Thinking Out Loud

March 24, 2016

How the Internet Accelerated Change in the Church

close-to-home-on-blogging1This is part two of a two-part article.

In the setup in part one, we indicated that the influence of rock music in general and The Beatles in particular caused some sweeping changes, particularly in the U.S., in terms of fashion, drugs, war resistance and the sexual liberation. Some of this may have been inevitable, and there were certainly other influences at play, but the 1960s were essentially two decades worth of change sandwiched into one.

So what about another media (for lack of a better word) which influenced the Church?

The effect of the internet on Christianity or Evangelicalism varies depending on which aspect of the technology you’re discussing.

Email simply replaced snail-mail. Communications happened instantly, and at a fraction of the cost, but it’s hard to argue that this changed anything within church culture.

Church websites simply replaced the marquee at the front of the church building, allowing churches to opt instead for larger changeable letters adorned with pithy sayings. No need to post the pastor’s name or the service times, since all that was now on the website.

Video on demand or live-streaming of weekend services simply replaced buying time on local TV outlets, or for the blessed few, on a network of stations.

No, none of these things changed anything in and of themselves.

The real change happened on social media. Online bulletin boards, chat rooms, etc. made it possible for dialog to happen and made it easy for people to enter the conversation regardless of where they lived or their level of education.

But the biggest change occurred with the type of thing you’re reading now: Weblogs, or as they are better known, blogs.

While I can’t cite specific years as I did in part one of the article, here are some effects that I would say took place from about 2003 to 2009.

Blog ChildBlogs and BooksIt wasn’t Christian publishers who came up with using social media to promote new releases, rather the conversations simply started happening over the latest title or the newest author. For reasons I’ll get back to in the final point, the period was a golden age for non-fiction books and publishers were tripping over themselves to place new voices under contract.

I specify non-fiction because the publisher relationship with social media today tends to be more focused on mommy bloggers critiquing and giving away spoilers in the latest Amish or romantic or historical fiction title. Some of these make it through three books a week and publishers are quite willing to supply even relatively small blogs with freebies.

But that wasn’t always the way. The original discussions were all about doctrinal, or Christian Living titles. Maybe a devotional. Eventually, the one Christian children’s book that ever got serious blog review, The Jesus Storybook Bible.

The Growth of Calvinism – This really isn’t anything new, neither should it come as a surprise. Any advance of media technology, or any general cultural shift in communications has been seized on by the Reformed community. Just look at one of the first megachurches (Crystal Cathedral, Reformed Church in America), one of the first TV ministries (Day of Discovery, Christian Reformed), the organizations which dominate our present publishing community (Zondervan, Baker, Eerdman’s, etc., all Reformed); look at these and you see that Reformers have always been there in any available media. (My running joke: Why are there no Salvation Army bloggers? Because while everybody else is writing about it, the Salvation Army is out on the streets doing it.)

But while the internet promoted Calvinism, in some ways the form of the doctrine that was promoted was also changed by it. There exists a type of militant Calvinism today that has polarized the broad Christian community. Reformed parents couldn’t give their children the comic book The Action Bible until the publisher provided a sanctified edition with text from the English Standard Version, the Reformed community’s new Bible of choice.

blogThe Internet Celebrity – The blog Stuff Christians Like launched Jon Acuff overnight. The blog with the weird name, Without Wax, introduced the world to Nashville pastor Pete Wilson. The Naked Pastor developed a cult following, especially when some of the characters in the illustrations turned out to be actually naked. John Shore, Bill Kinnon, Tim Challies, Skye Jethani, Zach Nielson, and others like them were must reading for their constituencies. The Pyromaniacs aka Team Pyro proved that graphics matter, with their first-rate images appearing throughout their articles and attracting new followers.

But in a recent Happy Rant Podcast, Barnabas Piper and Ted Kluck noted that many of the Reformed blogging superstars have churches that are not as significantly large as their digital footprint might indicate. They enjoy a fame disproportionate to their church attendance. Furthermore some pastors, like Willow’s Bill Hybels, didn’t blog at all.

There’s also the few — of which this blog is one — that managed to attract a following without the author being a pastor or a published author. Voices that might not have been heard if this form of social media had not existed.

Homogenization – Despite the plethora of Christian blogs out there, there was a sense we were all reading from the same page. Re-blogging material was more common and more accepted in the early days, and the water cooler topics in church offices — especially among younger leaders — tended to mirror the topics being discussed on the blogs.

Emergent / Emerging – While the terms are now in disuse, there is much evidence that whatever the Christian blogosphere did for Calvinism, it did even more so for the various strains of the Emergent Church, including the Ancient/Future mini-movement that I feel was Emergent’s best byproduct; along with kick-starting the whole missional conversation.

I’m not sure if  it was Tony Jones or not, but recently a writer from that era wrote a piece saying that Emergent was, in effect, now past its sell-by date. I have to agree, which makes it more interesting when some watchdog blog starts slamming the now non-existent movement. Which brings us to…

bloggingdogs-thumbDiscernment / Watchdog Ministries – The blogosphere in general, if nothing else, is all about being offended, so the discernment bloggers, the watchdog bloggers, those champions for truth and right doctrine (as long as it’s their truth and right doctrine) are a natural fit for social media.

The problem is that the average Christian, doing a Google search, has no idea when he or she has come upon one of these, and may not catch the watchdog’s own biases. The blogosphere, like the entire internet, has few filters.

Furthermore, there are so many targets for these writers, so many ways to instill fear, so many common enemies, that it’s easy to go on the attack and forget that those attacked are real people with real lives and real families. I think it’s harder to hate a person after you’ve shaken his hand, but I may be wrong.

Did Christian internet bullies contribute to the suicide of a pastor’s teenage son? We asked that question here a few years ago. We’ll never know the answer, but some are willing to speculate.

Connections – I met British Columbia blogger Rick Apperson somewhere in the comments section of my short lived Religion blog at USAToday and we still keep in touch and occasionally I steal articles from him! Dare I say that I’ve made dozens and dozens of contacts through blogging, some of which I consider the most significant in my life, even though we’ve never met face to face.

I’ve also discovered an affinity toward people with whom I think alike and with whom I think quite differently. And I am so grateful for having spent nearly two years doing a column (albeit a news feed) for Christianity Today. I love those guys!

Eccesiology – One of the main benefits of the early years of Christian bloggers was the rapid increase in the number of people who started planting churches. Called “the extreme sport of ministry,” church plants turned up in various shapes and sizes, with lay people who had never had a previous interest in Ecclesiology — and who had certainly never been asked — were writing and turning out blog posts and print books on the subject of doing church and creating a different kind of church (a phrase that if Googled, probably results in millions of hits.)

Growth of BloggingI listed this last, even though it could have been first, because it sums up a lot of what was taking place in a very short time: There was an explosion of ideas. Conversations were flying fast and furious about church governance, leadership models and worship styles. That the average parishioner cared so much about what was taking place drove all us into a deeper consideration of what it means to be Christ’s church.

The discussions and ideas were reflected in books and especially in a parallel  explosion of conferences. People loved their church and loved the church. No idea wasn’t worth consideration. No speaker or writer wasn’t worth hearing.

It was the best of times.

 

February 25, 2016

Thinking Out Loud: The 8th Anniversary

Filed under: blogging, Christianity, personal, writing — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:14 am

Blog Birthday 8

TOL square

So, Paul; it’s been eight years.

Yep!

…and…?

Yes?

What are your thoughts?

Sorry, I thought you were going to ask me questions.

I thought you were going to write out your own questions and then provide the answers.

Shhh!

So did you ever think you’d be doing this eight years later?

Yes and no. I was doing this and Christian Book Shop Talk and a local-interest blog where I lived and a consumer advocacy blog and using a blog platform for our business and doing a local-interest blog in the community and setting up a blog for a specialty daycare center where we live and writing a book on internet addiction which was using a blog format and then later adding Christianity 201.

At that point anyone could have said, ‘You’re going to burn out doing all these things at the same time;’ and they would have been correct, but fortunately I jettisoned a few of those projects. If you only post to your blog once a week, or if you don’t bother to fact-check things you’re referencing or quoting, then I suppose it’s easy to sustain that for the better of a decade. But to post fresh content to two blogs every single day and to do this for free for eight years is probably, for the average person, somewhat inadvisable.

TOL Welcome YellowWhat about the free thing? Why not monetize the blog?

I did ask for donations at one point. Our business has a toll-free number that works across Canada and the U.S., and I thought if people were enjoying what was happening here they could make a donation using their credit card and we set up a day for that, but the phones didn’t exactly ring off the wall.

First of all, I’m not going to be a referrer to Amazon or even CBD because I have too many friends and too many years invested in brick-and-mortar Christian bookstores. I believe in doing everything I can do to help these stay in the communities where they are doing ministry.

Second, I don’t think you can run advertising on WordPress.com; so that just isn’t an option.

To be really honest, there are a number of components of my life, not just my writing that I thought I would be able to monetize at some point and it’s never worked out. For whatever reason, God has kept us hovering around the poverty line for more than 20 years now, and while I don’t remember answering a call to be a missionary, I’m realizing now that I’ve become one by default. Maybe that’s why I relate to Randy Alcorn, who for different reasons, is in the same situation.

As a writer however, I’m thankful I was able for 22-months to create a synergy with a version of the Wednesday Link List created just for Leadership Journal at Christianity Today and the one that appeared on the blog. That income was not huge, but it helped buy some weekly groceries.

TOL sidebar Sept 2013Thinking Out Loud is very much faith-focused. Snippets of personal life are few or even personal spiritual life.

I try to write at least one of the Christianity 201 devotions each week. If there isn’t a name attached to it, then I wrote it. And obviously I’m not listed among the many Calvinist bloggers. But beyond that I realize I’m somewhat of an enigma to people who don’t read every day, and even those who do.

My beliefs are each rather hybrid in nature. On church government, I’m congregational but I believe in structure and accountability. On women in ministry, I am more sympathetic to the egalitarian position, but with a recognition of God-ordained differences between men and women. On eschatology, I believe “we see in part and we prophesy in part” and that many of the models currently taught are still somewhat insufficient. On worship, I prefer doctrinal substance over empty emotion, but at the same time think that we can be passionate about God, about Jesus and about theology in general. On supernatural spiritual gifts such as miracles and tongues, I calculate that if 50% of the people are faking it, that means that 50% are having some type of genuine experience.

Some doctrinal issues are above my pay grade. This is one of the few blogs that has risen to prominence that is written by someone who is not a pastor, not a seminary professor, not a local church pastor. I believe we can appreciate the complexity of a subject like substitutionary atonement or divine foreknowledge without having to dissect it, just as one can be a connoisseur of fine foods without necessarily being a great cook. If I can, in my lifetime, fully master just two things — incarnation and atonement — then I will have accomplished much.

For me, it’s about whether or not something resonates with me, in light of other teaching I’ve heard, other reading I’ve done, and the general apprehension I have of the ways of God. Is that subjective? You bet it is.

TOL sidebar March 2014Why not do the pastoring thing?

It’s now been two years since I last did pulpit supply in a church; though with our bookstore ministry, I get to preach several times a week; it’s just the crowd size is much smaller. Over the past year, my goal was simply to completely memorize a 35-minute sermon, and I think that’s ready to go now. Otherwise, there’s no way I would want to take what local church pastors take on, either in terms of time or the emotional energy that must be spent.

I would like to be ordained however. I know that sounds strange, but I’m looking for an Evangelical organization that offers some accountability beyond paying $50 a year for a clergy card so you can perform weddings. I don’t want to do funerals, weddings or pastor-for-hire events, but I would like to be able to sit at the same table as clergy and have a collegial relationship that I don’t have now despite the blog or the bookstore or time spent in itinerant ministry.

On the other hand, I’ll take an honorary degree from a recognized Evangelical institution. They can present it to me in ceremony, or just let me know if one falls off the back of a truck, Proverbs 25:27 notwithstanding.

Number One WidgetNext on the blog?

There’s always a breaking story or issue waiting to happen, and always someone in the widest sphere of Christianity about to have their fifteen minutes of fame. At a deeper level, there are always trends resulting from the continuing tension between Christianity and popular culture. Rather than just jump in on the story that’s the flavor of the week, I think we should carefully choose the issues that use our mental energy.

Anything else to add?

Tonight I’m speaking about the blog to a group of students at Canada Christian College; but I’m doing it pre-recorded, which means if you’d like to learn more, click this link. It runs about 18 minutes and it is audio-only with a few quickly-put-together slides. I’ll leave it up for a limited time.

 

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October 25, 2014

Peeking Inside Paul’s Computer: Christian Blog List

Okay, you need to be a Christian blog nerd to appreciate this, but I thought today I’d give you an inside look at my computer; specifically, all the Christian blogs that I have bookmarked there.  The blogroll you see in the right margin of Thinking Out Loud is just a small part of a bigger picture.  So here they are in no particular order, except that the first 40 or so are kinda on speed-dial — remember that Seinfeld episode? — and the bottom 40 or so have been added more recently. But otherwise, there’s no predictable pattern.  If you see anything here that’s not a blog, or a link that’s become corrupted, let me know. Also note that missing in this list are several blogs that I consider more as news sites, a handful of Patheos blogs, and also missing (because they’re in another directory) are about 30 blogs that do things similar to the Wednesday Link List. Have fun!

Stuff Fundies Like
Marketing Christian Books
Hear the Voice Blog
Without Wax
The Tony Jones Blog
ToddRhoades.com | Pastors and Church Leader News and Opinion
Phil Vischer
internetmonk.com
Blog |Philip Yancey
On Faith & Culture | Jonathan Merritt’s blog at Religion News Service
Parchment and Pen | Making Theology Accessible
Blog – ReKnew
Red Letter Christians – What if Jesus Really Meant What He Said?
The Master’s Table
blog.worship.com
NewSmallChurch.com
SKYEBOX » the weblog of Skye Jethani
Jon Acuff — Author | Speaker | Awesome
The Wartburg Watch
FBC Jax Watchdog
FaithVillage | MOVE YOUR FAITH HERE
holy heteroclite:
holy heteroclite
Bene Diction Blogs On
Beliefs of the Heart
The blog of Matthew Paul Turner
Rachel Held Evans | Rachel’s Blog Articles
Darrell Creswell’s Blog
Lorna Dueck: Her thoughts on world issues from a Christian Perspective
Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove —
Passionately His
churchrelevance.com
ThinkChristian.net – Blogging about the intersection of faith and culture
Another Red Letter Day
onehandclapping —
LeadingSmart
Trey Morgan.net
Refine Us | To remove impurities from something…
Blog In My Own Eye
Jamie the Very Worst Missionary
Blog and Mablog
Reclaiming the Mission :: The Weblog of David Fitch
THE ORPHAN AGE
Brad Lomenick
One Passion One Devotion
Eric Metaxas » Blog
Kouya Chronicle
The Thinklings
rob bell
Red-Letter Believers
Cindy by the Sea
IVP – Andy Unedited
Lifestream Blog
Bruxy | The web site
The Heart Of The Matter
Donald Miller’s Blog — Best-Selling Author Of Books, And Stuff
Shaun Groves
Reformed Arminian Blog
Cold Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace – Christian Apologetics
learning my lines. . .
David Kenney – Reciprocal Ecclesiology in a Pseudo Post-Modern Malaise.
Karen Spears Zacharias
The Bible and Culture — A One-Stop Shop for All Things Biblical and Christian
Pastor Steven Furtick
The Church of No People
City of God –
Soulfari
BadCatholic
Revitalize Your Church
Cain’s Wife Answer
Digging a lot
LarkNews.com
Quantum Tea – UK God Blogs
Glocal Christianity
Theophilus Monk’s Christian Faith & Theology Weblog
the Jesus Manifesto
Prodigal Magazine
Faith Blogs
http://catchjohnfischer.wordpress.com/
Losing My Religion
jonnybaker
A Living Alternative Our Missional Pilgrimage
Kruse Kronicle
Soiled Wings
300 words a day
Homebrewed Christianity
Zac Hicks – Worship. Church. Theology. Culture. – Zac Hicks Blog
My World
Will Mancini
CBMW » Gender Blog
http://jennicatron.tv/
TheWorshipCommunity.Com – Worship Leader Resources, Articles, Forums
Rumblings
Activate CFPL – Blog
Clarion: Journal of Spirituality and Justice
http://5ptsalt.com/
Sand in the Gears
Jesus Creed
American Jesus
Daily Christian Quotations
Semicolon | Books we must have though we lack bread.
God Is My Constant
Growing in Faith
reboot christianity
Mockingbird
The Bible and Culture
Calvinistic Cartoons
The Bible Hunter
Church and Family Cartoons by Tim Walburg
Simply Church: A House Church Perspective
Searching for grace
Strengthened by Grace
Journey of Worship | Thoughts and experiences on the journey of worship
Cake Or Death (Christian Church cartoons by Alex Baker)
People of the Second Chance | Overthrow Judgment. Liberate Love.
More Christ
Murray’s Musings
Till He Comes | Bringing Scripture and Theology to Life
God Discussion | For Seekers Who Don’t Go To Church
whyismarko — life, faith, youth ministry, emerging church, leadership, whimsy
Zombies. Theology. Whatever | Pastor Matt
http://goandmake.ca/
Faith In The Journey
I’m Waiting
Newgenesis Resurrection Ministries
Right Wing Watch
Living Proof Ministries Blog
Blog | Zondervan Author Mark Buchanan
jeff mikels
Musings by Robert
A Joyful Noise
Big Ear Creations
America’s Next Top Mommy
Dan White Jr.
Practical Faith
God Speaks I Listen
5:21 | Life & Gospel Reflections
the blue fish project (dave bish)
Wayne Stiles
Based on a True Story | Nathan Colquhoun
http://dbts.edu/blog/
Tall Monastic Guy
Gay Christian Movement Watch
JANELLE KEITH
Blue Letter Bible: The Blog | the official blog of blueletterbible.org
Straight-Friendly
Truthinator’s Blog
Glory to God for All Things
Mike King
The Radical.net Blog
Coming Out Christian — Conversations about being Christian and gay in America
RenaissanceNow | Ubi Caritas et Amor, Deus Ibi Est
Chilly Chilton | Christian | Husband | Father | Mentor | Pastor | Friend | Detroit
Jesus, I will follow you.
The Domain for Truth
A Deeper Story | Tales of Christ and Culture
FROM LEE IN TENNESSEE
the gospel side | The ruminations of a kyriarchist.
The King’s Presence
extraecclesiam…
The Journeyman’s Files
Bob Hostetler’s Prayer Blog
Created to Give God Glory
Looking Through the Windshield
The Prodigal Thought | Pointing prodigal thoughts towards the truth.
Sometimes a Light – Blog
Sue’ s considered trifles
ISTORIA MINISTRIES BLOG
Ralph Howe Blogs
connexions
Reflections | The High Calling
Digging the Word
once for all delivered
The Lewis Crusade | Fighting for human dignity, the worth of the disabled, the salvation of souls and the Gospel of Life
Blogotional
Daily Devotionals, Free Christian Bible Devotions Online
The Bridge Chicago
supersimbo | Christian/Husband/Blogger/Designer/Beard Enthusiast
Modern Reject – Nicole Cottrell: Writer, Speaker, Button-pusher
Christian Film Blog: CFDb’s Blog – Annelie’s Christian Film World Blog | Find Christian Movies on CFDb: Largest list of Christian Films
Prodigal Magazine – The Christian Magazine For Storytellers
Just My Thoughts
efcgraceblog | Thoughts on my never-ending search for grace.
Gestating A Church | Reflections on planting a new church for sinners, saints, and skeptics who join God in the renewal of all things
FaithsMessenger.Com
Bob Rogers | Pastor, First Baptist Church of Rincon, Georgia
Sunday| Magazine – A free online mag all about the creative side of Sundays.
Andy Stanley | Helping Leaders Go Further Faster
The High Calling
More Christ
Bouncing Back — Bouncing back from adversity; Moving forward with hope.
anabaptistly | attempting missional anabaptist living
Java Juice Blog House – FaithVillage | MOVE YOUR FAITH HERE
Doctrine Matters | Bible truths from www.BibleDebates.info
The Palmer Perspective
The Nuance | trailblazing beyond black & white
ChristianBlessings | CLICK A BLESSING TODAY
Pastor Dave Online | Reflections on Christ and Culture
the gospel side | The ruminations of a kyriarchist.
Please Convince Me
re-Ver(sing) Verses | reading, singing, analyzing verses
GrowDeep
Church Curmudgeon (ChrchCurmudgeon) on Twitter
thehopeforlife | Finding true freedom through Jesus
:: We Are Soma » Blog ::
CROSS-SHAPED STUFF | i want to see more stuff shaped like a cross
Joel J. Miller — Where Christian Theology Meets Daily Life
FAITH BOGDANlive well-loved by God! – Blog
Both/And. | Seeking–or making–a third way.
Canadian Writers Who Are Christian
Breaking News Pimp Preacher.com & The Church Folk Revolution
A Geek in the Wilderness – One geek/nerd hybrid journeys through history and the world in an epic search for truth, justice… and great pizza.
July | 2013 | ItsTholhuGospel
dianelindstrom | Overflow
As the Deer
(32) twentyonehundred productions
EerdWord | The blog of Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
PiH Today
Gordon Rumford Ministries
Adam Young
Incourage — daily devotional for women
Reason for Change | Theology isn’t science; it’s art.
Tall Skinny Kiwi » Brand spankin’ new site for tsk
Christian in the Rough — Finding fun in the middle of dysfunction, action at the end of distraction, and grace at the end of disgrace.
Given Breath
lotharlorraine | 4 out of 5 dentists recommend this WordPress.com site
[iDisciple] – Abiding in Christ, Growing in Community, Bearing Fruit
http://www.thepoachedegg.net/
Christian Funny Pictures – A time to laugh
A Parched Soul | Grayson Pope’s blog
Crossroad Junction
the banksyboy brief
when love comes to town
Stand to Reason
Roll to Disbelieve | Grab your 20-siders. We’re going in.
Home – Denison Forum on Truth and Culture
emily t. wierenga
Rebecca Writes – Rebecca Writes
The TallSkinnyKiwi Daily
MEETING IN THE CLOUDS | CLOUDWATCHER’S LIFE STORY and inspirational thoughts
Twitter / AbandonedPics: Abandoned church seems to still …
Christian Forum Site – Welcome to a Friendly Fellowship
the Cripplegate | for a new generation of non-conformists
Author Tricia Goyer
Restoring Significance
Peter Chin – husband, father, pastor, writer | Home
Blogging Theologically | Jesus, Books, Culture, & Theology
The Revangelical Blog – Revangelical Blog – Brandan Robertson- Rethinking. Reforming. Renewing.
Redemption Pictures
Blog – Jeremy Binns
the kiddy pool
Formerly Fundie — Insights, Hopes and Laments on American Christianity
Wordgazer’s Words
Receive with Meekness
Words of Life | Empowering Conversations to Help You Apply the Lifechanging Truths of the Bible
Blogs | Going Beyond Ministries
Catholic Memes
The Ironic Catholic
Defeating the Dragons | overcoming a fundamentalist indoctrination.
reformation 21 | Online Magazine of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals
Thoughts about God – Daily Devotionals
Feeding on Christ – Reformed theological resources
Adrian Warnock — Patheos Evangelical
SharperIron | Thinking is fundamental
Love, Joy, Feminism —
H . A | Welcome to Homeschoolers Anonymous.
thatmom.com
Abundant Life Now
Blog | Vince Antonucci
JASON JOHNSON | BLOG
Well Spent Journey
Sandra Stanley
Sam Storms: Oklahoma City, OK > Enjoying God Blog
Abnormal Anabaptist | Come and read what it means to be abnormally Anabaptist. It might surprise you.
TALITHA KUM
Mormon411
Worn Pages
Curious Christian
Church Marketing Sucks
VergeNetwork – YouTube
thexiansatirist | because Xians can be worthy of ridicule…
The Wardrobe Door
Red Letter Believers – Christian Answers for the Curious and the Thoughtful
John H Armstrong | Reflections of a Missional-Ecumenist
No Longer Quivering —
For His Glory | If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation…
Holy Soup – Innovative approaches to ministry.
Faith and Theology
Web devotions
Running the Good Race | “Let us run with perseverance …
The Bible Hunter
clarke’s SOAPBOX – . . . as if I don’t say enough on Sunday mornings!
The thought just occurred to me
Tim’s Blog – Just One Train Wreck After Another
Theo-sophical Ruminations | Theological and philosophical musings
A Cry For Justice | Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence
Agog4God | A Gathering of Girlfriends & Guys for GodAgog4God
Confessions of a Funeral Director » @ the Crossroads of this World & the Next
More Than Coping | Mental Illness And The Christian
MANTURITY.COM — REDEFINE MATURITY
Ask Sister Mary Martha
Good Question | A blog by Christopher R. Smith,
Ben Irwin
Liz Boltz Ranfeld
James Pedlar
Pastoralized
The Revangelical Blog – The Revangelical Movement Blog, Podcast, Review
Sermons from a Psycho
Of Dust & Kings – Empowering Faith. Transforming Culture.
Revitalize Your Church
These Christian Times | Prophecy, bible, entertainment and current events
Get Along With God | A blog about discovering a God worth knowing.
Imago Dei
Blog | Practical ShepherdingPractical Shepherding
The Roundabout Way
reboot christianity
The Wanderer | “As I walked through the wilderness of this world . . .”
FaithsMessenger.Com
The Sometimes Preacher | Reflections on Jesus, Scripture, Theology, Ministry, and Church.
Glory to God for All Things | Orthodox Christianity, Culture and Religion
martyduren.com
I am Phoenix
Joy Phenix’s Blog | Joy : Defined
Launch Clarity
InsaneFaithNow | Aspects of life in a post-modern world…
Andrew Knott.org | Empowering Prayer, Encouraging People
ALIFESANCTIFIED.COM
Christianity | Not For Itching Ears
Christian Blog
Liberate
Christian Crier — For Ye That Have Ears To Hear
Gloria Furman
Ben Irwin
Brian Zahnd – Full-time pastor. Occasional author. Would-be mountaineer
BHBlog – Telligent
Christian Gravy
The Church of No People
Blog | CPYU
MomLife Today | EVERY MOMent COUNTS!
Missio Alliance
Blog – The Malphurs Group : The Malphurs Group
Youth For Truth U.S.A.
nish weiseth
The Narthex — Medium
Do Right Christians | WHAT KILLS YOU MAKES YOU STRONGER! ROMANS 8:13, 7:24-25 |AN IFB MINISTRY
Blog — Nancy Beach
Create With Joy | Infuse Creativity In All You Do
Blog | Mere Orthodoxy | Christianity, Politics, and Culture
Faith Beyond Belief
Borrowed Light – that Christ may be the only boast of this generation
Psephizo – scholarship. serving. ministry.
Eugene Cho
theologygrams | Theology explained in diagrams
Ministry Matters™
Mercy Not Sacrifice — The blog of Morgan Guyton
Back Row Online | #BeUndignified
ItsTholhuGospel | I Love God, I Love People, I Love Music…I Am TholhuGospel
Blog | Kate Conner
Real World Worship Leading | A Blog For Worship Leaders Who Lead Normal People In Normal Churches ||| RealWorldWorship.Org
Theoblogy — The Tony Jones Blog at Patheos
Simplify This Life
SonWorshiper | Literary Karaoke
Faith & Frivolity
Possessing the Treasure
The Lonely Pilgrim | A Christian’s Road Home to Rome and Journey Onward
sevennotesofgrace | musing about music and its Creator
Jamie Ivey
We Are Worship
Christianity 201
Get Better Today

July 31, 2014

Picketing a Place of Worship

A bunch of people plan to carry signs in a demonstration outside a Belleville, Washington church on Sunday morning. That’s hardly news. Heck, Fred Phelps was doing that for years.

But there’s more at stake with this one. The little protest has already garnered some mainstream media interest, and it hasn’t even happened yet.

The whys and hows of this story are complicated, and unless you’ve been following this for some time, it’s rather hard to catch you up. Suffice it to say that the volcano involving Mars Hill, the church co-founded and led by Mark Driscoll has been waiting to erupt for several years, though really the church culture is causing something more resembling imploding than exploding.

Social media has played a major role in getting the story told. I’m fairly certain Jesus didn’t have blogging in mind when he said this, but even if the context is different, the words, as Luke records them, certainly fit: “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs. (12:2,3)

Mark Driscoll - Not many of you should be teachersOne blogger has suggested that Driscoll really only has two options, to really repent (i.e. not the repentance seen in a recent half hour video) or to resign. Perhaps. He could also wait; i.e. try to ride out the storm.

With all the Christian movie-making that’s been happening lately, I would be very surprised if a movie about Driscoll’s life to date is not already in the works.

The point I want to make here is that that this Sunday a small protest will take place in the upper left corner of the U.S., but it is one that has repercussions in a much larger arena. Whatever single issue the demonstrators think it’s about, it raises visibility on so many other issues about Driscoll and Mars Hill.

It’s about church structure, secrecy, accountability, finances, hiring, firings, spiritual abuse, and how each of these things impacted the lives of countless families over the years. It’s about the overtones of everything from the role of women, to plagiarism, to how the authority structure in some Calvinist settings mitigates against truth and transparency.

Like I said, it’s the stuff that movies are made of, though perhaps only those who are ecclesiology nerds or theology nerds would buy the tickets.

But it impacts your church, and my church, and the church our children will inherit.

 

June 17, 2014

When Outrage Becomes Fashionable

Last week Leadership Journal — the same organization that publishes my Wednesday Link List — stirred up a hornets’ nest when they published an article by a former youth pastor now serving time in prison for sexually abusing a girl in the youth group.

For people who have had to deal with any kind of sexual abuse, this article struck a lot nerves, but not in the way you might think. Rather, there was a groundswell of feeling that the language in the piece elevated the author beyond what he deserves, that it appeared to be prescriptive at a time the author should not be giving advice, and that it somewhat soft-pedaled what took place using words like affair or relationship when the legal system would clearly define it as rape.

To publish or not to publishThat Leadership Journal is a division of Christianity Today, Inc. only added to the controversy.

I became aware of this taking place on Twitter — where readers seized the hashtag #takedownthatpost — and followed it early on in real time since I now have more than a passing interest in what happens at LJ and CT. Later Tweets revealed that several Leadership Journal staffers were away at the time, but eventually a three-paragraph disclaimer was added to the beginning of the story, and then, about a day later, the six-page post was removed entirely with an apology.

I think, at that point, removing the article was the only sensible thing to do.

Rather, what concerns me is something I felt while all this was going on, namely that being outraged by this particular article became a Twitter trend. People, some of whom I am quite sure have never paid LJ any attention prior to this, simply joined the bandwagon because that was the correct thing to do.Again, I don’t want to minimize the seriousness of the subject the article discussed. I merely want to make an observation here that for a few days last week, moral outrage became fashionable.

protest signSocial media has the potential to raise issues that are important, but when objection to a particular piece becomes trendy, I have to wonder if the outrage stems from deeply held convictions or if the the publication that is the subject of the outrage is simply being bullied into trashing the piece. As a regular reader of the weekly column by the Public Editor of Canada’s largest newspaper, I know that “You should never have published that article,” is an oft-heard refrain.

The article had it its issues. But as I pointed out in another blog post last week, the rule caveat lector always applies: “Let the reader beware;” or more literally, “be wary.” The author wrote what he felt about the whole issue, and yes, perhaps he is in denial about some aspects of what he did. Then again, maybe he simply wanted to write something that presented himself well.

The other question is one of the appropriateness of the forum the author was given. No doubt some felt that anything in the CT family simply gave the article too much profile; but the outrage that followed would only add to the website traffic.

[][][][][][][]

So…we have guest posts here sometimes. Would I have printed the article?

I think I would have been attracted by the idea that a convicted felon — incarcerated for something he did while on staff of a local church — would want to use my blog to tell his story. The inside nature of the story, or the exclusive release of the story would probably temper my desire to do some careful editing; and communication for the purpose of making changes might have been difficult.

Faced with objection and outrage, I might at first dig in my heels; and then I probably would start thinking about damage control after several days; basically exactly what CT did.

The situation would only complicate if I were working with a skeleton staff during summer holidays.

[][][][][][][]

The writer wanted to do something that would be redemptive for other student pastors who are vulnerable to temptation.

Instead we ended up with something that was prescriptive for editors faced with the temptation to run a story which perhaps should have stayed in the closet.

 

 

October 12, 2013

The Corruption of Online Journaling

Filed under: blogging, writing — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:27 am

What if instead of keeping a written diary or journal, someone offered you a free software package that allowed you to do the same at your computer; and instead of storing your writing on your computer and having to transfer files every time you bought a new machine, it allowed you to store your thoughts in the cloud, where they could also be accessed by friends and family?

bloggingdogs-thumbThat’s the theory behind the original weblogs — later shortened to blogs — such as the one you’re reading right now, and names like Blogspot and WordPress, and SquareSpace became synonymous with being able to do this in a time when the new meanings of words such as “share” and “like” hadn’t been fully developed. Blogging also replaced the Bulletin Board (or BBS) means of posting information to a wider audience (which is why foreign spammers often use the word ‘board’ in their message) and also absorbed people whose sense of online community was previously developed in online forums or chat rooms (in an age when that term didn’t only have sexual connotations).

In the last 12-24 months however, we’ve seen a big change not only in blogging, but in the various other forms of social media that have arrived more recently. As I said a few days ago, you can only be creative on so many fronts at once, and some great writers online have gravitated to fortune-cookie-length writing on Twitter, while others simply say it with pictures on Instagram. But as time goes by, platforms get corrupted as the purveyors of the free programs need to show revenue to satisfy their personal bottom line or the demands of shareholders.

Thus, you’re seeing advertising on this page you never saw before. At least I think you are. I use Firefox as my browser with the AdBlock add-on, so I don’t see advertising here or anywhere else. But WordPress will remove it entirely if I pay them $30 per year. Or at least, $30 for this year, with fees certainly due to rise. And on the Facebook page for my small business, that company is now asking for $5 every time I write something, or $30 per post, if I really want it “boosted.”

My online diary lately, for lack of a better word, has been my Twitter account. But even there, the emails I receive from them seem obsessed with the idea of me building a following, and sometimes I get people following me on the chance I will go to their Twitter and follow them, and then quietly un-following (there’s no email notification for that) once enough time has passed, or they realize they didn’t really care what I had to say.

blog-awards-humbleBlog comments (even the good ones) and Twitter ‘follows’ are essentially a new form of spam. Not in all cases, but many times.

We want to be heard. We want to be seen. We want to be somebody. We want to have significance.

Of the writing of blogs there is no end. Literally. In my quest for daily content at Christianity 201, there seem to be as many blogs — even faith-based ones — as there are grains of sand on the beach. The promise to Abraham is fulfilled, online.

So many voices screaming into the wind.

Still, words communicate. People are listening. You can have a part in what they hear. If the Butterfly Effect can be proven, it can be proven online. Someone writes something and the internet gods are smiling and the article goes viral. Got a video that reached 25,000,000 views? You’re tomorrow’s next author. (To be clear, not undeservedly so; not everyone makes it to Thomas Nelson.)

As I write this, I am active on WordPress (4 times over), Twitter, and manage a Facebook Page (for our business, under my wife’s account) and YouTube. Each has a different audience and a different purpose. I do, in fact write to be heard. I do want people to listen because I feel I have something to offer. But I recognize that I am one of millions of voices screaming into that windstorm.

However, I also recognize that the social media landscape changes rapidly from month to month (even day to day) and if God puts it into your heart to be a communicator — or an influencer —  you have to navigate the current and be willing to adapt.

May 24, 2013

Comments, Spam and the Art of Self-Promotion

Filed under: blogging — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:27 am

Everybody seems to have a cause for which to speak
Loudly from the rooftops they proclaim the thing they seek…

-o-o-o-

Long before starting this blog, I was a regular reader of others. I’m not sure when I had the first impulse to leave a comment, but there was no doubt some issue on which I felt I was both qualified and passionate, and so I clicked the ‘leave a comment’ button. There I encountered a dialog box (aptly named in this case) which looked something like this:

Name:
Email (won’t be published):
Website:

The first two fields were mandatory, but I had nothing to put on the third line. Later, I would start a page which was annexed to the religion page at USAToday, but it was several years before I would start what became the project you are now reading.

-o-o-o-

Blog commentsOnce this page was up and running, I continued to read what others were writing, and the conventional wisdom was, if you want to bring readers back to your page, and build traffic, you need to leave comments on other blogs. There is a sense in which this works, but again I tried to limit myself to subjects on which I felt qualified to offer an opinion, introduce a secondary source or quotation, post a witty remark, or simply express my passion on a particular issue. However, it was evident that this wasn’t hurting traffic at all. Was I selling myself out for the sake of building audience?

“Go to the most popular Christian blogs;” I was told; “And leave a comment regularly.” Of course, part of this is based on the idealistic notion of building blog community. That online fraternity does in fact develop, but here it’s limited to a handful of people; people whom I should say I am better for having met, if not in person, via the next best alternative.

-o-o-o-

WordPress bloggers: Have you ever actually looked at the spam comments that Akismet filters out? Blogger Clark Bunch recently received a massive template that is used by many such spammers, which someone had erroneously sent him as a single comment. Reading the text of those comments gives you a different perspective on the comments you do get.

My thesis is that there is a sense in which all of us have been partially corrupted by the goal of self-promotion. In a world filled with so many voices — and so much noise generally — we all want to be heard; we want to feel we’re making a difference; we want to voice ideas we feel are significant.

-o-o-o-

A few weeks ago the impulse must have returned because I found myself on the website of a distinguished author and professor who was writing about the impact of book reviews. Before I could take an extra minute to reconsider, I had left a comment, completely missing that he was referring to what academics call ‘peer reviewing’ which is entirely different than the book reviewing we do here. Furthermore the comment was somewhat lame. Why on earth did I feel I needed to say something?

I quickly tracked down contact information for him, and asked him to remove the comment. He was more than willing to oblige.

-o-o-o-

Deliberately using the contact information from others’ comments is not a bad thing. On at least ten different occasions in the past five years, there have been days when the Wednesday Link List was rather lean. I’ve surmised that if I’m looking for colorful content, the type of people who regular read Internet Monk, or Stuff Christians Like, or Pete Wilson are probably up to something interesting.

Similarly, there are times when I simply want to return the favor with people who regularly contribute here. So I’ll drop by the blogs of people who leave comments here and reciprocate, provided I have something significant to say.

-o-o-o-

I was originally going to title this piece, “All Comments are Spam.” There are certainly days when I feel that everybody seems to have an agenda or a book to sell. But that title would have been insulting to some of the regulars here who, it must be said, comprise the majority of comments.

Decades ago, a friend gave me the book, How to Sell Yourself by Joe Girard. Like the movie Snakes on a Plane, once you know the title, you know what the book is about, and there is a sense in which in order to pursue what the world calls success, you have to adopt the principle of promoting yourself.

Around the exact same time, I was sitting on the grass at one of those large outdoor summer festivals, when Scott Wesley Brown drew attention to the wording of Psalm 75 in the King James version:

Psalm 75 (KJV)
6 For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south.
7 But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another.

Who knew the Bible covered promotion, marketing and merchandising?

-o-o-o-

A couple of days ago at Christianity 201 (there’s some cross-blog promotion) I mentioned a quotation that I also posted on Twitter (there’s some cross-platform promotion) from Skye Jethani (guess it’s only fair to give him a link, too). While he doesn’t address commenting specifically, I love what this says:

Many books should be articles. Many articles should be blog posts. Many blog posts should be tweets. And many tweets should not be.

So true.

-o-o-o-

At the same outdoor festival, I also learned this verse from Proverbs:

Proverbs 16 (NIV)
2 All a person’s ways seem pure to them,
but motives are weighed by the Lord.

Ultimately, it often comes down to what motivates our actions, not the actions themselves. Maybe my comment is actually quite valid, as are the comments of people here at Thinking Out Loud. But as I learned with my comment on the professor’s website, I need to take an extra minute to ask myself why I am weighing in on a particular topic. As the C201 article I mentioned above states, scripture seems to suggest that a theology of reticence; a time to keep ones thoughts to themselves.

…Oh, by the way, your comments are invited!

April 18, 2013

Add to Bookmarks

Places to go, people to meet:

The Bridge Chicago

The Bridge Chicago

I’ll let them describe it:

The Bridge Chicago is a new ministry project from Mission:USA. On this blog, we’re drawing on decades of experience in front line ministry to provide help and materials to people trying to reach others for Jesus in their own communities.

The materials you find on this blog include media that you can purchase. The purchase price helps cover the cost of making it, and supports missionaries raised up from within the inner city who do not have other means of raising support.

There is a wide spectrum of music and interesting articles to hear and see at The Bridge.  Be sure to bookmark this site.

Click here to view The Bridge Chicago.

Faith Village

Faith Village

Make sure your flash player is up to date; the street is your navigation bar. After viewing the streetscape on the landing page — use your cursor to go further down the block — you have many choices where to go next, and the possibilities seem new each day. 

There are articles to read at Java Juice Blog House, videos in The Grove Theater, sermon podcasts in CityPod Studios,  leadership articles at Watermark Workshop, food ideas at Café on the Square, parenting advice at Momzie,  talk tech at Converge, discuss cultural trends at Denison Forum, and no surprise, you can buy books at the Faith Village Bookstore.  You can engage in social media in The Lofts at Faith Village either as an individual, a group or even as a church. There’s a whole space for youth 13-18 called Revolution called revultn; and also one for college kids (that looks like a frat house) called Epic House.  There are academic sites at Faith Village University.

There are also some parts of Faith Village still under construction.

This website is somebody’s labor of love to be sure. It sets the bar just a little bit higher as to what an ideal internet site can do. But who is behind this? The last stop on the second streetscape is Dallas Baptist University. Is that a clue? Is this some Christian college’s masterminded recruitment site? If it is, sign me up.

Click here to view Faith Village.

February 13, 2013

Wednesday Link List

ASBO Jesus - Fifty Shades of Grey

As you can see above; after a six-month break the UK cartoon ASBO Jesus is back (click image to link).

  • David Murrow at the blog Church for Men is running a series of posts at his blog on things that were formerly unheard of which are now suddenly OK; thinks like: Being gayextramarital sex, and less provocative topics such as informality and slacking. (Actually, I found that last article most interesting.)
  • At least check out the first part of this one: A play-by-play review of what can only be called a church service for atheists.
  • Matt Redman walks away with not one, but two gospel/CCM Grammy awards, for the song 10,000 Reasons, though one of them was so close, a tie in fact with Israel Houghton.
  • CNN talks to two characters central to the new TV show, Sisterhood, a reality show about pastors wives in Atlanta, Georgia.
  • Are you familiar with the term, “first world problems?” If not check out this blog post and accompanying video.
  • A pastor wrestles with wanting to preach the funeral service of a close parishioner, but having to be in Zambia, Africa at the same time.
  • Steve McCoy offers various types of advice to parents, including some things you might not have thought of intentionally teaching your kids.
  • And on another parenting note, preparing sermons and Bible studies may constitute time in the word, but it can substitute for time in the word with your wife and kids; or for those of you who aren’t married or don’t have children, the personal time in the word God wants to have with us.
  • What do you do when someone tells you they are  “having trouble ‘gaining access to the leaders” at their own church'”?  Maybe they just believe too strongly that only those at the top can help them.
  • Cooking the books? A 59-year old church bookkeeper is charged with stealing a quarter million US dollars.
  • The weekend weather in the northeast meant the cancellation of many church services, but that also means the week’s offering was $0.00. What can be done when it’s a snow day at church? Here are some suggestions.
  • Can’t wait for your weekly fix of Andy Stanley? North Point has a local 30-minute show that comes on after Saturday Night Live in Atlanta with repackaged sermon content. Check out Your Move.
  • This is a sequel to the ‘damaged goods’ item we linked to last week: Emily Maynard looks at the ramifications of loss of virginity for Christian girls.
  • Virtual Recording is looking for people who want to be the voices of various characters in a dramatic Bible. Learn how you can audition.
  • No, it’s not a new video; but how often do you get to see a Jesus Toaster actually making a piece of Jesus toast?
  • Social Media Department:  A new site billed as “a Christ-centered devotional and social networking platform… with unique features for prayer, and great tools to help you stay connected with the people you care about;” check out Faithbuddy.com
  • A Canadian Christian journalist can’t get any action from her bank until she takes to social media, and then she gets a response within hours.
  • Once again, for Valentine’s Day, here’s our annual link to Biblical Ways a Man Finds A Wife.
  • Randy Alcorn tells of his dad’s experience with bulging wallet syndrome.
  • If at about this point in the list you’re thinking you’d like to read an inspirational devotional article, you can’t do better than The White Harvest
  • One more time, here’s the link for the response to one of the most popular and discussed pop music songs of all time; the Reimagine song at YouTube
An all-dressed-up Matt Redman collects two pieces of hardware at the 2013 Grammy Awards

An all-dressed-up Matt Redman collects two pieces of hardware at the 2013 Grammy Awards

February 27, 2012

Thinking Out Loud — Anniversary Edition

Filed under: blogging — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:06 am

And then we were four. 

Just under 1900 posts.

Just think of how many people get saved every day just looking at the home page.

Or don’t.

I decided to check the blog’s dashboard to see what other meaningful statistic I could parade out before you on this solemn occasion, and I found this:

Akismet has protected your site from 294,600 spam comments already.

I don’t know how that compares with the big boys, but I’m honored just to think that on 294,600 occasions Russian models and manufacturers of imitation European handbags found this particular blog so worth spamming.  And while the rest of the blog stats may pale in comparison, just think how quickly they are about to rise now that we’ve used the phrase ‘Russian models.’

So, as so many said last night, “I’d like to thank the Academy…”

If you want to know more, you’re welcome to read the 3rd Birthday Post, the 2nd Birthday Post, or even the dreaded 1st Birthday Post; all of which will somewhat explain how we got to this point.

And be sure to keep reading; as the Lord wills, there’s more to come. 

Here once again, is a banner tribute to some of the other blogs with the not-so-original same name:

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