Focus on the Family

Blogging

by Focus on the Family

What is a Blog?

Blog is short for web log. Wikipedia defines a blog as "a website where entries are written in chronological order and displayed in reverse chronological order."

Run by an individual or a group, blogs typically feature text, photos and links to other sites. Some include audio or video files. Blogs are generally updated regularly, often by way of a journal entry, and many allow readers to post comments. Some families put up pictures and updates about their activities on blogs so that loved ones who live far away can stay in touch.

In recent years, blogging has also become extremely popular among young people. Recent studies reveal that nearly half of all blogs are now authored by teenagers who use their sites to network with their friends.


On Reading Blogs

As with other media, it's important to show good judgment in the blogosphere.

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When I first discovered blogs, I was amazed how much time people spent reading them. I still am. Yet, I've too often sat down to read a blog and been shocked to look up at the clock and see that two hours has passed.

For all that's good about blogs, there are some down sides. The majority of blogs promote transient, light, emotional, and unreflective communication. Unlike great authors, no blogger I know spends years figuring out what they're going to say on their blog. For the most part, blogs focus on what's new, fashionable, or controversial. They can encourage quick and mindless responses that only feed our tendency to value temporal, passing things.

Of course, blogs can be beneficial if we use them wisely, understanding that they're only one slice of the way God intends for us to relate to the world. And a small slice, at that.

Before reading a blog, it's always good to ask a few questions:

My 17-year-old daughter started a blog where she posts pictures she's taken. She sent out an e-mail to let people know about it, and a portion of it said:

"If you ever have any free time and you're wondering, "What in the world am I going to do now?" don't go to my blog. Have extended devotions, or read some good book on our Savior, or serve your family. And once you've done that, come and visit my blog."

That's great counsel.

The blogosphere is a mixed blessing. Used wisely we can benefit from the lives, insights, and creativity of others. Used without discernment, it can be a temptation and distraction for anyone who wants to please God.

Whether you read, write or ignore blogs, I pray that God gives you grace to do it all for the glory of our Savior.


Blog Responsibly

Graceless conversation is commonplace in the blogosphere. Believers need to change that.

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In May 2006 I visited a certain well-read Christian blog for the first time. The content of the day's post was a review of a controversial Christian book. I had been pointed to the post by another blogger who claimed the comment trail following the review was unloving and unfair. I, along with several hundred others, flew to the controversy. As I read through the comments, many revealed not only an aversion to the book but severe and specific criticism of the author's character.

As I scanned the comments — many seemingly dashed out in anger — I found myself wondering if these bloggers didn't have something better to do with their time than tear apart a fellow follower of Jesus.

Unfortunately this kind of graceless conversation among Christians is all too common in the blogosphere. "The secular world is not impressed with the Christian world of blogging," says Justin Taylor, proprietor of the blog "Between Two Worlds."*

Justin, whose blog receives up to 1,800 visits per day, believes that many Christ-followers are abandoning the basics when it comes to their online conversations. "Jesus said they will know us by our fruit and by our love, and a lot of blogs are failing in that."

Digital Faith

Since the advent of the first web logs in the mid 90s, blogging has exploded. The Blog Herald accounted for more than 70 million blogs worldwide by mid-2006. And Christian leaders and laypeople alike are joining the trend at a rapid rate.

Not only are blogs prolific, but the blogosphere is growing in power. Bloggers are credited with exposing Dan Rather after he presented forged documents regarding President Bush's military service on the show "60 Minutes." After bloggers presented evidence, CBS ultimately apologized for inadequate reporting.

Christian bloggers wield this same power. But what we do with it impacts not only the kingdoms of this world but also God's Kingdom. This presents a new dilemma: How are believers to hold forth biblical truth in a digital age?

"In one sense the Bible has not a single word to say about blogging," Justin points out. "But another way to look at it is that every page of the Bible has something to say about blogging."

One verse Justin believes a Christian blogger should take to heart is Ephesians 4:15 (NIV): "Speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ."

While some bloggers may shy away from speaking the truth in favor of not offending anyone, Justin has more frequently observed the opposite. "Many bloggers are so concerned about getting truth out there, it doesn't seem to matter who they offend or how badly it hurts."

While some bloggers may shy away from speaking the truth in favor of not offending anyone, Justin has more frequently observed the opposite. "Many bloggers are so concerned about getting truth out there, it doesn't seem to matter who they offend or how badly it hurts."

Carolyn McCulley, who ministers to single women through her blog, "Solo Femininity,"* agrees.

"Christian blogging is often characterized by gracelessness," she says. "As we write we should not be above the commands of Proverbs 31 to open our mouths with kindness and love, instruction and the law of wisdom on our tongues."

Every Word

The Christian blogger bears greater responsibility than his secular counterpart because we answer to a higher authority. "The Lord Jesus Christ is looking over our shoulders as we type," Carolyn says. "And we are one day going to be accountable to Him for every word."

In light of this, believers should take great care when navigating the blogosphere, avoiding such pitfalls as carelessness, gossip and dissension. Christian bloggers should adopt a responsible view of blogging that incorporates the following basic disciplines.

Maturity. "A lot of people assume that just because they can blog they should blog," Justin says. "There are probably a lot of people out there who shouldn't be blogging."

Justin suggests bloggers consider their level of spiritual maturity before discussing matters of doctrine on a blog. "The Bible has a lot to say about teachers and their increased level of accountability to God," he says. "The more you blog — and the more people read your blog — the more responsibility you have."

If a person is questioning whether or not he should blog, he may want to blog under the authority of someone who is more spiritually mature. He could, for example, submit entries that give biblical instruction to a godly mentor before posting them (more under "Accountability" below).

Self-Control. Proverbs 10:19 warns, "When words are many, sin is not absent." This is never more true than in the blogosphere — an information medium that allows instantaneous dissemination of thoughts. "In a digital world, we have to work very hard to refuse the pressure of the immediate," Carolyn says. "Just because you can hit publish, doesn't mean you should."

Avoiding the pressure to post is counterintuitive for many bloggers. We are driven to be the first to comment on an issue and don't want to be left behind in an online discussion. Still, deliberation and restraint are crucial to maintaining a consistent witness.

When blogging about emotionally charged issues, Carolyn suggests allowing a cool-off period to evaluate whether you're writing out of anger, impatience or self-righteousness. "If you're questioning your motives, there's nothing so important that you can't wait 24 hours to post it."

Good advice, considering words posted online are not easily withdrawn. "Those words never ever go away," Carolyn says. "Once you put them up, they're there."

Accountability. Several months ago Justin ran across an article online that he found intriguing and wanted to blog about. "I also knew it could be easily misunderstood and a little too provocative," he says.

He sent the article to two of his pastors and half a dozen friends and told them he was considering posting it but wanted their counsel. "Enough of them responded that they wouldn't post it, that I ended up not doing it," he says. "There's wisdom in a multitude of counselors."

Carolyn also seeks counsel on her most sensitive blog postings. "I ask people, 'Am I being gracious? Am I being encouraging? Am I being accurate, for that matter?'"

Humility. James' advice to be quick to listen and slow to speak often goes unheeded in the blogosphere. Opinions fly with little regard for uncovering the heart of the matter. This is especially noticeable when blogging about those with whom we disagree.

Carolyn, who asks permission before writing about anyone on her blog, says it's helpful to consider God's perspective. "We're speaking about people God created and redeemed, and our lack of charity in conversation just reveals our own arrogance — as though we can see the whole picture of someone's life."

Instead, Christians ought to offer judgments with generous amounts of grace and humility.

Fruitful Conversation

Justin and Carolyn agree that when undertaken responsibly, blogging can be a tremendous ministry. And the beauty of blogging is that anyone can do it. Justin holds up Tim Challies' blog* as an example of this.

"Tim has become one of the most famous Christian bloggers," Justin says. He writes 150 book reviews a year. He has posted something every day for 900 days running.

"Tim hasn't gone to seminary. He doesn't have a Ph.D. He isn't connected to some famous Christian ministry. And yet he's a faithful Christian brother who has a sharp mind and is a good writer.

"Without the blogosphere," Justin goes on, "people like Tim would just be reading books in their offices. And yet people keep going back to his blog day after day because they find it helpful and informative and edifying. We need more people like Tim out there: people who are godly and have good minds and can speak the truth winsomely."

If you are already a blogger or aspire to be one, you've discovered fertile soil. Like Justin, Carolyn and Tim, you've been given the opportunity to spark conversations that draw people to Christ and inspire them to pursue Him more passionately.

* For reference only. Referral to external Web sites should not be construed as blanket endorsement by Focus on the Family of the complete content of those sites or of any sites linked therein.


Blogging to Worship God

Scripture says, "... whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." Can that include blogging?

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Why Blog?

That's the question I asked myself back in November of 2005, when I began a weblog called Worship Matters*, devoted to issues of music and worship. After leading worship for 30 years, I figured I'd made enough mistakes to keep me going for a couple hundred columns.

At that time, Technorati.com (a search engine for blogs and other always-updating content on "the Live Web") said there were 10 million other blogs in existence. I wasn't sure the world needed one more.

That was then. As of June 2007, Technorati.com claimed to track 86.8 million blogs and more than 250 million pieces of tagged social media. On top of that, the Washington Post reported that MySpace.com alone hosts over 100 million blogs. I have no doubt the number of blogs will continue to grow.

I read a number of blogs daily. Al Mohler (albertmohler.com) gives me quick insightful and biblical commentary on the news. Justin Taylor (theologica.blogspot.com*) provides helpful links to sites dealing with "Theology, Philosophy, Politics, and Culture." And Challies.com* helps me think through issues biblically.

More than anything, blogs have enabled us to communicate what's in our hearts and minds to anyone in the world who wants to listen. And you can do all of this sitting at home in front of your computer.

If you're reading this, there's a good possibility that you read blogs, comment on blogs, or write one of your own. If you never go near blogs, I wouldn't be too concerned. But for the rest of us, here are some things to keep in mind as we inhabit the blogosphere.

For Those Who Blog or Want To

Christians might blog on a variety of topics and for a number of reasons, but they share one common goal:

"So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31, ESV).

If God wants us to eat and drink for his glory, He certainly wants us to blog for the same reason. That means God has something to say about our content, attitude, and motive in blogging.

It's not hard to find blogs that are filled with foul language, pornographic material, and useless information. But as Christians, we're commanded to think about things that are true, honorable, just, pure, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8). That includes quite a bit. What it doesn't include is saying whatever I feel like saying, rehearsing how lousy I feel, wallowing in self-pity, or stirring up unnecessary controversy. God says we'll be held accountable for every word we speak — and blog.

If you're going to write a blog, write about something that matters. Unless you don't expect anyone to read what you're saying, ask yourself if what you're writing will serve your readers in any way. It might be funny or serious, your own reflections or thoughts from others. Your blog might simply point to resources, books, or music that has encouraged you. But the content should in some meaningful way bring glory to God.

Here are a few subjects that should be absent from our blogs:

Lies. Sitting in front of the keyboard, it's amazing how easily we type things that we aren't completely sure about, that we never would want to be held accountable to, or that are slightly modified to make us sound more persuasive. As those who follow the One Who is the Truth, we should avoid any kind of falsehood, exaggeration, or unsubstantiated claim.

Gossip. One of the most common blogging temptations is to spread information about people we've never spoken to directly. This isn't the same as referencing public knowledge for the sake of illustration, which can build discernment. But too often, we gossip simply to exalt our own ego. "Why was Katherine hanging out with Michael?" "How can my boss be so insensitive?" "I'd never say what Drew said." "What a loser."

Intimate details. I stumbled across some blogs a while back that read like uncensored diaries, full of crude language, sinful desires, and sexual disclosures. What holds true for our speech, holds true for our blogs:

"But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving" (Eph. 5:3-4).

Another factor to consider in blogging is links. While it may look impressive or cool to have a long list of "Blogs I Read," keep in mind that you're recommending the content of those blogs. Unless you trust the source implicitly, you should only recommend blogs that follow the same standards you do.

God is also concerned about our attitude when we blog.

"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear" (Eph. 4:29).

I read a newspaper article not too long ago about a woman who wakes up every morning and begins her day by blogging her anger against conservatives. While most of us wouldn't go that far, I wonder how often we use blogs to sin in a way that doesn't seem quite so sinful. "Corrupting talk" includes biting sarcasm, arrogant condescension, and harsh anger. We might rename them wit, experience, and justified venting.

It never seems very sinful when we're writing from our heart, striking a few keys and, pushing "post." No one's there to give us feedback and we're just happy we said what we wanted to say. That's why Christian bloggers need a generous dose of humility. The nature of blogging implies that I think I have something worth saying. That's misleading. The ability to post my thoughts on the Internet is no guarantee that I have any idea what I'm talking about.

For example during WorshipGod06, which we hosted, Tim Challies live-blogged the conference. One commenter took issue with some of the things that reportedly took place at the conference and launched into an attack on me, Sovereign Grace Ministries, and charismatics in general. I'm happy to say that after a number of folks came to our defense, the original commenter saw his sin and wrote this:

"Please forgive this over-zealous brother who spoke too soon, and without thinking through all of this first ... and please pray that God would grant me wisdom and discernment in all things, so that I might not hurt another brother or sister with the kind of comments I posted earlier."

That was a turnaround that is rarely seen in the world of blogging and a clear demonstration of humility. But it's even better to consider our hearts before we open our mouths, remembering Solomon's counsel in Proverbs: "Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him" (Proverbs 29:20).

Finally, we need to examine our motives for blogging.

Sometimes my motives are godly, sometimes not. Often they're mixed.

When I started Worship Matters I was painfully aware of a desire to impress people. I had difficulty getting started and confessed in my second blog entry:

"Undoubtedly, pride has held me back. I don't simply want to write a blog on worship. I want to write THE blog on worship (it helps that there aren't very many out there to begin with). In my worst moments I'm hoping worshipmatters.com will be quoted, blogrolled, referenced, acclaimed, recognized, and well, worshiped. The fear that that WON'T happen, and that my blog will die after two weeks due to lack of interest, gives me pause.

"Ironic, isn't it? One of my motives for writing a blog on worshipping God seems to be gaining glory for myself. Come to think of it, one of my motives for almost everything I do seems to be gaining glory for myself."

Fortunately, God gives grace to overcome our sin. But if we don't acknowledge it, we'll never be able to repent from it. Here are some possible signs that I'm blogging for my own glory:

I'm sure you can think of others. God's words to us in James are relevant to blogging:

"Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic" (James 3:13-15).

The two motives we are called to fight here are bitter jealousy and selfish ambition. Bitter jealousy is grieving that I don't have what someone else has — a cooler site design, more links, more comments, more visitors. It's when I only want God to be glorified through ME, and don't naturally rejoice when he chooses to use someone else.

Selfish ambition is similar to bitter jealousy, only more blatant. I want to be approved, applauded, admired. I want people to say kind things about me, whether or not I actually deserve it. I fear any kind of correction or feedback because it appears as though I've said or done something wrong. At root, selfish ambition is challenging God for the right to be worshiped. Sadly, it can motivate what we write.

God tells us that these sins are "earthly, unspiritual, and demonic." I have to admit, I typically don't think of my desire to be noticed in such radical, harsh terms. But then, I never see my sin like God does. As one Puritan said, "You see more defilement in my duties than I ever saw in any of my sins."

God's Solution

God's solution is simple, but impossible apart from the work of the Savior in our hearts. Be humble. Be wise. Be "pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere" (James 3:17). That kind of blogging will bear fruit for eternity for the glory of Jesus Christ.


Dangers of Online Blogs

Like the Internet as a whole, you should be aware of the dangers of online blogs and blogging.

by Focus on the Family

Are you a blogger? You might be. There are more than 71 million blogs out on the Internet. These simple Web sites are often used for news or commentaries on a particular subject. They can also function as personal online diaries. That's where serious trouble can erupt.

The Australian Government's netalert.net.au lists as some of the dangers people (particularly children) can run into if they're not careful when blogging:

In proposing legislation to prosecute pedophiles for meeting children for sex via the Internet, forensic psychologist Rachel O'Connell warned the Scottish Parliament that, "Online journals and cameral phones are a ‘pedophiles' dream." That's because children are naively uploading pictures and giving out details of their everyday lives "because it's an online journal."

The Biggest Danger: Posting Personal Details

Blogging Mommies asks the question, "Do you know who is reading your blog?" Site founder Kelly Brown warns that the beautiful baby pictures you post online for your friends and family to see can also be seen by pedophiles and other nefarious characters. She relates that one mother had done just that, posted pictures of her twins, only to find that someone else had posted her photos on another blog. Needless to say, that unnerving experience had the mother wondering what their intentions were. And who else had seen those pictures?

Brown emphatically warns not to give out too much information. By doing so, you may be giving a stranger information they need to do you or a loved one harm. For instance, are you posting your day-to-day schedule? Are you taking the baby for a walk in a stroller every morning at the City Park? Are you revealing that you're gone from the house by revealing that you have to pick the kids of from school every afternoon at 3:00? Maybe you head out to the gym early every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning (perfect information for a burglar). Or maybe you're now working a business from your home — alone.

Brown advises leaving out specific details: names of places, specific days, and specific times. Are you planning a vacation that will take you out of town for a period of time? Don't reveal when you are leaving or how long you'll be gone. Maybe it would be better to talk about the vacation after you get back.

The Old Goat Trail blog also warns against providing too many personal details:

The Old Goat Trail also notes posting personal details can endanger your family:

You can password-protect your blog, making it only accessible to family members and friends. But the safest course to protect yourself and your loved ones is to leave out the personal details and candid photos.

Blocking Search Engines

Brown also states that, "Google is your conscience, your big brother and it keeps a record of every single word you write on the Internet. You can't be too careful, but there are methods of blocking Google from archiving your blog." She says insert the following code into the section of your blog:

Also, she says you can block other search engines from saving your pages with this code:

And, if you want to stop Google from indexing your blog altogether, insert this into your <head> section:


Safeguards for Children Bloggers

These tips can help protect children from the dangers of online blogging.

by Focus on the Family

If you decide to let your child have a blog, take the following safeguards:


Next Steps/Related Information

Related resources and articles on blogging

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