Being the Church in an age of blogging

Another blogger throws in the towel and manages to make a few parting comments that all need to hear:

Furthermore it [i.e., blogging] has contributed to an increased democratization of the Church, where pastors called and gifted by God are “verbally chastised” by folks who have neither the experience nor theological knowledge to really know what they are talking about and who have never been recognised or called by any local church, and indeed on occasion could never and would never be permitted into a pulpit. It is especially the manner of communication I am thinking of and the harm this is causing in church structures and organisation. Things are written on blogs and especially in comments threads that would never, ever, ever, be said face to face. There is serious disrespect in much blogging. To that extent blogging is contributing to the evident disrespectful society that we live in. That’s not pulling rank, pastors are accountable, but they are accountable to Christ and to their own people primarily, and this pastor has decided that that is more than enough. The forum for intelligent conversation, discussion and correction is within the local church, and when it goes outside that I believe it tends to weaken the Church. I am committed to the biblical authority structures of the local church and cannot with a good conscience continue to be part of something I fear is seriously damaging that structure.

See full post here.

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6 responses to this post.

  1. Some wise cautions and warnings. Every good thing can become a bad thing if we’re not careful.

  2. Posted by Robert Lee "Trey" Edwards, Jr. on April 2, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    I particularly agree with point 4 in the original post. It’s sad how people who obviously have not thought the matter through at all will mercilessly bash people when they try to say anything negative about a celebrity. Everyone has their flaws and just because someone looks up to a cultural icon as a role model doesn’t mean they are perfect. It’s hard for me to stay out of the debates I see all the time on blogs where people are stubbornly bashing or defending some person or movement, but I have to remind myself that no one’s going to take my comment seriously, and if they do respond, they aren’t going to respond with a well-thought-out point-by-point response, it’ll just be an endless chain of thoughtless bashing. This makes well-meaning people more reluctant to comment on blogs and the more violent readers even more inclined to cause trouble. I think anyone that does decide to blog needs to be very careful about their approach and very careful about what comments they decide to approve. Theology blogs should be kept places of serious debate and godly discussion, and comments that are antagonistic or tear down without building up should be filtered out.

  3. One of the small steps we have tried to take here is to require that people sign in with their real name (first and last). Many people say things they wouldn’t say when they are signed in as the3ptguy, tulipstinks, or what not. If you believe in something than use your real name and stand behind it.

    We need to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater however. I have gained greater clarity on various points/issues by blogging and have being challenged to rethink certain points with insightful comments.

  4. Posted by Jerry Wragg on April 3, 2009 at 11:51 am

    Paul’s argument about provenness in the local church is really the heart of the issue.

    Private electronic mediums have become the common, everyday form of exchanging opinions. This used to take place in person, or through less-personal forms (letters, electronic mail, etc.) between two mutually familiar parties, or in more formal public settings (debates, forums, exclusive socities, etc.). Blogging, on the other hand, is the world-wide publication of opinions with few if any of the protective filters of more formal means of public communication. There are no publishing editors to answer to, no constituency or market-driven demands to satisfy, no circle of trusted friends who’s sharp critiques carry enough authority to actually compel a public retraction, no institutional credentials required, no public provenness as to character and creed, no local pastoral leadership bringing the weight of Scripture decisively to bear upon any errors promoted, no church body allowed to lovingly reprove and admonish the unruly without being accused of “invading” the secret identity and private world of the opionionizer, and often no parental or family accountability because many bloggers and texters treat their electronic offerings as the most private and sacred right given to mankind.

    I’m not against any technological advance through which truth can be precisely articulated and ferociously guarded! But if we think the blogosphere has been thoroughly assessed and carefully monitored, and that we are enjoying, trouble-free, the greatest truth-spreading medium in human history, shame on us! When unproven Christ-professors can slide up to the table of mature and serious spiritual meditation without having to answer to pastoral (or parental, if applicable) leadership, the line between untested novice-notions and proven spiritual maturity is sufficiently blurred. Since when did the accurate articulation of truth become the only test of credibility? Any blogger can read and regurgitate a theological nugget, but just as we don’t allow practical antinomians into the pulpit, so we shouldn’t allow bloggers to pontificate until their ministry makes it obvious to a local church that they truly know the Savior.

    A bloggers opinions may be scrutinized by the rest of the blogosphere, but so what? God has already given all of us shepherds, and mature godly friends whose obligation it is to bring the delegated authority of Christ to bear upon our false notions and character flaws. A serious “blogger-challenge” may cause me to think, perhaps even be used by the Spirit of God to convict me (similar to how published books may shape me), but such means are the least personal and least compelling tools of sanctification. The word of God, clearly and powerfully preached, and the local church ministry of shepherds and godly mentors are the primary means God uses to effect change. The unaccountability and sheer privacy of blogging has perpetuated a growing assumption that spiritual maturation is all about the boisterous exchange of theological and philosophical ideas. By all means, give me a lively debate…but never between ill-equipped and untested “clanging cymbals” who know a great deal more than they’ve lived. Rather, bless us with the commentary and theological exchange of the faithful but reluctant, the Christ-compelled but unassuming disciplers. If we can’t ever discover the difference, why risk it?

    “Are you a proven student of Scripture with a reputation of godly character?”

    “No, but I have a blog, and I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night!”

    Sidebar:
    Private electronic communication is an epidemic problem among pre-teens and teenagers who treat their homes as merely places to sleep, eat, and a “home-base” for 24/7 conversations with everyone except their parents and siblings. Let me be frank, if you do not protect your family by setting a protective hedge around the relationships inside the home, the cost will be great indeed! Children today are being robbed of a strong, truth-saturated, character-forming environment in many Christian homes because parents allow the outside world (cultural fads, peer opinions, lifestyle influences) to invade their personal family space almost without limit. In the perfect design of God, the home is the protected environment where parents and siblings learn to serve each other in the difficult course of living everyday at such close-range. It requires undistracted devotion to the priorities of family relationships and responsibility. The unceasing intrusion from outside the home via electronic friends, opinions, and peer-group influence cannot be sufficiently countered by so little commitment to who and what is inside the home. Staying connected with friends across town or the across the country through the internet is a gift and a privilege. When, however, this medium aggressively shatters the proper barrier between our “private” and “public” worlds, the family unit is dangerously given over to the whims of the village. Christians must be discerning! We will answer to God for the decisions that affect the spiritual fortitude of our families.

  5. Posted by Scott Christensen on April 3, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    Jerry’s comments should not be confined to the thread of this post. They should go as a seperate post.

  6. Scott,

    We need to run Jerry’s comment by his elders first. Seriously though you’re correct. I’ll let the owner of ET know about your request.

    The comments here have been excellent. James said the tongue is like a forest fire and its destructive habits are not shy when it comes to the internet and all of its manifestations.

    Per Jerry’s comments, I am thankful for the local church and the wisdom of God’s people both expressed in its leadership and in its congregational care for one another. I would be lost without it. Thank you Jerry for your timely comments.

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