3 Ways Blogging Teaches Me To Be A Better Missionary

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Sometimes I feel like I live a double life.

I spend my days sitting with the world’s poor in their houses made of natural bush materials while getting eaten by mosquitoes and studying the Bible.  For perspective, here’s my interview with some people from PNG.


By night (I’ve changed my habits – I now write in the mornings), I sit down in front of my $750 computer and write articles geared at the the Western world.

However, I’ve been reflecting lately on the ways that blogging parallels missionary work.

Focus on the Right Stats

Most bloggers are big on stats.

When you write a blog, you can track the number of people who come to your site, the number of minutes (or seconds they stay), the pages they view when they’re on your site, and a dizzying array of other stats.

The stats are a way to establish your authority as a blogger.  The value of your site is directly tied to the amount of traffic you have (or so “they” say).

However, as a blogger you need to decide what stats are the most important in trying to accomplish your goal.

For me, three stats are the most important: number of page views, length of visit, and number of subscribers.  Oh, and I almost forgot – income.

Some bloggers get excited when they have a post that generates a lot of traffic.  You might have hundreds of extra visits in a day, but those folks stay for a few seconds and never return again.  While this might help some of your stats, it does no effective or practical good.

Missionaries, unfortunately, are also big on stats.

In the missionary world, stats are shared through a medium called a newsletter.

The problem is that there is no consensus, like blogging, on the best way to measure stats.

A newsletter might arrive from a missionary who speaks of 1,000 baptisms in the last 6 months.  However, a key question is: how many baptized believers are actively worshiping today?  How many lives are changed and transformed by the presence of Jesus Christ?

I’d much rather see core, committed, faithful Christians than a surge of numbers of new converts.  It is important that supporting churches (overseeing missionary organizations) and the missionary have a clear sense of what makes a ministry “successful”.

People Commonly Add Meaning to a Written Text

I’m going to put a BIG FAT disclaimer at the front end of this point.  My comments reflect how we read and in no way insinuate my writing is equal to God’s written word.

For several decades, Bible scholars have been debating how much people can really purely ‘receive’ from the Word of God.  They say that people, based on their experiences, will insert meaning into the biblical text rather than receiving truth from the biblical text.

I’ve always been on the side that we can, difficult as it might be, put aside our backgrounds and experiences and begin to discover biblical truth.

However, at times I read comments responding to either my own posts or others’ posts, and those comments do not at all relate to the actual content.  It is clear from some comments that there are a lot of issues or baggage that is bothering people.  Some comments do not completely reflect the content of the post; instead, feelings, background, and emotions are inserted in dialogue with the post.

As I’ve been blogging, I’ve realized how hard it is for a text to stand as text without the insertion of personal emotions, experiences, and agendas.

As a missionary, I now more carefully focus on ensuring that my experiences do not get inserted into a biblical text, and thus, ultimately change the meaning.  As I study with people, I also warn them of this potential danger.

The Topic Must Mean Something

The difference between preaching on a Sunday morning and blogging is that the congregation does not have a “back” button on their web browser tool bar.

With blogging, if it gets boring, the readers get going. (Congrats if you’ve manage to read this far into this post).  People read was matters to them.  Blog posts with practical suggestions on “how to” or “15 ways to” are much more popular.  For an article to be read, it must apply to what is happening in a person’s life, and it must help them in some way.

For far too many years, I held congregations captive based on my interests and preferences.  We studied some fantastic biblical passages, but ultimately, the congregation was sent home without any action plan for living a faithful Christian life.

While there are definitely some dangers of topical preaching (too much to discuss here today), I am learning from blogging that preaching must mean something in the daily lives of people.  This becomes increasingly more relevant as the pace and attention span of people change.


  1. says

    I appreciated this post, Craig. Thanks for sharing what you’ve learned!

    I’d be interested in hearing what you think about the dangers of topical preaching sometime, though it’s not very relevant to personal finance. :) I see some of the dangers that are evident today (like taking verses out of context and completely missing the point), but I also see how they can be used well to fully deal with a subject. That’s sort of what I tried to accomplish with my studies on contentment, work, prosperity, and giving. I tried to look at everything in Scripture related to the topic but within proper context. Then I looked for what God was teaching us throughout the Bible. It’s very difficult and time consuming to study this way. I’d say even more so than expository style in some ways.

    Anyway, thanks for this article!

    • says

      You are exactly right. I think for too much “Bible study” these days is merely a pooling of ignorance. Person A tells the others what they think about a Bible verse they’ve never studied and then Person B comments on the comment Person A makes.
      In the end a lot of discussion has happened and perhaps learning has taken place, but no one is any closer to knowing what the Bible says about the topic.
      There is a trend amongst scholars to promote the same thing you are discussion. So for example, with Liberation Theology people in a third world context would read scripture differently than those from the first world.
      There is two ways to read the Bible. One is through exegesis (take from the word) and the other is eisigesis (I didn’t look up the spelling so that is probably wrong) where we insert into the Word. While our experiences impact how we read the Bible we want to be sure that our reading is no simply inserting our ideologies. However, when we read the Bible from our own brokenness, you are right, that that enhances our experience of the Word as God can minister to us through the Bible
      The basic danger of topical preaching is that you are more likely to share your thoughts through the guise of a Bible lesson.
      As an example, if you are doing a sermon/class/blog post about “Lending in the Bible”. You are going to see Prov. 22:7. Before I read the passage I know what I believe so there is no reason to dig deeper. You grab that text plus 50 other Bible verses (none of which you really studied) and claim to have an idea about they say. But, until you study the surrounding context and spend a substantial amount of time with a passage it is hard to get past what you might learn in a cursory reading.
      The style of much topical work: I search my concordance and get some Bible verses that support my idea and, voila, I have a message from God. If on the other hand I studied one single Bible verse for an extended period I’m more likely to come away with an understanding of what that text meant.
      I once heard a teacher say you need to preach and study passages exegetically for 40 years before you should be so bold as to think you can spend a minute reading a verse and have any idea what it means.
      Sorry for all the long responses, but I should have warned you guys that Bible study and theology is as more of my a passion than personal finances.

  2. kelliinkc says

    Another thought provoking post. Especially the part about how much purely Bible truth we get from reading the Bible from our perspective. Of course, while I do agree, I am struck also by a thought that a possible flip benefit could be that because we are bringing certain baggage with us to that reading that particular reading might really speak to us at that moment because of that baggage. An argument could be made that that is exactly how God wants it to be in order to reach each of us on our level. I’m not saying that there aren’t times that our background prevents us from hearing the “intended” message just that at any given time it could work both/either ways. Good work!

  3. says

    I am not a missionary or a preacher, but I do teach an adult Sunday School class. I love to make sure there is plenty of discussion in the class as we share our lives, but I never ask, “What does this passage mean to you?” My challenge is to teach sold biblical truth without giving the impression that the truth changes (like a chameleon) depending on the person and the circumstances. Hopefully, we can learn the truth first and then apply it to our lives.

    There…did I leave a comment that was irrelevant to your post? :)

  4. says

    Thanks for your response, Craig.

    I did a bit of further reading on the subject after I commented on your post. I see what you’re saying and what others have said about the dangers of topical preaching (namely, inserting your own opinions and taking verses out of context).

    However, I don’t think that exegetical/expository preaching is completely free from these dangers. By looking at just one verse in its context and not looking at other related verses throughout Scripture, you can take what that verse out of context of the entire Bible. And I think there’s always the danger of inserting your own opinions and only seeing what you want.

    I agree that many people misuse the topical style of preaching, but I think there is a higher middle ground between the two styles. And that’s exegetically studying a single topic throughout Scripture – looking at each verse says in context and looking at how all the verses fit together. This is very time consuming, but I think it can be immensely valuable based on my own results.

    I believe using this method to study contentment, work, prosperity, and giving has helped me see the full scope of God’s plan for our finances – especially how it relates to eternity. I’m not saying I have it all figured out. (You know I’d be the first to admit I don’t.) But I know this style of studying (and it can be applied to preaching) has greatly deepened my understanding of money in the context of serving God.

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts with me. I shudder when I see verses blatantly taken out of context, so I understand your concerns about sermons that preach man’s word and not God’s.

    • says

      You’re exactly right. I’d say it comes down to two words. Time and place. There is a time and place for both types.
      Honestly, I do more topical preaching now because the person who I primarily rotate preaching with does exegetical preaching. I think the two styles provide a good balance.
      Typically when you are doing exegetical preaching you will eventually branch out form your assigned text and cover other relevant passages. However, if the Corinthians only had Corinthians to figure out what Paul was saying then we ought to be able to do the same – use one letter/book to fully grasp the authors intended meaning.
      Now, with your study work, prosperity, and giving that is a great example of how and why topical studies work. I think more classes need to be topical. Issues that address the topics people are dealing with.
      As a general rule, if I preach and teach on the same Sunday one will be exegetical and one will be topical.

  5. says

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and the benefits of blogging! It’s people like you who are the true heroes in this world and I appreciate what you are doing with your life. You are an inspiration!
    Ted Wallace

  6. says

    Thanks for your reply, Craig. I’m embarrassed at all the typos I had in that last comment! I think my mind was going faster than my fingers. :)

    I see what you’re saying with your Corinthians example, but I think we can find a lot of value in understanding a passage in light of the rest of Scripture.

    I’ve also been thinking that it’s funny how exegetical/expository zealots seem to miss the fact that such sermons do tend to focus on a topic. That topic usually comes from the passage, but it also comes with the preacher’s bias. That is, if there are multiple topics within a passage, then the preacher is likely to focus on the ones that he feels are most important rather than treat them all equally.

    Thanks for this discussion! I’ve been studying this a good bit recently and your thoughts have helped me.

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