I’ve been blogging now for over seven years. I’ve logged 2,457 blogposts during that span of time that has, to some degree, become quite biographical. Having now upgraded the blog, I thought a little re-introduction was in order. People have various reasons for starting a blog. Most of those reasons don’t last as more blogs go into nonexistence each year than get started. Having hung around for seven years now, I thought this would be as good of a time than ever to share why I started blogging in the first place.
How I Was Introduced to Blogging
I first heard about blogging as a mainstream form of media in 2004 during “Rathergate“. Bloggers were able to do the job mainstream media would not and could not do in exposing the falsified documents regarding then President George W. Bush’s supposed avoidance in going to serve in the Vietnam War. I remember reflecting on this phenomenon–how some no name people can have the opportunity in a flattened world to influence an entire nation with this new online platform. I was intrigued to say the least, but it was not enough to get me into the world of blogging.
In the Spring of 2005, a good friend of mine was “researching” in the first floor of Boyce Centennial Library (Southern Seminary’s library) on what was then called a “Xanga blogring.” For those of you around back in 2005, you remember Xanga and Blogger were quite popular. My friend encouraged me to check them out, and so I decided to join both. One was going to be comedic in nature (Xanga), and the other was going to be devotional in nature (Blogger). I had a communications dilemma because my monthly online newsletter fell upon hard times as I lost all the contact information of hundreds of friends and family who were interested in keeping in touch while I was in seminary. I figured a viable solution was to transition from an online newsletter to a digital journal of sorts through blogging.
In the beginning, I shared my experiences in seminary and mostly my devotional thoughts from personal study and Bible intake. I honestly did not know what I was doing and had never heard of the word “hyperlink” before in my life. I also did not have a name for my blog and felt that at least I could do that. Without much thought (literally less than five minutes), I tentatively called it “Provocations and Pantings”, and here’s the reason why.
Why I Called It “Provocations and Pantings”
In college, I was introduced to Soren Kierkegaard’s spiritual writings. After completing a research paper on his theological and philosophical contribution to Christian history, I proceeded to read more, including books like Purity of Heart Is to Will One Thing and Provocations. What impressed me about Kierkegaard is his unrelenting willingness to challenge status quo and challenge nominal Christianity. He desired authenticity–something which folks in my generation seem to care a lot about, and he provoked people toward that end. At the same time, I became heavily influenced by the Puritans through a little bookstore called Mount Zion Chapel Library in Pensacola, FL. I would be a “run” to P-Cola about every month and stack up on Puritan literature at the cheapest prices around. What gripped me about the Puritans is how practical and “experimental” they were with their theology. It seemed they were pushed against some of the same nominalism Kierkegaard faced in his day. Except in their case, the word “panting” (not “painting”) surfaced time and again. It’s a Bible word that we don’t use anymore. The deer “pants” for the water brooks, and as the Psalmist says, our soul “pants” after God. This speak of a passionate pursuit, intense longing, and earnest affection to know and enjoy God for all that He is for us. I found myself at a crossroads where I felt being “provoked” about much of religion I grew up with and at the same time “panting” for more of God, more of His Word, more of what is means to be “Christian.”
Thus, the name Provocations and Pantings. And while it was intended to be tentative, with a cooler name to follow, it has stuck around.
“The Social Network”
After a couple of months on Blogger, I began to find my way around. Someone even told me that there was a way to check for stats on your page. I was just jazzed that I had my own cheap version of a website. I installed a stat counter, and behold, more people were reading my blog than my parents and a few friends back at home! I was blown away that 20-25 people a day were reading my blog. I realized what I should have already known, that anyone in the world can access and read my blog if they found a way to it. It was then I started taking the “public” idea of blogging a little more seriously. My devotional writings began to look like actual blogposts or articles. I began writing on current events and issues taking place in evangelical life, inserting stuff I was learning in seminary. In 2005, the main form of aggregation was getting on someone’s blogroll, and over a period of time, I began to network through people’s blogrolls and developed friendships with guys like Joe Thorn, Steve McCoy, Marty Duren, and Tom Ascol (among others). Southern Seminary had its own blogging aggregator where the latest posts from SBTS students would appear on the home page. Through these means, I began to connect with like-minded folks who knew a lot more about blogging than I did!
Looking back, one of the most significant contributions I hope to have made was the start of a fellowship of bloggers in 2006 called Band of Bloggers. It was a simple idea that gained immediate traction. Through this (almost) yearly gathering, I have had the opportunity of meeting hundreds (literally) of evangelical bloggers who care deeply about the gospel and the church. Band of Bloggers has sold out every year since its first gathering, and I am grateful for the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people in the process.
You see, here’s the deal. I would say of the 99% of the people I know in the evangelical world, I initially got connected through the Internet, and principally blogging. I don’t know or am intimately connected to really important people. No one in my family has a prominent role or status in the evangelical world. I have not written a book, nor do I pastor a large, well known church. But as I have plodded along, I come to know many people first online and then in real life (some of them becoming lifelong friends). In fact, the very position I hold as a pastor of Grace is largely attributed first to blogging and getting to know Tom Ascol through this medium.
Much more can be said about why I started blogging and the journey of these past seven years. Without a doubt, there are things I have written that I would do differently or not do at all. But I do not regret starting a blog! Through it, God has blessed my life with encouragements I don’t deserve, friendships I deeply value, and an opportunity to bless others with information and encouragement one blogpost at a time.
So, if you are a blogger, why did you start blogging? What got you going?