First Birthday! What I’ve learnt over the last year

Today God and Politics in the UK is one year old!  On November 30th 2011 I published my first post on St. Paul’s and the Occupy protests, which you can read here.  I have to admit that I had no idea what I was letting myself in for when I started.  It’s been a steep learning curve, but looking back, I’m so glad I jumped in and gave it a shot.

I’ve learnt a huge amount over the last twelve months and made a few mistakes along the way too, so if you don’t mind I’d like to give a few reflections, first on blogging in general and secondly on the subject matter I write about:

Blogging

  1. Don’t get obsessed with numbers.  In the early days I’d be constantly checking my daily stats to see if people were reading what I’d written and then get worried if I had a quiet day.  If you write articles that people are interested in, you’ll find your audience will grow over time. Be patient.  If you are more obsessed about building a following than what you write then you shouldn’t be blogging in the first place.
  2. Check your facts. You’ll look stupid if you write something that is proven to be wrong.  Try and avoid it by doing your homework.  If you get something wrong, apologise ASAP and correct it as best you can.  People will mostly forgive you if you’re honest about your error.
  3. Give praise where it’s due.  It’s easy to find things to criticise, but if that’s all you do, you’ll be seen as a moaner.  If you see something good, highlight it and give it some praise even if it’s from a source you struggle to respect normally.
  4. Blogging is time-consuming, but don’t let it ruin your life.  I don’t blog as much as I’d like to and I’ve had some really good stories I’ve had to pass by because I just haven’t had the time to write something.  Family and friends are more important than a blog and some days it has to be given a rest.
  5. Having a social media Sabbath is healthy.  I always make sure I have at least one day away from my blog a week. I try to have a day off Twitter too but I’m less good at that.  Social media can be addictive and having regular breaks from it keeps you sane and gives you time to do more important things.
  6. Don’t be sensational for the sake of it.  There’s a time and a place for a rant but you won’t come across as a stable person who’s worth listening to if you do it too much.
  7. Twitter gives you the world at your fingertips.  If you want people to see what you’re writing, you ought to be on Twitter.  Being active on Twitter is the best way to get noticed.  You’ll reach a far bigger audience than Facebook will give you and you’ll discover a whole bunch of wonderful people you never knew existed.
  8. Always be try to be kind and humble.  Be nice to people and usually they’ll be nice back even if you don’t agree with each other.  If you read someone else’s article that you like, retweet it or send them a positive comment saying how much you enjoyed it.  Encourage others whenever you can.  Don’t boast about how many people read your blog or how many followers you have on Twitter. No one likes a show-off.
  9. Don’t be offended if your efforts go unnoticed.  What I regard to have been some of my best posts haven’t been widely read.  It’s frustrating when I’ve put time and effort into an article and then it feels like it’s been ignored. That’s the nature of blogging.  People read what they want to.  There’s no point getting angry if others don’t think something is as important as you do.  Maybe ask yourself why it wasn’t read, but then move on and focus on the next piece.
  10. Think carefully about your headlines.  I’ve learnt that if a headline sounds dull, it won’t encourage readers to look further.  The headline is the hook that draws people in.  At the same time don’t be sensational even though it tends to have the desired effect.  Try and maintain some integrity.  You’re not a tabloid newspaper.
  11. Don’t be afraid to ask.  If I hadn’t asked some very kind bloggers to give my blog a plug in the early days, I doubt it would be noticed as much as it is now.  People are often surprisingly generous.  Don’t be surprised though if you sometimes get ignored or rejected.  You can’t expect to get the answer you want every time.  Make sure you’re polite, whatever you say.  It will definitely help.
  12. Fridays are quiet.  I can almost guarantee that if I post something on a Friday, it will get read less than if I’d put it up on any other week day.  That’s just the way things are.  Don’t fight it.

God and Politics

  1. Christians can get on really well until they start talking about politics.  Just like anyone else really.  When it comes to the economy, education, benefits, tax and a whole lot more, there just isn’t one simple answer, so we’re bound to disagree with each other.  There isn’t one political party that’s more Christian than all the others.  We shouldn’t look down on other Christians if they don’t vote the same way as us or agree with the same policies or even if they don’t think women bishops are a good idea.  We should be willing to listen and not afraid to argue respectfully, but always avoid falling out and ostracising others.
  2. There’s not a lot of wisdom in politics.  Democracy is  a wonderful thing but it often doesn’t put the best people in the best positions.  There are plenty of MPs with a good deal of integrity, but as the expenses scandal has shown us, there are some who should never have been elected in the first place.  There’s a reason why it says in the book of Proverbs that we should prize wisdom.  It’s worth far more than money or knowledge.
  3. Atheism is a poor moral guide.  Some atheists are very quick to dismiss and denounce religious belief without offering an alternative that has any substance or  value.  They are quite happy to tell Christians that they should keep their faith to themselves, but don’t seem remotely interested in running food banks, hostels for the homeless, visiting prisoners and a whole host of other things Christians do really well because they care.  Atheism is vacuous.
  4. Christian persecution in this country is very limited but abroad it is widespread.  There are some shocking decisions made against Christians in this country who stand up for their beliefs, but they are few and far between.  At least we don’t need to worry about our homes being burnt down or being excluded from schools and work because of what we believe unlike many around the world.  Those Christians deserve our support.
  5. The UK is becoming increasingly secular.  This might seem obvious, but it mean that Christians are going to face plenty of challenges ahead from those who see faith as irrelevant.   Religious illiteracy in this country is widespread including in the corridors of power and we’re all worse off as a result.
  6. There are a lot of Christians behind the scenes in parliament doing excellent work.  This sort of stuff doesn’t get noticed much, but there are Christians who are living out their in faith effectively in positions of responsibility who need our prayers.
  7. Ignoring God’s principles is a bad idea.  Much of the trouble we see in our nation is because its Christian roots are slowly eroding away.  If the banks, media, parliament and other institutions acted with more integrity, we’d be better off as a country.  The church has plenty to offer this country.  Mustn’t let it’s voice be ignored.
  8. There are some problems that cannot be fixed by man.  Family breakdown, materialism and self obsession, which are all rife in our country can’t be legislated against.  If you want to see some of the brokenness healed and people becoming more compassionate, caring about the interests of others as well as themselves, you have to accept that the power of Jesus to transform lives is far more likely to cause this to happen than any programmes or laws will.
  9. Our country needs prayer.  History shows us that when God’s people pray, great things can happen.   Our leaders need God’s wisdom and there are plenty of people who need hope and restoration in their lives that only God can bring.

I don’t often get to say this but I’m not ashamed of the Good News of Jesus Christ.  I have no intention of shoving it down people’s throats, but for those who are willing to listen, I believe he came to give hope and rescue us from our selfish lives full of greed, intolerance, unhealthy desires and pride.  In Jesus I find forgiveness and an overwhelming sense that I am loved and valued.  It spurs me on to keep writing and doing my best to show that our society will surely benefit from seeing more of the Christian faith in action, not less of it.  As I wrote in my first blog post:

To do nothing is not an option, as Jesus said, “You are the light of the world.”  … hopefully this [blog] is another way for that light to shine and cast God’s light on our society.

One year on I’m still on a mission to do just that.



Categories: Blogging, Faith in society

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

18 replies

  1. Wholehearted congratulations, Gillan: keep up the good work!

  2. A further suggestion for your blogging tips, if I may: always use inclusive language where possible (see God and Politics point 8) 😉

  3. CONGRATULATIONS. This a truly wonderful blo. This post contains much wisdom. God bless!

  4. Happy birthday and lots more of them. Having been blogging on law & religion with David Pocklington for six months now, your reflections on your own experience seem to be eminently sensible and coincide pretty much with ours. I haven’t yet got over the nervous twitch of checking the statistics too often, though!

    • It’s always useful to hear of the experiences of other bloggers. On the day after the Leveson report, it is worth mentioning the written evidence of Adam Wagner (UK Human Rights Blog) to the inquiry, which was very much in sympathy with the manner in which we try to operate our blog, such as providing hyperlinks to original sources wherever possible and an implicit discouragement of pseudonyms.

      Since there are two of us editing the blog, we tend to self-regulate on potentially contentious issues or areas outside our ‘comfort zone’. As Frank’s above comments prove, however, our comments on other blogs tend to be independent, if along very similar lines.

      Of your 12 points on blogging, I would subscribe to them all except perhaps #12, but that could be our different readership. Perhaps there’s scope for publishing an expanded ‘experiences of blogging’ . . .

      • I have learnt a lot from the excellent UK Human Rights blog and agree with what you’ve said. It would be interesting to hear the views of other bloggers in some sort of forum. There is plenty to learn from each other and as you’ve highlighted, not all experiences are the same!

        • So have I, both as a student of human rights law and as a neophyte blogger. The most important things I’ve learned from UKHRB are to engage brain before writing post and (your point 2) to check and double-check my supposed facts. If you don’t build up a reputation for accuracy no-one’s going to read your stuff.

  5. Happy birthday. For those of us who write letters to politicians, public bodies, newspapers who engage on humanist secular and atheist websites and do outreach in public places you have become a vital resource in our work. I and others have a passion to address the issues you mention in God and Politics 1-9. and trying to promote kingdom principles in our society. The more informed we are when challenged or challenging the better. Please keep up the good work.

  6. Happy birthday!!
    Cheering for you 🙂

    Great tips, too – and I like your observations about politics etc.

  7. Thank you everyone for your kind comments. It does feel like a proper birthday today 🙂

  8. I’ve been thinking all day about this post, really reflecting on it.

    I love blogging, even though I do not consider myself a decent writer or extremely knowledgeable in any specific subject. I also don’t consider myself to be on any particular mission as such.

    I made a decision some time ago to be a blogger that happens to Christian, rather than a ‘Christian blogger’. I felt I wanted to live out the most honest, transparent, online existence I could, as a Christian, warts and all.

    I have recognised one gift I do have however. And this is two-fold and inter-related. It is to encourage others and to be able to recognise those others that are gifted writers and do have exceptional knowledge in specific areas.

    Yourself (Gillan) and Frank Cranmer and David Pocklington are prime examples of such people and why I link more often than other bloggers.

    I want to be a conduit, pointing and linking to folks such as yourselves. This is important to me and probably the part that thrills me most.

    It’s almost become more important for me to identify those that are impacting the Kingdom online, than doing so myself.

    I am not a focused or specialist blogger and I think that hinders in some ways, but I know what floats my boat and is important to my heart and I do find this hooks others in some way. I suppose I have an eclectic mind, although wish at times that i could specialise in depth on a particular topic and become an ‘authority’ or ‘expert’ in such things, as you guys have done.

    Still, we are what we are, and are called for a reason to fulfill something that only we can achieve. A key shaped for a certain lock if you like……

    I’ll stop there but could easily ramble on which is unlike me….

    • I think you’ve highlighted an important aspect of what it means to be a blogger. We all have our different roles to play, at least in the Christian community. Your blog provides an incredibly rich resource that draws attention to a whole range of issues and blogs that the rest of us can feed into. It has pointed a large numbers of people in my direction and I am continually thankful for what you do.

      You have greatly encouraged me and as someone who has a wealth of blogging experience, I have studied you blog and learnt a plenty from you.

      I do see the Christian blogging community as a form of church. Some of us are pastors, some apostles, some teachers, others prophets and so on, but whatever we focus on, the important thing is that we point to God and draw people’s eyes to Him.

      You have been a blessing to me Stuart. Thank you.

      • I do see the Christian blogging community as a form of church. Some of us are pastors, some apostles, some teachers, others prophets and so on, but whatever we focus on, the important thing is that we point to God and draw people’s eyes to Him.

        I really like that Gillan, very much so….

    • Thank you, Stuart from both of us: you are extremely kind. I don’t know how our prose comes across but we do at least try very hard to get the facts right and not to mix up fact and comment.

  9. I endorse Stuart’s last as well as previous comments. As ever, weighty words with gentle but deep impact in all points Gillan, especially your closing ‘mission statement’.

    Very well done my friend. Will circulate to non-cyber friends to encourage them to keep informed and notice how boundaries between Christian belief and national life change as they interweave, or ‘Dove tail’.

    Re. those ‘Ascension gifts’ in your reply to Stuart, you may be interested in what a visiting German pastor shared on this yesterday: the Lord told him these are not to be construed as ‘grades’ for believers to aspire to. He said Father wants us to grow from disciples into His friends, then Sons and then (paradoxically) Bride – what a mind-blowing destiny!

    • Altho I can mostly agree with you on many things, I do have to say this. Religious persecution is always wrong no matter the form it comes in. Another words if too many christians take office I agree that the values are good however, Others of other religions will face prosecution by the changing of laws and this has proven to be all in history. Another words lets say that Catholics have a heavy presence in government, they will force their views through their good intentions with laws, but what about protestants? God gave us all one thing, the ability to choose. This is why religion needs to be separate from government, people do not have the right to take away what god has granted us, this includes the ability to choose for ourselves.

      The kings and queens of old used to force their people to follow the religion of the royalty and had punishments for those that didn’t. Human nature hasn’t changed even though the times may have, the path you are preaching can be very dangerous, Although I may agree with it myself.

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