Thinking Out Loud

September 15, 2013

The Making of the Wednesday Link List: Part Two

Yesterday I shared where some of the stories and links originate; today I’d like to share the second half of an interview I did with Christianity Today which, to my knowledge, was never used:

– How have you seen the Christian blogosphere change and evolve since you started?

I don’t know if it has changed so much as I have simply become more aware of things. If a person is simply starting out from scratch and wants to read what Christians are writing online, they may or may not notice these things right away. First they’re going to find the Christian blogosphere, like Christian publishing, is mostly dominated by voices from the Reformed tradition. The second thing they might discover is some mostly conservative fringe groups occupy a disproportionate amount of bandwidth online. The third thing they might observe is that the Christian blogosphere as we tend to experience it is dominated by American voices. The fourth thing that’s apparent is that everyone seems to have a book to sell, or at least books that if you buy them, the blogger gets a piece of the action (something I’ve never done at Thinking Out Loud). So if you want balance, you have to dig a little deeper and seek out the writers who don’t appear as often in the search results, are from other places, don’t have a particular agenda, or aren’t trying to sell things. So I’m not sure if much has changed or just that I’ve become more analytical over time.

While he also showed up for the interview, none of the List Lynx's comments made it into the final edit

While he also showed up for the interview, none of the List Lynx’s comments made it into the final edit

– Are there trends in blogging/coverage that you see as particularly encouraging? Or that concern you?

My greatest concern is that the banter back-and-forth online doesn’t end up polarizing people, or alienating new believers or seekers. The Christian blogosphere is a microcosm of the larger church and while the optimist in me longs for a day when the Body of Christ is more unified, there are signs that some groups are slowly splintering off, reminding me of what scientists call “continental drift.” I guess I also long to see more original writing. It’s so easy to simply reblog something that a noted Christian leader said that week, or the latest examples of moral failure. The same voices and the same stories are constantly echoing off the internet walls. There are also some high profile bloggers who no longer accept comments. I can understand their frustration, but at that point, in my opinion, their blog isn’t really a blog, and there’s no opportunity for dissent on the one hand, or building reader community on the other.

– What types of stories and news interest you the most?

I love celebrating when somebody is doing something truly refreshing, willing to reinvent the ecclesiastic wheel, so to speak; or doing something online that is entirely seeker targeted. But I also enjoy simple things like music reviews. The Christian blogosphere is completely dominated by book reviews, but I believe Christian music is still a powerful force. The problem is nobody is servicing social media writers with the latest CDs. And I love writers who leave themselves vulnerable, pastors who are transparent, or leaders who are willing to do Q & A online. I like blogs that are entirely faith-focused. The pastor who is into Formula One racing on the weekends, really should have two blogs, not one. The home-school mom who writes about the struggles to be both parent and teacher really needs a separate blog for reporting her Thai food experiments.

– Some of your links are obviously oddball, news-of-the-weird-type church occurrences. Do you think it matters that we pay attention to stories like these? Or is it just for fun?

There’s a danger in paying too much attention to the quirky stuff. I noticed that early on, and started a daily devotional blog, Christianity 201 (C201) which I’ve been doing now for 365 days a year since April, 2010. It gets 100-200 readers daily, but even if nobody showed up, I’d do it because it keeps me balanced. Each day’s reading contains some scripture. It is really difficult some days to find new sources for C201 articles. There is a lot of personal opinion online, but not so much Bible exposition. I’ve talked to many bloggers about guest writing for me at C201 who’ve said, “I could never do devotional writing.” A few of those were pastors. But I’ve digressed from your question. I think the weird stories remind us how much goes on in the name of Christianity, and how much latitude some people feel their faith affords. We have to remember that some week, these stories are the only perception some people have of what Christians and Christian living looks likes. Scary!

– Out of Ur is a resource aimed at pastors and church leaders. How important is it for today’s leaders to be online and following news and blogs? What are the benefits?

I think even pastors in small rural churches need to have a macro view of what’s going on outside their own geographic area and their own denomination. The blogosphere offers a bigger picture. But more to the point, I think that Christian blogs offer insights into resources and ideas that may be applicable. Despite both mass marketing and niche marketing by Christian publishers, many pastors are blissfully unaware of what’s out there in terms of resources for evangelism, small group ministry, or even the church library.

For several different reasons, my wife and I haven’t attended much in the way of Christian conferences, but through the internet — whether it’s an important blog article, a sermon podcast, or the latest worship song on video — we can feel the same ‘recharge’ that Christian leaders get when they attend such things, minus the bad night’s sleep at the hotel! If you don’t do conferences and don’t do Christian blogs or news sites online, you might be operating in a ministry vacuum.

I also think it’s important for pastors and church leaders to be aware of trends, but also to be aware of the people who are influencing their people. There are few websites where you have to show ministerial credentials to gain entry. The ‘net allows equal access and pastors need to see and hear the voices their parishioners are reading and listening to. It takes a lot of work to be aware of everything, but this is an information age.

Look for the link list every Wednesday at Out of Ur.

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