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'Holy Huddle' Blogging II

14 April, 2004 11:24 AM

Michelle at Dialog: Breaking the Bubble has done a survey of Christian Bloggers and is publishing her insightful results. Her latest post is on the mix of 'Christian' and 'Non Christian (I'm not sure I like those terms - still can't think of any better ones though) readers that the average Christian blogger gets. The stats are all at her post for you to read, but the one that caught my attention is that only 3 out of 115 respondents said that the majority of their readers were 'non Christian'. 35% of respondents have 1-2...

I have mixed reactions to the finding. Let me attempt to explain:

On one hand I can understand it. If we were to do a survey of 'model train enthusiasts' we'd be likely to find that the vast majority of their readers were model train enthusiasts. People attract others like themselves with similar world views. I have no problems with this on many level....but

On the other hand I strongly believe that our 'calling' (another word I'm not too crash hot about) as 'Christians' is to engage with our world. Stats like these make me wonder how insular we are becoming in the wider blogging world.

Another one of Michelle's findings (6th April 2004 - permalinks not working) finds that 17% of Christian bloggers never read 'Non Christian's' blogs - 29% do read them but never link to them. That's 46% of Christian bloggers who don't meaningfully interact with the vast majority of the Blogosphere. Michelle writes - 'A large majority of those who "regularly read the blogs of non-Christians" read only 1 or 2 of such blogs.'

Another post (also 6th April) found that only 29% of Christian bloggers had any kind of personal relationship (either in 'real life' or over the net) with a non Christian blogger. That is 71% of Christian bloggers who don't interact relationally with the vast majority of bloggers.

On 27th March Michelle writes - '41% of all Christian bloggers surveyed linked exclusively to other Christians' (in their blogrolls). A further 19% said that 'Non Christians' made up less than 10% of their blogroll.

I'm uncomfortable with these statistics - they back up what I've been feeling for a while now.

Why are we so insular? Why are so few of us finding creative ways of interacting with this emerging subculture in meaningful ways? Is blogging a legitimate way to respond to the 'calls' of Jesus to interact with our world? Do these stats reflect the way we live in 'real life' also?

I don't have all the answers on this one - but I fear if we don't talk about it - if we don't respond to it - we are missing the boat. Lets talk about it.



Thanks Darren.
I think one of the things I found with Michelle's survey was use of religious language, which makes sense. It is part of a project for her Masters at what is called a bible college in Canada.
I wondered, given some of the questions whether there were some expected results.
I stand to be corrected, Michelle is aiming to work with young people.
Good stuff, again thanks!

Bene Diction » 14 April, 2004 11:39 AM

no problem Bene - on the religious language front - I agree with you Bene - I'm not criticizing Michelle's use of those terms, just saying I don't like the terms in a general sense. But unfortunately we're stuck with them - there are not too many viable alternatives - especially doing the task Michelle is undertaking.

Darren Rowse » 14 April, 2004 12:08 PM

Interesting stuff Darren. I've never seen blogging as much more than networking with other wayfarers...I'm accutely aware that given my local church context I'm on a different page - that makes for a pretty lonely time...it's been wonderful for me to interact with so many people with whom I share a lot in common around church etc. That said, I'm not aware that any of my non-Christian friends blog, otherwise I'd be regularly visiting their sites too...showing an interest, building the friendship, learning, and challenging...all the proximity and presence stuff...

Paul Fromont » 14 April, 2004 2:39 PM

Could this be due to the obvious "mission" of some bloggers. I read jonny baker and liquidthinking for thoughts, ideas, inspiration, to hear stories of people who struggle in similar ways to myself.

But they arent normally blogs that tell of their personal stories of the day, i dont get to know the people much at all. they are blogs on the emerging church and the subculture surrounding them.

My "blog" isnt the most fantastic read, however ive got a number of people who check in on it on occasions to see how I am going. When i started blogging (about 1400 posts ago) it was just a space for me to journal, it wasnt a specific aim or mission.

People read it because they want to see whats going on in my life rather than what issues i want to raise re the emerging church...

I guess it might be a question of being verses doing again, I blog about "stuff" rather than about "emerging church" or "postmodernity" or "football" and i actually feel more comfortable with non-christians reading my babble than i do about christians reading it.

In the end the blog/journal is a way to get stuff out of my head and onto paper, if people read it thats ok, but the mission of my blog is for me to get stuff out of this head of mine.

Sorry about the babbling out loud...

Darren Wright » 14 April, 2004 3:15 PM

I agree with you D - though I think it's an issue which reflects what is going on in Christian circles and is therefore wider than where people target their blogs.

The need to engage with others outside the doors of the church vs wanting to establish a strong community at a church is a difficult balance and one which in my opinion has become too lop-sided (towards the church).

At my church, the 'community' feeling is very strong. There are many positive, tight friendship groups. A lot of people went away over Easter with these friends (myself included). We have several church sporting teams, small groups, a running group, book clubs, craft groups, someone organised for a big group to go and see "The Passion", etc. etc.

The environment is very appealilng for new people who are familiar with 'church' people (ie. church-shopping Christians) and the occasional non-Christian. It's all really positive - regular Christian contact is important, and having a strong community around the church makes it a fun place to be. BUT... I think we don't often consider the "cost" of operating like this.

The cost is that many Christians know very few non-Christians on a deep level, and therefore mission cannot take place. Our week's get filled with catching up with church people or attending church activities. Any missional activity is based on the premise that non-Christians want (and are able) to somehow break into this foreign culture.

We need to respond to the challenge as Christians to invest significant time in relationships with non-Christians... potentially at the cost to our current church community.

I believe it's about saying "no" to the good (strong intra-church community) so you can say "yes" to the best (bringing people to God).

Diddle » 14 April, 2004 4:41 PM

I'd like to disagree here...

I write almost exclusively for Christians and that is intentional. I am of course right with you in engaging with the world, but does everything we do need to be geared to that end?...

Some christians do need to 'get out more' but I'm realy content to write for a bunch of Christians and link to a bunch of Christians... prob becaue I sense that those who are read are on a shared journey

hamo » 14 April, 2004 5:14 PM

Yeah I agree Hamo with you in some respects. I'm all for having blogs that talk specifically about issues of mission/church/ministry - i guess we can't expect that such blogs will be read mainly by Christians. It's like the 'train enthusiast example in the main post)...

But I guess I'm wondering if there is also a place for Christians to blog in a way that engages the wider community.

I'm not wanting to push it upon all Christian bloggers by any means (perhaps I was a little ungracious or blunt in my post?).

I guess I see bloggers as something of an emerging cultural group and therefore wonder if as Christians we should be a part of that community, not just as a tool to create community amongst ourselves or to talk about our latest theories and findings, but also as a means of connecting genuinely with people in this cultural group.

Still nutting this one out - thanks for the comments so far...its an important topic.

Darren Rowse » 14 April, 2004 5:29 PM

Thank you for this post and your thoughts Darren... I am interested in what others have to say on my findings, I'm trying not to make any unwarranted conclusions.

The terms "Christian" and "non-Christian" are blunt, but I don't know what other terms I could have used. In my study, one of the "limitations" is stated like this: "The term 'Christian' as used in the survey titles is open to interpretation by the survey takers, and thus it was expected that participants would be from a wide variety of backgrounds, including but not limited to Evangelicals and Protestants." You can see this in my March 25th post in the section titled "Denominational Affiliation or Church Currently Attending." Not everyone was evangelical, not everyone was protestant.

The archives are now working... but I'm still having problems with the permalinks! Ugh! I'm still working on it though.

Michelle » 15 April, 2004 7:01 AM

I've recently had a number of unbelievers visit my site, and have questioned my posts - which is great, it's challenging for me to respond to them, and it's always good when people are being made to think.

Certain members of my family also read my blog, and that in itself creates opportunities for talking about "deeper" things...

I for one hope that more and more people who aren't Christians visit my site.

daviddave » 15 April, 2004 8:33 AM

I'm not interested in non Christian's blogs at all. Why would I pollute my mind with ungodly thoughts? If they want to interact with Christians then they should come do it on our turf, ideally in a church.

I totally disagree with your arguements here - I think the statistics reflect the way it should be, perhaps they are even too liberal.

You are flirting with the Devil on this one Darren

Esther » 15 April, 2004 10:27 AM

Hi Darren, interesting discussion about Christian's and blogging. I an not posting this on my own site because a few non Christian perverts read my site.

Most Christian bloggers seem to:
- only read the weblogs of other Christians
- have readership is mostly, if not all, Christian
- be linked to by only other Christian bloggers
- be part of an explicit blogging community like St Blogs or The Blogdom of God, and a few mentioned being linked on blogs4God.com.
- Post primarily on Christian topics
- Include mostly Christian content on their site
( seen on another site)

Allow me to make a few points. I an not your typical Christian blogger, it apears. I do not speak christianese either. I have two blogs, one on the church and the second on on politics which is big-news.blogspot.com ( for those who are interested) .

1. Nearly all of the readers who read - and those blogrolled on - the first blog are Christians
2. Most of the readers on the second blog are into politics, and none of those blogrolled are Christians as far as I know.
3. Not too many of my readers read both blogs unless they are into ( or deeply oppose) Christianity and politics
4. For example, sometimes those in the gay community sneak in and read my Christian blog just to perve. Technorati is a good perving tool for voyeurs who read blogs to see who links with who. People have perved my site as both my blogs are linked.
5. Nearly all of the readers of my politics blog are not Christians - those who are Christian readers are more than likely readers of my Christian blog as well and have linked that way.
6. Most of the bloggers whose blogs I read have just one blog. I know of two others who have multiple blogs.
7. Some Christians see their blog as a way to network with other like minded people and that is perfectly valid. If you`re not of like mind, don't bother, basically.
8. Some people post stuff on their blogs that they don't want everyone to read.
9. Chrisitan bloggers sometines go to "Big name Christian blogs" and post comments specifically to get hits on their site. Secular people dont appear do that as much.
10. Most people who read my blogs have never met me - but many have heard of me through other avenues.

If Christians want to engage with both secular and Christian people with blogging, they should start making friends with people who are not Christians, both online and offline. Perhaps the reason that Christians dont interact with secular people through their blogs - or by resultant e-mails - is that they have nothing to say to them, and it also could well reflect the personal relationships they have with people outside the blogosphere. In any case most Christian bloggers get fewer than 40 hits a day on their site. That staggered me! Yesterday I stumbled across a blogger who only had 1 hit that day - and it was me, at the end of the day!

dave the rave » 15 April, 2004 3:56 PM

have put a few thoughts at http://jonnybaker.blogs.com/jonnybaker/2004/04/holy_huddle_blo.html
good debate - cheers

jonny » 16 April, 2004 4:09 AM

I'm going to disagree with Esther... I think we're "called" to community, yes, but I think we are also "called" to "reach out" to the world as well. If we wait for the world to come to us at all times, then we're missing an important part of the Great Commission. If no one had ever invited me into discussion with them about Christ, then I don't think I would be a Christian today, I would not have known where to go to seek it out.

My findings on the Christian blogging bubble have made me sad, because we're creating this enclosed community with others only of like mind. We're not inviting others in. We're linking to others just like us.

But I'm also hopeful... I'm hopeful because people are being honest and open. People are being incarnational online.

I'm still working on getting involved outside of the Christian blogging bubble. But I think it's something worthy of my time. If I can show what it's like to follow Jesus to someone out there in the blogosphere, then to God be the glory.

Michelle » 16 April, 2004 5:57 AM

I've worked in exclusive 'christian' media.
There is nothing wrong with targeting a specific religious audience. Depends on what you are giving them I guess. They are easy to please.
I didn't particularly like it, it was safe and accepting but didn't challenge and stretch me as a broadcaster/writer.
I think Darren's train enthusiast model is a good one. Millions of people going online to seek spiritual resources. I don't think on my blog I need to use inclusive religious language. There are enough people preaching to or trying to change the choir.
I don't think this is an either/or issue or topic though some may see it that way.
Blog on!

Bene Diction » 16 April, 2004 10:48 AM

I ve worked in exclusive Christian media as well ( as a journalist) and Ive learnt that in some situations you have to be very exclusive and very christian - as you really have to know your exclusive christian readership.
Are blogs any different?

dave the rave » 16 April, 2004 7:01 PM

Darren - I wrote about this subject a couple of years ago in an essay titled The Church-Internet (Dis)connection. You and your readers might glean some insights from that as well.

Andrew Careaga » 16 April, 2004 10:54 PM

I maintained my "holy huddle" for some time, in part because I wanted to blog about my experiences in evangelism and didn't want to offend my non-Christian friends.

But a while back I was challenged (by one of your posts I think, Darren) to open up. So I added my non-Christian friends to my blogroll and began leaving comments on their blogs so they knew I had one as well.

What I've found is that my non-Christian friends have profound, one can even say spiritual, things to say. I can truly learn from what God is saying through them. My hope is that my attitude will let them see that they can begin to follow Jesus, just as they are.

Jon Reid » 20 April, 2004 2:55 AM

One thing to remember about the Internet is that people will say deliberately false, hateful, and incendiary things on the Internet that they wouldn't in a face-to-face conversation. The practice of 'trolling' is very common among teenagers who are just looking to get a rise out of someone. It's also very stressful and obnoxious to deal with as a blogger, especially if you take it personally like I've been known to do.

Sadly, I've found that a lot of non-Christians (and I am one myself) are very bad in that regard, and return hate for hate. So, being a Christian in a non-Christian blog community can be a dangerous and frightening prospect. Not everyone's up for it.

I'm not saying that it should be, I'm simply saying that it can be.

Andi » 4 June, 2004 7:06 AM

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