I want to say a few words about the power of blogging on a personal level. And I want to challenge my fellow quiet Pentecostals and Charismatics to pick up the keyboard and begin writing.
Words have Consequences
A friend on an email message group recently asked me about the effectiveness of ministering through a blog. So I’d been thinking about that when a couple things landed in my inbox that encouraged me and seem to illustrate the answer to his question. Writing in a public forum — whether blogging, managing a web page, or crafting freelance articles for a newspaper or magazine — can have an effect.
First up, from Amber, who sent me a nice note via my online contact form:
« I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy your blog. … Your blog is always honest and open, you don’t shy away from even the hard stuff in your comments. After joining the Assemblies at 16, I soon discovered that opinions and controversy and doubt are all too often a flag for that person needing to “get saved” again.
I have just recently left the Assemblies … but a part of it is still in me, hopefully the good parts. And honestly, I think all of those good parts are what you portray here at your blog.
Thanks for being there and restoring a little of my fragile hope for humanity. »
That email, alone, will probably fuel me up for another hundred or so blog entries. :: grin :: This is as good as money in the bank for me. What I like about this note, apart from the nice complimentary language, is that Amber is telling me she has been changed by what she’s read.
After blogging for nearly a year, it is heartening and humbling to know that what I write here — and your comments, too — influence people. I hope I never forget that.
Next up, a fellow blogger winds up apologizing to Becky Fischer (of Jesus Camp fame) after I defended her on his weblog. Here is what he sent (and also posted publicly):
Thanks for your comments. … Re-reading my post, I guess I realized that I focused my anger and embarrassment toward the wrong party. I was just about to write an update to my post when I received your comments.
I went to your website and read your long post. I need to apologize to Becky Fischer. My reaction shouldn’t have been directed toward her — it should have been toward those who made the documentary. I guess, in simplified terms, I am just tired of Christians being made fun of — and I’m tired of Christians putting themselves into a position to be made fun of.
That, too, floats my boat, and humbles me with the reminder of the power of words. We can bring peace into people’s lives by simply using … words. (It’s not always that easy, but little victories like this are very worthwhile.) Further, you never know what else is going on in someone’s life when they read your words. I cannot take full credit for changing my fellow blogger’s mind about Becky Fischer: as it happens, something else happened to realign his thinking and his judgment. I just happened to be there commenting while it happened.
Beware and be humbled: words have consequences.
My challenge to fellow Pentecostals and Charismatics
I’m not writing this to promote my blog, or to make me look better than I am. What I’m hoping, here, is to simply demonstrate the power of making your voice heard and felt in the public square. Far too often we Pentecostals closet ourselves in our warm little sanctuaries of praise and worship, hellfire and brimstone, or name-it and claim-it. We need to engage with the public. We need to engage with other believers.
We need to be willing to be engaged, as well.
I’m not saying we need to stand on a soap-box and rail at everybody who comes within ear-shot, but we do need to demonstrate the changed lives and changed thinking that I believe must lie at the heart of the Pentecostal experience.
Don’t worry — if you have nothing to say, you shouldn’t get out there and try saying it. You’ll just be frustrated and inauthentic, attempting to do something that either God hasn’t gifted you to do, or you simply aren’t ready to do.
But when I read 1 John 14 and Acts 1, I see something in Christ’s promise of the Spirit that should be common to all believers and especially Pentecostals and charismatics — because we embrace the empowerment of the Spirit for witness. In John 14, Jesus told his disciples that the coming Spirit would be with them and in them and would always guide and teach them, reminding them of all that he had taught them. And in Acts 1, Jesus made it clear that the purpose of the experience of the Baptism of the Spirit was empowerment for witness.
The Holy Spirit’s role as reminder and empowerer
First, he cannot remind us of what we have not learned. The disciples had a leg up on us in that they argued with Christ, supped with him, slept nearby, and slogged the dusty roads alongside. Every teaching moment was stored up in their hearts as mysterious and precious treasures. The Holy Spirit, Jesus said, would keep those memories fresh — not as nostalgia, but as a mentor or a teacher keeps his students’ minds sharp by constantly reviewing what has been learned. For it’s only in light of what we know to be true that we can make future wise judgments.
That is the role of the Holy Spirit as teacher: not that he would implant in our heads the collective knowledge of 2,000 years of theology and deep-thought (though that’s not a miraculous and exceptional impossibility, I suppose), but that he would help us focus our thinking that his Word might be written on our hearts. For this to work as promised, we must first be disciples, we must steep ourselves in scripture reading, reflection, and study. For the Holy Spirit to guide our thinking, we must become disciples of Jesus through the Word.
There are no shortcuts. We must become students.
But too many of us (Pentecostal or otherwise) are not studious. So when the winds of strange doctrine come along … well. You know what happens.
Second, the empowerment of the Pentecostal experience is not primarily to be “holy,” saintly, modestly attired, non-smokin’, non-cussin’, and abstemiously non-drinkin’. Indeed, those (and other things) are the behavioral fruit of the Spirit’s work in our lives in forming us into Christ-likeness — but this is a product of salvation and sanctification, not necessarily the Baptism of the Spirit.
Rather, the empowerment of the Pentecostal experience is for witness. And witness requires deed and word. How can they believe unless they have heard, and how can they hear unless you have spoken (or preached, or taught, or written, or blogged, or commented, or emailed)? I agree with the sentiment that an effective form of personal evangelism is through friendship, love, and a consistent lifestyle of modeling Christ to others. But there comes a time when we must speak and make God’s thoughts known.
God did not command us to fellowship or worship that we might make disciples. He commanded us to go and make disciples.
The church building is not the net, we are God’s fishermen.
We need to think of making disciples as our primary obligation — our first duty — to share the good news of what we have been given, and that can only be done by rubbing shoulders (virtual, or otherwise) with those who have not believed, who are not discipled, or who simply think differently. Evangelism and discipleship, in my mind are on equal footing for there can be no true evangelism without genuine followers of Christ.
In my blog, I suppose, I am discipling remotely and being discipled — hoping to simultaneously shape my own thoughts and (hopefully) the thoughts of others as they interact with me in my journey in spiritual growth and transformation. My blogging is a public spiritual discipline. I hope this process, if authentic, produces more than just people who agree or disagree with me, but people who are somehow touched and changed, minuscule degree by degree. I’m a waterer.
And I’m also being watered by you.
Finally — I don’t mean to be a jeremiad or a rant. And I certainly don’t intend to try to “sell” any of you on the virtues of blogging — there are many good Christians who get caught up in the blogging phenomenon to the detriment of their souls. You should not blog — seriously, you shouldn’t — unless God is calling you and gifting you to do so. And you should do so with care that you not become cynical or sniping in your commentary.
I hope, with what I’ve written here, if the Spirit has been prompting you to pick up the keyboard and feed yourself and others, that this encourages you to do so.
If you do, be sure to let me know!
[tags]1-John, 1-John-14, Acts, Acts-1, AOG, Assemblies-of-God, Assembly-of-God, Baptism-of-the-Spirit, Becky-Fischer, blog, blogger, blogging, BlogRodent, Charismatic, consequences, discipleship, empowerment, Evangelical, Evangelism, Holy-Spirit, Jesus-Camp, Pentecostal, Pentecostals, Rich-Tatum, words[/tags]