Recently Tim Challies started a conversation about the personal blog–its slow decay and his hope for its revival. And since I’ve been on the cutting edge of absolutely nothing since 1981 and counting (including starting a blog–I started mine right when everyone and their mom had one in 2008), I thought I’d throw my johnny-come-lately two cents in the ring.
I appreciate Tim’s keen sense of why personal blogs are important in how, why, and what we communicate as Christians who are part of a larger, sometimes cookie-cutter like online world of articles. As someone who has refused to give up personal blogging even as I now spend considerable time writing for ministry websites and other publications, I get it. I know that this space gives me a different sort of freedom in writing with my own voice and saying precisely what I want to say. It’s not that there’s no filter here (that would be terrible for everyone!), it’s that the filter allows for a personal style and voice that doesn’t suit larger sites. But I also have to say that my gratefulness for Desiring God, their laser focus on glorifying God, their work to spread the Good News of great joy to everyone they possibly can, and their willingness to let me be part of something so much bigger than me is over the moon. Bigly grateful.
You can find good contributions by Kristen Wetherell, Samuel James, and Jen Oshman in response to Challies. I just want to add one fairly narrow thing to the conversation, and I suppose it applies to all writing, but it especially applies to personal blogging.
Tim argues that the problem with many blogs is that they exist mainly for the writer, not the readers–they are self-serving rather than written in service of others. He spells that out here and here. I think he’s right that the main problem with personal blogs is the personal people writing them. We’re altogether human. The greatest strength of personal blogging is also the greatest weakness.
So here’s my small contribution to this topic: One of the best ways I can serve readers is by not being a jerk. It’s by practicing, not just pontificating. And writing a personal blog is one of the ways God pushes the floorboards of his Word and his ways into the corners of my life. I’m not sharing my diary, I’m sharing the things that have gone through the Refiner’s fire, things that absolutely ought to edify, admonish, encourage, and strengthen you, the reader. But what use are they if they haven’t been applied here first, to my personal life? What use am I to readers if my writing doesn’t take the speck out of my own eye before trying to get logs out of everyone else’s? And I believe letting readers in on that process in our personal lives is powerful. It’s our testimony of what God is doing, of his transforming power.
In this sense, I think all writing should be for the writer in the same way I think that spending a large portion of my time in prayer for myself is an unselfish thing to do. Begging God to make me more like his Son, repenting of my own sins, is actually not just for my good, but serves my husband, my children, and everyone I come in contact with. Of course, pray for others too! Diligently, faithfully, regularly. Serve them in prayer, but remember that it is a true service to others to pray that God would help you treat them as a Christian ought to. I believe it was George Mueller who said, “the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord.” Wouldn’t you want to spend the day with someone like that? Wouldn’t you be edified by being around that sort of person?
Similarly, the first and primary business a writer ought to attend is to receive his or her own words (if they are a faithful re-telling of God’s words), apply them to his or her own life, and humbly turn from thinking our mere pontification is helping people. Then we will begin to serve our readers.