Hard to believe that a 58-year old pastor in NYC could teach you anything about blogging. But he can.
Raise your hand if you know who Tim Keller is.
Okay, for those of you who don’t have your arms raised, Tim Keller is the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.
Not only is he considered the most successful Christian evangelist in New York City, but Redeemer is one of Manhattan’s most vital churchs.
So What Does Keller Know about Vibrant Blogging?
Hard to believe, isn’t it? That a 58-year old pastor in NYC–who freely admits he listens to cassette tapes–could teach you anything about blogging.
But he can.
You see, blogging is no different than preaching in a church. Especially a vibrant church. Let me explain.
Recently I’ve been listening to a seminar series by Dr. Keller called Preaching in Christ in a Post-Modern World.
[Warning: The moment you click that link is the moment that the seminar series will start downloading to iTunes. 32 sessions in all.]
Most of Keller’s sessions deal with expounding, applying and adoring Scripture and Christ in a skeptical world, but during a series of sessions called “Entering Their World,” Keller has a lot to say that can be applied to blogging.
Six things, in fact. Let me share them with you.
Enter Their Worldview
I’ve seen this happen too often: A blogger launches into a difficult topic like hell or God’s wrath without entering the non-Christian’s world first. He proclaims: This is the way it is. Take it or leave it.
I’ve been guilty of this myself.
The non-Christian’s obvious response is disdain. He turns away, seeing you as arrogant and unsympathetic.
Instead, start your blog post off with a reference to a song, play or book the non-Christian can relate to. Maybe it’s a passage from Foucoult’s History of Madness or a line from Robert Frost. Or maybe you reference Camus and Frankl when talking about the meaning of life.
If you do this, the non-Christian will stop and say, “Hey, maybe he’s got something important to say.” That’s what you want.
Once you’ve got their attention and they’re listening, start a dialog. A conversation. The best way to do that is to ask a question. For example, at some point in your blog post, write:
“Does this make sense?”
“Has this ever happened to you?”
“What would you do in this situation?”
The idea is to keep them interested. Engaged. Emotionally attached to your blog post. And moving along. Like we are.
At some point your reader is going to throw up a road block. They are going to say to themselves, “I can’t believe x because of y.”
Your task is to see those objections coming ahead of time–and confront them immediately. Which brings me to my next point.
Look Them in the Eye
If you have their attention, interest and objections, at some point in your blog post you need to write, “Now, I imagine some of you out there don’t believe an ounce of what I’m saying. Here’s what you need to think about….”
Looking your reader in the eye is a great tactic to stir up that desire in your reader to learn more. And confronting that objection he’s raising.
It’s like you know him. And talking just to him. But in order to pull this off, you need to know the following.
Understand Their Commitments
Here’s the deal: If you are going to prove a difficult point to someone, you need to know what part of that point they are committed to.
For instance, say you’re writing about the authority of the Bible. You’re readers are likely saying to themselves, “This talk of the authority of the Bible: Rubbish. All I want is a personal relationship with God.”
That’s their commitment.
Your job is to take that commitment and say, “If you want that personal relationship with God, understand that means He will need to contradict you. Correct and reprove you. He’ll do that through the Bible. And if you simply turn Him off at that point, you don’t have a relationship, you have an automaton. That’s not personal.”
This will turn their wisdom on its head. And get them leaning forward.
Respond in a Non-Stereotypical Way
Imagine you’re writing about hell. A non-Christian’s common objection–packaged in a question–is, “You believe in the literal flames of hell, do you?”
Usually said with a sneer on their face and folded arms.
If you respond, “Yep, that’s what the Bible says,” anticipate that sneer to grow. You’ve fallen into their trap.
On the other hand, if you respond, “No. I don’t,” you’ll catch him off guard. And if you follow up with, “In fact, I believe that the flames are a symbol of something much worse,” then you’ve earned their respect. And they’re more likely to listen to you because you’ve demonstrated you understand them.
One Final Word, Then. . .
Granted, understanding your reader is hard work. It takes time. Effort. Great communication always does. [If you’re married, you know exactly what I mean.]
Now, maybe you’re blog’s target audience isn’t non-Christians. Maybe you’re a pastor blogging to other pastors. Or a professor blogging to seminarians.
Still, you want to keep your readers engaged, right? Then you need to understand them…and couch your blog posts in language they can relate to.
The bottom line is this: If you don’t find a way to communicate clearly and compellingly, you’re not going to convince anyone or grow your audience.
And if you’re not convincing anyone or growing, why do it?