Strange things are happening for bloggers in the SBC. It was not long ago we were institutional pariahs viewed with horror and antipathy by the leaders of the SBC; regularly and roundly blasted by them. It was not unusual to sit at the SBC and hear pot-shots taken at us by people who claimed not to read anything we wrote, recommended that we be ignored, but still took the time to train their guns on us.
It wasn’t that long ago.
Things have changed now. Both VPs of the SBC are bloggers. Entity heads are building bridges with us instead of seeking to burn them down. One of the must-read blogs in the SBC world is written by Thom Rainer, the president of LifeWay, and several LifeWay employees are bloggers. Our seminaries have joined the blogging world.
Bloggers have left the dungeons (or, our mother’s basements – to open an old wound!) and are living in the main house now.
And perhaps you are thinking about joining our little band – you want to be a blogger. So here is what I think about the blessings, the dangers and the nature of blogging.
1) Blogging is a democratic meritocracy.
There is no elite board of directors you have to impress to join the blogging community. It’s not a country club. Every single person who reads this can start a blog. If you write well, you will build an audience.
You can just read a blog and make a comment. If you are a clear thinker and can articulate that thought – if there is merit to your ideas – people will show interest in what you say. You can set up your own blog. It’s pretty easy. Then, you just start writing. Most people have to go through the “I wonder if anyone is listening” stage as their blog struggles to find an audience. But, again, if you have something to say and say it well, people will listen.
“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Ever heard that one? Not true in blogging. It’s democratic and merit-based. If you say something that people want to hear, they will read your blog, your posts or your comments. Sure, some of the bigger blogs are from big-time leaders
2) Blogging is a calling, not a profession.
There are a few people who can scratch out a living as bloggers – only a handful. If your hope is to make a living from blogging, you will likely be disappointed.
I write because of a sense of call from God. I write because I love to write, because I want to try to make a difference and influence people in the right direction. For me, it is a ministry, a call of God on my life.
If you are going to be a Christian blogger, it ought to flow from a sense of call, not a desire for fame or fortune. If you have a motive other than the glory of God and the advance of the Kingdom, your blog will likely be a hindrance to God’s work, not a help.
3) Blogging requires a thick skin.
A decade ago, I began to write an online devotional, called “Word Processing” which was rewarding. I got emails from all over the world from people who had read the emails and enjoyed them. But then I got two or three criticisms from people who did not like something I wrote.
And it crushed me. A few words of criticisms cratered me to the point that I stopped writing and sending out the emails.
It was not too much later that I found blogging, and that gave me a second chance. You would not believe the things that people have said to me or about me over the last few years – especially since I took over management of this blog. People have questioned my sanity, my sincerity, my motives, my fairness, my character – it happens on a regular basis.
It still bothers me. I hate it every time someone says something critical about me. But it no longer craters me. I don’t go into a fetal position for a week when someone calls me an idiot.
Listen, if you blog, you will be criticized. It comes with the territory. If you state an opinion, someone else will state their contrary opinion. Blogging tends to attract blustery big mouths (please, no “pot-kettle” comments) and contrarians. If every time someone criticizes you, you get defensive, go ballistic, strike back or fall apart, you simply will not last in blogging, nor will your blogging be a blessing.
4) Blogging is a dangerous temptation.
The advertisers tell us that sex sells. Well, what sells blogs is controversy. The easiest way to build a blog following is to be a spiritual flame-thrower. Identify “them” as the enemy. Write blustery and pointed critiques of “them” on a regular basis. Warn everyone that if “they” succeed, the SBC will be ruined. Create an enemy and attack.
Blogging appeals to our worst instincts at times. It tends to provoke the flesh unless you carefully walk in the ways of the Spirit.
I was browsing through some ancient discussions I had back in the old days. Frankly, I was kind of embarrassed at things I said and how I responded. Responding in anger to angry words. Returning evil for evil. Frustration at the pettiness and silliness of some bloggers. Falling prey to the temptation to brutally blast others. Emotional overloads as discussions spin out of control.
It is very easy to sin when you blog. When words are many, sin is not absent, right?
5) Blogging is hard work.
If you are going to have a blog, you need to write regularly, even when you don’t feel like it or have some sort of bubbling inspiration welling up within. Take some time to browse blogs. See how many of them were started, then abandoned. Most people who start blogs do not have the time, desire or perseverance to stick with it.
Maintaining a blog is hard work and if you don’t give it maximum effort, it will not succeed.
6) Blogging magnifies our differences.
We tend to write and interact about those things concerning which we disagree. To listen to the discussions we have, you might think that Calvinists and non-Calvinists worship different Gods, believe different gospels, and disagree on just about every significant point of doctrine. But, within the Baptist world, Calvinists and Traditionalists have far more theologically in common than they do in distinction.
One of the most dangerous aspects of blogging is its tendency to magnify differences and thereby create division. It is natural that we would focus on our differences, but we must never forget the theological core which we hold in common.
7) Blogging can make a positive difference.
I sometimes despair of that, but I believe it is true. We can build relationships, encourage discussion, dispense information, and advance knowledge. Blogging can be everything bad, but it can be pretty good as well.
I believe that bloggers, because of the democratic, anti-elite nature of our work, have changed the way the SBC operates – opening things up a little at least. Our leaders have realized that social media has changed the playing field and they are adjusting their game accordingly. We bemoan how few people feel connected to the SBC or are involved in it. Blogging has gotten some folks involved in the SBC who otherwise would not participate.
Blogging is like paint. It is good if it is spread carefully on the wall. It is bad if it is poured on your head. It’s all about how it’s used.
If you are considering joining the ranks of the bloggers, I would welcome you to our world with these words: Paint carefully!