Journaling for Jesus

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Jon Acuff, 33, uses satire to tell about his struggles as a Christian, including, among many other things, his weakness for pornography. He lives near Atlanta.

Roger Niccum, 34, opines from Fairfield, Ill., about music and entertainment.

These are just three of the tens of thousands–perhaps millions–of Christians who currently express their faith through internet blogs.

Christian blogs are as diverse as are individual Christians.

Even the sites’ names are idiosyncratic.

Beard calls his blog Thunderstruck. He explains that choice:

“Methodist founder John Wesley (1703-1791) frequently used ‘Thunderstruck’ to describe what happened when people would experience a deep understanding of God during one of his sermons. Simultaneously, ‘Thunderstruck’ is one of AC/DC’s greatest hits. I kind of like that.”

Quirkiness may be the whole point of blogging. The easy availability of blogs (a contraction of “web log”) allows anyone with internet access a podium from which to tell the world what he or she happens to be thinking at any moment-about anything.

Some bloggers think, and thus write, constantly.

Acuff, an advertising writer by profession, started his Stuff Christians Like blog in March 2008. He’s already posted 300,000 of his words there.

“I’ve written more than I’ve ever written in my life,” he said.

It’s hard to estimate how many Christian blogs there are, or even how many blogs generally. One thing’s indisputable: Blogging is huge.

For instance, a single host site, christianblog.com, now provides space to what appears to be thousands of Christian bloggers. They share views on topics ranging from gaming and computers to health and fitness to travel & vacations. There are 242 blog entries just under the heading “poems.” Christianblog.com claims to have garnered more than 59 million page views.

A report in early 2008 by Universal McCann estimated that a total of 184 million blogs had been started worldwide, including 26.4 million in the United States. If we were to guess, for the sake of conversation, that 10 percent of those are written by Christians, that would add up to 18.4 million and 2.6 million Christian blogs, respectively.

Christians who write blogs do so for various reasons-not the least of which might be ego. But bloggers contacted for this article said they wanted to talk publicly about their faith and, they hoped, in the process help other people.

Acuff said he’d messed up his own life and “had God love me out of that place.”

He decided to write honestly and humorously about his flaws, which he calls sharing his scars. He thinks Christians too often feel compelled to hide their problems.

“The Christian f-word is ‘fine,'” he said.

For him, a candid approach has worked remarkably well. Within its first two weeks, the sharp-edged Stuff Christians Like was drawing 4,300 visitors daily. Since its inception, it’s gotten 2 million page views from 190 countries. In 2010, Zondervan will publish a book version of Stuff Christians Like.

“I’ve been thrilled to be part of that,” Acuff said. “It blew up instantly. Honesty is contagious. It’s the only thing that travels faster than gossip.”

There are difficulties involved in blogging. For one thing, it can take a lot of time.

Then there’s the fact that dealing with readers’ criticisms requires a thick skin.

“It’s easy to jump to conclusions and type responses without letting my emotions calm down and seeking God’s guidance,” said Niccum, whose blog is called Thought Quotient. “I’ve found that my first reaction is usually wrong.”

And creating a successful blog demands what for some is a new set of skills.

“Blogging is very broad and involves technical knowledge, design, graphics, marketing, socializing, writing skills, proofing skills, money management, etc., etc.,” Beard said. “It’s just like running a small business.”

Several bloggers agreed the best part of their work is the sense they’re actually reaching people. Readers do respond.

“My most treasured e-mail,” Beard said, “came from an Episcopal Sunday school teacher in Alabama who had a class full of Goth and punk high schoolers. He told me he used the articles he found on Thunderstruck to try to relate his faith to their culture in the class.”

Acuff frequently posts his readers’ literary contributions on his site.

“My readers are funnier than me,” he said.

But he said the most profound benefit of his labors might be as individual as the process of blogging itself. As he fills up notebooks with ideas for entries, taps on his keyboard, reads his e-mail, he finds himself being transformed for the better.

“If no one gets changed but me,” he said, “that’s OK.”

 

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