Thinking Out Loud

December 4, 2018

Mark Clark on the State of Online Discourse Among Christians

Mark Clark is the pastor of Village Church in Vancouver, Canada and is the author of The Problem of God, which we reviewed here in September, 2017. Yesterday evening he posted a thread on Twitter that probably few of you would happen to see.

Increasingly, Twitter is becoming a long-form medium, but experience teaches me that many may not bother to click through to see an entire series of posts. So, as we did with a Skye Jethani thread around the same time last year, I’m going to take the liberty of sharing it here. (A few things are softly edited because there’s no character limit.)

December 3, 2018

Christian: Reformed or Charismatic, left or right, get out of your own echo-chamber. Your naive, dogmatic, tribal and simplistic ideological ideas are painful to read over and over again. Straw men arguments are not respected. Dig deeper. Let’s work together around ACTUAL data.

No, pragmatics aren’t the enemy! No, good doctrine isn’t the enemy. No, passionate preaching is not empty. No, doctrinal preaching isn’t always boring.

No, that successful pastor in the States with the big house and big smile probably isn’t Satan’s servant. No, the local small church pastor of 200 isn’t less qualified for ministry. No, your non-educated self isn’t more organic or Spirit-filled than “educated” pastors.

No, that church’s view on women, or governance, or preaching or whatever isn’t the enemy; Satan, sin and death is. No, video preaching isn’t wrong. No, faithfulness to expository preaching isn’t wrong. No, fighting for experiential Christianity isn’t wrong.

No, big churches using methods you don’t aren’t WRONG. No, small churches aren’t better or more godly. No, God doesn’t love big churches more.

No, unhitching from the Old Testament isn’t a good strategy. No, ones who suggest it from a missional heart aren’t necessarily heretical or false prophets.

No, ‘those’ churches aren’t always weak and flashy. No, ‘those’ churches aren’t always boring and irrelevant.

No, celebrity pastors don’t always sell out and do it for themselves. No, small church pastors aren’t always humble and selfless.

No, your self appointed group is not the standard holding Modern Christianity ‘accountable’. No, the solution is not to dissolve all accountability.

With that, Mark suddenly breaks the thread. But there are a few more postscripts which follow individually:

No, systemic racism is not over or a made up myth. It’s real. No, the ‘white man’, or men in general, are not to blame for all our problems.

No, our government leaders aren’t Messiahs. No, they aren’t completely evil and incompetent.

No, atheists aren’t always smart. No, Christians aren’t always smart.

I hope that, like me, you were able to see some people or institutions — or most importantly, some part of ourselves — in what Mark wrote. All our online activity, from scholarly insight to common ranting, won’t in itself change the world or advance the Kingdom.

I’ll concede that as it stands, what’s above is a short essay in desperate need of a closing statement or paragraph. (Update: In a note to me on Twitter, Mark explained that his phone’s battery ran out! That got me wondering if Martin Luther would have gone past #95 if he had more paper.)

So where do we go from here?

That’s up to me and you.


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?

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