At the risk of being redundant, I wanted to share a few more thoughts on blogging, in response to a question I received from Steve. He wrote, “Is there the potential for there to be recognized "elders" among Christian bloggers? I wonder what that would look like, and if it would help foster a more healthy "community" here in cyberspace?”
I want to take Steve’s question to address the larger issue of what blogs can accomplish. Let me respond to the second question first. What would a healthy community in cyberspace look like?
Excellent question. I’m not sure how much of a healthy community CAN exist in cyberspace. Any community I experience with people over the Web is going to be severely limited at best. Community requires “doing life” together – praying together, eating together, evangelizing together, serving together, worshipping God together. The key word here is “together.” It involves much more than exchanging information over the Internet.
I may read blogs from across the world, and they might read mine, but how much community am I truly experiencing with them? They only know of me what I choose to put on my blog, and whatever else they’ve researched about me. I can be influenced by bloggers. I can gain valuable information from bloggers. I can be drawn to love and know my Savior better through other bloggers. However, I’m not sure I can experience real community with them.
The people who I share community with are those who live with and near me. Like my wife and children. Or the members of my small group and my fellow pastors. Or the people who see me almost every day at Covenant Life Church. These are the people in my community.
If I experience a greater sense of community with those I interact with through the Internet, I need to study passages like Romans 12, Ephesians 4-5, and 1 Peter 2, and a host of other Scriptures that describe God’s intentions for the local church. While I may identify with someone of a common interest over the Internet, that hardly qualifies as true Christian community. Those in my community see me at my worst, challenge and encourage me in daily life, observe how I live, and can exercise discipline if I am engaging in unrepentant sin. The kind of community requires a church, not simply an Internet connection. (I’d like to write much more on this, but my son, Devon, is getting married on Sunday, and the weekend is kind of full….)
Now the second question – Is there a potential to be recognized “elders” among Christian bloggers.?
In the few months I’ve been reading blogs, I’ve noticed that some are referenced much more often than others. Over the long run, I imagine it will become evident who has something to say and who doesn’t. Perhaps those bloggers will be recognized as “authoritative voices” in the blogosphere.
But, it seems wise for every Christian who writes a blog to be accountable to a pastor or leader or someone they respect in their local church rather than someone they’ve never met. Is it unwise, and possibly arrogant, to share my thoughts with the “world” when they haven’t been received by those who know me best? It’s a question worth asking. I suspect that if we had our pastor or someone we respect take a look at our blogs prior to posting, we’d have a significant reduction in the number of blogs being written, but a welcome rise in the quality.
Many people are overwhelmingly enthusiastic about the potential for community that the Internet provides. We can hear from people all over the world talk about any and every issue. We don’t have to be restricted to what the “experts” think anymore. We can hear from the people!
Here’s the problem. Increasing the number of people talking doesn’t automatically increase the quality of the conversation. Judging from many blog comments I’ve read through, it only adds to the confusion.
Let’s thank God that blogs are very good for certain things: communicating helpful information, perspectives, and resources in a timely, broad, and inexpensive way. But let’s not expect it to accomplish what the local church is meant to do – provide both covering and community for those who worship Jesus Christ.
Bob, thanks for taking the time to respond to my question with such thought. After being convicted by your earlier post about enjoying seeing my name on someone else’s blog, I had to pull myself together when I saw this… ;) (just kidding!)
Seriously, I agree completely with just about everything that you said. I should have been a bit more clarifying with my question so that I didn’t give the impression that I was merely looking to replace the local church with some form of “cyber-church”. That is why I put “community” in quotes. Because you are absolutely right that it doesn’t fully qualify as community.
I would recommend that people take to heart exactly what you suggested about being accountable to some others “in real life”. I personally have a dear brother in the Lord (one who in many ways functions as an “elder” in my life) who reads my blog and with whom I often discuss some of these topics before writing. My wife also stays very much in the conversation with me, and my oldest sister also reads regularly and responds.
So, all that to say, you said it well!
God bless, and may He bless the wedding this weekend, too!
Thanks for your humble response to this post.
I didn’t mean to imply that you were one of the bloggers who is looking to the Internet for real community. It seems that some do, though, so I wanted to use your question as an opportunity to speak to that situation.
Your remarks are an example of how blogging should be done – with accountability and wisdom. Thanks for being faithful.
The whole topic of the nature of Christian community in cyberspace is important, and I don’t think I had seen the specific connection between elders and the blogosphere until I read Bob’s post. I expanded a few thoughts on the elder topic at http://www.lightalongthejourney.com/?p=25
Excellent post. A helpful reminder of our ongoing need for the local church and our tendency to talk much and listen little, contrary to James’ counsel (James 1:19). Thanks for pointing us back to our local pastors as well!
Thanks for make an insightful contribution to this conversation.
I If wrote this post again, I’d start by talking about the opportunities that exist to serve others through the Internet, then talk about how we might distinguish those who have could serve as mentors from those who simply have a website. You mention doctrinal knowledge, wisdom, and calling. Excellent. Some other qualities that come to mind are local accountability, humility, and real life experience.
You are dead right, true community can only be found in a good church. But blogging and the intense relationships that can arise might serve those without such a church by producing a godly hunger for real community.
I would love to see some prominent bloggers confess their need of the loving community we both share in our respective churches- I think that blogging is definitely more relational than many other forms of non face-to-face communication.
For some, they will have to make the tough decision to jump ship and find a new church to obtain the precious treasure that I tremble about taking for granted.
For me, blogging has enhanced and expanded my church community in a way I’m so grateful! Most of the ladies I “blog with” are ladies that go to my church or Christian friends I’ve known for years that now live in other places. As a woman who works outside of the home I can’t participate in the morning Bible studies or meet for play-dates. But blogging has allowed me to develop relationships with women I know from my church but in a deeper way. Interacting with these ladies via blogging has been so encouraging to me! Some of us work, some are homeschooling moms, moms with babies, moms with teenagers, and singles, but we all go to the same church and we all blog! Blogging has been the starting point for more in-depth, personal relationships. Although blogging certainly can’t replace face-to-face communication or our churches, it can enhance those relationships.
I can’t say a big enough amen to your comments Bob. “Increasing the number of people talking doesn’t automatically increase the quality of the conversation” It reminds me of a quote I saw recently from Sara Groves “just because people are listening,it doesn’t mean that I have something to say” Amen again! We need real community & that’s found in a local church, first & foremost.
I came across this site through an email I received from another website. I have to say the posts on blogging were excellent. When I first started my blog I was more of an “everyone is doing it so I might as well too” sort of thing, feeling as though I had a story to get out and if I couldnt do it in print (of which i was in the process and it fell through) I could do it over the web. After reading your posts on blogging I had to say a short prayer giving it to God so that I may glorify Him through it, as well as to be a blessing to others who read.
Just wanted you to know that I’ve made some edits in this post in response to some good feedback from other bloggers. I didn’t intend to set up a dichotomy between blogging and the local church. They can co-exist quite peacefully. My focus is that the Internet will never be a substitute for the accountability and care we should be receiving in our local church.