The online journal of Luke Dockery

Category: Blogging (Page 1 of 9)

2020 Blog Review

 

The end of the year is a good time for reflection, and one of the things I like to look back on is my yearly blogging here at The Doc File.

Overview

Since I started writing here back in 2006 (wow, it is hard for me to believe it has been that long!), I have been very up-and-down in how much I write each year. Last year, I lamented that I had written less in 2019 than any other year since The Doc File began; in 2020, I blogged 50 times, which is the most since 2014. This increase in production was largely due to two factors, I believe:

  • First, the lockdown situation that arose from COVID-19 back in late winter/early spring. It is not so much that this left me with an abundance of free time, but rather that I was sensing the great anxiety that so many were feeling (and feeling some of it myself), and wanted to produce some content that might, perhaps, be encouraging.
  • I engaged in a few different ongoing series this year, which helped give me direction in what to write (more on that below).

The increased frequency of posts combined with the popularity of several posts (see below) meant that The Doc File had over 31,000+ hits in 2020—the second-highest total since I started writing.

Top Posts

By traffic totals, here are my most-read posts during 2020 (posts in bold represents those actually written in 2020):

  1. A Christian Response to COVID-19, March 12, 2020
  2. A New Heaven & A New Earth: What the Bible Teaches about Eternity, April 9, 2020
  3. The Role and Character of Elihu in the Book of Job, December 3, 2010
  4. Lessons from David: Sin Has Consequences, March 17, 2014
  5. Creation and New Creation: Connections Between Genesis and Revelation, April 25, 2017
  6. Links Between Daniel and Esther, October 10, 2011
  7. Scattered Reflections on Race-Related Issues, June 9, 2020
  8. A New Heaven & A New Earth: What the Bible Teaches about Eternity Part 2: Distractions, April 16, 2020
  9. Moral Evil and Natural Evil, February 24, 2015
  10. A New Heaven & A New Earth: What the Bible Teaches about Eternity Part 3: “Problem” Texts: 1 Thessalonians 4.13-18, April 23, 2020

Five of the top ten posts were not written this year, and four of those (Elihu, David, Creation/New Creation, Evil) were in my top posts from last year as well. Those posts must be particularly accessible to search engines based on their enduring popularity.

“A Christian Response to COVID-19” was my most popular post of the year, and went somewhat viral (pun intended). I wrote it in the early days of the pandemic, and it clearly struck a chord with a lot of people. Similarly, “Scattered Reflections on Race-Related Issues” was read a lot, and also reflected on current events that were dominating all forms of media. The three posts on “A New Heaven & A New Earth” were all part of a much longer series that a lot of people read and seemed to benefit from.

The Year of Blog Series

That last sentence helps me transition to one of the biggest changes in my blogging in 2020, which was the extent to which I wrote multi-post blog series. Over the years, I have written several series on The Doc File, but it is something I have struggled to do (often taking a really long time to complete series or even abandoning a series midstream). With that in mind, I was proud of my perseverance in completing a few series in 2020:

A New Heaven & A New Earth: What the Bible Teaches about Eternity: I had taught on this subject back in 2019, but blogging through all of this material enabled me to polish my notes and provide citations as well as refine my thoughts. This series summarized what has been a significant theological shift for me over the past decade, one which has provided a great sense of purpose, hope, and excitement. Additionally, I felt that it was a fitting topic for the extended season of fear and uncertainty that Spring/Summer 2020 turned out to be.

It was a significant project—12 posts and some 37,000 words—and had I realized how much work it would take, I’m not sure that I would have begun it. I am really glad I did, though—in addition to the satisfaction of bringing a project of this size to a state of semi-polished completion, it also led to a lot of good conversations and feedback, and three of my most-read posts from 2020 were from this series (with several more just outside the Top 10).

Ranking Narnia: Early in quarantine, I began reading through The Chronicles of Narnia, which I found to be very good reading for the craziness of 2020: it provided imaginative distraction from current reality, and also helped re-orient me from fear to trust.

I have enjoyed these books since college, and the idea of blogging about them had been in my mind since at least 2007 or so. What began as a plan to write a post or two ranking the various books in the Narnia series continued to grow and expand, ultimately resulting in an 8-part, 23,ooo word series. In a sense, these were book reviews. I have never particularly enjoyed reviewing books, and so I didn’t get a lot of pleasure from writing this series, but I was really proud of the result for a few reasons. First, these posts represented growth for me as a writer as these reviews reflect greater depth and thoughtfulness than what I have done in the past. Also, spending so much time thinking and writing about Narnia helped me to appreciate the series even more and yielded new theological insights. Finally, I pushed through and finished[1] this series of posts despite the fact that almost no one read them.[2] In other words, while this series was not as long as the “A New Heaven & A New Earth” series, I am more impressed with it in the sense that I didn’t get a dopamine hit from lots of likes and comments every time I would share a post, but I still finished the series regardless.

Lament For A Son: One of my favorite books in 2020 was Nicholas Wolterstorff’s Lament For A Son. It was a short book, but I thought Wolterstorff shared so many compelling thoughts on the topic of suffering that I decided to write a series of short reflections and basically grouped them as a sub-series of posts under a larger, loosely-united series entitled A Theological View of Suffering (which dates back several years). Like Narnia, this was not a particularly popular series, but I thought Lament For A Son was an important book and worth writing about.

Politics From a Christian Perspective: One of the reasons I write The Doc File is because it helps me work out my thinking on certain topics, and that was certainly the case for this three-part series that I wrote in late October/early November in the midst of a rancorous election season. As a person of faith, I’m convinced that Scripture has a lot to tell us about the way we view politics, but I was dissatisfied with the political engagement I was witnessing from many professed Christians, and I wanted to wrestle with my own views against the background of biblical teaching.

I was under no illusion that my thoughts would change anyone’s mind (and in an election where an unprecedented number of people voted early, this series of posts came a little too late anyway), but this was a popular series that I got some good feedback on, and it was helpful for me to write about and work through my own beliefs.


So, that was The Doc File in 2020! I’m not sure what 2021 will look like, but it is my hope to continue to write about once a week (the rough pace of my blogging in 2020), and to continue with some multi-post series as well. Thanks to everyone who continues to read and follow, and especially to those who comment and join in the conversation. May God bless each of you in the coming year!


[1] As the length of these posts grew, they became more and more difficult to write and I was sorely tempted to revert to old habits and abandon the series. This can be seen in the release dates of the various posts: May 18, May 26, June 16, June 30, July 20, August 24, October 13, October 23. I went from eight days between the first two posts, to about two weeks between posts, two three wees, to a month, and then seven weeks. The concluding post was shorter and easier to write than the others, and came ten days after the last review.

[2] There were, of course, exceptions, as several people told me how much they enjoyed this series and a few actually reached out to me to see when (or if!) the next post would come out. But on the whole, these posts were amongst the least-read of what I wrote in 2020.

The Doc File during COVID-19

What a wild time to be alive! I hope as you read this, that you and your family are well, and that you are doing what you can to stay safe and healthy. To those for whom health and safety are not true possibilities right now because you work in the medical field or some other essential industry or occupation that brings you into contact with many people, please know that you have my continued prayers and personal gratefulness.

It has been almost four weeks ago now that I wrote this post in response to the rising COVID-19 situation. I didn’t expect that post to go viral the way it did, but it struck a nerve because of the shared experience that we all find ourselves navigating at the current time.

As I mentioned in that post, I tend to not write a lot in direct response to what is going on around me, so at least initially, it was not my intention to repeatedly write about coronavirus, life in quarantine, or things of that nature. At the same time, I was so busy trying to figure out how to do ministry digitally while working from home, playing with children, and generally being less productive, that I didn’t have time to write anything in this space, related to COVID-19 or not.

Over the last few weeks, things have changed. My family started isolating ourselves at home a couple of days after I first wrote about COVID-19, because our daughter Kinsley is immunosuppressed and, therefore, at higher risk of contracting the disease. Today marks the 25th day of our extended “staycation” as I am choosing to call it. Over that time, it has become abundantly clear that this is not a short blip on the screen of our lives before we can resume our regularly-scheduled activities, but rather, a season of anomaly that will both last for an extended period of time and also leave its effects upon us indefinitely.

With that in mind, here is how I will aim to produce content for The Doc File during this current season:

  • On Mondays, I will try to provide something that I think is beneficial for this time of social distancing with its accompanying financial concerns, and anxiety about our health and the future. That will be a mix of a lot of different things: devotional thoughts from Scripture, reflections upon doing ministry in a pandemic, suggestions for healthy practices in a quarantine-style life, book reviews (because I assume some people have extra time to read), and more.
  • On Thursdays, I am going to start on a series that I have been wanting to do for some time, called “A New Heaven & A New Earth: What The Bible Teaches About Eternity.” This series will chronicle what has been the most significant theological shift for me over the last decade or so, and I hope it will be beneficial as well; for me, it has been a great source of hope, encouragement, and confidence.

There’s no denying it; it is a difficult time that we find ourselves in for a host of reasons. I hope that this can be a place that gives you encouragement and offers helpful resources as we seek to grow as disciples of Jesus during this season, loving God and our neighbors.

2019 Blog Review

Today is the last day of 2019, which means it is a time for reflection, and I generally (at least, when I remember to) like to reflect on my year of blogging here at The Doc File.

This was, I believe, my least voluminous year of blogging since I started writing in this space, way back in 2006. I lamented last year that I had only blogged 20 times in 2018, but that number decreased even further in 2019, to just 17 posts. This is disappointing to me, but also, in many ways, not surprising. In February, I announced that we were moving to a new city where I would begin a new job, and the reality is that the transition process has been very busy and this was reflected in my blogging output: 7 of this past year’s 17 posts were written within the first two months of the year before I got caught up in the transition process. In addition to that, I had a lot of technical issues with moving the blog between different hosting services, and so much of the time I did devote to The Doc File this past year was to ensure its continued functionality rather than produce content.

With that in mind, I am hopeful to do better in 2020. There are so many things that I want to write about; the key element will be carving time out in my schedule to do it (blogging falls under the important category but not the urgent one, and so sometimes, gets pushed aside for other things).

By traffic totals, here are my most-read posts during 2019:

  1. Moral Evil and Natural Evil, February 24, 2015
  2. The Role and Character of Elihu in the Book of Job, December 3, 2010
  3. Creation and New Creation: Connections Between Genesis and Revelation, April 25, 2017
  4. One Piece of Advice from a Youth Minister, August 21, 2019
  5. Lessons from David: Sin Has Consequences, March 17, 2014

Four of my top posts this year were not written this year, and three of the five (Evil, Elihu, Creation/New Creation) were in last year’s top posts as well. I am not sure why these remain so popular, but I am glad they are being discovered and hope they are useful to people.

The most popular posts from this year:

  1. One Piece of Advice from a Youth Minister, August 21, 2019
  2. A New Chapter, February 25, 2019
  3. The Full Tomb, April 19, 2019
  4. Reading in 2018, January 4, 2019
  5. The Story of the Bible, February 15, 2019

I am glad that the “One Piece of Advice” post got a good deal of traction, because it was something that was near and dear to me as a youth minister. Similarly, “The Full Tomb” was a piece I was proud of because I thought it contained an important message that is sometimes lost in the triumphalism of the Easter season. “A New Chapter” was a personal announcement about my family’s job transition, so it wasn’t surprising to me that a lot of people clicked on that. Every year I share about books that I read the previous year, and people tend to be interested in that sort of thing, and rounding out the top five was an announcement of a free resource that we had produced at Farmington that I made available on the blog (people like free stuff!).

As I hinted out above, there are a lot of topics that I would like to write about in 2020, and I am looking forward to seeing what the new year brings. I want to conclude by thanking everyone who reads, and especially to those who give me feedback, whether online or in person. May God bless each of you in the coming year.

2018 Blog Review

When I remember to, I like to do year-end reviews here on The Doc File, and so before we move on to the new year, here are some brief reflections on what occurred in this space in 2018.

I only blogged 20 times this year, down from 26 in 2015, 27 in 2016, and 28 in 2017. Only blogging 20 times throughout the course of the year is disappointing to me, and I have plans to do better in 2019. At the same time, I have been doing this long enough to know that of all of my resolutions for the new year, my blogging resolutions seem to be the hardest for me to keep.

By traffic totals, here are my most-read posts during 2018:

  1. Moral Evil and Natural Evil, February 24, 2015
  2. The Emergence of Ancient Israel in the Land of Canaan, December 10, 2015
  3. The Role And Character Of Elihu In The Book Of Job, December 3, 2010
  4. Creation and New Creation: Connections Between Genesis and Revelation, April 25, 2017
  5. It Is Not The Lord’s Supper That You Eat: The Socio-Historical Context of 1 Corinthians 11.17-34, April 4, 2016

Something that you may notice about each of these posts: I didn’t actually write any of them this year! Perhaps that says something about the quality of what I wrote this year, but I prefer to think of it as some of these older posts having continued relevance and staying power. Also, three of the five posts are actually versions of research papers, so I like that people are reading and engaging with posts that are not fluff (I try not to write much of that anyway!).

As far as posts that I actually wrote in 2018, here are the most popular:

  1. Two Graduations: What My Special Needs Daughter Taught Me About Following Jesus, June 7, 2018
  2. Reading in 2017, January 5, 2018
  3. Scripture As Story, September 4, 2018
  4. Scripture As Story: A Literary Masterpiece, September 17, 2018
  5. Harding University Lectureship Recap, October 5, 2018

The “Two Graduations” post was a reflective piece I wrote about finishing grad school and my daughter Kinsley, and was probably my favorite post from this year. I also enjoyed writing the Scripture As Story series, and two of those posts made the top five. Every year I share about books that I read the previous year, and that post tends to get some traction, and rounding out the top five were my reflections on the Harding University Lectureship, which was more popular than I expected.

I have some plans for what I want to do here at The Doc File in 2019, but I will save those for a separate post. In the meantime, thanks to everyone who reads my scribblings here. This has been an invaluable space for me to process my own thoughts on various topics, and from the gracious feedback I continue to get from readers, it is of some benefit to others as well. This is humbling and encouraging to me. Thanks for reading in 2018, and I look forward to continuing the discussion next year!

2016 Blog Review

Not every year, but often, I do year-end reviews here on The Doc File, so I thought I would do that briefly today, before moving on to other topics and posts.

Frankly, I did not blog as much in 2016 as I’d hoped, because life got in the way in a multitude of ways. For a few reasons, I do have good reason to hope that that will change in 2017, but we will see.

Here were the top 5 most popular posts of 2016, by traffic:

  1. Hypocrisy’s Tribute and Donald Trump, February 25, 2016
  2. After the Election: A Plea for Christians, November 7, 2016
  3. Myths about Homosexuality, America, and the Kingdom of God, October 2, 2014
  4. The Emergence of Ancient Israel in the Land of Canaan, December 10, 2015
  5. What’s Wrong with Youth Ministers? Some Common (and often Legitimate) Criticisms, September 7, 2016

I am actually not a very political person, so it is perhaps interesting that my top two posts were both political in nature. However, that was the reality of 2016: the Presidential Election dominated everything. The first post voiced a prophetic opposition to the character of Donald Trump.  Many ministers and Christian leaders joined me in that opposition; some did not. The second was a plea for Christians to do more to impact the world in the ways they care about than simply casting a vote (which really doesn’t do much), and to not let politics divide believers. I felt (and still feel) good about both writings.

The “Myths” post is by far the most popular post I have ever written, and it continues to generate traffic despite my not having shared it this year. The research paper on theories regarding the Emergence of Ancient Israel in Canaan was a pleasant surprise for me, and the youth ministry post reflected something I thought was important, and I was glad that others thought so as well.

Last year at this time, I was disappointed that I only wrote 26 posts in 2015, and I hoped to do better in 2016. And I did! I wrote 27 times. 🙂

I did not do particularly well in following through on the plans I had made in 2016, with the exception that I did manage to write more about youth ministry. My goals for 2017 are similar to last year’s: I would like to write more often, an on a variety of topics that interest me greatly, including (but not limited to) youth ministry, Bible study, the practice of living as salt and light in a dark world, and the American Restoration (or Stone-Campbell) Movement.

I want to close by thanking everyone who reads The Doc File for doing so. It is always amazing to me and very humbling when I travel somewhere and meet someone who tells me that they enjoy reading my blog. My blog serves as a space for me to work out my thoughts on given issues, but I share it publicly so others can benefit from it. Thanks so much to those who read and are a constant source of encouragement to me.

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