With more than 2 million people actively blogging on the Internet, the weblog is an excellent means for pastors to stretch their minds and (maybe) to reach their flocks. Tim Bednar, a former youth pastor and now church planter in Minneapolis, advocates blogging as a tool for spiritual formation. His website is e-church.com.
How many people blog for spiritual reasons?
A Perseus survey estimated that by the end of 2004 there would be 10 million blogs. A report from Pew suggests that somewhere between 2 and 7 percent of Internet users blog, which puts the number between 2.5 to 8.9 million. The blogs4God.com search engine lists over 1,100 Christian bloggers, but that is hardly definitive; blogs4God only lists those who register their blog. I would estimate it in the hundreds of thousands because the majority of bloggers who discuss religion would not label themselves as "spiritual bloggers."
Why are they undercover?
There are bloggers who are obviously Christian like HealYourChurchWebsite.com or my own weblog, but I've found bloggers avoid being labeled.
In the blogosphere, labels matter little; reputations mean everything. Spiritual bloggers often take an incarnational approach; we bring Christ into our conversations on The Da Vinci Code, Janet Jackson, theology, or politics. We let the reader decide whether we are spiritual.
How is it different from journaling?
Blogging is like spiritual journaling in that it is a discipline. About two-thirds of the roughly 10 million blogs are abandoned after two months. It is hard to write every day. It is also like journaling in that it attempts to connect with God through writing.
The most significant difference is that blogs expect an audience. Bloggers learn quickly that their blogs are public and that the public has an opinion. People like Gordon MacDonald have used journaling as a way to order their private world. Blogs augment our intellect but also record our spiritual journey.
Two-thirds of American Internet users surf the web for spiritual purposes. How do you see this affecting our church experience?
A recent study discovered that Internet seekers remain connected to their local church, but they pursue their own spiritual interests online. Blogging is an attractive spiritual discipline precisely because it is unmediated by our church or pastor.
In the blogosphere, there are no gatekeepers. We explore ideas without being pre-judged.
Many Christian bloggers are tired of prepackaged sermon series and discussing best-selling books in our small groups. We blog because we can create spiritual information as well or better than our pastors—especially when we blog as part of a network.
One could view this as rebellion. We are taking control of our spiritual formation and creating networks outside traditional structures. That's why this revival remains largely unnoticed by pastors.
How can pastors participate in spiritual blogging?
We are a generation of Internet users (not distinguished by age) who view themselves as participants, not consumers. It's important for pastors to note this transformation from a passive to a participatory congregation. Millions of us do not want pastors to be gatekeepers; but we need pastors who foster spiritual formation by co-creating the church with us. Bloggers represent the tip of this transformation. Internet users are experiencing the networked church and it is changing them. Soon, we will bring these themes into our local church. I believe this will be the beginning of a grassroots revival not unlike the Charismatic/Pentecostal renewal of the early twentieth century.
You don't want gatekeepers. What is the role of the pastor in the blogosphere?
Pastors should blog (many of us are or were pastors ourselves), but my advice is that pastors join the conversation—try not to preach or evangelize. Just blog about what interests you; link to lots of other sites; go beyond the Christian ghetto and link to secular sites. Eventually you will engage people like me and experience this grassroots revival.
Bednar was interviewed for Leadership by Rob Moll, associate editor of our online sister publication, ChristianityToday.com.
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