One of our colleagues in the ministry has collated a list of the 100 best Christian blogs. Here is his announcement:
Last year, ours did not make his list. This year, we showed up at 39.
Okay, it’s nice, and we’re flattered. But who really knows? And does it really matter?
Personally, I dislike lists of the 100 biggest, 100 greatest, 100 most. The upside is that such a list might alert readers to some good blogs they had missed. The downside is the pride. “Let me add that to my resume.’ His blog was voted among the most popular!”
I suppose if I had a board of directors staring down my neck–or a boss somewhere–it would matter to them. “Get those numbers up, McKeever!” Such foolishness goes on all the time, sad to say.
It’s great being retired.
Reading that list last year I scarcely noticed that we didn’t crack it. I didn’t expect to. No disappointment then; no elation now.
It’s always best to leave the score-keeping to the One who knows the heart, sees each tear and understands our heartaches.
From time to time, I get asked for pointers on blogging. I begin by saying I know very little about it. My son Marty set up this program and updates it from time to time. If something is out of whack, he gets a quick note from his dad. He enters the program from his office in North Carolina and a few minutes later, we’re good.
It’s a great arrangement. I’m so happy to have lived to this moment in history. And I know full well that as rapidly as technology is changing, ministry is metamorphosing also. Twenty years from now, this blog may as well be inscribed in Sanskrit on slabs of stone.
Then, after that preface, to those inquiring about blogging, this is my counsel:
1) Write about what you know, what bothers you, what blesses you.
In my case, I’m a pastor. My passion is to honor the Lord Jesus Christ and to bless His church.
2) Decide on your audience.
My audience is pastors and church leaders. I’m a Southern Baptist and write from that context. Once in a while, I’m rebuked for not including women pastors in my target audience. While I honor anyone who proclaims the Lord’s word, my denomination has no women pastors and I’ve known only two or three in my life. Trying to speak for them, to admonish them, or to direct them would be highly presumptuous. The critics automatically assume I am sexist and anti-female. Christians can be brutally harsh in rushing to judgment of their own.
3) Pray, asking the Lord a) if He wants you to do this, b) to show you how, c) to bless your efforts, and d) to lead you in the subject matter.
If He does not want this for you, you do well to go on to other things.
4) Follow the normal rules of good writing.
You learned most of these in the fifth grade: nouns and verbs in agreement; knowing the difference in their, there, and they’re; proper spelling; avoiding too much slang; and, as a rule, not using the same word twice in one sentence.
5) Have several drafts in the works at any given time.
Yesterday, I started four articles for this blog and earlier this morning–the time as I type this sentence is 5:32 am; I’ve been sitting here an hour–began two pieces, including this one. I’ll return to them a couple of times throughout the day and add to them, delete and edit and expound. When one article seems “done,” I’ll publish it on the website, then post a link to the article on Facebook. (But never more than one a day. There is a limit to what people will pause to read. I fear I exceed that often.)
Blogging is not rocket science. Anyone can do this, if I can. (When Marty was setting this up, perhaps a dozen years ago, I had to say, “Stay with me now. I can learn this. It just takes me a little time.” My generation–I was born in 1940–did not grow up on smart phones and X-boxes and cable TV.)
6) Give thanks to the Lord for anything you do that connects, even with a single reader.
After all, you are writing to one person, not masses.
On that subject, beware of saying “some of you will feel” such and such. That would imply you think large groups of people are reading your piece. But chances are, every reader is an individual, sitting at a computer all by himself/herself. So, say “you” and not “all of you” or “some of you.”
7) Everyone wants to know, “How do I choose a topic?” Answer: When something has snagged your attention and will not turn it loose, that’s usually the ideal subject.
Turn on the computer and open the program and write it down. Save it as a draft. Later, you will think of additional aspects of that subject and be able to give it a fuller treatment. But, if it snags your attention–a verse of Scripture you cannot get out of your mind, a story in the news you keep thinking of, or a quote that stays front and center in your brain–that’s your subject.
8) Beware of the tendency to “give people what they want.”
If you live by the numbers–this subject got a great readership but those others not–you will be tempted to write more articles on the same theme in order to feed the tiger. That’s a mistake. Write for yourself. Write whatever your mind and heart tell you needs to be said. That’s the only way you will stay with this for a long period of time. (In my case, we started this website in 2004. It holds over 2,000 articles. Scroll down the home page to the archives and click on any month since, or scroll to the categories and click on any of a number of subjects.)
9) How long should the articles be?
Answer: Just long enough to cover the subject without belaboring the point.
Second answer: A lot shorter than mine. Editors have said if I would shorten these articles, they would pick them up and run them. I’ve tried, but it doesn’t work. And so, I write until I’ve covered the subject and run out of things to say, then hit “publish.”
10) Do you answer comments? Sometimes. People seem to appreciate it when you do.
The wordpress program has a feature that allows you to delete spam and unwelcome comments. You can also reply to comments, either on the page or by using the email address which is shown there. It’s a handy provision.
The blogging business is ever-changing, no doubt. So, I’m counting on Marty to keep me current with the program. Staying up-to-date with subjects and content is my job, and what keeps me on my knees seeking the Lord’s direction and blessing. (Some of our best-received articles have come from suggestions from friends.)
In some ways, blogging is the ultimate act of faith. We write it and post it without a clue whether anyone will read it or not. And then someone says what you are writing is being read by thousands of people, some of whom take it to heart and find help from it.
That’s all we could ask for. God is merciful.
Post Script: You come back to the published article later as though you were seeing it for the first time. Almost invariably, you will see a typo or find a sentence in need of your attention. So, you re-enter the program and tweak the piece. As I have done this one, just now. The time is 8:48 a.m.