“It’s always good to be skeptical of group-think,” writes Mark, the Running Man. My contrarian heart lit up when I read that.
Now that the excitement of GodBlogCon is fading, Mark wants to take a closer look at some of the assumptions of Christian blogging. He has posed five questions; I’m going to tackle one of them here.
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.
It’s an interesting thought, that blogs will have a profound affect on the kingdom via their evangelistic potential. I agree that blogs might have a great effect on the kingdom in the future, but I don’t think it’ll have anything to do with evangelism. And I don’t agree with those who would like to portray blogs as fruitless time sinks, as vanities through which we avoid doing real good for the kingdom.
Instead, I think the strength of blogs is that they allow us to edify each other in new and exciting ways. I believe the primary direction Christians who blog should be aiming their blogs (if their intent is to aid the kingdom) is toward sharpening the hearts, minds, and souls of fellow believers. They should find a real power to disciple, to build a stronger citizenry – not by focusing on anything so pedestrian as politics, but through encouragement, contemplation, meditation, and by fruitful consideration of Christian traditions and ideologies other than that of the status quo.
I think evangelism will continue to be the primary provence of the gathered body of Christ through the preaching of the word, but as an aid to discipleship, edification, and education, blogs might prove invaluable.
If the egos can be left behind.
Thanks for dialoging with me on this, Charles. Excellent points. I’ve come to realize that the one point we all need to keep in mind is that non-believers WILL visit our sites and we all need to be evangelistically aware, even if our purpose is not evangelism. How will our blog look and read to a non-believer and will it tend to make them more or less receptive to the gospel?
I like the tone and the look of anotherthink!
Your great post brought to mind the following thoughts.
In our technologically advanced, computerized, and “get your information within seconds” world today, the words of Jesus in the verse from Matthew 24:14 might now be considered as something that realistically could be accomplished.
However, think about how the culture was at the time he said these words. Travel was difficult, time consuming, tedious and long to accomplish such a task as having “the gospel preached in all the world”.
The explosion of GodBlogs on the internet could be regarded as just one of the vehicles evangelists can use (not the only one, of course) for this prophecy of Jesus to be fulfilled.
Matthew 24:14 – And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.
There are straightforward evangelistic websites I’ve encountered, such as Livingwaters.com, or http://www.christiananswers.net, which seems to be a resource for Christians but probably also attracts people with questions about the Christian faith. These sites will draw some.
Yet I think that blogs also have potential for being evangelistic in a more indirect way, if 1) they somehow draw non-believers to visit them; and 2) the blog writers are willing to take the time to engage with these visitors.
I like the idea that a blogger can, as John Mark Reynolds was saying at GodBlogCon, represent the Christian faith in a more wholistic way, by engaging with all aspects of life Christianly.
I’d like to think that a non-believer following my blog would find me to be a “real” kind of person, with interests in areas of life other than just religious ones, yet at the same time, see how I relate my faith to all those areas.
But maybe there is also a place for creating a section of one’s blog where information and resources about the gospel are explicitly provided,and making oneself available to try to answer questions.
I’m considering these ideas for my own blog.
Blessings in Christ,
Wow, some great discussion going on re Runalong’s questions about GodBlogCon 2005. I’ve continued it at Broken Masterpieces. Join the fray.