Am I Blogging to the Choir?

Sharon Communication, Discipleship 5 Comments

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Lately I’ve been thinking about what it means to write and teach without merely “tickling the ears” of my readers. In the age of the internet this goal is tough, not because I can’t find anything substantive to talk about, but because of the nature of the internet itself.

Just think about it: If I write something that readers don’t like, they can post a nasty comment or refuse to engage what I’ve said, and never visit my blog again. If I write something that readers do like, they will probably return for more.

In some instances, a reader who dislikes the content may return as a “guardian of truth” type, sensing it is their duty to correct false teaching. But these vigilante commenters aside, blogs don’t retain regular readers who disagree with them, because blogs don’t require readers to endure teaching that makes them uncomfortable.

A reader can dismiss a message she dislikes with the click of the mouse.

Because of this dynamic, I’ve noticed that blogs often fail to challenge a truly diverse set of readers. The word “challenge” is important here. Some blogs acquire a wide array of readers, generally speaking. If I say something sensational or provocative, I’m likely to attract all sort of eyes. But the question is not whether I am attracting people; the question is whether I’m challenging them to learn and develop. Are my words fostering spiritual growth? Are my blog posts pressing Christians to examine themselves honestly and humbly?

I’m not sure how many bloggers can do this well. While a lot of writers critique hypocrisy in the church, it is often a hypocrisy “out there,” a hypocrisy that they themselves are not guilty of. A Reformed blogger will object to the bad theology of another Christian leader, and his regular Reformed readers will all nod in agreement. A progressive evangelical blogger will call out the sexism in another strand of the church, and her regular readers will shout “Amen!”

These types of discussions certainly have their place in the church, but I wonder how often they produce personal growth. If Christians only read the leaders who a) Share the same theological allegiances, and b) Largely criticize “other Christians” without leveling the self-examination at themselves, then are they likely to grow?

It’s possible. But they are also likely to become more entrenched in their own views.

2 Timothy 4:3 warns,

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.

Sometimes I wonder, is this what the internet has become? Do Christians gravitate toward the blogs that “suit their own passions”?

Even if those passions are well-directed toward a concern for social justice or sound theology, 2 Timothy should give us pause. In this day and age, it’s so easy to read blogs that affirm what we already believe, and to filter out any messages that don’t.

As a writer myself, I think my best teaching comes from my own experiences, my own mistakes, and my own areas of growth. When I first started writing I mostly addressed issues “out there”–and there is indeed a place for that kind of teaching–but this approach can also dodge the need for heart change. I can sit in judgment over the decline of culture, art, virtue, etc. without ever examining myself and my own sin.

I think the best way to avoid tickling the ears of my readers is to speak out of my own life. As God convicts me and illuminates His Word in new ways, I hope I can relate it in a way that speaks into your life as well. At the end of the day, that’s what I really desire for anyone who visits my blog. I hope that God will use my words to encourage you in your faith and love for Christ.

If you have any ideas on how I can do that better, please share. Within the context of the internet, how can Christian bloggers avoid “tickling ears”? And what kinds of blogs are most likely to challenge you to grow?

Comments 5

  1. Tim

    Sharon, that is a great reflection on 2 Timothy 4:3.

    For me, one way I see my blog is as if it were a book or article: writers get loyal readers because people like the writing or topics, and no one suggests it should be otherwise.

    Another way I see my blog, though, is the same that you lay out here. I write from my experience and how my life intersects with faith and Scripture. That tends to narrow the population of people who find it worth their while, but it also makes it easier to stay true to my overall desire to glorify God with my writings.

    Thanks for helping me think through this today, Sharon.

    Tim

  2. Erica

    Hi Sharon,

    I’m a Duke grad who learned about your blog through friends and I’ve been reading it for maybe 2 years. I love it, but probably because I already agree with most of the stuff you write, you’re just articulating it for me. So you are right about that.

    However, I also work with high school and college girls at my church and I frequently direct them to your blog posts and other resources when I think that it is relevant to what they are dealing with in their lives (especially your earlier dating posts). Maybe if they found your blog on their own, they wouldn’t listen, but I imagine that being directed to it by someone else opens their ears to what you are saying, even if they don’t agree initially.

    So I just want to encourage you that yes, people can stop reading if they don’t like it, but at the same time the Holy Spirit is active and sometimes it takes the combination of your writing plus some personal encouragement for people to hear difficult things. But God is good and he looks after his little sheep. So keep writing! You’re doing good work!

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  4. MsPomegranate

    Sharon, I can tell you that there have been many times when your posts have been in perfect harmony with a message the Lord has been trying to teach me! We don’t know each other at all, but its the Spirit who is using your words to confirm a truth He has planted in my heart. I suspect its similar for other readers. Keep investing in your relationship with the Lord and continue to let Him lead you in your posts — He is speaking through you and I have been blessed by it. 🙂

  5. Vega

    Hello Sharon, I found your blog some months ago and have been following your thoughtful and compelling writing ever since.

    Thanks for a great question – it sure got me thinking why I faithfully follow certain Christian blogs. I think you already came up with the same answer as I did – steadfastness and authenticity. I can imagine how easy it is to give up on writing convicting posts when they become controversial or targets of criticism, etc, but I appreciate the bloggers who continue to post faithfully in spite of the opposition. Authenticity helps, but authenticity AND truthfulness is what keeps me coming back. In fact, I know the blogger is writing truth BECAUSE I’m being convicted by the posts!

    Thanks for being such a faithful blogger and speaking out of your own life — even if a post doesn’t affect me directly, like another commenter said, your blog becomes a resource that I can direct other people to. So (just like everything in God!) I think the “payoff” comes in the long run: that your blog becomes a watering hole that many people can come to, and invite their friends to partake.

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