Forums. It’s the fight of the day. We can knock the beach ball around the blogosphere with lots of spirited hot air, but I don’t believe many of us can claim to have done much in the way of real service for the church when we’ve debated a blogosphere atheist for a week. What Christianity needs are people who will take the campus atheist out for dinner, not forward him 25 YouTube videos.

Blogosphere fame needs to be kept in a box called “Apply Brutal Humility” if necessary. A few things have happened to me since Coming Evangelical Collapse (lots of media interview, the book project, more writing that pays, etc.) that have pointed out to me how easy it is to make a shift in your own mind to say: “People want to hear what I have to say, so what I have to say must be really important.” Ahoy there, Captain. A better approach: This is your turn to speak. You don’t have all that much important to say, but it’s your turn. So say something that matter. Something that will encourage and uplift a discouraged person. Don’t play for the applause. Determine to speak helpful truth with integrity. Your turn won’t last very long. Use it well.

This goes twice for any of us who do any amount of self promotion. Get a sense of humor there, friend. The blogosphere is a big game that you get to play because you spent more time with your head stuck to the screen of a computer than another person. Considering that time could have probably been spent as well or better somewhere else, have some perspective.

As I’ve said before, I love this medium and I’m not cynical about it nor do I have plans to abandon ship. But I think it’s the duty of some of us to speak more realistically from time to time, as the hot air factor in the blogosphere is increasing all the time.

Remember that telling the world what you are doing doesn’t make it more significant. Jesus said don’t let your right hand know what your left is doing. Don’t use this medium to disobey simple things Jesus taught.

Next time someone calls you a “prominent blogger,” laugh. Next time someone asks you about your life, and you start talking about something you read on Twitter or Facebook, consider taking a break.

NOTE: Photo from Pitel. See the original HERE.

Comments

  1. I’m right there with you. I’ll take my chances, too!

    But I think some base their Christianity on the Bible… Paul’s binary ‘do this / don’t do that’ is a very western approach. A very different approach than Jesus, who would never give a straight answer to anything.

    Pulling myself back on topic… it is interesting that ‘theological’ bloggers seem to tend to fall into two groups: those who primarily use the gospels and those who primarily use anything but the gospels 🙂

    I wonder if a person could use google to analyze different blogs based on how often the word “Jesus” is used. To iMonk’s point, it would be an interesting chart if you compared the Jesus google results to, say, visits, repeat visits, or sources of the incoming traffic. Or even revenues.

    “If I put Jesus in all my meta-tags, I’ll increase my search engine optimization.” Gawd.

  2. I’m a little late to the party but in the hypothetical question of Paul as blogger I doubt he would have been primarily a blogger. He probably would have been a lot like Mark Driscoll, where the blogging is an afterthought to the church planting, preaching and teaching.

  3. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Someone just told me that they visited a friend who spent two hours on Second Life changing a door knob. — IMonk

    Now THAT sounds like one of those old lightbulb jokes — “How many Second Life Avies does it take to change a doorknob?”