Breaking Out of the Blogospheric Bubble

On a usual day in the evangelical blogosphere, you can expect that about half of your readers are regular readers/subscribers, another third Christians who come due to linkage or Google love, and a very small percentage of folks from outside the little world that is the evangelical blogospheric bubble (EBB).

There have been only a few times in the three years that I have been blogging where something I wrote made it out of the EBB. A few examples from my articles include posts on Anna Nicole Smith, Michael Vick, and most recently the terrible disaster in Burma. Now I don’t mind writing within the EBB; in fact, 99.9% of everything I have written has been tailored to this audience. However, one of the goals I have is to use this medium to communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ to the broader public. In other words, one of my goals is what I am calling “breakout blogging.”

I was reminded of this last night when I noticed something really unusual taking place. Since about 6:00 p.m. Wednesday night, first-time visitors have been increasing every hour, currently about four times what I average every hour. I thought, “Did JT link to a post?” Nope. “Did Tony ‘Stumble’ a post?” Nope. So what was it? Where was all this traffic coming from. Answer: Search engines.

Here a list of some of the search engine phrases from the past day (some into the hundreds):

burma
burma cyclone
myanmar cyclone
cyclone in myanmar (burma).
cyclone myanmar burma
cyclone burma
cyclone in myanmar burma
myanmar burma cyclone
cyclone in myanmar (burma)
cyclone myanmar
myanmar map cyclone
burma cyclone map
myanmar cyclone map
myanmar (burma) cyclone
myanmar cyclone 2008
cyclone in myanmar (burma)
myanmar hurricane photos
cyclone burma map
cyclone myranmar bodies
cyclone in myanmar
myanmar cyclone destruction 2008
map burma cyclone
cyclone in burma map

The crazy thing about my article on Burma was that “Burma,” “Myanmar,” or “cyclone” was not even mentioned in the title of my post! Anyone familiar with SEO (search engine optimization) knows that a carefully worded title impacts the likelihood of gaining Google traffic. So while my post was not intended to get out of the EBB, apparently something happened, and it has brought in over 1,500 first-time visitors in the last 24 hours.

So this got me asking myself some questions, such as: why don’t I try to get out of the EBB (evangelical blogospheric bubble) more often? If there is the opportunity to engage thousands of first-time visitors with the gospel on current issues, then why am I not seizing it? When am I going to every have the opportunity elsewhere to potentially reach so many people from across the world for the sake of Jesus? Why not change my programming which is 99.9% in the EBB to more like 95%, intentionally seeking to impact the world with the gospel as it speaks to current issues on national and global levels?

Having seen the potential this past week and in previous posts, I am hoping to do just that. Of course, this will require that I learn a little lot more from blogging experts like Abraham and Tony, but this is part of the vision I have had for Band of Bloggers–that we would use whatever influence we have for the sake of breaking into the lives of unbelievers with the gospel by breaking out of our molds with a missional mindset.

I would be interested in your thoughts on this, as I am still wrestling through some issues, including the caution against being market-driven, examining my motives, the whole concern with being deceptive or disingenuous, and what/how this would look like if people really were impacted with the gospel and sought direction/counsel.

If you’ve got any ideas on this matter, or if you have any experiences of breaking out of the EBB yourself, I would love to hear them. Thanks!

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12 Comments on “Breaking Out of the Blogospheric Bubble”

  1. Ellen Says:

    My “Breakaway post” out of the EBB is really consistent. A couple of years ago I wrote a research paper – assignment: compare and contrast Henry VIII and Martin Luther. I posted it where I post most of my college writing and posted a link on my main blog.

    I get at least 2 hits a week on that post and it’s the highest page on my “entry page” list.

    Why not change my programming which is 99.9% in the EBB to more like 95%, intentionally seeking to impact the world with the gospel as it speaks to current issues on national and global levels?

    Maybe there are that many people in the EBB who need to be pointed to Jesus on a daily basis…


  2. I have felt this burden for sure Timmy, and I have wrestled/been wrestling with how to bust out of the EBB as you call it. At BoB I asked about the tendency for the blogging circles to be an inward-focused sort of “Reformed ghetto” where we all just write with other bloggers like ourselves in mind. I think Abraham had a great point when he said that we should try to talk about other things in our lives in our blogs, etc. Personally, the top post on my blog is one I wrote about an espresso machine we bought last summer with wedding gift money. In God’s providence it went on clearance from $1200 to like 60% off at Starbucks (I got a discount), and a lot of people were searching for info on it. My buddy Drew (Elect Exiles) said that they get hundreds of hits every day from a post on The Secret.

    I think the rub is that for all of us it is probably easier to write about theology or church matters, etc, and I would definitely agree that there is a place for that. But I think breaking out of the bubble/ghetto is necessary for our blogs to be a useful as they could be.

  3. Bobby Gilles Says:

    A few months ago I wrote a review of a songwriting seminar that our worship arts pastoral assistant did, where he talked about metaphors and similes, and I’m still getting hits from searches for “using metaphors and similes” and related phrases.

    Other posts that have broken out, to one extent or another, are my recent posts on the April 9 Sojourn cover story in the LEO Weekly and resulting controversy in some Louisville blogs, letters-to-the-editor of LEO, etc., (mostly pertaining to Sojourn’s stance on homosexuality), as well as (since sojournmusic is primarily a worship music website) my article about the American Idols doing “Shout to the Lord,” and a quick blog post I wrote after the earthquake that shook the midwest a few weeks ago (and not to be corny — or maybe to be corny, I threw in the mp3 of the Sojourn worship band doing “On Christ The Solid Rock I Stand.”

    All of this is to say that, while these are all columns that were of some interest to non-Christians and those uninterested in original worship music or Sojourn, they still made sense in light of the mission for our website. I think, as you say, we have to be careful about becoming merely market-driven, but that all of our sites can legitimately include posts, now and again, that will be of interest to different readers, even if our primary aim is the evangelical community or any other specific grouping of people.

  4. Jerry Says:

    I just checked my stats, and was surprised to see that even though I had a post on Burma (with the name “Burma” in the title) that I received no extra traffic.

    However, my post from last week critical of “Pretty Amazing Grace” gained an extra 400 hits.

    I guess that most folks are more concerned with Neil Diamond’s reputation than with the death of tens of thousands. What a shallow culture we inhabit.

  5. D.L. Kane Says:

    Many things to consider, like comment moderation, etc. No time this morning to list them all. I have spent time (recently) on a “Christian” blog that has a huge audience of non-Christians. Any gospel centered post is quickly veiled if not dishonored and trampled on once the comments start. Perhaps this qoute by AW Pink is worth pondering:

    Zeal needs to be tempered with knowledge. The holy things of the Gospel are not to be bandied about indiscriminately: the precious secrets of His love which the Lord has revealed to us are not to be communicated to His enemies. If believers defy this Divinely imposed restriction, they must not be surprised at meeting with insults and incurring the ire of those upon whom they attempt to force the holy mysteries of the faith. Of the Pharisees Christ said, “Let them alone” (Matthew 15:14), not attempt to convert them from the error of their ways. “Of some have compassion, making a difference” (Jude 22): what a discriminating word is that!

    We are bidden to “Go from the presence of a fool” (Prov. 14:7), and not lower our Christian dignity by arguing with him. But are we not bidden to “Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh a reason of the hope that is in us”? Yes, when “asked” (cf. Prov. 22:21), and then “with meekness and fear” (1 Pet. 3:15) and not with bombast and impudence. The epistles of the New Testament are to be read to “holy brethren” (1 Thess. 5:27), but we know of no warrant to read them to worldlings

    A.W. PINK

    Something to think about for me is “Apologist vs. Evangelist” Hopefully, I will find time to write more and hopefully this comment won’t be misunderstood. Great topic to discuss in length.

    Blessings,
    D.L.

  6. D.L. Kane Says:

    One quick note of clarification before I head out the door. The AW Pink quote was part of a study on Matthew 7:6 “pearls before swine” (a difficult passage) but one to consider when we think about “breaking out of the bubble”.

  7. Pregador27 Says:

    Interesting idea. The concern with being “deceptive” or “disingenuous” is one to take seriously. Tricking people into visiting under false pretenses will not reflect well on the Gospel. However, a good balance, maybe commenting on things from a Christian perspective and offering the Gospel- that might be a direction to go while keeping your integrity intact.

    Just my $.02.

  8. Ali Says:

    I understand your desire not to be deceptive or disingenuous, but in real life, are you being dishonest or disingenuous when you talk about topics that are not directly related to Christianity? Are you being dishonest or disingenuous when you relate to people on the basis of some other commonality besides Christianity? And when you bring in your perspective on something because of the gospel, do people feel cheated and lied to?

    I hope not.

    What is the difference with a blog? Can’t you blog about things that are not directly related to Jesus and then bring in a gospel perspective without being dishonest? Just write in your “About” section that you are a Christian and look at things through the gospel. Expand your interests to those things around you that non-Christians are also likely to be interested in.

    I plan to do something similar on my blog by making it much more local and linking to local sites and interacting with them both on- and off-line. Whether it’ll garner much attention, who knows, but I’m interested in being salt and light and fantastically interested in reaching the place that I live in. It’s one more way of presenting the gospel as relevant to every area of life – as it is.


  9. Thanks for all the comments. I would love to interact with what you all have said, but I have found myself short on time lately.

    D.L., I appreciate what you have shared regarding the excerpt from Pink. The passage of “casting pearls before swine” is one that I have wrestled with. Are we not to preach the gospel to all, indiscriminately and with desire to reach as many as possible? But in the same sense, we are stewards of the greatest treasure in the world–the gospel.

    If I was a missionary going to an unreached people group, I would want to go where the people are and seek to engage them with the gospel. I think we can be intentional to have a gospel-centered hermeneutic to contemporary issues in life that seek to turn minds and affect hearts to things eternal. If God has given me a platform to share Jesus with folks around the world, then by all means (in the spirit of Fuller and Carey), I want to faithfully and clearly and with a good conscience share the gospel with them that they may hear and believe.

    Having said that, I certainly don’t want to use bait-and-switch or any other form of disingenuous or deceptive approach that would be seen as cunning or under-handed. I think the words of Paul to the Corinthians are quite helpful when he said:

    Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.

    – 2 Cor. 4:1-5

    TNB

  10. D.L. Kane Says:

    Timmy,

    It’s so difficult, isn’t it? At least I find it so. I see a real need for blogs where believers are edified, exhorted, encouraged, rebuked, and sharpened; however, I also see a need for blogs where “seekers” (those whom God is drawing) can read a clear and accurate proclamation of the Gospel and have some of their questions answered biblically by other men who are mature in the faith. I also wnat to ensure that anyone reading the blog of those who wear Christ’s name don’t come away thinking, “See, they are just like us.”

    The difficulty is attempting to mix the two, without being guilty of “casting pearls before swine”. I have read every single commentary on Matthew 7:6 available and come away with the strong impression that preaching the Gospel is one thing and equipping the saints in another.

    It is almost an easier task to bring the Gospel to those who have never heard it proclaimed (even if that means we risk our lives to do so) than to attempt to correct the understanding of those who have heard it and yet reject it. I fear that in this country, we are faced with more individuals who have heard it and reject it; or, who have heard it and distorted it, than we are with those who have never heard it at all.

    More later. Just want you to know that I am praying about this daily. God (as usual) has put me on a “theme” of study, meditation and prayer regarding how “blogs” and my involvement on the internet can be best used to bring Glory to God and His Gospel.

    So much more to say…….just know that I am in prayer about all of this and hope to share more later. I am encouraged by how I see the Lord working in you!

    Blessings,
    D. L. Kane

  11. momentomorimortality Says:

    Hi Timmy:

    I am thankful that you were able to put a label (EBB) on what I have been trying to do with my blog, http://momentomorimortality.wordpress.com/ which has only been around for a few short weeks. Many of my friends, family and co-workers are not believers. And if they do have faith in God, it is through a man-made religious system of good works and/or postmodern ideologies.

    I have been thinking about creating a blog for about 2 years and have not done so because of so many others who do it so well already (you, Justin Taylor, Tim Challies, etc.). So I waited and prayed that I could somehow find a personal niche in blogdom that would be evangelistic in nature without being overly philosophical or condescendingly preachy or mean-spirited.

    Friends, family and colleagues were not totally open to books I’d offer them but they mentioned that if I would put together a quick-reading blog of my views and beliefs, that they would check in every once in a while. That way they could be anonymous, hear what I have to say and not feel pressured to follow up with me as they would if I gave them a book to read.

    So far, the response to my blog has been favorable. Not that friends or family members agree with everything I’ve written, but I know that it is at least making them think about their lives and mortality. Even if they don’t comment, they will call, e-mail or mention to me at work their thoughts on the latest post. It then leads to a civil and respectful conversation that was once difficult and uncomfortable because they were not prepared to discuss items of significance like life, death, and eternal matters.

    So anyway, I just wanted to mention that to you and again thank you for being open and honest about your concern for those outside of the EBB. And if you happen to visit my blog, feel free to offer me correction and feedback which will enhance my influence and effectiveness. I pray that God will bless my efforts with some unbelievers I know and that He will continue to bless you as you keep up the great work on your blog as well.

    Dave H.

  12. Stephen Says:

    I had a similar experience recently when I blogged on the opening show of Radiohead’s tour here in West Palm Beach. I had by far the most visitors I’ve ever had, most of them via search engines, from all over the world. I’m quite sure most if not all were from outside the EBB which I think it pretty cool. Hopefully some of them clicked on to the other gospel-oriented content.


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