Thinking Out Loud

February 1, 2013

Getting the Most out of The Christian Blogosphere

Two weeks ago I ran an experiment at Christianity 201 that I hope will be a prototype for similar articles there in the future. The idea was to use the Christian Blogosphere as a commentary resource for particular scripture passages.

Now remember, anybody can have a blog. Just because it’s on your screen doesn’t mean it’s correct, or authentic, or that the person writing has any particular expertise or authority. (The first one below however is a highly respected author.)  But it does offer you insights into what other people just like you extrapolate from the text in question, many of whom did consult a commentary or at least the notes in their study Bible before they sat down to write.

So here is how that first one looked, and I’m always looking for suggestions for other passages that would work at C201.


Today we begin an occasional feature where we will take a particular scripture verse and see how different pastors, authors and bloggers reflected on it. If you have a verse you would like us to consider, let us know.

“For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

Pastor Greg Laurie writes:

When Esther won a beauty contest and ascended the throne in ancient Persia, she was a Jew. But she kept that information quiet. And one day, because of the wicked efforts on the part of a man named Haman, there was a plot conceived to have all of the Jews in the empire destroyed.But Esther’s uncle, Mordecai, came to her and essentially said, “You are there in the palace. You are in a place of influence. You can go to the king and speak on behalf of your people.” But then he added this telling statement: “If you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14).

The idea behind Mordecai’s statement was this: “God put you where you are for a reason. Now, are you going to leverage that opportunity for God’s kingdom, or are you going to keep it all to yourself? Guess what? If you don’t do it, the Lord will find someone else.”

God has put you where you are today. You have a sphere of influence. You have a circle of friends. You have neighbors around you. You have coworkers and others with whom you come in contact on a regular basis. Will you go to them? Or will you run from them?

You might ask, “Well, if I don’t go, will the job still get done?”

As a matter of fact, it will get done. The reality is that God doesn’t need you. Certainly God doesn’t need me. But God does want us to participate in the process.

When God says go, what will you say?

Blogger Shanda Hasse adds:

This is SO powerful because I have known that I have a calling from God to reach out to this dark world for His glorious Kingdom, as we all do, and I have really been praying into exactly what he wants from me, as his faithful servant. I definitely know that direction, but it isn’t fully clear yet as to when and how to take action. Money is a large portion of the wait, but I know God will provide me in His timing with all of the resources I need to take flight with this calling.I just love the articulation, “you were made queen for just such a time as this” — we are called as followers of Christ to reach out in His name and not stay silent. This is such a relevant command, especially in the wake of the disaster our world is facing through these perilous times. We are to be queens & kings for Christ now more than ever . . . by that I mean LEADERS. We are to lead people to Christ and the abounding, endless love and hope that he has for all those called according to His purpose — that CAN be everyone if they choose!!

SO, get out there in this mess, don’t try to hide or segregate yourselves and your family from what is going on now with the economy, government and society. We must dive in and radiate Christ’s light and help those in panic and need. The jobless, homeless, seniors who have lost all of their retirement money and many others come to mind. Seek these people out, and help them in Jesus’ name. Pay for their dinner, help them look for a job, point them to the limitless resources of our merciful God. We are being called to serve a powerful purpose in such a time as this, so let’s get out and show the weak, lonely, desperate, lost and so on, the love of our AWESOME God. You go, you Kings & Queens of Christ.

Blogger Suzanne Benner writes:

This is a great verse. Esther was afraid to approach the king and ask him to save her people because approaching him without being asked was risking her life. When Mordecai answers her, it shows a lot of faith. He’s basically saying… if you don’t do it, God will still save our people, but you and I will die. And maybe this is the reason that God has put you here. As it turned out, it was. … I think that is a good thing to ponder as we approach all of our problems. Yes, it is very true that God will accomplish his purposes on this earth without us, if need be. But being where we are, and who we are, we all have unique opportunities to participate in his work. And perhaps we are exactly where we are for such a time as this. Today, wherever we are, and whatever position we are in, let’s overcome our fears, and stand up for God and his work.

Blogger B. Kessler (whose blog’s name is taken from this verse) writes:

…Esther did end up going to the king and because of that the Jews were saved. I am not the kind of heroine Esther was. In fact, I would describe myself as pretty average. But I do realize that by Ethiopian standards I live in a palace. I have luxuries I take for granted. In fact, compared to most of the world I live like a queen. It leaves me to wonder why I have so much when others have so little. Do I deserve more? Well, you may not know me but let me assure you the answer to that is no. I can’t give a good reason for why I was born in the U.S. and not some remote village in Africa or some country where the people are so oppressed they can’t even worship God without fear of being beaten or even killed. I have been thinking lately, as we pursue the adoption of an orphan whose name I don’t know and whose face I have never seen, maybe God has placed me here in these circumstances for “such a time as this”.

Finally, from Truth and Freedom Ministries:

There are those in the Bible that were right on time, others went ahead of God’s appointed timing, and then there was One, born in the fullness of time

…Esther’s words – “…if I perish, I perish.” gives me assurance that she believed this was God’s timing for her to act. In her words you don’t see an assurance that everything will work out in her favor, but you do see the character that it takes to step out in God’s timing and leave the results to Him.

December 11, 2012

The Gifts We Bring

On October 30th, I was a guest blogger over at The Master’s Table, the blog of Clark Bunch. I decided to pick up on the ‘table’ theme and used that as a springboard to look at what it means to add value or substance to a situation where we find ourselves; the issue of conflict and unity in Christian community; and creating ministry environments and community where everyone is given a voice. You can read by clicking here, but I’ve also reproduced it below.

What Do I Have to Bring to the Table?

I don’t do a lot of formal meetings in the course of a year, but when they come up, I like to arrive prepared. If there are multiple people involved, sometimes I will say nothing for the first twenty minutes, looking for the idea that’s being missed, the implication that’s not being considered, the parallel to another situation that’s not being remembered. Then I will interject something that I feel is helpful. I want to make a contribution, not simply nod in agreement or call for the vote.

When moderating comments at my blog, I often tell people I’m looking for “value added” remarks. Something that furthers the discussion. If you attend one of those churches where the pastor still goes to the back door as you’re leaving, you’ve probably heard people say, “Good sermon;” the way the kids on the midget soccer team bump fists with the opposing team and say, “Good game.” It’s all very pleasant but it doesn’t say anything. Try something like, “As you were dealing with that chapter of Romans, it reminded me of this passage in Hebrews where…” Your pastor will probably collapse in shock. Adding value is a way of letting everyone know that you “get it.” That you’re willing to take it to the next level.

In a circle of Christ-followers, people will speak of “the gift of encouragement,” but true encouragement is more than saying “Good game;” it’s about building people up. When I was a weekly worship leader in a local church, I once asked our congregation, “What do you have to remember to bring with you on Sunday mornings?” Some people teach children and have to bring their lesson plan. Most bring their tithes and offerings. Some bring a casserole dish (full) for the church potluck or a similar container (empty) that they’re returning to someone who brought them a meal when they were ill. However, sometimes I think we need to bring a word, a thought, a concept, a scripture verse that will encourage someone, or the overflow of a book we’ve read or a sermon we downloaded that we can’t help but want to share with someone receptive.

Bringing something to the table is intentional. It’s part of a type of table fellowship where everyone gives and everyone receives. It’s about making the people who come in contact with you leave richer because you connected.

The problem that we have as Christ-followers sometimes is that nobody wants to make waves, or be the one who is simply rocking the boat. We want to avoid the friction created by challenging traditions and norms, so we tend to make contributions that we feel lead toward consensus. We’re basically asking the question,

Are We All on the Same Side of the Table?

One of the features of the Christian blogosphere is the way things tend to get very polarized. Issues become black-and-white, and people who postulate a different interpretation or a different take on one individual element of doctrine are immediately written-off.

The point is here is that we should be able to disagree without being disagreeable. We should be able to entertain differences while at the same time affirming our overarching unity in Christ. I can read something on Clark’s blog that I feel is totally wrong — and he on mine, though I can’t possibly imagine what it would be — and perhaps even suggest in a comment that not everyone shares his view. But I click back to see what subject he’s covering the next day.

Too many times in the body of Christ we shoot our wounded. The bottom line is that we all “see through a glass darkly.” We’re not going to be on the same side of the issue on every item on the agenda, but the person with whom I disagree the most at this moment may prove my greatest ally ten minutes from now. I think that’s also why it’s important to ask ourselves,

Is There Room at the Table for Others?

I love the equal opportunity that the blogosphere offers. People can, in fact paint graffiti all over my walls if they so desire. I see people coming and going all the time and in many respects, this ought to be the model of all Christian community, with what we call church (i.e. weekend services and midweek events) being but one expression of that community.

That’s why I love the vulnerability of pastors who have Q&A times at the end of their sermons. It invites even the first-time visitor to have a seat at the table and there’s nothing at all that they can state or ask that God’s Word isn’t capable of responding to. No comment or opinion cannot be deflected with the same ease that Jesus, when they were ready to stone him, demonstrated by disappearing into the crowd.

We don’t have to defend the body of doctrine by excluding people from the discussion; because ultimately, it’s His church, not ours; it is the master’s table.

February 21, 2012

Christian Blogging: Longing for Open Source Community

Did God give me what I’m writing right now or am I making it up on my own strength?

That’s a question it’s fair to ask in all areas of Christian endeavor. Am I doing this ‘on my own’ or under God’s power? What about the idea that ‘all things come from God?’ Do I really ‘own’ the concepts and insights shown here.

As we closed in on having 700 posts at Christianity 201 last week, for the first time we had a writer who objected to having his content used here. While blog etiquette dictates that you link back to writers’ original pages, statistics bear out the idea that people read the teaser paragraph but don’t click to continue reading. So C201 was created as a showcase — and a bit of a potpourri — of devotional and Bible study writing; much of it from previously obscure blogs that nobody had heard of, whose writers are thrilled to have an additional audience for their thoughts.

For several months, a music and book distributor for whom I was I was doing contract work assigned me to help out in royalty administration and distribution. I appreciate that those who have given themselves full-time to writing for major publishers derive their income from sales. I would never dream of photocopying an author’s work and I have strong views about churches which project song lyrics on a screen at weekend services for which they haven’t paid the appropriate license fees.

But a blog? Seriously?

When the attribution is clear, and the readers are given two separate opportunities — and sometimes additional inducements — to click to the original source page, I feel there is a legitimization of one-time use; though a few writers have been featured at C201 on two or three different occasions.

(Cartoonists however, seem to be another subject entirely. Despite having the largest treasure trove of Christian cartoons online, one denominational website had so many copyright warnings we decided they could just keep their comics to themselves, and stopped using them here at Thinking out Loud.)

The article in question had no copyright indicia, and no page dealing with reprints and permissions.

I would like to think that when God gives us an idea, he gives it to us not only to share, but to see disseminated as widely as possible. Someone once said,

There is no limit on what can be done for God as long as it doesn’t matter who is getting the earthly credit.

Attribution’s greatest value is that the people can go back to the same source for more insights. If I enjoy what “X” has to say today on this topic, then I may want to read what “X” has to say tomorrow about some other subject. In fact, I’ve had a handful of off-the-blog comments from people who are now regular readers of writers they heard about here at C201 and at Thinking out Loud.

In giving instructions to his disciples, Jesus said,

“And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give. (Matt 10:7-8 NASB)

I’ve had content used (and misused) on other blogs, and at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter much. What does matter is how I respond to the “borrowings” at other websites. Do I say, “It’s all good;” or do I fight for increasing my personal empire here at this website?

The writer in question also accused me of changing his content. I could see how that would be serious. But in fact, all I had done was to remove links to an online bookseller which left him, in one sentence, referring to “this book” with no remaining hint as to what that book might be; so I took the time to insert the title where the words “this book” had been.

I think it was with the objection to that change that the author really betrayed their true motives. Referrer fees from online sales can be fairly significant for a blogger at the end of the month; and I believe it can really cloud a writer’s motives.

I simply won’t do that here. I’m not trying to sell you anything. I’m not making money from this, and in fact I don’t draw a salary from my “day job,” so perhaps I have a different attitude toward the need to see everything I do as a line on a profit-and-loss balance sheet.

I wonder what the early church would think of what we’ve come to; a world where royalty administrators and agents hash out mechanical royalties and performance royalties and you buy a license in order to share the words to the latest worship songs. I wonder if the Apostle Paul were alive today if he would put a little copyright symbol at the end of each epistle? Would Matthew be expecting dividends from the sales of the Visual Bible DVDs that bear his name?

Freely we have received. Freely we give.

All that we have and are is a gift from God.

And we should keep it open source.

Ironically, trying to find a stylized copyright symbol to accompany this article was a challenge since nearly half of them were, in fact, copyrighted. This one above is from an article that also looks at this issue from a balanced Christian perspective

It turns out the “There is no limit…” quotation is making its third appearance here.  In addition to the reference linked above, I also used it in reference to Garrison Keillor at this post.

January 22, 2012

Disagreeing without being Disagreeable

…the longer an online conversation goes, the more likely it is that someone will make a reference to Hitler…

Stephen Altrogge has written a great piece, “How to Disagree Online Without Being a Total Jerk.”  I guess if you really don’t want to be a jerk online, you don’t steal blog posts wholesale; but then again, Stephen has written this for the ages, so to speak, and it should be the sidebar of every site in the Christian blogosphere; with multiple iterations at CNNBelief and USAToday’s Religion page.  But if you prefer, here is the link

Science has proven that the longer an online conversation goes, the more likely it is that someone will make a reference to Hitler.

It can start off very innocently, with two Christians on Facebook debating the relative merits of Calvinism. But after several comments, the innocence is usually gone, and is replaced with comments like, “I can’t believe that you would believe in such a stupid thing like free will! Have you ever heard of the Bible? You should try to read it sometime.” If it keeps going, someone will inevitably say something along the lines of, “I suppose you think Adolf Hitler didn’t have free will either!” At that point, the conversation is officially dead in the water.

How can we avoid dreadful conversations like that? How can we disagree with a person on the Internet in a godly, humble, God-honoring way? The truth is, we will give an account to God of every careless word that we speak AND every careless word that we type. I want my online interactions to be honoring to God. Here are a few suggestions for how we can honor God in our online speech:

Remember That Your Opponent Is Created In the Image of God

When we’re sitting snugly behind our computers, it can be easy to forget that the person on the other end of the conversation is a real person. A real person who is created in the image of God and should be respected as a fellow image bearer. A real person who has real feelings and strengths and weaknesses. A real person whom God really, really cares about. The words that I type will have a real effect on that person, either good or bad. My words have the potential to build them up or tear them down. To corrupt them or bless them. To strengthen them or be a source of temptation to them. God will hold me accountable for the ways in which my words affect others.

Remember That Your Opponent Is Your Fellow Brother Or Sister

If my opponent is a Christian, they are also my brother or sister in Christ. They have been bought with the precious blood of Christ and they belong to him. Jesus values. The Father treasures them. The Spirit dwells in them. If I insult them, I am also insulting Christ. If I speak poorly of them, I am speaking poorly of Christ. There is no place for maliciousness or backbiting or insulting in the house of Christ, and that house extends to the digital world.

Don’t Say Anything You Wouldn’t Be Comfortable Saying To Their Face

Being behind a computer screen gives me a weird, and often times sinful, boost of confidence. Suddenly I feel like I know everything, and that every person who disagrees with me is a complete and total moron. I also may be tempted to say things that I would never say to a person’s face. But when I get behind a computer, the Golden Rule still applies. I’m still called to treat every person as I would want to be treated. I don’t want to say anything that I wouldn’t be comfortable saying in person.

Ask Forgiveness Quickly

If I sin against a person through online speech, I need to ask their forgiveness quickly. Just because it happened online and I don’t know them that well doesn’t mean that I’m not accountable for it. The house of Christ should be a place ruled by grace and mercy. I want to seek out grace and mercy from those whom I sin against.

Spoken words matter and digital words matter. I want the words that I type to be pleasing to the Lord, don’t you?

~Stephen Altrogge

Nothing Matters But The Weekend…
Some blogs pretty well shut down on Saturdays and Sundays, but weekends can be a rather quiet time for those who miss the pace of work or school; so Thinking Out Loud frequently ramps it up with extra weekend posts.You can be a part of doing something similar. Find a need that’s not being met. Find a group of people who need connection. Find a place where every sign says ‘closed.’ And then step up. Make a difference. Swim upstream. You can have a part in changing lives. Know somebody who could use some people contact today? Maybe that’s you. Get in touch. Reach out.  And watch for more here at TOL later today.

October 17, 2011

To My Fellow Bloggers: Should Your Blog Exist?

Last night I was cleaning up some comment-following subscriptions that had been in place for up to nearly three years.  Before deleting the subscription, I again read the post and my own comment, and then clicked to see what the blogger had been up to — if anything — lately.

In the process, I came upon this piece by Tim Wilson; the item he used when signed off his blog for the last time in March, 2009.  For the most part, I think this is quite relevant today as well.

Part of being a Christian is having the humility to discern what we can do to best serve the glory of God. So I asked myself: should my blog exist?

It is a question you should ask too. In the light of all these tremendous blogs, should yours exist?

1. Is it unique?

Reformed guys, how many of you are blogging through the Institutes? Or talking about NT Wright? Or discussing Mark Driscoll’s interview with DL?

Be honest, is your blog doing anything I couldn’t find done elsewhere? Is it done in a simpler way or a more in depth way? Does it apply it to the Christian life or to non-Christians? What do you do that’s special?

2. Is it worthy of time?

As I’m reading your blog I could be just as easily listening to a Tim Keller sermon, reading John Owen or taking in some of Sam Storms meditations on scripture. Why should I read your blog?

Maybe some of us should say less. Are we really worth our readers pouring over our 500 words every day?

Also consider, is it worthy of your time? Are you just wasting time writing when you should be studying scripture or reading the giants of the faith?

3. Is it your gift?

Read a site like CopyBlogger or ProBlogger and find out what a good web writer consists of. Is this where your gift lies? If it isn’t, why should we be reading your blog?

4. Do you know what your talking about?

I decided in my early blog days to blog my thoughts on the trinity, despite knowing hardly anything about it. Richard pulled me up on that and I had to retract my comments. Ever since I’ve (tried) to only blog about what I know.

Now don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with thinking through your theology. But a blog isn’t a place. Go onto a forum discuss it with others there.

But when you type something as a blog, to those who aren’t familiar with the format it seems like you know what your talking about. On the last day all teachers will be judged. Are your posts worthy of praise or judgement?

5. Are you about the Lord’s work?

Now I’m not saying “If you’re a Christian with a sports site get it off now”. But are you using your genre to point to Jesus, even in just a small way (i.e. your bio)? Are you building friendships that will lead to souls being saved? If you’re not helping Christians or (more importantly) preaching the Gospel to non-Christians, is your site an opportunity like Jonah to escape from the truth?

6. Are people listening?

Check your stats. Check your incoming links. Check your comments. Are you just speaking into thin air or are people actually listening?

It might be you have a very small audience (hey we all start somewhere). But if it becomes apparent that no one is listening to what your saying then use your time better elsewhere.

7. What’s its point?

Why are you driven to blogging? Do you want to reach out to the lost? Do you want to hone your theological acumen? Do you want to promote good resources? Why are you blogging?

Some of us just blog because we blog. We keep sustained by the idea we might get another reader. Well, that’s just people pleasing and it is idolatry.

Sit down and write an aim statement for your blog, and then think:

8. Would you be more useful in alternatives to blogging?

Not everyone should blog. But there is an awful lot you can do. Here’s some things I’d suggest.

  • Guest posts/co-blog: You may not have enough posts in your veins to post weekly. Why not give your posts to other blogs? Or even ask to co-blog with another group of people, lessening the pressure on you. I’d love to have you post an article here. Drop me an email (whether you’re giving up blogging or not).
  • Comment: On the big blogs, rarely does the author engage with his commenters. You however can follow up on their comments. You may even be able to correct wrong thinking. Go to a liberal Christian blog and reveal their errors (in a LOVING way!!!!). Go to an atheist blog and discuss their stumbling blocks. This is a real ministry.
  • Forums: These are great places to ask your own questions and answer other peoples.
  • Internet Chat: Do you remember when chat rooms were cool? Or am I just really long in the tooth web-wise? There are still people there you can witness to and talk to, if you are more personally gifted.
  • Yahoo Answers: This is a net ministry I think would be great to be involved with. People ask personal questions and there is a theology section. Could you answer their questions?
  • Wikipedia/Knol/Theopedia: If you know something about something very particular, these 3 maybe good places to contribute.
  • Amazon Reviews: You know, most people who buy a book will read its Amazon review. However, few sound books have reviews (especially in the UK) and most of the dodgy books’ reviews are glowing. Could you make a difference there?
  • Stumble Upon/Digg: If you’re one of those people who links like crazy, have a look at sites like Stumble Upon. If you write a good review of a blog post or a site you can send lots of traffic that way. There are many good writers who simply don’t have the publicity.
  • Real life ministry: Old fashioned I know. But have you ever talked to your next door neighbour about Christ? Could you be preaching in a real pulpit rather than a virtual one? Does your church need a new Sunday School Leader? Is this for you?
  • Family: Your spouse and children are always your first ministry. Is your blog wasting valuable time you could spend with them?

September 12, 2011

Aggregating the Aggregator: An Alltop 9/11

The Day After.

Here’s what others — my fellow Alltop members — in the Christian blogosphere had to say…Choose a few…they’re listed in an order in which they struck me as relevant or unique…

Alltop is a great way to keep in touch with what’s going on in the larger world of Christian faith. Although I don’t use it for the Wednesday Link List, I do check it several times per week. There are two different pages one is Alltop Christian and the other is Alltop Church.  (You can also use it if there’s a particular hobby or interest you have that you’d like to read more about.)

And I did not even consider the possibility of using the WordPress index. The list at that point would have been relatively endless.

…I don’t really expect many people reading this to click every one of these links; but I do want you to see one of the largest outpourings by writers on a single subject. The day that “war came to America” was a day — like the assassination of John F. Kennedy in November of ’63 or the Space Shuttle explosion in January ’86 — that touched us all in many, many different ways.  A defining moment.

…And I hope you’ll take a moment to read what Thinking Out Loud had to say here yesterday.

For additional coverage, check out multi-faith bloggers at Alltop Religion

September 10, 2011

Kamp Krusty: The Sequel

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 12:37 pm

If you’re new to the Christian Blogosphere, you missed out on some classics, including Letters From Kamp Krusty from then WAY-FM radio guy Brant Hansen.  But I’m pleased to announce that Brant is back blogging — a rather alliterative phrase don’t ya think? — as part of the team at AIR1.  Plus, if you’re lucky enough to live in a city where AIR1 has a broadcast station, you can catch him regularly.

Anyway, here’s the link to Brant Hansen’s Blog on Faith, Life and…

And if you have no idea who we’re talking about, here’s Brant’s video for I Am Second.  I hope you’ll get to know him, too.

(Don’t know AIR1? Think a heavier version of K-LOVE from the people who brought you… oh yeah… K-LOVE.) (To my fellow Canadians: Tough luck; AIR1 is geo-blocked just like the BBC.)

Nothing Matters But The Weekend…

Some blogs pretty well shut down on the weekend, but weekends can be a rather quiet time for those who miss the pace of work or school; so Thinking Out Loud frequently ramps it up with extra posts on Saturdays.

You can be a part of doing something similar. Find a need that’s not being met. Find a group of people who need connection. Find a place where every sign says ‘closed.’ And then step up. Make a difference. Swim upstream. You can have a part in changing lives.

October 9, 2010

What’s Missing in the Christian Blogosphere?

Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian friends

This is Thanksgiving weekend in Canada, so I thought I’d take it easy today and throw out a question:  What do you feel is lacking these days in the Christian blogosphere?   What topics aren’t being covered?   What needs aren’t being met?  How can the long-form of blog posts be more effective and fruitful in a world of 140-character tweets and one-sentence status updates?

Or feel free to suggest some area where you feel Christians could make better use of the internet in general.   Or celebrate some who already are.

Update:  Although this is an older blog post; if you find yourself here, feel free to continue to leave a comment.

September 27, 2010

Top 98 Blogs: Somebody’s Idea of “Best” Isn’t Mine

I suppose if you want to draw a lot of traffic to your blog, all you have to do is notify a number of the hottest blogs that they have been “selected” to appear on a list of the Top 98 Christian Blogs, and then watch as they mention your site and engage the question; Why 98 and not 100?

That’s what the people at Christian Counseling Degree did — nope, it’s not going to be linked here; they’re getting enough traffic — last week.   I’ve actually seen their list before, and I’m not 100% sure that they even bothered to do an update.

John Saddington wrote:

We’ve written a few times about lists like these and how it’s pretty subjective at times. We’ve come to the conclusion is that, in general, our audience is mature enough to handle these types of lists and see them for what they are: Lists.

To save you some time looking…

  • A couple of these blogs have totally lost their way in terms of faith focus… they’re great blogs and they’re written by Christians, but the similarity between them and the rest of the list ends there
  • A couple of them haven’t posted anything new in six months; instead of being “top” blogs, I would call them “dormant” blogs.
  • The list is very strongly biased toward blogs with a bent toward Reformed theology; it doesn’t stand up to the test of being a true list of the top Christian blogs, because Christianity is so much wider than a single denomination.

Okay, so now you’re curious.   Fine.  Go ahead and read the list, but read it at John’s Church Crunch blog.   I still refuse to give in.

When you have a minute, check out this blog’s blogroll.  There’s a site section called “Oh, Oh, The Places You’ll Go;” which is a mixture of various websites;  but then further down the page is a list of just blogs called “A Sampling of My Weekly Blog Stops.”   If you hover your mouse over each one, you’ll see that some of them comprise a wide range of doctrinal perspectives, including a Quaker, Charismatic, Catholic, Wesleyan; and writers in the U.K., Australia, South Africa supplementing the usual suspects in Canada and the U.S.

Recommendations are welcomed — I’ll bookmark them and follow them for a few weeks — and if you find a dormant blog on the list, let me know.   (I know one of the cartoon blogs fits that category, but his perspective was unusual and I’m hoping he’ll be back.)


The list Kent Shaffer posts annually is also a little skewed doctrinally — perhaps Calvinists just blog all day while the rest of me is out saving the world — but is much more scientific.   Click the image below to see the entire list.


The above reference to Reformers reminded me about another group that does a lot of talking, Christian academics.   Here’s my concerns with that group, as expressed in January, 2009.

The predominance of Reformers and “New” Calvinists in the Christian blogosphere may represent the kind of necessity that exists when you’re spearheading a change in direction or starting a new movement.   I see that happening in so many ways, as I wrote just a month ago, in August, 2010.

April 6, 2010

Tributes to Michael Spencer, the Internet Monk

  • Michael wasn’t the anybody of the blogosphere. He was the Internet Monk of the blogosphere. There is now the post-iMonk Christian blogosphere. A few weeks ago I said on Twitter that none of us are gonna get to heaven and hear Jesus say, “Great blog, dude.” I take that back. Michael made so many people, from so many different places and traditions and perspectives and experiences, feel like they weren’t alone — many times through sharing his own sense of exile — and he did it by stubbornly insisting a fixation on Jesus. ~ Notes from a Small Place blog
  • Michael Spencer’s online writings have affected me deeply from the first day I discovered them.  They’ve always pointed me toward the gospel of Jesus Christ. ~ Meg’s blog
  • Coming back to the Church and life in Christ after a long absence, I found myself in need of this sense of perspective, of finding, for lack of a better word, those spiritual guides, who offered true guidance and direction to those of us with many, many, many questions.  Michael Spencer, aka the Internet Monk, was one of those guides for me over the past few years.    ~Wandering Tree blog
  • I felt like I came to know Michael and his quest through the “post-evangelical wilderness” over the past few years. He will be missed… ~Green Leaf blog
  • Michael Spencer has graduated.  He has left this world for bigger and better things.  The sum total of all our years will seem like a moment in the span of eternity.  The time until we met again will pass like vapor in the wind.  We can mourn and comfort each other in the void he leaves behind, and at the same time rejoice as he rejoices on the streets of glory.  His desire each day was to more clearly see the face of our Lord; and now that joy is complete. ~ The Master’s Table blog
  • Michael was a good friend of mine, even though I never met him in real life. I found his blog back in the 1990s sometime – I don’t even recall what I was looking for – and was hooked. Through reading his stuff there and through participating in the Boar’s Head Tavern collaborative site, I got to know how he thought. At the time he was a Calvinist, and I disagreed with him; but through engaging with him, I learned a great deal about what I believed and why I believed it. Michael’s thinking shaped mine in many ways; his well-thought writings required that I also think well. ~ Cogita Est Ora blog
  • I feel like I lost: a friend, a brother, a guide, and a safety-net for my own inadequacies. The irony in this is that I have never met Michael in person.  We exchanged one or two emails, but that was the extent of our personal contact. Meeting him in person was on my list of things to do before I died.  It looks like that goal will have to wait now. What Michael provided in my life was the sanity check that I so desperately needed as I was drowning in deep despair in Evangelicalism.  The constant questioning of the feeling that I didn’t belong and that I sensed that something was wrong, were all answered by Michael’s writings.  He helped me to become who I am today and how I view things in the church. The Lord used him to take away the bitterness and resentment that I had built up towards Evangelicalism. ~ Peaceful Walk With Jesus blog
  • Michael’s prodigious output as a blogger, both at Internet Monk and at the Boars Head Tavern that he started, relentlessly directed readers to the person of Jesus. His wide-ranging reading interests incurred the ire of some, but many readers like me found provocation of the best kind, inspiration and encouragement. Michael was captivated by radical grace, and now that Grace has captured him. Though he died, yet does he live. ~ Common Ground Online
  • Michael was Jesus’ man – on a life-long journey to center his thoughts, emotions, actions and character around Jesus and to genuinely know Jesus.  That quest was not simple for Michael.  It was often quite complicated, full of questions and doubt and darkness.  But it was also marked by unique clarity, certainty and the light of heaven’s smile. ~ Ponder Anew blog
  • Michael Spencer, the graceful writer behind Internet Monk, died yesterday surrounded by his family. What a wonderful writer. What a wonderful man.  ~Dating Jesus blog.
  • A wonderful writer who influenced my decision to move to a more liturgical church. Thank you Michael.  ~Becoming Episcopalian blog

These are just some of the tributes from everyday Internet Monk readers such as you and I.   You can also read tributes from Frank ViolaSteve McCoy at Reformissionary, and Andrew Jones at Tall Skinny Kiwi.

If all of these leaves you scratching your head going, “Who?,” then I’m sorry that you missed out on Internet Monk.    Hopefully the back catalog of posts will remain online for a long, long time; so you can still catch up.   He was a unique voice among bloggers.

This outpouring of love and sympathy online also proves the value of Christian online community.    In many respects we may come to know each other with a depth not always achieved in face-to-face communication.   And we come to grieve the loss of someone we knew in this manner every bit as deeply as those with whom we have what some think more direct contact.   One post at Boar’s Head Tavern reads:

I hate weeping alone at my keyboard when I should be weeping in the same room with you guys.

There are many, many other tributes posted there, and as of this writing, over 200 posts in the past 24 hours on Google.

It would not be surprising if Michael Spencer reached his widest audience with the publication of his book Mere Churchianity, due September 7th from Waterbrook Press.   I wonder if some of his online writings might also be preserved in print form for those who heretofore didn’t know him.   It would be a daunting project, but there is much worth publishing.

Finally, I want to end by referring back to the post on this blog just a few hours ago.   I concluded by asking the question, “What do you want your life to be remembered for?”

Michael Spencer’s life will be well-remembered.

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