Monday, January 24, 2005

A Pastor tells why he blogs...

Ted Bolsinger, a Pastor, gives a compelling perspective on why pastors should blog:

In my last post I argued that pastors, of all people, should blog because we have a vested interest in something that the blogosphere makes more readily available: To more effectively, cheaply and regularly communicate the elements of Christian faith to a wider number of people. This will also, I argued, encourage our long-term pastorates and presence in our home churches (and families) by making it easier to reach larger numbers of people each week without leaving home.

Today I want to also add that blogging allows us to be far more effective at communicating Christian truth in depth, and responding to challenges to the faith effectively, broadly and without delay. Let me highlight both briefly by focusing on two terms that Blog helps us better understand.

In Blog, Hugh Hewitt uses a number of political examples to demonstrate the way in which bloggers can give attention to crucial issues that are often overlooked by the “mainstream media”. Very often TV news, magazines and such are not only victims of the biases (aren’t we all), but are handcuffed by the perception of the public’s “short attention span.” So, complicated news stories are quickly eclipsed by the sound bite.

We pastors fall into this trap also. 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 (ok, I’m a Presbyterian…some of you get a lot more time than that.) 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. (By the way, publishers are doing the same thing with books. Unless you are NT Wright, it’s pretty hard to publish something that is long, in-depth and requiring serious study. So most books are necessarily short (and often shallow).

With a web log, I don’t have to worry about “sales” and “numbers,” I can offer a “serial” of teachings that can go as far or as deep as I need to go. I don’t worry about running out of time or getting the service over before the childcare team is pulling their hair out, instead I just pick up the discussion in the next post. Long deep conversations are more readily available to more people who are eager to go deeper, and those who aren’t can move on and check back in later.

As a guy with a Ph.D. in the “ecclesiastical and transformative implications of the doctrine of the Trinity,” it’s nice to have a place to actually write about the Trinity without fearing that 500 people will skip church next week. When I want to probe a subject, I can linger as I long as I like.

In the few weeks that I been doing this blog thing, I have been really blessed to read and link to a number of incredibly thoughtful, easily accessible posts by pastors and theologians that have strengthened and inspired me.

If we pastors are going to blog, then let’s fulfill our calling and equip the saints and teach the church. Let’s not limit this blogging thing to just “promotion” of our “stuff”, but instead allow it to be a true extension of our ministries to mature the faithful.

The second and most dramatic example of the power of blogging, is demonstrated in Hugh’s discussion of the speed of the blogosphere, “swarming” and the “long tail”. Speed is just the reality of how information can be linked instantly around the globe. Swarming is the way in which a number of people from a number of different positions “swarm” a challenge or opportunity and maximize the effectiveness of their position. The “long tail” refers to the huge, cumulative effect of a number of small opinion makers to make a difference over a long term.

If you followed the blogs immediately after the annual “let’s demythologize and debunk Christianity just in time for the holiday editions” of Time and Newsweek, then you saw the overwhelming and rapid effectiveness of literally hundreds of pastors who posted thoughtful, cogent, articulate responses to the unscholarly and, in some instances, irresponsible articles published by the newsmagazines. The blogosphere allowed even those who would never be quoted by the LA Times an opportunity to respond and then be linked and disseminated across the world in minutes.

No longer do we have to our faith-affirming responses relegated to the “letters to editor” pages a week after the fact while the front pages are filled with long-debunked scandals that might sell a few papers. Instead 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.

(I have already been thinking of how powerful the blogosphere will be next year when the movie version of “The Da Vinci Code” is released. We can now address the questions that film will inevitably raise by bringing people solid accessible teaching right to their home computers.)

Another example of how blogs help us respond to challenges, now oft-cited has been the history-making response of internet donations to relief efforts in the wake of the Tsunami disaster. While I needed to wait until Sunday to encourage my congregation to give generously, I (along with virtually every other pastor-blogger I know) posted a link on my blog to World Vision as soon as I could and within hours of the disaster, money was pouring in.

My friends, the blogosphere offers us opportunities to faithful put forth clear witness for Christ in large and influential numbers. So perhaps the final word is appropriately a warning. Like any technology, it can be used for good or evil. In his book Hugh reminds us, “The blogosphere is about trust.” Let’s pray for each other, dedicate ourselves to be worthy of the trust that our readers give us. Let’s hold each other accountable and pray that our postings will only encourage more and more people to trust both the messengers—and more importantly, the message that we bring.

Blog on.

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