"It's always good to be skeptical of group-think," writes Mark, the Running Man. My contrarian heart lit up when I read that.
Will blogging ever prove to be a significant force for the kingdom of God? Or will it turn out to be a distraction as thousands of Christians pour themselves into something that takes them away from more effective ministry?
GodBlogCon was inspired by Hugh Hewitt, whose book, Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That's Changing Your World, sits on the shelf in front of me. Hugh's thesis is that blogging is a modern communication technology as significant as Gutenberg's printing press, and that it will usher in an "information reformation," just as Gutenberg's invention made the Bible accessible to ordinary people and lit the fires of the Protestant Reformation.
That's a Big Idea. Hugh Hewitt likes big ideas.
The conventional wisdom at GodBlogCon was that blogging is going to have a transformational influence on the kingdom of God. I think they're right, and I think the key lies in the needs and sensibilities of the Millennial Generation.
The blogging phenomenon is a response to our increasingly mobile and disconnected society. At its most basic, a blog is nothing more than a way to gather friends together for conversation, much as you might meet around a table in a restaurant. Blogging invites us into relationship with each other at a time when face-to-face encounters can be difficult to accomplish.
Young millennials are joining the workforce at a time in history when the economy is more globally interdependent than ever before. Global markets have forced many companies into 24/7 operations, which means that more and more people are laboring at non-traditional hours. Saturday and Sunday are work days. Business rarely shuts its doors.
Extended families are more scattered than ever, creating greater isolation for young men and women just stepping into their careers. Each generation is marrying later, and many are finding it difficult to meet their peers socially because of career pressures and a lack of interest in traditional social gathering places, e.g., churches, fraternal organizations, sporting clubs, etc.
Thus, the cell phone has become an on-demand lifeline for basic human contact. Cell phones allow us to seize the opportunity at our moment of need to make contact with clients, family and friends, no matter where we are or what we're doing.
In this fast-paced and globalized world, many maintain their sanity through on-demand communication and virtual relationships.
In his ground-breaking study of The Younger Evangelicals, Robert Webber lists 24 characteristics setting the millennial generation apart from their parents. Among them is a conviction that post-modern ministry must embrace "a new paradigm of thought," should "communicate through stories," be "highly visual," should embrace the arts and "grasp the power of the imagination." Webber notes that this generation is facile with technology and has a deep "longing for community."
Blogging is a technology that satisfies many of these needs. On my blog, I tell stories and advance ideas. My friends join in, adding their stories to mine, their ideas to mine. We dialogue, we argue, we engage, we relate, we search for truth.
Digital photography has led to the creation of photo- and video-blogs, where artists no longer have to wait for the acceptance of the art establishment before exhibiting their work.
Millennials are searching for spiritual meaning, for truth, for authenticity and for meaningful relationships. Christianity offers all of these, and for a generation that is technologically savvy, stressed by the clock, awake at all hours of the night and day, distrustful of tradition and lonely for human contact, a GodBlog can be like a neon "Welcome" sign on a rain swept highway.
GodBlogs are not the church. They cannot substitute for a community of believers gathered side by side in prayer and worship and missional outreach.
But GodBlogs can be a safe harbor for the hurting and seeking. They can be a safe place to talk about faith and doubt, truth and error, with very little risk. They can be a Christian fellowship, limited but effective. And they can be a non-threatening point of first contact for anyone who wants to investigate faith without the baggage that sometimes comes with walking through the door of a church.
To be effective evangelists, however, GodBloggers must to be welcoming, open and authentic, and committed to building relationships with those who drop by.
I see GodBlogging as a translation of historic Christianity into the lingua franca of a techno-centered generation. In that sense, GodBlogging is in the best tradition of John Wycliffe, who translated the Bible into English, and Martin Luther, who translated the Bible into German.
The Internet is a new vernacular. GodBlogs are translating the Gospel for a new generation.