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Why I blog, blogging tips, and a technology primer

Here are my responses to an interview with Raymond Hayes of the Foundation for Evangelism about blogging.  I am grateful to be receiving funding for my Th.D. program at Duke through the Foundation.  Notably, the Foundation just announced November 4th that it will support four initiatives with $50,000-100,000 each to “develop leaders with a passion for evangelism who will have a multiplying impact on The United Methodist Church.”  Great stuff.   

Raymond Hayes interviews Andy Rowell about blogging. 

1. When did you first start blogging. As well, have you done any journalistic or diary type writings in the past either in paper format or electronic?

I have been blogging since January 2006 at www.andyrowell.net -- "Church Leadership Conversations: The Thoughts and Resources of Andy Rowell."  I had started a blog in 2004 but I did not have a clear focus and did not tell people about it.  I remember subtitling it something like: "Reflections on Christianity, leadership, movies, sports, politics, and the news."  Meanwhile, I emailed some pastor friends emails entitled: "What Pastors Need to Know About the book The Da Vinci Code" (released in 2003) and "What Pastors Need to Know About the film The Passion of the Christ" (released in Feb 2004).  I was surprised to hear that they forwarded my email messages to others.  This is when I started to realize that this was my niche and passion--"What Pastors Need to Know About . . ."  This has been my blog's focus.  When a pastor emails me a question, then I may post a version of my response.  Or if I find myself in real life having a conversation about a subject, I may post my thoughts. 

2. What do you feel is the reason you like to blog?

I blog because blogging:

(1) improves my writing;

(2) puts me in touch with people outside of my normal circle;

(3) gives me an outlet for insights that I think could help others;

(4) gives me a place to post long thoughtful email messages, papers, and other things I have already written--potentially multiplying their original influence;

(5) helps me articulate my thoughts on different issues;

(6) gives me the opportunity to highlight really great resources others should know about. 


3. Any suggestions for future bloggers?

(1) Read some blogs.  Look through My List of 80 Church Leadership Blogs I am watching.  See my: Why to Try Blogging and How to Start Start a blog at WordPress.com for free. Don't put any distinguishing personal information about yourself on it. Write whatever you want for a couple of months. Note what categories you find yourself writing about--then start another blog about the topic you are most interested in and include your full name and start telling people about it.  It is usually good to have some expertise about the topic you are writing about. 

(2) Don't worry about how many people read your blog but comment on other blogs and sign your comments with your blog address and with the blog's title which clearly states its subject.

(3) Remember that anything you put on the internet is potentially public and permanent so don't write anything you wouldn't want a potential employer or your mother to read.  Be fair to those you critique. 

(4) Really scathing blog posts ripping someone will get you noticed and increase your audience but fairness and wisdom will help you retain an audience.  People like thoughtful, funny, fair people.  People get tired of mean people. 

(5) Anne Lamott in her book on writing, Bird by Bird says that people who attend her writing workshops are always wanting to know on the first day how to get an agent, get a contract, and make big money as a writer.  Lamott is always trying to just get them to write.  I would say the same thing.  What are you already writing already?  Lectures, newsletters, sermons . . . why not collect them on a blog rather than letting them rot away in "My Documents" in your computer?  People will notice you and if you are good, they will subscribe to your blog and notice when you post something new and will be drawn to it. 

(6)  See Tips for Better Blogging by Webmonkey and Mark Batterson's Ten Blog Tips or Abraham Piper's 22 very simple ways for a new blogger to improve or read the book The Blogging Church.

(7) Blogging should not be allowed to keep you from your family, hurt your relationships, hurt your day job, or become an obsession. 


4. What one message of Christ do you feel fits your daily life, and helps you keep writing on a regular basis?

2 Corinthians 6:3-12 TNIV

3 We put no stumbling block in anyone's path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. 4 Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; 5 in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; 6 in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; 7 in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; 8 through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; 9 known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.     11 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. 12 We are not withholding our affection from you

Like the Apostle Paul, in my personal life, vocational life and blogging life, I want to be someone who is trying to follow Christ well and to share freely with others what I have found that they might be built up.  


5.  Any of the new technologies that you like the most? (Social tools like Twitter, Facebook or any new hardware like the iPhone, etc, that helps you keep up with your duties or writing?

Here are my comments about 7 technologies:

  1. I follow lots of blogs with Google Reader.  See my list of 80 Church Leadership blogs that I would recommend which I keep updated: My List of 80 Church Leadership Blogs I am watching.  Google Reader is an RSS feeder in that it notifies you when there are any new posts from a blogger.  It gives you the titles of the posts--I scan through the titles and read probably 5 in 100.  In the blogosphere, there are some good United Methodist blogs worth watching:    

    Adam Hamilton - Seeing Gray - megachurch UMC pastor in Kansas

    Andrew Thompson - Gen-X Rising, UMC pastor and Th.D. student at Duke

    Ben Witherington - Professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary

    Scott Jones - Kansas UMC Bishop Blogs and Columns

    Will Willimon - A Peculiar Prophet - Alabama UMC Bishop

  2. I would highly recommend learning to use iTunes.  It is a free software (application / program) that you can use on a PC or a Mac.  With it you can download audio and video like Adam Hamilton's Church of the Resurrection, or the Catalyst Conference podcast.  The free stuff is called "podcasts."  See my best podcasts.  There is tons of great stuff for free to listen to. 

  3. I would also recommend people consider switching to Gmail for their email.  You don't even need to give up your other email address.  You can use Gmail (powered by Google) to check it.  Gmail has basically unlimited storage, no ads on the email messages, and is extraordinarily fast and flexible.  I can't understand why people would use any other Webmail interface or worry about storage or about your computer crashing and losing all of your stored email messages.  Just keep them on gmail and search for what you need. 

  4. See my:The Best Bible Study Tools on the Web and Biblegateway.com - Why every pastor should demonstrate it to their congregation and Introduction to the online theological world

  5. I think the free Mozilla Firefox is a faster browser than Internet Explorer.  I use Firefox. 

  6. I think Facebook is great for connecting with old high school, college and seminary friends.  I keep Facebook "friends" to people I remember and have met in person.  Most people however simply say "yes" to anyone who asks to be their friend.  I am not as interested in reading updates from people I don't know and have never met in person, so I do not have them as friends on Facebook.

  7. I would not recommend Twitter though I am still experimenting with it.  I think it is a waste of time.  I have reflected on it at Top grades for pastors on Twitter and Reflections on Twitter

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