Developing a Better Strategy for Online Engagement
Blogging (including tweeting and FBing) can be bad for your health. Maybe that’s a little exaggerated. But it can take a toll on a person. What we do and what we say verbally may be forgotten but digitally it is out there forever. FB and Twitter and Google store and index it all. Other people see it and capture it. The government has it. What we once said in private conversations we now say to the world and it comes with a price.
I started blogging about six years ago. It was fun. Writing short essays that might be meaningful to readers was a new challenge. It didn’t take long to discover some of the pitfalls of this new experience. There are oh, so many sites run by our competitors that it is too easy to put yourself out there. Go on the attack. Defend the faith. Take the offensive for the faith. Slay the liberal dragon.
Doing this leaves a person with a reputation. Those who know me understand that I am opinionated (we all are about something) but generally not combative. Verbal sparring, with the right person, can be valuable. And it works well in a world where people don’t have an agenda. Batting around an idea to see if it is right, wrong, or just needing modified is done all the time in business. But in the emotion-filled arenas of faith and politics things quickly get messy.
Oh, I’ve had some good battles. Won a few, lost a few. But the cost … that’s another question. Am I seen as a writer of substance and care or am I seen as a person who will take no prisoners? In my case it will depend upon which of my materials you read. That’s the whole point here. Before you enter this world, which is not very old or mature at all, set for yourself a plan, a strategy for success. Know what your goals are. Isolate what your goals are not and avoid them with everything you have.
There are some people for whom the battle is enough. But the battle – the individual topics and conversations that we engage – is not the war. Let us not let our concern for important matters change our tone. There are ways and styles and manners which are productive in advancing the gospel and its effects. There are ways which are not. It won’t take long to figure them out once you give a little thought.
Have you ever tried asking questions? That’s a great way to engage an idea. But engage the idea, not the person. Keeping your goal in mind – advancing a truth – will help you win over the other party, or at least set a course which allows people to see that your position is sound and sensible.
What is the big issue, really? Is it to win or to persuade? What will you accomplish if you beat down the other person but do not provide a thoughtful reason for that person to change. Destroying an enemy is one thing; winning an ally another.
Provocation is unproductive. All it does is get people ruffled and destroys any respect they may have for your position. I’ve done this to some and it has gotten nowhere. It does not matter how well you may write either before or after this behavior. Provocation closes doors.
Apologetics is much more than “Did Christ rise?” or “Does God exist?” Apologetics is the full scope of our engagement on the issues that define the Christian faith. I guess if it boils down to anything it is the simple principle that the battle is bigger than us. How each of us may fare in a particular conflict does not determine the outcome of the war. But it may affect how well we win over our opponent — because Christianity is last about war and first about redemption.
As you’ve read this it is obvious that I’ve made a number of serious miscalculations over the past few years. Hopefully those are gone now and are lost in the past. I hope to further develop a better tone to replace these errors and persuade to better ends. May you enjoy the same fruit.