Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The Church's role in the blogosphere

Adrian Warnock answered one of my questions about his series on the role of the Church in the blogosphere.

To briefly sum, Adrian believes there's an opportunity for the corporate Church in the blogosphere to advance God's kingdom by promoting our favorite preachers and teachers. There's more to it, but his idea is to use Christian blogs and cross-promotional devices to increase the influence of the bloggers who best represent Christianity.

I'm a sucker for corporate agendas and his "pyromarketing" idea was the right kind of practical application to inspire me. However, I didn't feel like I could have a role in his plan. I'm not a preacher or a teacher, and I certainly don't have a high-traffic blog. I'm not sure I ever want the latter.

JollyBlogger made a good point, too, in questioning whether or not every Christian should blog about theology. I think this is the real question I was asking of Adrian. If I haven't spent the years in diligent systematic study and prayer to acquire the credibility to speak with authority on such an important topic, should I risk grave error and blog about it? If I haven't taken on that cloak of responsibility in real life, should I take the chance of leading someone astray? And if that's not my job, what role do I have as a Christian to function in a world that offers no position for someone with, say, the gift of helps?

The first answer that comes to mind is I am a Christian no matter what I blog about, so even if I am not blogging about theology, I still have a responsibility to approach the world with the same sobriety of mind and foresight of God's word. Whether or not someone knows I'm a Christian, I'm still a representative of the Kingdom of God. My time is not my time. My time is God's time.

The better answer, I think, is no matter what I'm writing about, I'm called to honesty, humility, and charity. I would add I think that's especially important if I'm writing about theology, because too often theological discussions divide rather than unite.

My suggestion for Christians in my position would be this:

- Be honest. If you are attempting to work something out, if you are struggling with something, I think a blog or a journal is a great place to put it out there. There is a need for some discretion. We don't want to be revealing secrets of others who have not given us permission to share with the world. But there's always a way to write around that kind of identity, and there's no shortage of people who are capable of offering encouragement and support. You have to be open and not quick to take offense. I believe God rewards transparency in Christian fellowship.

- Be humble. There are cardinal truths Christians are not allowed to deviate from, and then there are things that we hold as vital to our faith that do not share the standing of cardinal truths. If you have a strong opinion on baptism, state it clearly, but realize there are others with some pretty good arguments. There's a difference between having a strong opinion and being dogmatic. It's perfectly OK to disagree with a brother or sister. Blogging is a good place to learn when to let someone else have the last word. In some cases, I find it a sign of great maturity. It's also a great place to be honest with oneself and allow for the possibility we are in error.

- Be charitable. Looking for the good in even the most misguided (but well-intentioned) Christian can often do more to lead someone to the right place than correction. That kind of exhortation can lead someone to look at your possibly better example and God can do great work in their heart.

- As Adrian said, promote those blogs you find consistently relevant. Don't hide God's blessing!

The first three are the kinds of safeguards appropriate for someone new or not well-versed in theology to write about it. If you've taken the above into account, I think you're safe. We're never going to be 100 percent right, not even the brightest among us, but an honest, humble, and charitable person has allowed the right space for God to operate even if we're in error.

I will probably continue to write about theology, but not in the way Adrian does. I'm not capable of advancing new thought on ideas hundreds (or thousands) of years older than me. However, I'm pretty good at asking questions. I began blogging to do that very thing, sometimes by coming out and asking them, other times by stating what's on my mind in hopes others might either affirm or offer alternatives. This may look like a monologue, but I come here in hopes of dialogue.

Above all, I think a Christian blog, whether it be about theology, politics, sports, or scrapbooking, should reflect the same God that redeems us, keeps us, and loves us. Even in my most droll or sarcastic moment, I hope it is universally understood the good nature and abounding love with which God continually fills my heart for the Church and the people of this world.

To paraphrase a Wimberism, even if we can't offer compelling theology, we can always offer love. That will always make a difference no matter the type of environment.

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