February 24th, 2012 marked the third anniversary of Blogging Theologically (I wrote a little bit about its origins in a post last June). In internet years, that’s the equivalent of being 1,000, I think. Anyway, since the blog began and more readers have found there way here, I’ve noticed I’ve started getting a lot of emails with the same kind of question: What advice can you give to help build my blog?
First, it’s really nice to be asked a question like this. I want to be able to help others as much as I can. But this is also a really hard question for me to answer. Honestly—and hopefully this isn’t false humility talking—I don’t know that I’ve done anything particularly special that other bloggers aren’t already doing. The advice I see most frequently given usually amounts to post daily (or at least on a regular schedule). But even then, that’s not necessarily the case—Scott Stratten (author of UnMarketing) usually gives the following advice: Just post something awesome. Doesn’t matter if it’s daily, monthly, annually… if you’ve got something awesome to say or share, post. If you don’t, don’t.
I (obviously) post daily, and my biggest goal is to post worthwhile content, whether it’s an original piece, a quote I’ve appreciated from a really good book or sermon, or the occasional video. But aside from content—because, honestly, I think everyone gets that whatever you’re posting should be great—I want to give to offer a few pieces of advice (much of which comes from an interview I did with Darryl Dash earlier in February) and look at how I’ve been trying to apply these things over the last year:
First, and most importantly, be who you are. Don’t try to be Tim Challies, Trevin Wax, Justin Taylor or whichever big name bloggers you read because you’ll only be frustrated and disappointed (and really, no one wants to read a copycat, it’s no fun).
This past year, I think/hope I managed to find my “voice” as a writer. I’m not super-skilled, I’ve never taken a course in journalism or anything like that, but probably the best thing I’ve done is made sure I’m reading more broadly. So even though I’m reading a large amount of contemporary material, I’m also trying to get into the riches of the past as much as possible, as well as reading a good deal of material that falls outside the Christian realm. It’s like D.A. Carson’s advice to young preachers—if you listen to a lot of different men, you’re more likely to actually start to sound like you, rather than a bad imitation of your favorite preacher.
Second, contend well. There is a great temptation to chase gossip and controversy like so many watch-bloggers do and it’s just wicked nonsense. God is not honored by that sort of behavior. Don’t shy away from addressing a difficult subject if you have something of merit to say, particularly on a pressing issue, but try your best to be known for what you’re about rather than what you’re against.
This past year—indeed, even this calendar year, I’ve worked very hard to practice this and in recent weeks have written a fair amount on it. It’s always tempting to go there because, let’s face it, controversy generates traffic (as Tony Jones rightly pointed out on his blog—and yes, that just happened). But if I even considered chasing every controversy, two things would happen: one, my wife would rightly rebuke me and so would my pastor. Which brings me to my next point…
Third, get some accountability. Probably the biggest danger for bloggers is not having any visible form of accountability. Anyone who doesn’t have this needs to get it. Now.
Not that I ever really ran without some form of accountability (Emily is always in the loop on what I post, and I have a number of friends who are always willing to ask questions), but up until last year, I didn’t have anything formal in place. So in 2011, I asked our pastor to keep an eye on things and speak into anything that he finds questionable and it’s been a weight off my shoulders. The idea of not being under any authority makes me extremely uncomfortable, so I’m grateful that he’s willing to do this.
Finally, be content with whatever influence God gives you. If you have one person reading your blog and finding it helpful, praise God. If 10,000 read it, praise God just the same. Don’t worry about things like traffic or trying to parlay your following into a book deal or any such thing. Just have fun and appreciate whatever impact God allows you to have.
Whenever I check the traffic stats on the blog, it simply amazes me. I still remember the first day I had 24 pageviews for the whole day, and I still kind of think of it a bit like that (even though I know it’s not). All that to say, I’m really grateful for you all making this site a part of your day. Thanks!