At one time, it seemed like almost every Christian had a blog. Back in the early days of blogging, just about everybody went to Blogger or WordPress, began a free account, and tapped out their first few articles. Some quickly realized it wasn’t for them, but many others stuck it out for months or years. Those were fun days! It was a joy to “meet” new people through their writing and to be challenged by ordinary believers who felt a burden to tap out their reflections on Christian doctrine and living. A movement was afoot and everyone wanted to be part of it.
That seems a long time ago. Today fewer people are beginning blogs in the first place and more are abandoning the ones they began in the past. A recent check of my favorite sites found almost 30 that have gone dormant in the past few months. What’s happened? There are many possible answers and I’m sure they are as unique as the lives and circumstances of the individuals. But let me suggest a few.
The internet happened. When blogging began the internet was not nearly as developed as it is today and, frankly, it didn’t offer as many opportunities or distractions. The rise of Facebook has provided an alternative site for posting writing. YouTube and iTunes provided alternative media for self-expression—video and podcasting, respectively. And then there’s the reality that many people who once went on the internet to write now go on the internet to pursue and enjoy distraction instead. The internet of 2018 is a far cry from the internet of 2002.
Life happened. For many people, life circumstances nudged or forced them away from blogging. I’ve long observed this as being especially prominent among women. Perhaps they began to blog when they were single or newly married, but as life went on, children were born, and responsibilities increased, many no longer had the time or felt the urge. The same may be true of seminarians who became pastors, husbands, and fathers, and who were forced by other responsibilities to give up their writing. For so many people of all stripes, life just happened.
People gave up. Many people began blogs as a means to another end, as a step in building a “platform” to get them noticed by churches, ministries, or publishers. After all, since its inception the blogosphere has functioned as a kind of minor leagues for aspiring leaders to prove themselves. In some cases they got noticed and abandoned blogging in favor of the next step along their career path. In other cases they didn’t get noticed and eventually gave up. Still other people made an evaluation of the amount of effort they put into a site and the pittance they received in return and decided the math didn’t make it worthwhile. And some just plain lost the joy they had once found in it.
DG and TGC happened. Desiring God and The Gospel Coalition, and to a lesser extent True Woman, For the Church, etc, began to accept outside submissions. This changed the aspirations of writers so that instead of dreaming of having an article on their own site receive a link from DG or TGC, they instead began to work to have an article accepted by them. This allowed people to blog without all the bother of running a blog and many found this preferable. Today’s aspiring writers want to be able to include in their bio, “he has written for Desiring God and The Gospel Coalition.” I’ve received emails from more than one writer who asked, “Do you think it’s worth starting my own blog or should I just submit articles to those sites?” Quite a lot have chosen the latter path.
I’m sure there are many other reasons we could point to. But let’s make sure we don’t make the situation worse than it is. There are still many committed Christian bloggers and still a bright future for the Christian blogosphere. And with so many people opting out, there is lots of room for aspiring writers to work their way in. It’s easier than ever: Visit WordPress.com, start a site, pick your emphasis, and get to it.
(Note: Of all these factors, the one that concerns me most is the displacing of personal blogs by sites that accept outside submissions. Of course this comes with both benefits and drawbacks. The great benefit is increasing the quality of articles by putting an editor between writers and their readers. The great risk is putting editorial control between writers and readers, so that only “safe” articles will be published. In this way the Christian blogosphere is increasingly being “controlled” by a small number of people. I don’t mean to say anything negative about any of these people! But in a sense this is going backwards, removing one of the defining features of blogs in favor of a paradigm from older media. For that reason I encourage aspiring writers to continue to emphasize their own sites even as they submit articles to others. This is, perhaps, the best of both worlds.)