The title of this post is not a reference to the legendary last stand of the Spartans at Thermopylae, nor the gruesome film 300 based on a fictional retelling. There might have been times when I felt outnumbered (though not by a million) and some online interactions can feel like a fight to the death—though I hope not here! But I must admit I do rather like the idea of ‘preparing for glory’, and perhaps there might just have been an element of ‘bringing down rulers from their thrones’ (Luke 1.52)!
This is my 300th post on the blog, which represents about 350,000 words of writing, and I thought it might be a good moment to offer a few reflections. I started the blog at the time of a short sabbatical in 2009, but only wrote consistently and substantially after leaving my teaching role in theological education in June 2013. Even in these few years, a lot has changed.
Bloggers have become more influential. A small sign of this is the daily Church of England media release, which alongside newspapers reports and news items includes a number of blog posts. Blogger’s influence is particularly strong in the States, where there are a good number of serious bloggers, and some substantial discussion takes place.
Along with that, there is a greater diversity in the style of different bloggers. In certain ministry and academic posts, blogging is an expected part of the role. As a result, many blogs are simply notices, thoughts, or recycled information from somewhere else. There are still relatively few blogs like mine where substantial, original material is offered regularly—not least because it takes time to research and write!
I have also noticed that my own writing has changed and developed over time. My early posts were short and tentative. Someone advised me that getting a blog running well is a ‘three or four year task’ and I think that is right. The instant nature of online publication belies that! And I find it easier now to think of things to write on (I have a list of about 30 posts that remain as ideas!), to structure my thoughts, and to actually put the flesh of words on the bones of the thoughts.
Perhaps the most striking thing I have gained in blogging is the sense of disciplining my thoughts. It is one thing to have a view; it is quite another to put it in writing for all the world to see, read, and comment on. I have found this has fed back into my other speaking and ministry. Every time I preach or speak, I am drawing on a number of things I have written about in the blog—which I hope gives substance and plausibility to what I say, but also gives me resources to draw on and confidence in what I present. The blog has become, for me, a personal library of written resources. Perhaps it is the diary or reflective journal that I have never kept.
Alongside that, one of the most valuable things the blog has done for me has been to create a space for serious engagement by people who see things differently—from me and from one another. The work here has been most exciting when I have been able to connect with people and ideas I would not otherwise have encountered, and I feel I have grown and been enriched as a result.
Looking back, you might be wondering which have been my most popular posts. In terms of numbers of readers, my top posts have been:
On the cross, when Jesus died, was the wrath of God satisfied?
The end of residential training?
Nine reasons why you should fast
Evangelical Alliance and Oasis Trust
Same-sex marriage and moral debate
Disappointment and the sovereignty of God
It’s not surprising that the question of sexuality has featured in this list; in fact, of my 300 posts, only 27 have been on this subject—exactly 9%. In total, there have been 4,490 comments made. To see the posts with most comments, click the ‘Popular’ tab on the list of posts to the right.
Looking forward, I plan to continue posting at about the same rate that I have in the past. I am working on four print writing projects this year, and no doubt these will make numerous appearance in blog posts as I explore and discover things, and test ideas out on potential readers.
Finally, I want to offer a big ‘thank you’ to all who have read, commented, promoted and supported the blog. Without you, the readers, then this writer would simply be talking to himself. Thank you for the interaction, insight, stimulus and encouragement you have offered over the years.
Much of my work is done on a freelance basis. If you have valued this post, would you consider donating £1.20 a month to support the production of this blog?
9 thoughts on “300 and still standing…”
Thanks for all your work on the blog, Ian, it is very much appreciated 🙂
Thanks Phill! And thanks for contributing to the discussions.
Ian, thank you for this latest piece, which as a new and inexperienced blogger I found really encouraging. I have much enjoyed your blogs and your ability to combine what I’ll call light for the mind and fire for the heart. I look forward with anticipation to your future posts.
Your paragraph beginning ‘Perhaps the most striking thing I have gained in blogging is the sense of disciplining my thoughts.’ absolutely reflects my own view of the daily posts I put on my fb page. I could never keep to a diary or reflective journal, but I find the surprising development that people do actually read my stuff gives me the discipline to do a daily reflection on God’s word. It has certainly helped me in preaching and teaching the gospel.
What I like about your blog is that within the length of the blog (5-10 minutes read) there is deep theological thinking to make me think. Like most other ministers, 5-10 minutes is often all we have, so it makes a big difference. Keep it going Ian, you are doing a great job!
Thanks John. It is interesting to reflect on the function of Facebook as a kind of reflective journal—though I suspect that Christians are distinctive in this regard as users. (I wonder if there is any data on this…?)
Glad that it is meeting a need (which it certainly appears to be doing). One oddity is that my Google analytics say that people are only on the pages for a matter of minutes or second…which has always puzzled me.
Keep up the good work Ian, You are performing a valuable service.
Thanks for your posts Ian, they are such a help in presenting in an accessible way thoughtful theological reflection on a range of topics. Here’s to the next 300 posts!
I greatly appreciate your clear thinking and generous style. Looking forward to future theological stimulation.