“Writing a blog can make me a better pastor? I thought blogs were reserved for Cheetos-eating seminarians living in their parents’ basement.”
Comments like that one have been made about blogs and bloggers since the advent of Internet 2.0 more than a decade ago. From every perch, condemnation rained down on the early adopters. But, it did not take long before those who condemned started blogs of their own, before embracing social media with both arms.
I will not argue that some blogs are a waste of time and energy; the Internet would be better off if such were cast upon the byte-heap of history. But, I will argue that blogs used well can be very profitable for ministry. Specifically, blogs can be helpful to pastors.
Blogs are inexpensive to operate and maintain (often 100 percent free), easy to use, and unlimited in reach (at least potentially). A blog can work in concert with a pastor’s ministry, expanding reach through otherwise closed doors. A person who will not let you into their house might—from its safety and security—read your blog. A person who has not been to your church might see your blog.
I am a long-time advocate of blogging, and think pastors could learn much from the discipline. Here are three reasons why:
1. It helps us think through subjects better.
Writing in general makes pastors better preachers. Writing well demands more research and a focus on language: we have to choose the right words to convey what we mean. All pastors will be better preachers, communicators, and counselors when we have a more precise vocabulary.
We live in a day—thanks to smartphones—when those in the congregation can fact-check the preacher as the sermon progresses. No matter the subject, someone will access Wikipedia, Dictionary.com, or Google Books to verify or disprove a statement. Do you want to lose credibility as a communicator, as one who purports to speak for God? Just rattle off factual mistakes week after week.
In a 2011 article in the Journal of Religion and Society (“Explaining Deconversion from Christianity”), the authors found some who left the faith
contrasted Christianity negatively with other conceptualizations of knowledge, such as science, education, and everyday common sense
experienced tension and anguish as they sought to reconcile their religious beliefs with other forms of knowledge—wanting to believe in one but unable to explain away the other. (pg 6)
It behooves us who preach to be thorough; old platitudes are not sufficient for a world with instant access to a global database of nearly all knowledge. We need to think better—more deeply—on every subject we address so we can more accurately apply the word of God to them.
2. It can make us more concise.
“And in conclusion…” said the pastor twenty minutes before the end of the sermon.
I remember standing with a pastor friend listening to another pastor preach to a large gathering. The message had been strong and he was obviously connecting. But, as he neared the end of the message, he kept going and going and going. He appeared to not know how to conclude the sermon. My friend whispered, with no little anxiety, “Land the plane! Just, land the plane!” By that he meant the job is done, turn it over to the Holy Spirit.
Jesus warned that the pagans thought they would be heard for their abundance of words (Matthew 6:7). Some pastors did not get the message and seem to have the impulse to make a weekly speech before God (Ecclesiastes 5:2).
We live in a world of brevity. The old saw about “tapping a foot while waiting on the microwave” has become true in the ways we think and process information. Some struggle to finish a long-form article. Author Philip Yancey addressed this dilemma in a Washington Post article in July 2017. Entitled “The Death of Reading,” Yancey laments:
The Internet and social media have trained my brain to read a paragraph or two, and then start looking around. When I read an online article from the Atlantic or the New Yorker, after a few paragraphs I glance over at the slide bar to judge the article’s length. My mind strays, and I find myself clicking on the sidebars and the underlined links.
Conciseness does not mean we should preach only ten minutes then race First Church to the buffet line. It does mean we should say what we have to say, avoid pointless excursions, get to the destination, and land the plane.
3. It teaches us how to interact with those who are not convinced of our views.
Most blogs allow for comments. Blog posts promoted on social media allow for even more. This is helpful if we want to engage well in this generation. British theologian and missiologist Lesslie Newbigin (1909-1998) realized this. Newbigin’s obituary notes:
His last 20 years were devoted to proclaiming the gospel as “public truth”, in the public domain because it is not just religiously true but true all the way down.
No preacher should assume our listeners are already moderately convinced of biblical truth. In fact, with Nones and Dones on the rise, fewer of them are.
As missionaries in our day to our culture, teaching truth “all the way down,” we must be ready to communicate clearly to everyone, including those who do not share our worldview. We cannot come across as didactic know-it-alls unable to have an oppositional conversation. Blogs (and social media) can help in this regard if we allow them to do so. As we come to appreciate people’s arguments and positions as learners rather than teachers, we will become better teachers and preachers in the process.