Saturday, March 19, 2005

 

Will Blogging Revitalize the Church?

Tim Challies and David Wayne at JollyBlogger have recently taken issue with Hugh Hewitt’s characterization of blogging as the new Reformation. Perhaps Hugh’s analogy is a bit of overwrought hyperbole, but he may not be that far off either...

This is tangential to a front burner issue for me right now (as witnessed by recent posts here and here). And that is the growing trend in the evangelical world, evident in some mega-churches in particular, in disseminating a primary message that focuses more on self than it does on God. A corollary to this phenomenon is that it also tends to present a “dumbed-down” sort of theology.

From a pastor’s perspective, Todd Bolsinger at It Takes A Church seems to shed some light on one reason why this is happening:
When our congregants expect us to deliver sermons filled with strong exegesis, relevant examples and a joke or two all in 25 minutes or less. It is easy to develop the habit of reducing everything to the ridiculous. Pretty soon our theology is nothing more than slogans or acronyms or representative stories. And communicating the depths of crucial issues and doctrine go by the way side.

Maybe books like this have a value for some people, but at some point, in order to mature spiritually, we need to probe and dig deeper into issues. That’s where blogging comes in and why it may just evolve into a faith outlet of gargantuan importance. The future of a real discussion and dissection of IDEAS has arrived in the form of this new technological medium. What shape it eventually takes - be it videoblogging, podcasting, etc. - is not the issue.

As Bolsinger contends: "...by writing and linking and writing and linking, we can respond to the challenges posed by skeptics, not with the hue and cry of the hurt, but with the rapid, clear and sober answers that reveal the truth."

David at JollyBlogger contends that “blogging is not an idea, it is a technology.” This is a rare instance where I think he misses the point. It is the new technological medium that is facilitating a fundamental paradigm shift in how we exchange ideas. Without gatekeepers or lack of specific credentials halting people from freely distributing their thoughts, the world of faith may well be reformed in monumental ways.

21st Century Reformation suggests:

As this dialogue grows, through this new media, the ideas that will renew the church and renew the culture around us will incubate and eventually flower. The 21st Century reformation is not just happening in politics and media but in the church as well.

If you weren't invited to the party, have no fear. The party is over and the discussion has moved out into the street. The blogoshere is the open air pulpit of the 21st Century. The open air preachers have arrived.

“Open air pulpit” indeed. The barriers to being heard are now gone and that is huge. In the entire world, how many people are out there that now have the ability to offer amazing insights and perhaps offer ground-breaking advances in the realm of Christian philosophy?

Undoubtedly, the Christian community has much room for improvement in effectively utilizing this new technological medium. Joe Carter offers some good advice on how to accomplish this goal:

As the blogosphere matures it's influence will continue to expand. It will continue to shape ideas, set political agendas, and shape culture. Christians who believe that a Biblical worldview has something important to add to the conversation cannot afford to ignore this medium...

To be successful in this effort will require that we band together and help others whether their blogs are more popular or completely unknown. We need to link to and visit each other's blogs, provide encouragement, and praise excellence and quality wherever it is found.

UPDATE: After reading JollyBlogger's updated
post
on this topic as well as his comment to my post, it may be that the fundamental disagreement here may be more about semantics than substance. Initially I understood he and Challies to be downplaying the potential effectiveness of utilizing this new technological medium, but perhaps it was more of a parsing of words.

In a new post on this topic, Challies states: "There is some disagreement as to whether Hewitt meant to say that blogging is the new Reformation or whether it will just be the medium that carries it."

That seems to be the case, but doesn't this just reinforce the value of blogging for advancing the discussion and further dissecting points of contention?

Another blogging pastor, Personal Trainor, weighs in with some Random Thoughts on Blogging. He states, "It makes me accessible to my congregation and them to me. I view it as a stream of consciousness into which they may plunge or not."

Joe Carter gathers some intriguing related thoughts on the subject from around the blogosphere. He seems to concur with this same theme, speculating, "Imagine what we might be able to accomplish if we were able to use our network and influence to shape the church as well as the world."


Comments:
I think you're dead-on re: the conventional limits of the traditional sermon. There's just no way anything of value can be communicated clearly in 25 minutes. By contrast, blogging is ideal for the crisp communication of complex ideas. Challies and Jollyblogger need to reread their copies of The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.
 
Chad - bummer that I missed the point. However, take a look at this sentence again and I think you will see that you and I are in agreement. I agree with this statement wholly (except for the part about missing the point)

David at JollyBlogger contends that “blogging is not an idea, it is a technology.” This is a rare instance where I think he misses the point. It is the new technological medium that is facilitating a fundamental paradigm shift in how we exchange ideas.

Blogging is the technology, the paradigm shift contains the ideas that are being exchanged through the medium. That's exactly what I said. And again, though I disagree with some of Hugh's exact wording, I'm guessing he would agree with this also.

JPE - I've never heard of the book/essay you mentioned but will be glad to download it and read it. I don't see how Tim and I have any ideas that are in contrast to what you are saying though. We both agree about the power of blogging to communicate clearly and neither one of us said anything contrasting blogging with preaching. For what its worth, my sermons go 40-50 minutes long, I can barely do an introduction in 25 minutes.
 
David, Bummer I didn't learn how to use the trackback sooner for all your posts with which I did agree.

Anyway, thanks for the clarification. I now agree that we are more or less in agreement and it was more a difference in wording and focus.

I do think that this sort of clarification is a huge benefit of blogging that is not really attainable from the pulpit or in a book. There is no quick response mechanism by which to clarify differences in those traditional forms.

JPE: Thanks for the reading recommendation. I'll take a look at it.
 
Chad - bummer we didn't have blogs years ago to have these discussions and clarify issues. You are absolutely right that blogging offers us things that preaching and reading books can't.
Now if you respond to this with the word "bummer" I'll just have to come back and find something else to be bummed about.
 
Blogging can change the world? I have to admit (since I wasn't aware of Hugh Hewitt until now) that this is the first that I've heard of that idea. However, it makes much sense.

Gosh, I feel like such a revolutionary! ;)
 
Chad,

Thanks for the "ping." The blog world replaces the conversation over the fence post, the chat at the diner, and the debate over the stein. It connects pastor to congregation so that what happens on Sunday is far more valuable than it used to be...Sunday is simply picking up the conversation face-to-face again. It's a revolution for thinkers. Blog on.
 
Chad,

Thanks for the "ping." The blog world replaces the conversation over the fence post, the chat at the diner, and the debate over the stein. It connects pastor to congregation so that what happens on Sunday is far more valuable than it used to be...Sunday is simply picking up the conversation face-to-face again. It's a revolution for thinkers. Blog on.
 
Chad,

Thanks for the "ping." The blog world replaces the conversation over the fence post, the chat at the diner, and the debate over the stein. It connects pastor to congregation so that what happens on Sunday is far more valuable than it used to be...Sunday is simply picking up the conversation face-to-face again. It's a revolution for thinkers. Blog on.
 
yikes! sorry for the multiple posts...i kept getting an error message...
 
this so true...lets just have a stong christian presence on the WWW..u never know what could happen...
 
Good to know about your blog and this on Will Blogging Revitalize the Church? #NAME##. A good place to start with mine is dr frank r wallace. Best, Nathan.
 
how true.. i think this is one very crucial way to reach out in this day and time.. =)
 
You have an outstanding good and well structured site. I enjoyed browsing through it » »
 
best regards, nice info »
 
Best regards from NY! » »
 
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