I have said a few times and in a few ways that I’m concerned about what seems to be a growing trend: Bloggers are shuttering their blogs and instead submitting articles to the major ministry sites. If they aren’t shuttering their blogs altogether, they are writing on them less or using them primarily as a kind of resume to link to the material they’ve written elsewhere. Please hear me: I appreciate those major ministries, I enjoy reading their sites, and I am grateful for the great content they share. What concerns me is that their ascension may be directly related to the decline of Christian blogging. Yet I am convinced the church will be healthier and those ministry sites will ultimately have better material to share if we continue to have a thriving Christian blogosphere.
Today I want to list a few reasons it may be better for bloggers to continue blogging on their own sites, and why we need a new generation of bloggers to take up the craft. Here are some of the benefits you may experience if you maintain your own blog (instead of only ever submitting material to the major ministry blogs). If you have your own blog…
…you serve readers by building a relationship with them. A significant part of the power of a blog is that it combines writing with personality to form a relationship between the writer and the reader. This makes it a deeply personal rather than merely abstract form of communication. Just like the personality of a pastor is a crucial component of his preaching, the personality of the writer is a crucial component of her writing. The relationship between writer and reader is developed over time so that readers are eventually compelled not just by what the writer says, but by who she is. This kind of relationship can be developed far more and far better on a blog than a ministry site. That’s because the identity of the blogger is the key factor in a blog, while the identity of the ministry is the key factor at a ministry site. The primary relationship at a blog is of the writer to the reader; the primarily relationship at a ministry blog is of the ministry to the reader, with the writer tending to fade into the background.
…you have freedom to cover any topic. When big news breaks or important ideas merit consideration, it is unlikely that you will be able to play a role in commenting or analyzing. That’s because these sites have access to scholars, experts, and in-house writers who can take on that role, and once they’ve covered it, you can’t cover it. Even if you have something to say that helpfully complements or humbly contradicts what has already been said, you won’t have the ability to say it without your own blog. In that way giving away your blog gives away your voice. It gives away your ability to contribute on what may be key issues.
…you don’t have to play it safe. The articles you submit to these ministry sites are likely to be “safe,” which is to say they will avoid controversial matters. You’ll write about topics both you and they are comfortable with. You won’t have the opportunity to push yourself in your thinking and writing. You won’t have the opportunity to express dissenting viewpoints. Instead, you’ll be forced to stick with safe explorations of common issues related to Christian living or doctrine.
…you don’t have to swing for the fences. If you only ever submit articles for consideration at the ministry blogs, you’ll become obsessed with the quality of each article. To borrow a baseball analogy, you’ll only ever swing for the fences. So much of life, and ministry, and writing is hitting singles, and learning to be okay with hitting singles, and learning to appreciate how God so often uses those singles to incrementally advance his causes. (Imagine if your pastor would only preach sermons that he believed were a home run!)
…you won’t ever release some of your most important articles. There’s also this: we vastly overestimate our ability to predict which of our articles will resonate with people and make a difference in their day or in their life. What we’re convinced is a home run is often a single and what we’re convinced is a single is often a home run. What I’ve learned over many years of doing this is that some of the articles I thought the weakest were the ones God used in the biggest ways. But I would never have submitted them to a ministry blog, which means readers never would have had the benefit of reading them. How many helpful and biblical articles are sitting unpublished because the writer thought they weren’t good enough?
…you miss the benefit of plodding. One of the great benefits of submitting articles for consideration at one of the ministry blogs is that they are passed through an editorial process. This process can strengthen the article while also providing valuable feedback to improve the quality of future submissions. However, I’m convinced the greater means of growing in skill is the practice of regular writing. Editorial feedback can supplement but never replace this. Additionally, the editorial process is not designed to help you find your voice as much as to help you find their voice. When you submit an article to these sites you may gain valuable feedback, but it’s not analogous to entering into a writing mentorship. What you may consider a key to growth as a writer will displace the even greater key. You need to plod!
…you fail to serve the wider church. Living in the bubble of Reformed writers, you may think that “everyone” reads these big ministry blogs. They don’t. Just ask around at church and you’ll see that the majority of good and godly people don’t. They haven’t formed the habit and perhaps don’t have the interest. There’s an important implication: Just because something has been said on one of these sites, doesn’t mean that it won’t be beneficial to say it elsewhere. If you can speak to a crucial topic and reach fifty or a hundred people who otherwise wouldn’t consider it, you’ve done good work. You may find the most effective way to serve others isn’t to get the message out to the widest audience, but to your audience—the one you’ve built a relationship with over time, the one who likes you, not just what you say.
Keep on Plodding
I encourage you to keep on plodding with that blogging. By all means, submit some of your best material to the ministry blogs! That is of benefit to you and them and all of us. But keep writing on your own blog as well. That’s the best of both worlds.