When I began this blog I started with a post about what the blog was for (here). I haven’t re-read it recently so I’m only guessing when I say what it said. I think I started doing this: a) to play something of the role a journal plays, to make me reflect on what I’m doing, thinking and feeling; b) to practice another form of communication as somebody who is shortly going to be (among other things) a communicator by vocation; c) to get things “out of my head” by giving thoughts, impressions and reactions somewhere else to live.
I have adopted a discipline of posting no more than 7 days apart in order to make sure that I don’t fall into “I haven’t got anything to say” as an excuse for not reflecting. And as I’ve done more of it I’ve got better at it, using some easily available metrics. More people have looked at Loves Work as time has gone on. April was its busiest month to date with an average of 20 page views per day. The number of comments has tended to increase. Apart from the exception of my personal testimony in December which got a lot of views because somebody (I don’t know who) put it onto Reddit my recent reflection on my response to something I called progressive Christianity is my most viewed post.
I have found it easy to get sucked into these metrics. One can come to see blogging as something at which it is possible to succeed. More readers, more comments can come to serve as affirmation that one is doing well at something. This clearly isn’t just me. The way the stats are presented by the blogging sites, the comments from other bloggers, the humour in cartoons and so on make it clear that this is widespread.
This makes me wonder about a) the relationship between blogging and ministry; b) the role of metrics in ministry; c) the very ideas of success and failure.
I find it quite possible to imagine a blogging ministry, someone whose main service to Christ is in the form of a blog. One feature of this blog is that it is self-consciously that of a student, a minister in formation. Its concerns (theology, ministry, the nature and mission of the Church) are those of someone thinking about ministry more than those of a minister. I’m pretty sure its readers are mostly students and ministers. I don’t think of it as a ministry.
If I carry on blogging in ministry, and I do expect to, its character and its audience are likely to change. This is something I’ve been thinking about, given the imminence of this change in my role and status. I’m not sure how to mark the break and what discipline to impose on myself but I will need to do something. One question is whether to carry on with Love’s Work or not. I’m strongly inclined to carry on with it, since Gillian Rose was and remains so very important to me, but I really need to think about how to manage the transition.
Someone else, though, could carry out a ministry to some dispersed body of people through a blog, I’m sure, and this could be their main ministry.
b) I’ve posted before on appraisal of ministerial performance (here) and its an interesting reflection on my audience that this is one of my more popular posts (fifth most popular with 65 views as a I write).
How one judges success will depend on what one thinks the objectives of ministry are. Some, who think in terms of individual salvation, will look to the number of Christians converted. Others, who think in terms of community building, will look at the numbers of people involved in various para-church and other projects, at lives improved. Still others will focus on the institutional health of the Church itself, or at the development of deeper engagement with Christ on the part of those they serve.
All these have some validity, I think, but none of them feel quite central to me. I (at the moment) expect to look more to some (hard to define) sense of whether I’m doing what I’m supposed to do. I will know whether I’m the minister I’m supposed to be mostly by discerning the state of my relationship to God. If I feel loving and grateful that will be a good sign, if not then I must be doing something wrong.
This is because I don’t think I know what the mission of the Church or of any part of it is. None of the characterisations offered seem to me to capture it adequately although they may well describe what particular people and groups of people are called to do. The Church is not just a propaganda organisation for faith, nor a kind of political party, nor a club for mutual care, although it is all these things.
c) Ultimately our success or failure and that of the Church are not important. Faith is God is faith in that proposition, it seems to me. Faith, more than anything else, is the trust that God’s love and God’s power are such that all our failures will ultimately be swallowed up in God’s redeeming action. In the end all will (despite all appearances to the contrary) be well.
The role of the Church is not to help God succeed (thank God that God does not need our help). The role of the Church is to faithfully and obediently to respond in gratitude to the love freely offered and is gratitude something at which one can succeed or fail?
So what’s this blog for? To help me, maybe, to remember that in the end nothing else matters. Only God’s love. Not even my feeble response to that love, or yours, whoever you may be, matters finally. God will, ultimately, do what God wills, and that will is loving.
Thanks be to God.