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.