Blog’ is short for ‘weblog’. A blog is a type of website, but differ from the usual site style, by having these characteristics:
- An informal, personal, ongoing diary-type commentary by an individual: either about his/her life, or opinion/news about a specific topic.
- Most blog entries are plain-text mini-articles, though pictures, audio, and even video clips can be incorporated too.
- Latest blog entry appears near the top of the front page, with previous entries below it in date order.
- Blog entries are usually short; longer posts are sometimes split so the balance of the item is on a new page.
- Readers often have the opportunity to add their own comments about a blog entry, or even respond to other people’s feedback.
- Readers can opt to receive an alert by RSS every time a new entry is posted on the blog.
Most blogs are created and updated through a web-based interface system such as Blogger. No technical knowledge is needed to start a blog, though technically-minded people can install software on their servers to create more sophisticated and customizable blogs.
So-called ‘blogging’ has vastly grown in popularity over the last few years – the whole world of blogging is sometimes called the ‘blogosphere’. It matches (and shapes) the modern desire to receive (and be able to comment on) information in short personalized conversational blocks. Many people, even in the Western world, are in fact some distance along the oral communication spectrum.
Key differences: blogs versus other websites
There is a vital structural difference between a blog and a typical conventional website: a blog is effectively only ‘one page deep’. Visitors usually read only the latest entry on the homepage, unless they follow extra menu links that blogs usually offer, such as ‘about me’ and ‘books I am reading’. Because a blog is informal and personal, it can create a feeling of personal relationship between users and the writer – this is called a sense of community. The journalism principle remains true: “People are interested in people.” To achieve its purpose, a blog must continue to have new postings added at regular intervals. This requires continued
commitment and discipline.
Increasingly, web users also expect ordinary websites to have blog-like fresh comment and news too. Some conventional websites also incorporate a blog section, and some blog sites are also designed to draw readers into a linked conventional website on the same subject. In the secular business world, blogs have proved to be a good way to lead new visitors into corporate websites.
Problems in using a Christian blog for evangelism
We cannot use blogs for online outreach in the same way as conventional websites, for the following reasons:
- A normal outreach site offers a range of different pages. The starting point on its homepage may be a bridge strategy topic, a felt need, or an apologetics approach. However the homepage is only a jumping-off point, rather than the place where you find most of the content. Typically, outreach sites have a ‘layered approach’, with pages explaining different aspects of the Gospel several levels down within the site.
- A blog site however, is largely what you see on the homepage. Other pages are only one level deep: usually being continuations of abbreviated or archived postings, or extra menu links that the blogger has added about him/herself, books being currently read, favorite links, etc.
- But a Christian blog site in which most postings are reiterations of the gospel, testimony, or devotional, will appeal to very few non-Christians, who are almost by definition unlikely to be interested in reading this type of Christian blog. What non-Christians actually wish to read is stuff that reflects their secular interests or felt needs.
How to start an outreach blog
Although there are countless thousands of Christian blogs, almost all of them are written for Christians in Christian language and addressing Christian concerns – we can call this the 99 percent problem. While not-yet-Christians may accidentally find them, in most cases they are unlikely to stay to read, unless they happen to be seekers.
To use Christian blogs for outreach, we must understand how they work best and the ways they differ from conventional websites. Spend lots of time reading different secular blogs: find them in THE WEBBY AWARDS Religion & Spirituality or in the Weblog Awards. Analyze which ones are actually readable, communicate well, and why this is. You’ll notice an incredible range of blog subjects.
Some few people have the gift of being so perceptive and witty in writing, that they can write engagingly merely about their own lives and thoughts, so that others will read the blog for these things alone. Such blogs can become wildly popular with web users – for example, see the secular blog Petite Anglaise by an English-woman living in Paris.
Blog evangelism is about building online relationships with people within an area of shared interest. The offline equivalent is the way we relate face-to-face with people we work or study with, or meet socially. We make friends with them and enjoy their company, rather than preaching at them. Online relationships can be deep and used by God.
As they get to know us, they sense that we have things in our lives that they do not yet possess and they effectively give us permission to share. It’s that fragrance spoken of in 2 Cor 2:15. Writing that is from a Christian worldview, and from a heart that has been transformed by the Holy Spirit, should sound different! One area we must carefully avoid: whining and complaining. Many secular blogs take the opportunity to rant and unload a lot of negativity!
Apart from writing blogs appropriate for not-yet-Christians, you can also share faith by adding your own comments to other blogs. This strategy is explained at the end of this page.
Here’s a blogging strategy
Build a blog around a secular topic or felt need that interests you. We should always ‘write what we know’. The subject could be sport, music (including pop music), your hobby, local community activities, a health issue you face, some project you are involved in – just about anything. The blog can even just be a diary of your life like Petite Anglaise if you really have the gift of writing compellingly and openly about yourself. Women are more likely to do this well than men! Some people create a family-news blog primarily for the extended family. Postings that contain your opinions on anything (Christian or secular) should be tentative, sensitive and open-ended, inviting the reader to comment online (or at least, to think).
To attract significant readership, with millions of blogs already in existence, a new blog must have a specific focus and occupy a clear niche. To have a very broad brief – “My thoughts on the world and everything” – is unlikely to be successful, unless you are a person who tells anecdotes in a skillful and amusing way. The blog name should not sound Christian, but be catchy and easy to remember, and immediately reveal the specific focus and niche you have chosen. Blog names are usually informal, and often whimsical or humorous.
Have a clear mental picture of your target reader. Understand how not-yet-Christians think, and avoid things which would be off-putting, or only understood by Christians. Take time to assess your readership and site purpose. A local community-based blog can include links and postings to appropriate local church activities.
Where you feel there is an appropriate faith angle to add within the context of your secular topic, express this in a non-preachy, sensitive, jargon-free manner. An explicit faith comment is almost certainly not appropriate in every posting. “Less is more.” To help you remember not to lapse back into ‘Christian-speak’, try to imagine that you are writing for a specific non-Christian that you know. Indeed, it will also help if you find a non-Christian who is prepared to critique your writing and give you his or her reactions to it.
You can also tell your personal story on the blog ‘about me’ link. This should not be an in-your-face preachy testimony, but an overall introduction to you as a person. Who are you? What do you like? Where do you live? Pets? Interests? But of course, you can go on to add that finding a relationship with Jesus has been the most significant element in your life, and how it happened.
Blog systems also enable you to add additional links, such as ‘books I am reading’ and ‘favorite sites’. Here’s a chance to include a book or two that would be truly accessible to non-Christians. But add some secular books too, showing you are not stuck in the Christian ghetto.
Fruit is most likely to result from a blog outreach as you slowly build relationships with individual site visitors, either through their feedback postings, or in private email/messaging to them. If most of your readers turn out to be Christian, you obviously need to reposition the style, content and language of your blog. The X-Spectrum perspective may help you.
Examples of outreach by Christian blogs
1. Power to Change is a blog linked to the outreach site TheLife.com, one of several major outreach sites produced by TruthMedia.com. Written entirely with not-yet-Christians in mind, it is an example of how to avoid jargon and relate to people within areas of common interest. The team also operates a Blog Mentor program to train volunteer Christian mentors to come alongside visitors who have posted comments on these evangelistic blogs, by providing responses to comments, engaging further discussion, sharing related resources, and praying for these visitors. Volunteer mentors sign up to receive email notification of new postings to the blogs.
2. A Filipino Christian immigrant in Switzerland blogs her expatriate experiences here [http://pinoysphere.com/] without using Christian jargon words, although she does cite her Christian faith in her ‘About Me’ page, and occasionally blogs about her Sunday School ministry and cell group activities in a non-preachy way. She writes: “Despite the fact that most of the readers do not share my Christian belief and convictions, we do get along in this blog. There is mutual respect and understanding. There is online friendship. There is wholesome fun. It’s friendship evangelism [www.biblehelp.org/evangelism.htm] [www.xenos.org/classes/servanthood1/evangelism.htm] [www.ethnicharvest.org/ideas/friendship.htm] at work. Indeed, we can redeem the blogosphere for Christ!”
3. Kelsey writes openly about her family experiences, in a blog enticingly and self-deprecatingly called ‘Holy Mama! – True confessions from the everyday life of a sort of Christian mom.’ Her writing is witty, winsome and lacking in Christian jargon or insider stuff, so it works well for anyone. She comments: “I write from a Christian worldview, but my site isn’t one of those geared for other Christians. Christ is in me, and is a large part of my life, and so there’s plenty of ‘God stuff’ mentioned and implied in my writing – but it’s not preachy, devotional, or inspiring in nature. It’s really sort of silly, fun, and honest. It’s just life as a Christian mom. It’s a small, new blog, without a lot of traffic. And yet, people are finding it, reading it, and deciding they ‘know me’ well enough to start an email conversation about salvation. I’m astounded at the honor that is!”
Anyone can do it!
Emphasizing again, you do not need technical expertise (or money) to operate a blog. Just enthusiasm, an understanding of how blogs communicate best, and the ability to write in a brief, enticing style. It should be informal but clear and structured, using humor. Edit, revise and shorten your entries before posting. It may be better to write entries in a word-processor, and even print them out for proof-reading and revision, and only copy them across into the blog interface after checking (though most blogging systems allow you to correct and change entries after you have posted). Poor grammar/spelling or jumbled thoughts will reduce your writing’s credibility.
Many blog entries are far too long and self-indulgent. Some, indeed, are virtually unreadable. Use frequent line-breaks to split longer postings into separate paragraphs – this is much more readable, but not often done. Read the Top 12 Blogging Tips of All Time! for some ready-made material which you can include in a blog, or (probably better) introduce briefly with an ongoing link, check Probe for a wide range of seeker-friendly and skeptic-friendly articles.
If you have enabled readers to post feedback on your site, be prepared to check frequently and remove any abusive comments. Although most blogs are written by a single person, some operate well with two or more people working together in a team.
Contributing to other people’s blogs
Most blogs offer readers the opportunity to add their own comments. Blogs are seen as very much an ongoing conversation, a sharing of views and ideas, often as a community of friends; rather than a one-way commentary. Because of abuse and spamming, you may have to register before posting comments, and the blog owner may wish to approve such postings before allowing them to be displayed. ~ Excerpt “Christian Blog Evangelism, Strategy for Outreach to the Blogging World” by Internet Evangelism Day