Yes, that’s right, this blog is 10 years old.
In April 2011, I wanted to create a space where I could think aloud and reflect on issues of faith, social justice and transformation. Since then, I have published 512 articles, so roughly one a week.
The process of writing publicly in this way has taught me a lot. These are my 5 key reflections:
1.That seeking popularity is seductive (and anxiety-inducing)
The first reason that George Orwell gives in answer to the title of his essay Why I Write is:
“Sheer egoism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death”
It is important to acknowledge the seductive appeal of people reading what you write. Especially today with ‘likes’ and shares which provide instant feedback. It can make you chase those dopamine hits that make you feel good.
But this tendency needs managing because it can easily provoke anxiety and obsession. Craving affirmation via social media is to feed a beast that will be never be satisfied.
2. That the impact of articles is not what I expect
One humbling irony is that the most popular article I posted, Bono on the difference between Grace and Karma, did not contain a single word that I wrote.
Similarly, articles that I labour hours on sometimes create little interest whereas one hastily drafted might be shared widely. Some are popular for a day and then ignored, others are slow burners which continue to attract 20-30 readers every day for years.
When I wonder whether its worth it, I think about the 800 people who shared my brother’s article on how he has faced his mental health challenges. And the best feedback comes from emails which express private appreciation. These responses make it worth it.
3. That we don’t need any more echo-chambers
The internet gives us so much but so often it fuels polemic and tribalism. But no one is helped by more political or theological echo-chambers, whether ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’.
The three words in the blog’s strapline faith, social justice and transformation are all important. Faith should inspire activism for social justice, but this must be combined with a commitment to personal transformation. When it doesn’t, it easily falls prey to shallow virtue signalling or what is considered ‘woke’.
I want to be an ‘unreliable ally’ to both sides in the culture wars which rage around us because the Christian faith can never be imprisoned by one perspective. Following Jesus means seeking truth. In a polarising world, this will involve being unfairly judged and labelled.
4. That it has helped me write succinctly
5. That it has helped me be clearer about what I believe
Lastly, writing publicly has made me think more about what I really believe and what I am really committed to. I am not interested in ‘Churchianity’ but the genuine difference that authentic faith makes.
More than ever, I am convinced that the life, death and resurrection of Jesus (what Newbigin called ‘the fact of Christ’) is the definitive clue to history and human purpose. Jesus shows us what God is like and what he has always been like.
It is here that we can find answers to our deepest needs: liberation, affirmation, forgiveness and wholeness. This is grace and truth that the world needs.
I would like to thank my wife Nikki who has shown a blend of tolerance for the time I spend writing the articles along with a complete disinterest in how popular they are. It’s a healthy combination that reflects her values. Her opinion remains the one I care most about.
And thanks to everyone reading who has read, commented, liked, shared, followed and (most importantly) been helped in their walk of faith, social justice and transformation.
Grace, truth and peace to you all!
In the past decade, the blog has had 1.2 million visits, an average of 350 visits each day.
In terms of hits, the 5 most popular articles have been:
- Bono on the difference between grace and karma
- How should we respond to people begging?
- How should faith affect the way we live?
- Introduction to the Amos Course
- The truth about Jury Service
In my view, the 5 best articles have been:
- The unpredicted tinderbox: 3 factors which fuelled the riots
- ‘Dad, you’re a nicer person without your iPhone’
- Our Obsession with Self-Promotion
- When helping homeless people doesn’t help
- Proper Confidence in the Gospel: the theology of Lesslie Newbigin
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