Blogging tips from “Amazing Grace” hymnwriter

Tony Reinke wrote an interesting article listing 15 tips on blogging which he had drawn from the Writings of John Newton, the John Newtonformer slave-trader who encountered Christ and became a hymn-writer and quite a prolific letter writer too. His letters were written in an informal easy style, topical, and experience-based. This is similar to blogging. Scan the list of 15 tips and if you want to read John Newton’s own words from which Tony deduced the tips read the full article HERE.

1. Bloggers should write to learn, to meditate, and to remember.

2. Bloggers should write to edify, therefore it is preferable to write simple truth than to spread eloquent trifles.

3. Bloggers should expect the well to run dry at times, and understand some of the personal factors that explain this barrenness.

4. Women should be encouraged to blog for the benefit of the entire church, since they naturally write in a style more enjoyable, and less stilted, than men are normally capable of.

6. Blog to offer both converting and comforting grace to your reader.

7. Make it your constant aim to blog with the intent of prospering your reader in God.

8. Be extra careful when handling controversy on your blog, and if you do engage it, know that it carries with it extra responsibilities, first in the tone of how you write, secondly in requiring you to sincerely pray for your opponent(s) before you engage them, and thirdly in requiring that you address your opponent as one who has an eternal soul, and who will either be lost forever, or as one that will be your brother or sister in heaven for all eternity.

9. Bloggers should aim to write from personal experience.

10. Bloggers should also write from their observations of others.

11. Learn to blog your observations more freely, especially if you are bent towards a stilted formalism.

12. Blog humbly and in faith, knowing the Lord will lead you to offer a “word in season” for your readers in their time of need.

13. Pray that God would fill your soul with divine joy as you write, that this joy would be communicated on the screen, resulting in a shared joy with your reader.

14. Do not allow blog writing to cause your neglect of family priorities

15. Redeem your barren blogging experiences, use them to see your needs and weaknesses, and lean upon God for his sustaining and supplying grace.

To blog or not to blog

Reasons not to blog

In the past year I have been nibbling on the idea of a blog funeral for blogpastor.net.  One reason was my burnout. My blog entries went downhill and I wrote less often. My heart was not there and inspiration waned. Another was the temptation to follow the crowd. Many blogs have in recent months idled into the grave. Even popular ones I have followed like Real Live Preacher and Internet Monk. This was disheartening. The buzz also seemed to have migrated to Facebook. Furthermore, I was disturbed by the pleasure I had from online approval. It fed my ego.

Reasons to continue to blog

Today I read Dr Tony Siew’s 10 reasons to blog and I agreed with all of them. Then I asked myself, What are my own reasons to continue blogging? And I found 4 main reasons for me to continue.

1. Its an incredible space to address an audience that’s potentially global. The world is my parish is no longer a cliche. It is made possible by the internet. Readers from 71 countries visited this blog in the last month and this has to be the Lord’s doing for I do not write mind-bending stuff.

2. My blog is a good platform for me to clarify my thoughts, practise writing, and express my personal views. It also acts as a  resource folder: insights and lessons, a record of events and experiences and stories, which I sometimes turn to when I prepare talks or do my assignments or just reminisce.

3. My desire is that the posts I write will be to the greater service and glory of God. Promoting unity and understanding among churches and appreciating what is good, praiseworthy, true and just is one way to do this. Another is to help lay people understand their pastors better and increase their appreciation of them. I also enjoy highlighting the glory of the small church and their pastors and the vital role they play in the kingdom.

4. It is also my digital legacy for my children and children’s children. When I became interested about my grandparents all of them had gone and all I had were faded black and white photos and personal anecdotes of unreliable memories of surviving relatives. My digital store will give a more three dimensional picture of who I am and what I believed and what I lived through.

Keep me in your prayers and thoughts.

the New Covenant Church: by grace through faith

New media networking

An exciting weekend gave me further encouragement to blog. The invitation to preach at the New Covenant Church came through the new media. Peter Sze had been reading blogpastor.net for two years and we became friends on Facebook. He announced one day that he was starting a new church and I politely mentioned that I would love to visit it when I visited Kuala Lumpur. He said, “Better still, why don’t you preach?” That was late last year, and now seven months later, the church has grown remarkably to an attendance of over 200. And I had preached there the Sunday before I had my own church camp in Glenmarie Holiday Inn, KL.

Warm Malaysian hospitality

Kenny, Alex and Karen with daughter

On the balmy Saturday evening of our arrival, a couple, Alex and Karen, two lawyers who had  just joined the church, brought me out to taste the best bak kut teh (pork ribs soup) in all of Klang valley. It was so good that it was sold out by the time we arrived. So we went next door to a restaurant designed to benefit from the spillover crowd….. folk like us. Nevertheless my wife and I tasted warm Malaysian hospitality that night and throughout our short stay there.

By grace through faith

The New Covenant Church is located in the suburbs of Petaling Jaya, in a shopping center that had seen better days. It was cavernous  for a new church plant, with a large fellowship hall, that had a staircase that led up to an auditorium that seated over 300. When you start with 30 people, leasing such a big space requires quite a stretch of one’s faith.

the new covenant church in worship

The service began at 10.15am. The songs were familiar and one was a song from a New Creation Church album, “I see grace”. Standing in the front, I noticed a little Indian boy lingering in the front to be held by the pastor. It was the third time the family had visited the church. Then it was announcements, testimony and the Holy Communion, which they served every Sunday. No offering was taken. Those who were moved could put their offerings in several offering boxes on the walls. The sermon I preached was titled, “The Church of the Prodigal Son”. There was a spiritual liberty and the message connected with the congregation, and we had an impactful time of prayer ministry at the altar. Thankfully, the message was well received. Lunch was food cooked by people and brought to church in trays and pots. There was no roster. People cooked as they were blessed and wished to contribute.

makan fellowship

No barriers of race, wealth or status

During  the fellowship, I had my first experience of meeting datuks at close quarters. I had supposed most datuks were unhappy, snobbish people but Datuk Tony and Datin Alicia, and another Datuk Roland, were all smiling and happy and without airs. This new church and the gospel it preached had drawn people from different races and social status together. The Nepali security guard may sit next to Chinese lawyers; Indonesian maids worship with businessmen; and the datuks lunch in the same hall with the struggling widow and the marginalized of society. What I saw there, was what Jesus came to form: an “odd” company of men and women fitted together by grace, indwelt and united by the Spirit. It can be called a Jesus community- like the people who gathered around him when he was on earth, a mix of disciples and seekers and needy.

Giving birth at 58

Fifty eight isn’t the right age for someone to birth a church. Then again, God is used to doing the exceptional. Peter Sze, a busy managing director of a large Malaysian company with a multi-national presence, had been a committed Methodist layleader for years. Together with external circumstances, something had been gestating in him to thrust a church is born!him out into planting a new church, but it was a confirmation through a prophecy  from “down under”, that propelled him to take immediate, concrete steps of faith. Having been convinced of the gospel of grace, Peter envisioned a  church that majored on celebrating the Christ and the finished work of redemption. Their early sermon series on “The New Covenant”, expository studies  on the book of Galatians, and currently a series on Joseph, reveal an sunday school attempt to be more systematic and expository in their approach to the message of grace. Even the small children’s church are being taught the “indicatives” of who Christ is and what He has done, rather than the typical moralistic tones of most Sunday School content.

No traffic jams

One of the reasons for the rapid growth of this church is that he does not face traffic jams in decision-making. Very quickly the church was set up: leasing, renovations, audio-visual system and musical instruments, stage, CDs duplication, and online presence through Facebook and a dedicated website with podcasts – all within 6 months. They have also begun to venture into missions partnership with workers in Cambodia and a missionary in Muslim Africa. He also has the kind of confident trust in God that enables him to make decisions without unnecessary dithering. The Kuala Lumpur traffic crawl is more descriptive  of those who prefer the traditional perfect will of God route, than the highway of God’s  love he is happier to travel on. Move in faith and the Lord will direct your steps. God is so big, there is nothing to fear.

Peter Tze, See Fen, Kenny, Jenny

Complementary partners

Peter and his wife, See Fen, are complementary in personality and ministry. One is into the big picture and the communicator, the other has great compassion for the down and out and demonstrates a down to earth love for members living in the margins. Their marriage was recently featured in the newspapers, and from what I read, the the engineer figured it out-1000 letters!engineering student inundated the “most beautiful girl in Segamat” with 1,000 letters and won Joanna- the daughter, with grandchildrenher over.  See Fen has this large reservoir of patience and love for the powerless and needy and this has rubbed onto Joanna her daughter, who at one time was working full time with the poorer Malays and Indons in the low-cost housing areas of Subang.

The future of this church is very bright from what I have seen. Its response to the message of the gospel is remarkably balanced in the breaking of distinctions of race, wealth and social class; its involvement in missions; its care for the needy; and its concern to preach and teach grace in a systematic, Bible based, and comprehensive way that included modifying the children’s curriculum.

I heard there are other “grace-based” churches in KL and Kuching. God willing, I would like to visit and blog about them too.

It’s fun to discover small churches and make them known, to give them a face and a voice. It gives the larger body a sense of the richness and diversity of the church of Jesus Christ. There are many great small churches of all denominations and sizes in the east coast and west coast of Malaysia doing unrecognized tasks for the kingdom and God willing, I’d like to visit them.