Sunday, June 13, 2010

Blogging As Spiritual Discipline

    As I’ve begun to consider how the church (the people of Christ) must re-imagine how it shares its story with the world and one another, I keep coming back to blogging.  Blogging has been around for quite some time now, but it is not going anywhere.  If anything, it is gaining in popularity.  I think we have underestimated this form of communication.  Let me share a non-church example:
    One of my professors, Dr. Brook Lester, integrated blogging into his Introductory class on the Hebrew Scriptures.  He is convinced that the blog is going to become mainstream for communication in education. You see, so far there has been a sense that PhD’s are not taken seriously if they blog, yet serious -even ground breaking- work is being shared through blogs.  There are several reasons that blogging could be a powerful tool to education:
  1. First-of-all professors have access to new and exciting projects and work instantly, there is no waiting for publishers.
  2. Because the work of these academics can be tagged and searched, “pipes” of information can be setup so that all of the most cutting edge research (down to the moment) can be seen side-by-side in, nearly, real-time.
  3. The communication is raw and narrative in style...but more importantly it is two-way. Comments and photos can be quickly posted by others so that a new collegial environment can be formed.
    So, let’s break this down for the church.  The church website has always been far too static to do the church much good.  It is just another way for the church to put up information in hopes that people will come looking for it.  Imagine, instead a church that encouraged interested members and leaders to begin blogging as a spiritual practice.  Using Yahoo “Pipes”, they setup the church website so that church members whose blogs have a certain tag in them are piped into the website.  When ‘edna’ blogs about how she was spiritually transformed through a recent bout with cancer.... or John blogs each day of a church mission trip; the stories are being shared with the community of faith.  Best yet, their friends are seeing faith stories naturally.  You see, our church member’s friends can see these blogs in a number of ways and it is not just another avenue to creating ‘dynamic, emotive [and narrative] content’ but also an avenue of bringing people to the website and even to the church, perhaps.
    To get there: FIRST, pastors and other church leaders must begin blogging about their lives and need to make it part of their spiritual practice (not just something to check off a list at the end of the week).  SECOND, as we talk with our congregations about spiritual practices and Christian witnessing.... we need to talk seriously about this new, American schizophrenia where we lead two lives a “real life” and, then, a virtual facebook life where we say things or post pictures we would otherwise never show!  We need to begin modeling what it means to have an authentic witness not just during an hour on sunday morning but out in the world and even in the cyber-world.  THIRD, we must be willing to let go of content control.  Someone may post something inappropriate or, perhaps, not-flattering about the church....but as a community of faith, that is always possible right in the sanctuary of our church.  We must trust our communities to respond to negativity with optimism and love.
    As I understand it, John Wesley kept two journals:  one set of private journals and one set of public journals.  These were both for his own spiritual growth, but the more public journal was also intended that others would grow in faith.  If we are to continue this Methodist legacy, it seems that blogging is the twenty first century solution.  Let us grow our faith as well as help others as they seek to grow in Christ. Hmmm...Let’s take our faith outside of the church walls!  Let’s not just tell an ancient bible story yet again, but tell our own stories relating them to faith!