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Tim Challies

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This Thing Called Blogging

This thing called blogging is not nearly as easy as it looks, and this is especially true in a blog that receives a good deal of traffic. I suppose if you were to plot out the history of this blog in terms of its traffic, you would end up with a graph showing a slow but steady rise from the left of the graph (representing the time I began the site) to the right (representing today). I do not follow traffic all that closely and have never invested any time in streamlining this site for search engine optimization and the like. I just like to write and to attempt to encourage and interact with other believers. And yet a quick look at my site’s statistics shows that I should anticipate more than a million unique visits in 2007. Traffic continues to grow. And really I hate the word “traffic.” After all, each visit is made not only by a computer, but by a person. Traffic seems so dehumanizing. As the readership of this site has increased, so have the types of people who read it.

When a blog first starts out, there are typically only a few readers and the readers that do spend time at the site tend to agree with the author. When I first began writing at this site, it was only my family that read it. Eventually a few friends and friends of friends began to read it. But as it grew, people from further outside my circles began to show up. Soon it was being read by people I had never met and people whose theology was light years away from mine. As the readership grew, so did the number of theological perspectives. Needless to say, where there is a large number of perspectives, there will be a large number of disagreements.

So while today some people read the site because they tend to agree with my theological perspectives, others read it precisely because they do not. Some read it simply because they’ve heard about it and want to know what the fuss is about. Still others read it because they want to comment in the hope that people will follow a comment link back to their own blog. Some probably read it because Phil Johnson got it in his head to begin calling me “The World’s Most Famous Christian Blogger” and people who saw that title simply wanted to figure out who I am. Either way, where people used to read the site primarily because they felt some kind of affinity with me, people now read for any number of reasons.

This has introduced an interesting phenomenon and one I’ve only noticed recently. It seems that the site is now at the point that, no matter what I write, someone will disagree with me (and may just disagree vehemently). If I mention a contentious issue like the TNIV, I can be assured that someone will be bothered that I did not provide a blanket condemnation of the translation. But, of course, had I done so, others would have been bothered that I overstepped my bounds. This is inevitable, I realize. But it is requiring me to make adjustments to my mindset in regards to the blog. I am usually a person who shuns controversy and it is quite foreign to me to have to deal with people who strongly disagree with me.

I have also come to realize the importance of theological precision. I do not consider the vast majority of what I write to be systematic theology or even to be true teaching. Often I just reflect on what has been playing through my mind and make those reflections public. Yesterday, for example, I wrote about prayer and said that prayer is not something I do for me, but something I do for God. A few commenters noted this and disagreed with me, saying that there is nothing God needs from us. I do not wish to open this can of worms except to say that yesterday’s article was not meant to be a theology of prayer. Really it was more of a personal reflection upon the subject of prayer. The difference was clear in my mind and yet I suppose I failed to convey that. Either way, I’ve come to see that I need to attempt to ensure greater accuracy and precision. I may have to scale back a little bit on my personal reflections since, by definition, they do not always represent fully-formed theology. They are personal and perhaps are often better left that way.

There have been times in the past when this site has undergone something of a transition. What used to be a site that displayed photos of my family morphed into a site that was a little bit like a watchblog. And when I got tired of that game, it morphed into whatever it is now. I’ve got a feeling that another transition time is coming and that it is going to have to come if this site is to remain a useful resource. But to this point I am not sure what this transition involves. I probably won’t know until I can look back on it.

I do not say all of this to complain. It’s just that this is a new phenomenon to me and one that is going to take some adjustment. I suppose it comes with the territory and is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just something I have become aware of and something I need to ensure I am equipped to deal with. So please be patient because I’m still learning.