Are we just talking to ourselves?

A friend of mine recently told me that he was giving up on blogging. I was sad to hear it for several reasons. For one, we struck up our friendship through Twitter and following one another’s respective blogs so, as far as I am concerned, it can’t have been valueless if not only for that reason. But it isn’t only that reason that makes me sad.

My friend often posted thoughtful, provocative comment that bore consideration. Whilst I didn’t always agree with him, sometimes I changed my mind on an issue because of what he said. Other times (or so he tells me) he sharpened his thinking on things because of stuff I wrote. Again, even if we were the only ones reading each other’s blog, it has proved helpful.

But perhaps the thing that made me saddest was his closing reason. Having said that he started it for the purposes of serving his church, which few of his members actually accessed, he found more outsiders began reading. He said that he had hoped those outsiders would become interested in some of the key things he sought to highlight. He finished his comments with this, ‘I think we’ve been talking to ourselves mainly’. Essentially, this is why he has decided to stop blogging.

There are several reasons I think this is sad. First, my friend was raising some of the issues that have been mentioned over and again on this blog. For these issues to get traction, the more of us saying stuff about ministry in deprived communities the better as far as I’m concerned. Mez McConnell is the only person I am aware of with any name recognition getting this issue on the agenda. Even if we are talking amongst ourselves a bit, if even one of us gets noticed and is willing to point out others in similar need, support may be forthcoming. We can’t expect any help if nobody knows we are there.

Second, I think it is sad because I don’t believe we are just talking to ourselves. Whilst it would be untrue to say that our church has been inundated with support, it is certainly true that what support we have received can (almost) all be traced back to this blog in some respect. A lot of the financial help we have received has come about through people reading about our church on this blog (or accessing this blog through Twitter and engaging with us on social media for a bit). Some of that has come from churches and individuals in similar ministry setups to us, but some of it hasn’t. There have been a few in situations entirely different to ours who have been moved to help. One or two from beyond our particular constituency are taking notice.

Third, even if we are talking mainly to ourselves, I think it is good for those of us in deprived communities to know what is going on with others. It is so easy to get an Elijah complex in our ministries and end up feeling isolated as though we are the only ones doing this sort of thing. Whilst it is true that there are relatively few of us, and even fewer talking about it on blogs and social media, just as the Lord had his 7000 when Elijah thought himself the only one, so the Lord has his people serving in deprived communities regardless of how it feels sometimes. It is helpful to know that there are others facing similar issues to us and it is good to know what is going on with them.

Fourth, like the above, unless those of us in deprived communities know who else is out there, we won’t be able to make friends with those in similar situations. I only know my friend who has jacked in his blog because he blogged! As a result of his blog, we’ve had a lot of really helpful conversations and have met up and had a rare old time. Likewise, I know there are people who only know we exist because of what they read here. Moreover, there are people who have been moved to support us because of what they read here. But we can only support people that we know exist and we tend to know what is there by what has any profile.

So, I hope my friend picks up his blog again. Maybe in due time he will. I appreciated Tim Challies post about plodding on with your blog. Sometimes pressing on has more value than it might seem according to our stats page. Even if not for your own sake, or even for the immediate benefit of your own church, your blog may have more value than you realise for those outsiders you never really intended to reach in the first place.