Christian Blogging And Social Media

For the last three months I’ve felt like I’ve been in a bit of a funk about this whole blogging and writing thing. And it’s not really the writing itself, it’s more about the way in which I should promote and share the things I write.

For a time I ended up deciding not to promote my writing on my personal Facebook profile because I felt it wasn’t who I wanted to become. I had noticed that in the previous few months nearly everything I shared was my own writing from my own blog. I didn’t want to be that guy. There’s a kind of arrogance to that, I think. There’s something not quite right only promoting and sharing the things I am doing.

Ironically (conveniently?), the last week or so has seen a few Christian bloggers commenting about the state of Christian blogs. It’s been an interesting conversation to follow.

Tim Challies’ kicked it off with a post about the kinds of blogs there are in the Christian blogosphere. He made the case that the decrease in Christian blogs is due to the rise of the rightfully named ‘ministry blog’, in amongst a brief point on the future of blogging. Samuel D. James at Letter & Liturgy then made some great points about the various effects of the ministry blog, but also raised concerns bloggers need to be aware of as they seek to have their content written. In the last few days Challies’ has again written about Christian blogging, this time encouraging more Christians to write and publish their own content on their own blog for the sake of the wider church. Again, he makes some great points and I certainly found it encouraging for my own blogging.

In this day and age of platform building through online presence, everyone being a brand, and the addictive nature of social media, it is worth thinking about the impact this has on Christian writing and blogging. For what it’s worth, here are a few more observations I believe worth consideration.

First, the temptation to stay perceptively relevant.

Years ago, when I started blogging myself, there was the belief that having your own blog helped you become a thought-leader in your field. This was, and still is, true. Sort of. The decrease in personal Christian blogs doesn’t mean there are less thought-leaders, it just means these leaders are more likely to be writing on larger ministry blogs. But for the Christian blogger who has a small audience the temptation is to try and impress others with their thoughts. To impress others usually means staying relevant and talking about topics that are ‘in the news’. In other words, writing what other big ministry sites are writing about (the irony of me making this commenting while referring to the ongoing Christian blogging conversation has not past me). I see this in the youth ministry sphere all the time. As posts comes through my RSS reader each day I find it amusing that 3-4 of the large youth ministry blogs are talking about similar things all within a few days of each other. In this way the big ministry sites are actually talking to themselves most of the time and the perception is that everyone is being relevant.

Second, the opportunity to share a message. 

Christian ministry is about the message not the man. The message is centred on the Good News, it’s not about the person who is delivering that message. Because of blogs and social media the opportunity to share this message is phenomenal.

Part of the difficulty in my wrestle to promote my own things isn’t the lack of opportunity to share whatever message I wrote about that week. It is the question of frequency and what other perceived. My own issue may have been solved if I only took time to share the writing of others. And while it is something I do, I don’t do it that often. I just don’t want to flood my own profile with my own articles, let alone other people. I also don’t want to spend an inordinate amount of time curating content. Curating. It just sounds dirty. But, it is the reality of the blogger life.

Third, the meaning of humility. 

Humility is something we as Christians strive for because we recognise we’re not the centre of the universe. This is not to say we can’t say or do anything that will increase our own profile. This can naturally happen as our writing becomes more well-known and for the message that we proclaim. However, in seeking to be humble there is to be a constant checking of our own hearts as to where we’re leaning. The temptation to think that we are better than others somehow because we publish a blog post on a Monday and Thursday each week is real. It’s real because humility is difficult to cultivate when you’re seeking to write and publish and speak a message. Again, it’s not about the messenger, it’s about the message. But because they are intrinsically linked the temptation to redefine humility in our own minds becomes a reality.

Fourth, the slow-drip social media saturation. 

Again, my little break of self-promotion provided me with conversations with people who thought I was weird. And I say this because some people were almost angry at me for stopping the promotion of my own material. They just couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t promote it. It was unfathomable to them that I stop promoting my blog posts on my personal profile and instead suggest people subscribe via email or follow my sites FB page.

To me, this pointed out how many of us Christians have been sucked into the culture of social media, platforming, and self-promotion. It has come to the point where we have no problem with any of this kind of behaviour and thinking. We don’t stop to think just how much we think of ourselves as a brand, instead this is now natural, it is what makes up personhood. Thankfully, we are able to reset ourselves when we realise that we haven’t been created as brands but as people; people who are created by God and for his purposes in this world.

Fifth, the settling of the self. 

After prayer and reflection, conversation and writing myself clear, I’ve come to a sense of peace about how I am to write, where I seek to write, and what I will and won’t promote on social media. There are, of course, no particular rules about all this, just like there are no rules in what you can read. But there is most likely a wiser course of action to take. In the end each Christian blogger needs to wrestle with who they are, who they are in light of God, and what they are seeking to get out of their own blog.

Like Samuel D. James comments, there are plenty of temptations to get more involved in social media-land because of blogging. But, there is also plenty of opportunity to find more of your own heart and character in amongst it all. When I say the ‘settling of self’, I mean finding where you are comfortable with right now as you seek to write and share for the glory of God.

The whole point in all of this has been to figure out what exactly is God calling me to do about my writing and sharing of said message. Surely, as we seek to improve our blogs as Christians, and have Christian bloggers speaking into the wider church in their own ways, we are seeking the benefit of others, serving the Church, and trying as best we can to articulate and highlight the grace and glory of God.

Of Masks and Men

stingProfessional wrestling seemed to peak in the late 90s, while I was finishing up high school. I remember nicking off from school to go watch Main Event: WrestleMania at a mate’s house, hoping to get a glimpse of Sting come down from the rafters and scare the hell out of everyone in the ring. Ah, fun times.

Sting was one of those wrestlers that wore a mask. He wouldn’t wear a corny one that looks like a piece of lycra with some holes in it. No, Sting’s mask was painted on, a white paint with some black flowing stripes. It showed enough of his face to know who it was but also hid something behind it, enough to leave some mystery.

Like entertaining wrestlers we too live behind masks. Probably more than one.

A wrestler does it for entertainment, for their work, to become someone they’re not in real life. Much like an actor playing their role in a biopic. We, on the other hand, seem to hide behind masks because we’re fearful of what others might think of us.

I wonder what masks you wear?

In Matthew 23:25-26 Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for wearing masks. He says,

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.

Jesus condemns the Pharisees and scribes for their two-faced hypocritical lives. They elevate the law and commandments and self-made rules above loving God and neighbour. They wear masks as they walk around pontificating about their own righteousness, shown by their outward signs and condemnation of other ‘sinners’. Yet on the inside these Pharisees and scribes are as unrighteous, sinful and dirty as the prostitute, tax collector, and leper.

It is hard to take our masks off. Like a woman taking off her make-up, scrubbing hard to get the foundation and blush and lippy off her face so too it is hard for us to scrub our masks off and reveal our true self to the world. If we expose our blemishes to the world we fear what people will think, we fear we will be judged, we fear we will be rejected.

Thankfully we have one that knows our true self. Thankfully we are known by Him who accepts us, blemishes and all. As much as we turn away, hide and put Him aside, God sees all of us and accepts all of us. Despite our faults and imperfections God stands with open arms accepting us just the way we are.


This post is a free writing exercise in response to The Daily Post topic ‘Mask‘. 

Inspirational Books

Inspirational books can shape and change you. They can stay with you for years and years and influence what you do and the way you live.

The other day I was asked on Facebook to list the top 10 books that “have stayed with me” in some form. While that phrase is open to interpretation I listed the following 10 books as having an impact and influence in my life thus far.

1. The Bible by God
2. Jim Elliot by Barbour Publishing
3. Charles Spurgeon by Arnold Dallimore
4. Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung
5. The Trellis & The a Vine by Tony Payne & Colin Marshall
6. The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis
7. On Writing Well by William Zinsser
8. Pity the Nation by Robert Fisk
9. D. Martin Lloyd-Jones (2 Vols.) by Iain Murray
10. Knowing God by JI Packer

What books would you list?

“N” As A Social Media Movement

This past week has been horrific in world affairs, from the continuing Israel/Gaza conflict to the MH17 disaster.

On various social media outlets over the last 24 hours there have also been reports of Christian persecution in Iraq due to the over-powering presence of the ISIS group.

As a showing of support with fellow believers in this part of the world a number of friends have begun putting the Arabic letter ‘N’ as their profile picture. I’ve joined in as well and would encourage you to do the same.

arabicNazarene

The reason for this is because the Arabic letter ‘N’ (noon) for ‘nasara’ or ‘nazarene’ is being written on Christian homes in Iraq by the strict Muslims of ISIS. This is a warning sign, telling Christians to convert to Islam, pay a subjugation tax, or expect their death. Many of these believers have taken a fourth option, fleeing. Now, there are very few Christians in this area at all.

While it’s become a small movement, and some would say doesn’t bring much change, I believe it (1) highlights the need for people to be educated about the current situation and (2) reminds people to pray for them. At least we can do that.

The original article I read about this idea was from David Ould’s blog, while there are also a number of other outlets writing about this issue, including The Telegraph here, and Murray from Mentone Baptist has a few reflections here.

Christians and Humour

Wee Sen Goh
Wee Sen Goh

There’s no denying it. I love to laugh.

The world would be a sad place if God hadn’t created us to laugh. Laughter means we’re enjoying ourselves. It means we’re enjoying the world. It means for that moment we’re having fun and are happy, no matter how short-lived that moment may be.

Thinking of the physical nature of laughter, it makes our body move, it causes us to make noise, it may even make us cry. Laughter doesn’t only show we’re having fun on the outside but it provides our bodies with activity that is beneficial to our muscles and our brain.

Laughter can help alleviate pain and sadness. Laughter can get us out of awkward conversations. Laughter can help us to not take ourselves too seriously.

This is one of the major problems with people who take things too seriously, they don’t laugh.

I know a number of fellow Christians who don’t really laugh. I’ve never seen them laugh. OK, sometimes my jokes may have been misplaced and not really funny at all but you’d think that we (Christians) would be the people of this world who would be laughing the most.

Laughing gives off a sense of confidence. There is confidence in the enjoyment of the moment and the time. As believers who are assured of life forever and worship and know God himself our enjoyment of him and everything he has provided for us should enable us to laugh. We’re creatures created to laugh.

There are of course different types of humour and some people frown upon certain types. The Australian humour of putting down others and sarcastic comments has been around for years. I can’t say I’m not immune to letting the odd sarcastic comment come out of my mouth just to get a laugh.

The other day I finished reading Stuff Christians Like by Jon Acuff. It’s funny. Really funny. It takes the mickey out of Christian culture and names it for what it is – weird. This book provides a perfect example of Christians not taking themselves too seriously. Well, at least those who read it and find it funny.

Sometimes there are people I just want to say “loosen up” to. They’re never laughing, always talking about serious things, not allowing themselves to enjoy the world.

God created us to laugh. He even wrote funny bits into his Word. Remember that guy who was listening to Paul preach and he fell out the window because he’d fallen asleep. That’s funny. Surely that’s funny. OK, he died, but then God performed a miracle and he was made alive again. The fact that he fell asleep while listening to what many people would say the world’s second greatest preacher (no one’s allowed to trump Jesus, of course) is funny.

Or think of Jonah, he gets swallowed by a large fish! Amazing and funny at the same time.

Ah, well, I enjoy laughing. I hope you do too.

What have you laughed at this week? What have you found funny? Are you enjoying what the Lord has made?

The Discerning Book Buyer

I find great pleasure in looking through bookstores – call me odd, but that’s what I like to do sometimes. Other people have their hobbies and various traits, well, mine is bookstore perusing, which most likely leads to book buying.

As I walked out of my local Christian bookstore this morning it struck me that one really needs to be discerning in what they pick up. (I must admit that I went to the store b/c it had a 20% off sale and I knew I could find some bargains somewhere in there) I feel that when I walk into this said bookstore that I know where to go to find the quality Christian books – emphasis quality. To some that will seem like an oxymoron – a Christian bookstore actually selling ‘quality’ Christian books, are there such things!? Well, in fact there are but one has to be discerning in looking for them and know what ‘quality’ means.

I find myself sometimes wondering whether other people in the store are aware of what is quality or not. I don’t mean to judge, but I suppose I do. When I see someone with a book by Joel Osteen I want to talk to them about what they’re really buying. When I see someone looking at the commentary section I want to point them to the commentaries I have found most useful and which are clearly evangelical (Tip: Go to Best Commentaries to find how they rate). When I walk into the shop and see a few people looking over the latest books, the ones right at the front I want to tell them that there are better ones down the back. While people are trying to choose a bible for their grandchild I want to let them know that it’d be better for them to have an ESV over a KJV, and if they’re a teenager then don’t get them those silly “teen” bibles, get them the real thing and help them learn for themselves what the bible says about sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.

Having said all this I realise that it is hard. Going into an unfamiliar bookstore where there are a whole range of books that are deemed ‘Christian’ makes everything seem like its OK. I mean if the Christian bookstore has for sale “The Jesus Diet” then it must an OK book, mustn’t it?

The fact is, no.

Just like everything one reads, watches, listens to, and does, care and discernment needs to be there. My encouragement would be to talk to your pastor or a Christian friend that you know reads a bit and ask them what they recommend and what they think you should stay away from. After all, it’s a dangerous world out there in “Christian bookstore land”.