Christian Bloggers Trying To Go Viral: Preaching All Day But Ain’t Living Your Bible

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If you’re a Christian, whether you like it or not, you’re preaching with your blog.  This is a big deal.  Of course, we all have an insecurity that we don’t deserve the platforms we have.  Most of us are conveying a hologram of the person we-would-like-to-be.

I think it’s okay to be honest about that — to say, “I’m not there yet.”  We’re all still learning here, most especially me.

The harsh truth is, I see too many Christian bloggers who are trying to preach much further than they really are and always talking from a condescending high ground of pseudo-idealism.  Include me in there: I’m always tempted to act tougher than I really am.  We seem to care less about loving actual people and more about tweeting our moral epiphanies.  It’s a lot of full-time blogging from part-time Christians only saying things they’d like to do, like a half-competent coach who pushes his students so he can live vicariously through their success.  If that sounds mean, it’s because it hurts my heart to see so much passion with no momentum.

I wish we were more transparent about how hard it really is: not in a way that enables or pampers, but actually relies on the God we claim to love.  I wish we could stop chest-bumping the hardness of our right theology and stop shaming other Christians with coercive manipulative one-liners.

It’s easy to be a basement blogger and to post photos of the mission trip; it’s harder to roll up our sleeves everyday and get into the grit of real hurting lives.

Blogging naturally necessitates that you put your life on hold to write about your experiences — but if you go immediately from the moment to blogging, you’re not really letting the experience take hold of your heart.  Soon you’re only doing the bare minimum to write for likes and reblogs, which is not transformative but showcasing.  We can all see through it.

If you keep taking shortcuts from living to blogging by skating on the surface of faith, you’ll short-circuit intimacy with the glorious, face-melting, galaxy-sculpting Creator — and He’s the only one who can pierce our hearts deep enough to genuinely sacrifice for each other.

It’s cool if you have the Instagram with the ocean wallpaper and the pick-me-up verses in fancy fonts.  I just think God would rather you be you and not some shrill version of you, to be honest about your unique challenges in this journey with Him.


If I Hear “Wrecked” One More Time

I saw a blog post the other day about “The Future of The Church” written by a guy who was about twenty years old, with all kinds of bold declarations about the decline of ministry.  I think it was supposed to “wreck” me.  I like him and he’s a good person, but I sort of cringed at the whole thing.  Not because he was wrong, but because he cared too much about being right.

I kept wondering, “Why should I even listen to what you’re preaching?  What positional authority or experience do you have over church culture? Do you even care about me?”  Zero percent of the post showed that he cared about the church or his fellow Christian or that he even knew what he was talking about.  And he’s never served at church, ever.

I know this sounds awfully judgmental and out-of-character for me, and I suppose I’m defeating my own point.

But that’s the problem.  Somehow it’s okay to confront others with conviction, but we never turn it on ourselves.  We’re scared of surgical self-examination so we have blogs that throw it at everyone else.  Me too.  We’re tempted to “convict” people with upstanding one-liners that will “wreck” you, and it goes viral because 1) it feeds the default inner-Pharisee and 2) we’re feeding a circle of hyper-spiritual mania.  Listening to Paul Washer sermons is like a badge of salvation.  I guess it’s enough to “feel moved” as if this is movement itself.

We quote verses and other inspirational quotes without living them, because encountering God is too much for our fragile egos.  Everyone’s talking about finding God’s Will and “being led by the Spirit” — but imagine if you actually found it and you were actually led.  It’s safer just to keep it at an abstract doctrinal distance.

It means admitting the problem is not the “future of the church” or luke-warm Christians or whatever else we’re yelling at.  It means the problem is me.


Christianese Frankenstein

I suspect that most bloggers are randomly grabbing at quotes from people they’ve never heard of and stitching them together to create some ideal version of themselves, and then projecting that on everyone else. There’s probably a good way to do this, but not when it’s suffocated by passive-aggressive anger. We can tell when it is, and not even you would listen to yourself if you read your own blog.

I don’t need more guilt-trips and Jesus-Juking.  I don’t need a top-down authority, but a side-by-side humility.  It’s being humble that gives you the actual authority to say what you’re saying.

I’m not underestimating the youth.  I’m not saying there can’t be sixteen year old bloggers who bring the truth.  I’m saying that demanding respect simply by saying Christian-type cliches is completely disingenuous to the humility of the Christian faith.   The intensity of my blogging doesn’t make me a better Christian.  If this was the measure, then churches would be ineffectual powerless isolated ivory towers.


Too Many Leaders, Not Enough Living

Why would we even want the responsibility to preach and to lead?  That’s not something to play with.  If you actually want to have a platform to preach Christian-sounding stuff, you might already be doing it wrong.

To claim to be in a teaching position means you get the stricter judgment (James 3).  This means I’m accountable for every word I speak from my platform.  Again, if you have a Christian blog, you’re already teaching.  There are three entire letters from Paul written to leaders about the prerequisites to lead in the church, and 90% of the bloggers I see don’t meet them.  Why so eager to be visible?  The Bible has plenty to say about people who mislead.

The main issue with Christian bloggers is we often ask someone to do something that we’re first not doing ourselves.  It’s fine if we’re growing away from hypocrisy.  Everyone is on a journey of faith and we can’t judge that.  But it’s not okay if we’re calling out others on things we’re still wrestling with, as if this somehow compensates for your double life.

I’m just as capable of being selfish and conceited.  Which is why I’m begging you: Please do not trust me or any other Christian blogger for wisdom.  Bloggers are not your counselors.  Discern, discern, discern. Don’t set me or anyone else on a pedestal.  See the fruit.  See what is of God, and toss out the rest.  Don’t buy into it wholesale. Please think for yourself, because God gave you a mind to do so.


Jesus Already Got Us There

If your blog is really tough about church-stuff but you never get into the real-world, you’re raising the wall too high on the God who came into the dirt to be one of us.  Jesus did not preach at but he preached for, and that’s the difference between pointing your finger over a chasm or holding hands through the valley.

People are not just receptacles to push around with tough-sounding theology; they don’t have levers that instantly turn on faith. We do need conviction, but from a heart that sees not who we should be, but could be.

If we absolutely have to speak from a position of authority, at the very least we can stop saying, “You better do this” — and instead say, “It is done.”  We could understand that not everyone is where you are or thinks like you or even believes God is real.  At least we can point to the wonder and amazement of having a book called the Bible and be in awe of the possibility that God has spoken to us tiny little humans.  These things rend me with grief for the person next to me, with the same heart-torn grace and patience that God has for me.

Maybe we can preach some of those quotes to ourselves before we turn them into shackles. And maybe we can have room to talk about our weaknesses, about where we fall short of the very things we demand from others, because none of us are there yet, and honesty motivates me more than bludgeoning me with idealism. I need a hand up. I want to know how to get there with you.

I love you, dear friends, and I hope we can meet confidently in our honesty, to be open about where we fail and simply point to The One who doesn’t.

— J.S.


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17 thoughts on “Christian Bloggers Trying To Go Viral: Preaching All Day But Ain’t Living Your Bible

  1. Great post JS (that should be read be every blogger/preacher). It’s one thing to preach and write about the right way of believing and living life and a whole different story when it comes to living it out daily. I know I’ve struggled with it before both in teaching at church and writing for my blog, to make sure that I don’t tell others to do what I don’t do myself. It’s hard because it means you really need to keep yourself accountable, transparent, and honest with how you live your life but that is what we need to do so that we don’t become pharisaical in what we do. Thanks for sharing this!

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    1. Right on. I think on one hand it would be disingenuous to say, “I won’t ever write about this because I don’t do it right,” which is sort of a loophole to never change that part of us. But then it’s even worse to act as if that part is perfected, and I see so much of that kind of Christianese blog-preacher persona that forfeits the entire Gospel.

      I try my dang hardest not to use imperatives whenever possible, because the language of “do’s” and “don’t’s” quickly stifles us. Even Apostle Paul spent five chapters in Romans talking about what God did before finally saying in chapter six, “Therefore consider yourselves dead to sin.” In any case, I’m not demonizing anyone, but we all have that inner-Pharisee that tries to justify by our pat-me-on-the-head behavior. Thank God for the honesty of Romans 7.

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  2. As usual I started highlighting and copying quotes to put in a comment with a “Yeah!” or “I feel this!” or a “This is me! Ah!” But as usual it got to be too much because I could highlight and copy quotes from your posts all day long, man. You are a great example of this, a great example. When reading your book on taboo church topics I hear a guy I could be friends with. A guy who God has pursued. A guy who could be sitting beside me in church or around a board game. A guy I can learn from, but a guy I could maybe teach, too, because we’re all in this together, you know?

    I’m scared of being this – of making internet popularity an idol. One way I combat it is to live moments that are just for me. Not moments I can tweet about or put in a Facebook status, but quiet moments with nature and God and my couch and books and cats and the mountains. It keeps me real, I think. Another way I combat it is by not being very popular on the internet. Haha.

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    1. Hah thank you my dear friend! (Any chance you want to write a review on Amazon with your words here? Totally optional of course 🙂 )
      I’m actually pretty thankful that I’ve managed to stay “under the radar,” if there’s such a thing as over the radar. While I’m sure it’s useful to have such a huge platform, I can’t imagine the enormous pressure under public scrutiny plus the temptation to always stay in top form, therefore skating on the edge of faith. Most days I’m happy with being a broke indie author ..!

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  3. I loved this post. It also reminded me of one of my favorite passages in the Bible that I have to go back to time and again. It’s Jesus’s response to Peter when Peter asks about John after the resurrection at the Sea of Galilee.

    If there’s someone walking next to me, it’s not because I’m worthy of walking beside. If someone’s walking behind me, it’s not because I’m worthy of following. It’s just that we’re all following Jesus, because he’s worthy. At least that’s how it should be.

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    1. Exactly, Mark. It’s usually easy to tell within the first few seconds by the tone or word-choice. I hate to judge anyone’s motives, and even tough words can come from a heart of total love, but a lot of blogs seem to be, “I’m here and you’re way over there.” I include me in that too.

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  4. Took me a long time to get through this – lots and too much. As noted needing to be right and to be noticed means we have turned what might have been a true word from God into an ego-coating idolatry. Actually, I don’t think you were harsh enough – and Paul never apologized for screaming in the face of the reader!
    Why do I blog? I pray that I might awaken people to worship God and not religion, be in a congregation to serve God and not the congregation – and I know that’s tough.
    But really, what I wanted to say was that the revival that swept western Canada in the 1970’s started when people became honest!! Yes, no pretense, confession of sin, and then forgiven by those they hurt!!! What you rail about here is just not one way of doing faith, but honesty is the only way to be a channel for revival.
    Peace

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    1. Yes, I’ve always said “honesty is the only policy.”
      I realize this post is probably guilty of the very same things that I’ve called out on others. I suppose the difference is what we do when we close our laptops and get into the real world.

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