This Is My 100th Blog Post (And Confetti Explodes)!

According to my WordPress site stats this is my 100th published post for “Chief of the Least.” (Thank you, Thank you, no really stop applauding maniacally) My first published post was October 22nd of last year. In under 11 months, I’ve averaged a little less than 10 posts per month. I’ll take this awe-inspiring crowning achievement to briefly reminisce over a few posts and nuggets of knowledge I have gained in this process.

Here are the top 3 most viewed posts of all time on the site:

1. “Rob Bell: Does Universalism Really Win in The End?”

2. “White Guys Who Listen To Christian Rap and The Girl Named World”

3. “Call of Duty: A Call To Biblical Manhood”

Here are the top 3 most commented on posts all time (admittedly, many of these comments are mine!):

1. “Sister Wives: Neither Nice Nor Biblical”

2. “‘Tis The VBS Season: No Sinner’s Prayer Required”

3. “How Christ Came To Me: And How I Ended Up In The Back Of A Cop Car”

Staying somewhat consistent and disciplined with writing has been a challenging and edifying experience. Here is what I have learned about maintaining a personal blog the past year:

1. Don’t count the stats

I know in the previous section I did just this. But I am talking about obsessive exhaustive bookkeeper type tabs on your blog stats. You will not miss much in a day or even a week if you fail to visit your site stats, especially if you are just getting started. Frequently checking your stats could be the vehicle that steers you away from maintaining your blog. Here’s why: You just spent dozens of minutes ; ) of your valuable time creating a post that will cure cancer and bequeath world happiness…and only two people have viewed it since Tuesday. Bummer.

Internet traffic doesn’t just magically appear in droves until you start putting up consistent content over a period of time. Maintain a blog for the enjoyment of it, not to get a platform or get a message “out there.”

2. Be consistent

You will never compete with Tim Challies, so don’t try. If you attempt to you will get burned out. Though my blogging activity has waned as of recent, during the height of my production last summer I was still only averaging 2.68723 posts a week. Consistency is a key to earn faithful readers. Frequent blog visitors should be able to visit your site 2-3 times a month and every time see some fresh content.

You’re not in a race with those brilliant and prolific Pyromaniacs, you’re on your own journey at your own disciplined pace.

3. Be concise

I’m a sucker for flowery rhetoric. But a blog format is not the place to wax poetically. Internet visitors usually just scan blogs for useful content and rarely ever sit and chew on what they have read. I’m guilty of writing a whole paragraph what could be said in one simple sentence. I rarely get diarrhea of the mouth but I frequently get diarrhea of the type-pad. A post much more over 500 words will induce ADD fuzziness in the most committed readers.

Targeted simplicity is the key to communicating any given message. Ernest Hemingway would have been a successful blogger.

4. Be uniquely personal

If people want to dig deep into lofty theological musings or political commentary they already have their trusted sources. John Piper and John MacArthur have the reformed theological market on lock and will represent biblical Christianity much more succinctly and profoundly than I every could. Don’t get into the habit of saying what an ESV Commentary has already said. Readers would much rather know what your uniquely personal take is on family, culture, church and life in general.

How does God relate to me at home when the babies are screaming, the wife is flustered and I have a million papers to grade for school? Inquiring readers would rather know that than some regurgitated thoughts I have borrowed about the hypostatic union.

Visitors want a refreshing read with real unique perspectives on the actualities of life, not a theological treatise from a random internet source. If you are having a good day, bad day, or blah day let your readers know.

Those main four points are what I have gleaned thus far from my rookie blog experience.

I’m looking forward to what God has in store for this blog in the next year. If you are a frequent lurker, reader, or commenter, thank you for letting “Chief of the Least” be a small part of your life!

Bryan Daniels

How Christ Came To Me: And How I Ended Up In The Back Of A Cop Car (Part 1)

I grew up in church.

By all accounts I was a respectful church kid from a good family. I had a praying mama that ensured my sister and I never missed Sunday morning church. Growing up in church culture I was offered numerous gospel presentations at a very early age. I clearly remember praying a sinner’s prayer after many different services. I remember even more clearly being anguished later on that the prayer never seemed to quite stick for me. Though I was assured of its effectiveness, I had always had some nagging reservations about my eternal state.

By the time I was in middle school I assumed it stuck, and I found other things to anguish over like football, girls, and being “hard.” Those middle school years were some of the roughest. I hit an early growth spurt and by the time I was in seventh grade I was at my current adult height (6’2″). I had sideburns and chest hair in eighth grade. I was a freak (or at least felt like one) and I chose to use my formidable size to intimidate others. Because of my mom, I still went to church but I sat in the back and was a virtual mute, unaffected and too insecure to break out of my social shell.

I was pretty sure everyone hated me, but not as much as I hated myself.

By the time I got into high school, the football gig was working out pretty well for me. I found a nice outlet for my size and rage, and got plenty of praise for it to boot.  Before my ninth grade year I decided the tough guy schtick was wearing thin so I opted for trying the nice guy routine. This was a delightful surprise for many of my former middle school peers.

Things were looking up on the church front too. At least as far as I could tell.

Around this time our church welcomed a new youth pastor to the staff with a wicked sense of humor and hairiest back you have ever seen. Jamie Strange remains to this day for me as an encouraging friend, wise counselor, and just flat-out one of my favorite people in the world. He was a great leader during my formative spiritual years.

In high school I found my niche with football and friends. By the end of my ninth grade year, I got drunk for the first time. This became an almost semi weekly occurrence until the end of my junior year. All the while, because of an excellent “nice church boy” act, I was being propped up as a leader in the youth group.

I remember one time being asked to teach a high school senior bible study. I was a junior in high school at the time. I’m sure some Best Actor Award accolades are due somehow for that.

After a year or so I was able to identify a couple other guys playing church within the youth group. Takes a hypocrite to know a hypocrite. It wasn’t long before we’d congregate at a kegger on Saturday and learn how to hide a hangover on Sunday.

And so the games began.

On Spring Break of my junior year, my church buddies and I took off for the PCB strip. I bought the beer because I knew a good spot that didn’t card, and remember, I did look thirty five years old. With two beers in my pockets and one in hand we walked the strip, treating girls like trash and mere objects of our desires.

“It doesn’t get any better than this” I thought.

But the party ended rather abruptly for me soon after that. In fact, it screeched to a stunning halt when I found myself sitting in the back of a cop car listening to a police officer chatting with my mom on the phone.

To Be Continued…..(Part Two Here)

Bryan Daniels

‘Tis the VBS season! (No Sinner’s Prayer Required)

Paul Washer has declared a war on the sinner’s prayer. He even goes so far as to call it the “golden calf” within some Baptist circles (Washer is Baptist mind you). I agree with much of this shocking sentiment. Hear me out: Though I believe the biblical reasons are manifold, I also have personal reasons for my particular distaste. I don’t believe I am alone.

Here is the way the sinner’s prayer is presented in many church (Vacation Bible School) contexts:

Towards the end of the week, the children (K-5)are herded into a big room where a pastor is waiting for them. They are greeted, seated, and told to have “every head bowed and every eye closed.” There the pastor gives a very brief Roman Road-ish gospel presentation and prompts the children to a decision in this way:

“Now you don’t want to spend an eternity  in hell apart from Jesus do you? (only the spawn of Satan would really want this) Well, of course you don’t. All you have to do is repeat this little prayer after me and you will be saved. Say this:”

Usually the recitation involves a brief acknowledgment of sin, faith, the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. After the pastor is finished he asks everyone who repeated the prayer to raise a hand up or stand up or look up or give a thumbs up. To those who do he gives assurance of their salvation and welcomes them into the family of God forevermore.

In third grade, this was almost verbatim the way I was presented the gospel during VBS. And I prayed that little prayer. And I prayed it again the next year. And the next. And the year after that.

Between the third and eleventh grade I probably recited the “Sinner’s Prayer” over 100 times but to no avail.

I was a bit confused (I know many others who have experienced this confusion).

The summer before my senior year I still had no assurance that little magic prayer did the right trick for me even though numerous pastors assured me it did. Around that time, during a summer camp I went to as a student leader, it pleased God to do a sovereign work in me. There, during worship, the utter ugliness of my sin and beauty of God’s grace crashed like a train wreck in my soul to produce in me true conversion. God granted me what the puritans used to call “the gift of holy tears.” I finally knew I was changed. I felt it. I was assured of it.

I don’t remember reciting any specific prayer during the whole ordeal other than maybe, “God don’t kill me.”

I have never been the same since that decisive moment. His cross and relentless grace haunts me on a daily basis, in my dreams and thoughts. I found out later the Bible confirmed what I experienced. It was true repentance.

I began to learn a staple in cultural Christianity had little or no biblical basis. Jesus never said, “The time is fulfilled the kingdom of God is at hand, so everybody bow your head and pray this prayer with me….”

But unfortunately, the “sinner’s prayer” remains as a simple effective church strategy to “win souls.” I believe this reveals our true golden calf in many evangelical churches: Pragmatism. If it works (or seems to work) it must be of God. If it gets results/decision cards it must be the Holy Spirit. So much of our church traditions are not Bible-driven but simply results-driven.

But instead of parrots and decision cards we better start looking for heaven born Fruit (Galatians 5). We need only the Holy Spirit to be saved not man-produced incantations (John 3).

Some call it easy believism. Some call decisional regeneration. Here is the really subversive thing about it: Later in life when this person feels real conviction over their sin and lost state they will go to a Christian preacher/counselor/friend about their troubled soul. And instead of giving the lost one a biblical assurance of faith (through 1 John) the counselor will ask “Did you ever ask Jesus to come in to your heart? Did you ever pray that prayer?” To which the hell raising lost sap will say: “Yes, in VBS a long time ago…” And the misguided Christian/pastor will exclaim “Well, then you’re saved!”

And another false convert heads to hell with a false comfort clinging to a false gospel understanding. Real repentance and faith must produce a life of real works and fruit (The whole book of James!). As the Reformers used to say, “We are saved by faith alone, but not by faith that is alone.”

So let’s pray for true conversions this VBS season. Let’s pray for a genuine understanding of repentance, faith, and the discipleship road with Christ. Even in six-year olds. Six year olds who grow to be sixteen year olds who have matured into deeper revelations of faith and repentance and grace.

I’ve heard it said VBS is the greatest tool of evangelism in the life of the church. I believe that is and can continue to be true. That is, only if we are patient enough to not sacrifice our children on the altar of religious pragmatism.

Keep sowing the gospel seed to those kids my VBS peeps, God is faithful to produce a harvest! No psychological techniques or arm twisting needed. : )

Bryan Daniels