On today’s blog, I interview the #1 blogger in the Christian world – blogger extraordinaire Tim Challies.
When someone alerted me that my blog made the top 50 blogs in Religion (hitting #15) a few weeks ago, I was curious to know who held the #1 spot – and it was Tim.
After reading Tim’s answers to my questions, I feel like I’ve gotten to know “the man behind the blog,” and I must say I’m impressed. I found his humility and authenticity to be profoundly refreshing. I learned a great deal from reading his answers, and I hope you do as well.
Read it and get to know Tim . . . and you’ll discover something about why his blog has the #1 spot.
Tell us how and when you began your journey with Jesus Christ.
I had the great privilege of being born into a Christian home. My parents were relatively new Christians but immediately discovered the ministry of Francis Schaeffer. Soon after they were married they spent a year or two living at L’Abri and gleaning wisdom from the Schaeffer’s. This put them on a sound theological footing—one they were quick to pass to their children. They raised all five of their kids (that’s myself and my four siblings) to know and to love the Lord. I trace my own conversion to when I was about sixteen or so. Like many kids raised in Christian homes, I can’t necessarily point to a single conversion experience; but I can attest to God’s goodness and faithfulness in calling me to himself.
What are you most passionate about – what drives you?
I am a restless kind of person and what drives me one day may not drive me the next. I think there’s a sense in which “newness” drives me. One of the best things about being self-employed, as I have been for many years now, is the ability to make each day different from the one before it. And I think that is part of the appeal of blogging—I can write about a certain topic one day and then write about something completely different the next.
But overall what drives me, I hope, is a love for the Lord and a desire to serve him.
How long have you been blogging?
I began my blog in the fall of 2002. At least that is when I registered the domain challies.com and began a simple web site there. So I have been at this for a while. In the fall of 2004 I decided to commit to blogging every day and I’ve done so ever since. I plan to take a day off soon. Honest.
What motivated you to begin a blog, and what do you see as being 3 main goals you are trying to accomplish with your blog?
I didn’t know I had created a blog until someone told me, really. I began my web site as a means of sharing pictures of my kids with my parents and siblings. In 2000 they all moved to the US while my wife, my kids and I stayed here in Canada. I thought a web site would be a good way to share photos and maybe the occasional anecdote. One day I decided to write an article about a point of theology I had encountered and I placed it on my site. Eventually search engines found that post and people began to read it. Every now and again I’d write another article and was surprised to find that people enjoyed reading them. After a while I decided to move the pictures of the kids to somewhere else and focus on the writing. And that’s pretty much what I did.
I don’t think much in terms of goals. But if I had to list some I suppose I’d say my goals in the site are first to introduce Christians to solid, biblical doctrine and second to interactively reflect on what it means to live as a Christian.
What do you believe to be the key ingredients that have made your blog so hugely popular?
In part I feel like any success I’ve seen in terms of numbers has been a product of being an early adopter. I had a blog when blogs were just catching on which means I inadvertently beat hundreds of millions of other people to the punch. This gave me an automatic advantage in finding a readership.
I think my stubborn commitment to daily blogging has made a difference. We are all creatures of habit and people know that if they visit my site at the same time every day, there will always be something new to read or experience. It may not be life-changing but it will at least be new.
Also, I have attempted to write well. I know I have not always succeeded, but generally I try to create good quality original content.
And finally, I have tried to keep my ear to the ground, so to speak, so I could respond to what Christians were wanting to know. Some of the big successes of my site have been reviews of phenomena like The Passion of the Christ, The Purpose Driven Life, The Secret, The Shack and so on.
And even more finally, I have tried to put just enough of myself into the blog. I find some bloggers reveal too much about themselves, viewing the blog as a kind of confessional. This can easily become an uncomfortable form of exhibitionism. At the same time, blogs offer a unique opportunity to make personal connections. And so I’ve tried to let people see the real me, the good and the bad, but without going overboard.
What advice would you give to those who are new to blogging? And what advice would you give to those who have been doing it for awhile? (If your answer happens to be different for the second question).
First off, I would encourage bloggers to examine their motives. I receive a lot of emails from new or prospective bloggers where the gist seems to be, “How can I be massively influential without much effort?” To such people I encourage humility and an examination of motives. Also, most bloggers find the response to their writing underwhelming; where they expected thousands of readers and deluge of comments, they find mostly silence. For most people the best reason to blog is for personal edification—to achieve the discipline of regular writing or journaling. That is a great motive for blogging; power and influence, not so much.
Second, I would encourage each blogger, and especially those who write about spiritual matters, to find a person or two who will read what they write and be willing to call them to account if necessary. Some measure of accountability is very important for any kind of public ministry.
What do you hope to accomplish on this earth? What are your ministry goals? Be specific as possible.
Obviously my first calling is to God—to continually grow in godliness and to grow in my desire and my ability to serve him. So that is first and foremost in what I hope to accomplish—I want to be conformed to the image of the Savior.
My second calling is to my family, so my primary ministry will always be to them. I want to love and shepherd my wife and children and to live with integrity before them.
And after my family, my calling in ministry is to my church and I want to love before them with integrity as well.
In terms of goals, again, I am not really a goal-oriented person. I tend not to think far enough into the future to set big and far-off goals. I guess I’d like to write a book or two that people still read twenty or thirty years after publication; I’d like to see each of my children profess faith and be baptized; I’d like to grow old with my wife and look back on a life well-lived while looking forward to a far better eternity.
What plans do you have for the future, ministry-wise?
Though my blog goes out to an international audience, most of my day-to-day ministry is in the context of my local church (www.gfcto.com). I am just in the final stages of the elder-qualification process and already am quite busy there. So I foresee the bulk of my future ministry being among the believers there. And that thrills me. There is nowhere I’d rather minister.
Beyond that, I do enjoy accepting the occasional speaking engagement as such things arise. And, of course, I am currently writing another book and will have more to come after this one.
D. L. Moody once said that if all the books in the entire world were to be burnt, he would be satisfied to have just one copy of the Bible and a set of C. H. Mackintosh’s Notes on the Pentateuch. What would be your choice after the Bible?
How about a copy of Mounce’s Basics of Biblical Greek along with a Greek New Testament. Is that cheating? I figure if the entire world were burnt I’d finally have time to try to pick back the Greek I studied in college and have lost along the way. Learning Greek well has long been a desire of mine, but it’s one that has always fallen victim to everything else life brings my way.
What are some of the things you do for fun when you’re not blogging?
This year I began a project I’ve called 10MillionWords (www.10millionwords.com). In that project I am reading all of the 2010 New York Times bestsellers. Needless to say, that is consuming a fair bit of my non-blogging time. My wife and I have taken a liking to (mostly British) miniseries, so we often cap our evening with an episode of All Creatures Great and Small or some kind of a period drama. I also love reading with my children; we just finished The Lord of the Rings and are now reading through Andrew Peterson’s series for kids.