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.