10 Things I’ve Learned After A Year Of Christian Blogging

Today is the first anniversary of the blog! After 12 months, and well over a million and a half readers, I’ve learned a few things:

10. I’m not alone, and neither are you.

When I started blogging, I was feeling really, really alone in my own faith journey. I’ve always been one of those misfit toys who felt out of place everywhere and at home nowhere, and had the false notion that I was somehow unique. As it turns out, I’m not– there are thousands of us out here who are committed to following Jesus but weary of American Christian culture. One of the most common emails I receive are ones that, in one way or another, say “I no longer feel alone”.

My response? Well, neither do I… anymore. I’m glad all of you are here and committed to walking this journey together.

9. No matter what you say, someone will hate it (and some will probably love it).

I’ve learned that it is impossible to hit one out of the park, or write something that pleases both sides of an issue. No matter what you say, there’s always going to be someone who will take the time to tell you how wrong you are. However, the nicer side of that coin is that there are also plenty of people who will take the time to tell you how much you’ve encouraged or challenged them.

8. Fan mail has the potential to be just as detrimental as hate mail (but it sure is encouraging in the moment).

Earlier in my journey Nadia Bolz-Weber gave me some good counsel, warning me that fan mail can be equally damaging as hate mail if not handled right. If one is getting their value and identity from how much they please others, and if one’s identity is likewise at the mercy of those who are displeased, it can be equally toxic. I’ve always remembered Nadia’s advice and have worked hard to make sure I don’t catch myself “drawing life” from the emails or messages I receive. I still take the time to read and try to respond to the emails I get, but am very cognizant that either type of mail has the potential to be damaging if not handled properly.

7. Don’t feed the trolls.

I have often sucked at this one, but am committed to doing better with it in this next year of blogging. Some people exist simply to dissent and disagree. Others see their mission in life as “defending the faith”, which would be fine if that didn’t mean living in a constant state of correcting others on every topic imaginable. Unfortunately, these types of people tend to get life and meaning from causing a reaction in others– to have the reaction, is to simply feed the cycle and reward the behavior. In year two, I’m going to work hard to never feed a troll and will be more quick in banning them to create a more safe space for people.

6. No one wants to be hated by their peers.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to learn this lesson the hard way, but it is a lesson that I try to keep in the forefront of my mind. No one wants to be hated by the peers who are most closely around them. That’s why, as opinionated as I am and as much as I may at times disagree with some others, there’s certain people I refuse to “go after”. Some bloggers take a different approach and are willing to go after anyone– this might be good for ratings, but it’s a horrible way to be relational. I want my peers to interact with me– I don’t want them to hate me– no one does.

5. There’s no special trick or gimmick to successful blogging.

People have often asked me for blogging advice or if there are any tips to building a large audience. Unfortunately, there’s really no trick or gimmick to successful blogging– my only advice is to write really good content in a way that others connect with. When I write, I know the precise audience I am writing to and try to say what I believe they are thinking but probably can’t articulate themselves. When you get the mixture right, crazy things happen– so just keep writing and producing solid content for an audience that is well defined in your mind.

4. If sex sells in the print ad world, Mark Driscoll sells in the blogging world.

I’m not sure why this is the case– as much as people hate Driscoll, they sure do love to read about him. This is where a blogger has to decide if they’re going to sell their soul to the god of ratings… making each time I blog about Driscoll something I put a lot of thought into as I consider my own motivations. If I comment, I want it to be because I think there’s something important and worthwhile to discuss, not because I’m seeking to boost my numbers for the month.

3. Don’t blog when you’re in bad space.

When I look back at the past year, there are a few posts that I now regret and would either not write at all today, or would have worded much differently. The key reason why I think I went wrong in these instances, was firing off a blog post when I was in bad space for whatever reason. There’s something about writing that reveals, beneath the text, what’s going on in the author’s heart and mind. In the future, I’m going to be more careful that I do not hit the “publish” button until I’ve reviewed the piece from better space. We all have bad days, but the unfortunate truth as a mega blogger is that your bad days get seen by thousands and thousands of people.

2. There can be an amazing sense of community in the online world, if you work to build it.

While I’ve often thought that online community is a poor substitution for interpersonal relationships, there is still tremendous value to online community– if you build it. While I’ve had a lot of real-life friends distance themselves from me since the blog took off, I’ve also had the opportunity to get to know some really, really amazing people online. From my MennoNerd friends to atheist readers, some of the online friendships I’ve made have come to be a tremendous source of encouragement for me. My hope is that in the year to come, you’ll keep coming back and interacting on the blog so that we can all grow together.

1. There is every reason to be hopeful for the future of Christianity in America.

With all the drama we’ve seen in the last year, the truth remains that I am more hopeful for the future of Christianity in America than ever before. The old guard is drifting into the sunset, and those who are preparing to help lead American Christianity into a new era are some really amazing people. The new era, as I can see it from my porch, is one where thousands and thousands of people are ready to follow a Jesus who looks like the Jesus we find in the New Testament instead of an hybrid, American version. This gives me tremendous hope that the Christianity my daughter will inherit will be a far more beautiful version of Christianity than what I was given.

///

THANK YOU, to all of my readers over this past calendar year! Please know, that I truly value each one of you. Having the opportunity to get to know so many of you over this past year, and having the opportunity to watch you grow, has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

Much love,

Ben

 

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  • http://www.theepiscocrat.com/ Episcocrat

    Congrats on a great fist year. I’m relatively new to you, but I look forward to sharing life with you and your readers on-line. I both love and hate blogging, and at times am tempted to go off-line permanently. But I agree with you that there is a proper and healthy context to on-line relationships. Here’s to year two!

  • Mark Lee Schnitzer

    I have followed you for quite some time now, because what you say has always resonated with my soul, I am 55 and sometimes feel out of place in my thinking, People “my age” in Christianity tend to be stuck in a time warp and when I suggest that there may be a better way, I am shut out of my group…as I have been to much of Evangelicalism in the last few years. By God’s grace He led me to your blog and I am very grateful for that. Thanks for your words of wisdom, and your insight.
    Peace to you.
    Mark

  • Sirjoyful

    I am looking forward to the future of your blog. Reading your first year’s worth of posts has ignited a re-examining of my own faith and positions on things. I do believe that God is using you to help change some lives

  • Ruaidrí Ó Domhnaill

    Thanks and congratulations for the first year, Benjamin! Thanks for the encouragement and for understanding that the rest of us are misfits too.

  • Paul Frazier

    This is a good list also for the practice of parish ministry. Many thanks.

  • Jill Roper

    Dear Ben;
    I want to say congratulations on your first year. You have challenged me as none before. I appreciate and respect you. Thank you .
    Your not so covered sister

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

    Thanks Jill! I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately and praying that you were well!

  • Jill Roper

    thanks. I’ve been struggling with grief that has such a grip on me. I have started writing and blogging again to help. Wont become a famous writer like you but I love it. I could sure use your prayers. blessings friend

  • gimpi1

    I’m sorry to hear you’re having hard times, Jill. If it’s not too personal, what has been weighing you down with grief?

  • http://Www.theirishatheist.wordpress.com/ The Irish Atheist

    For as long as you remain here writing, Mr. Corey, I will be here harassing you after drinking wine far too early in the day, and that’s a promise.

    Here’sh ta anuthrrr…year (hic) an’ may ye have many mur…a’ Path’yos (hic).

  • eric kurfman

    Congrats! And I want you to know that your #10 has been my #1 reason for reading your blog. Thank you so much for your faithfulness.
    And I am beginning to believe your #1 just might be true…maybe. Hopefully. ;-)

  • Guest

    Admittedly, I’m new to this site as well as the entire blogging community in general. Without being too wordy, I’d like to share a bit about my background: Spending 8 years as a former freelance journalist in the Heavy Metal world only to leave to focus on my own music, I’ve since found myself permanently disabled, unable to play music anymore, work, drive, etc. Not only has multiple failed surgeries and unbelievable pain changed my life in obviously bad ways, it’s also strengthened my faith beyond belief, completely renewing my Spirituality. Gradually, I began writing again, but instead of writing about guitars, obscure bands from Norway, and metal culture in general, I found myself writing about God, what I read that particular day in the bible, or even an interesting dream I had. After what I wanted to be a short introduction, I’d like to add that I’m researching starting my own blog instead of printing things I write out and sending them to relatives. Thank you Mr. Corey for a great article about blogging and your experiences. I think the Big Guy up in heaven may have led me to reading some of your articles as I was reading Frank Schaeffer’s advice earlier. I’m looking forward to reading more of your work, sir, God Bless, and thanks again for the inspiration!

  • http://triangulations.wordpress.com/ Sabio Lantz

    Two comments:

    (1) I don’t think Christianity will disappear. So sure their is hope. But like every era, it will have to keep re-marketing itself.

    (3) Banning trolls is great, but it should be those who violate your commenting policies. (I see you don’t have one). Otherwise, you just create an echo chamber and learn nothing. It is great to get nothing but positive feedback. The dictator in N. Korea knows how to do that to. I am proud to say I have been banned on both Atheist and Christian sites.

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

    I’m thinking about developing one. I’ve only banned about 10 people in 12 months, and not for disagreement– just for unnecessary language, daily antagonizing readers, being a general ass, etc. If you’ll look through, I have a lot of dissenters in most pieces.

  • http://triangulations.wordpress.com/ Sabio Lantz

    Yeah, a comment policy is a good idea. 10 in 12 months is a high banning rate! BTW. I’ve banned 3 in 5 years — all of the atheists. Who knows, I may be your 11th ban in 13 months.

  • Mark Buchanan

    The banning rate isn’t significant. The rate really depends on the author and type of discussion that is desired. I’ve been part of a discussion group that has an extremely low banning rate for years (evolution/creation where things can get really nasty). The low banning rate seems to correlate to the general quality of discussion however, far to much time can be spent in just filtering out the worthless stuff.

  • BT

    Love the list. #10 is #1 for me. Before bloggers like you, Nadia, Brian McL. etc I felt much the same.

    Thank you.

  • Tlynn

    Incredibly late congratulations. I am spending the day getting caught up on all of your blogs that I missed. I have always appreciated your writing though I rarely comment. Keep up the good work.