So you’ve written a blog post, and although you know you shouldn’t, although you know that what matters is that you’re writing, that you’re finding your voice, that you’re doing this for you and, hopefully, God, you still can’t help but look at your statistics page…
It’s a temptation for any blogger. I’ll admit that I’m far, far more stats obsessed with my other blog; here I’m basically typing up the notes of my Bible study and hoping that they might be of some use to others, whereas Geeks Shall Inherit The Earth is far more of a blogging-for-blogging’s-sake project (so it gets frustrating when so many people show up there just looking for the lyrics to ‘I Am The Music Man’).
All of which is very high-minded, but all the same, it’s nice to know that you’ve got an audience to communicate this stuff to. Unfortunately that gives rise to insecurity.
Take yesterday, for instance. At first glance I had one of my best days in terms in statistics. All well and good until I looked at it closely and found that I’d had 11 visits from the Republic of Tanzania, a country from which I’ve never received traffic before. That sort of anomaly stokes my paranoia – it would be great to think that I’d been quoted somewhere in Tanzania and that 11 people were enjoying my blog, all within a few minutes of each other, but my cynicism kicks in – was it an attempt to attack my blog? Was it spam? Did someone spill Pepsi into one of the servers?
That’s the thing with blogging. You never know how many real people you’re talking to as opposed to spam robots, especially as that could mean that no-one’s reading some of your posts. That’s why comments, even something as simple as “Great post!” or “You suck!”, are important. At least you know someone’s out there.
This is less of a problem with preaching. I’m doing the Methodist Church’s ‘Faith and Worship’ course, and so far people have been really nice, coming up to me after the service and engaging with what has been said. And no-one’s said “You suck!”, which is nice. Sure, you might deliver an apocalyptically bad sermon, but at least you know that the congregation are real and physically in the room with you. That chat with a preacher at the end of a sermon can be an enormous encouragement, even for someone like me who isn’t much of a chatter – I tend to veer between taciturn and verbal diarrhoea.
Okay, let’s not be naive – some of this stuff grows out of ego. It’s human nature. We like to be appreciated and like to hear we’re appreciated. And the flipside of this is that we can be bad at expressing that appreciation, because you get busy after the sermon and you miss thanking the preacher, or you read a blog on your smartphone and the commenting software doesn’t work, or you’re sneaking a read of an article while doing thirty other things, or…
That’s the paradox isn’t it? We like to be appreciated but we’re not always great at showing appreciation to others. Here I am, holding my hands up to that.
But there’s another side to this for Christian Bloggers (note the capital letters). There’s a drive, a passion, a calling to communicate something of God out there in the blogosphere and we want that to be heard, not because of ego but because, well, we want to talk about God and there’s no point preaching to an empty church. I don’t care how advanced artificial intelligence is getting, no-one’s ever spoken into the spiritual life of a spambot.
And so these are issues, yes, but God has a way of teaching us lessons through our issues. Here are the lessons he’s been trying to get through to often-unresponsive me:
1. If you’re doing this for God, then he’s your chief audience. It doesn’t matter if the majority of your audience turns out to belong to Skynet, you’re writing this for God. And that means striving for excellence and honesty and concentrating on what God’s saying to you through your writing. Because not only is God your most important audience, if he’s blessing your writing, if he’s speaking through it and inspiring it, then the other chief audience for your blog is you. Because sometimes the message that needs to be communicated isn’t aimed at someone in a cybercafé in downtown Tokyo, it’s aimed at the person actually writing it. If God can be a co-pilot, he can also be a co-writer.
2. One of the ‘life verses’ for bloggers should be Isaiah 55:10-11, which says that God’s word “…will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Even when we feel like we’re banging our heads off our monitors, contemplating with despair the vast and empty wilderness of our patch of cyberspace, we need to trust that, if God’s put this love of blogging in our hearts, it’ll achieve the purposes he (and not necessarily we) wants it to achieve. And maybe the posts that don’t get an immediate response aren’t ready for it yet, or are teaching us humility, or, worst case scenario, include stuff that needs to be ignored. In this sense it’s the same with any communicative ministry – get the words out there and let God do the rest because he knows what he’s doing.
But that still won’t stop me looking at my stats page… 😉