Unto … the uttermost parts of the blogosphere

Unto … the uttermost parts of the blogosphere

(Updated with accurate URLs for Frank N. Johnson’s websites.)

I am not sure if this is just a meme without substance, or if the idea has actual merit. But the cliche rant among tech- and media-savvy Christians is that the Church world is always slow to adopt new technology. The claim is that we missed it with film and now Hollywood “owns” the field, to the exclusion of overt Christian influence. We missed it with radio, and now we’re relegated to the low-end of the FM dial where we must solicit donations, or the AM dial where nobody listens to talk radio. We missed it with music, and at any given time the state of the art in the Christian music scene is 10 years behind the secular industry. They say we missed it on the Web, which is boldly dominated by the secular dot.coms and the porn purveyors.

I’m not sure. Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not. I’m thinking that the music world owes Christianity a huge debt for keeping music alive through the medieval era with strong monastic musical and chanting traditions. I’m thinking rap, blues, and R&B owe a lot to the spiritual songs birthed and nurtured by the slaves who clung to their hope in Christ through song. I’m thinking that the printing world owes a debt of gratitude to Gutenberg and others who transformed the creation of literature for the sake of more effectively printing Bibles.

But, I could be wrong.

I saw a piece, today, from ContraCostaTimes.com, titled, “Blogosphere evolving with vlogs.” It describes the latest phenomenon on the web: video blogging, or vlogging. First was the Internet, then there was the Web with attractive easily navigated pages, then came weblogs—nothing more than a website with an easy-to-update CMS component—then came podcasting, and now video blogging.

And it seems there are some churches out there using it already.

The article quotes a friend of mine, A/G minister, Frank N. Johnson calling the church to really take advantage of the medium, and do more than simply post service times online:

“Too many churches now use Web sites only to present service times, staff biographies and other facts,” said Frank Johnson, a licensed Assemblies of God minister and the founder and principal administrator of Strategic Digital Outreach, a new ministry in California that helps churches and other ministries do electronic outreach and evangelism.

“If the church could catch a vision for using video technology to present an authentic presentation of the life of the church — not rehearsed videos, but spontaneous records of conversations, laughing with one another, weeping with one another, people sharing their lives, etc. — the average person might take notice,” Johnson wrote in an e-mail interview.

“I would love to see churches start using their Web sites to present video profiles of people within their congregations so that the average person could get a sense of what the life of the church (not the organization, but the people — the true church) is really like.”

I like that. It dovetails with some ideas I was giving a pastor friend of mine out in Colorado a couple weeks ago. The easiest thing to do is put your church bulletin out there. But what if the pastor gave the church secretary his sermon outline and manuscript before the service so that people could come prepared? How about making the outlines and text part of a blog, so others could comment? How about automatically pushing the recorded sermon out as a podcast for folks who couldn’t make it that service, and so visitors could hear the kinds of messages they’ll get at that church? That’s the first level of stuff that can be easily done.

How about sending your volunteer tech team out with a flash recorder and a microphone and interviewing one person each week in the church and getting their testimony out there as a podcast? Interview them over lunch or at work. Make it real. How about videotaping it and putting it out there as a vlog and featuring it in the Sunday night service? Make it part of a blog site and invite a community to form around the personal testimonies of your people recounting how they came to faith in Christ and describing how the power of God has changed their lives? How about inviting the staff ministers to post midweek thought pieces that reveal their ministry focus, their purpose, what drives them, and updating folks on the news of the week? If you’re concerned about privacy and stalkers, put it behind a sign up screen with confirmed email addresses. How about inviting mature believers in the church to join the community as guest bloggers, posting their thoughts, advice, and commentary? How about specialized blogs for long-term Christian ed. courses including notes, outlines, commentary, asides, and question-and-answer interaction? How about a gallery featuring the best of your church member’s artwork, photography, short stories, and essays? How about special-interest blogs run by church members that form communities around hobbies and professions? A surfing blog, a health-and-wellness blog, a tax-season blog, a stay-at-home-moms blog, a youth sports blog, and on and on.

All this is possible. But, as the meme suggests, I don’t see many churches experimenting with this. Some have, to be sure, but they’re not publicized or talked about much. Is the experiment a failure?

As Brett Eastman says in his small groups materials, “God wants the Church to get larger and smaller at the same time.” With megachurches (churches over 1,000 attending) continue to multiply, I would think the Internet is a great way to create and foster community when it’s impossible to know everybody’s name when going to the “big church” services.

The Internet should never replace face-to-face fellowship and hospitality. But surely there’s a place for truly taking advantage of this communication medium to share the good news that the Kingdom of God is at hand.

For more thought on this, I urge you to read Frank Johnson’s white papers, “A Strategy for Local Internet Outreach” and “Effective Church Websites for Emerging Generations.” Oh, and check out his blogs: ProdigalGod.com, and Strategic Digital Outreach.

Final thought: Referring to the title of this post entry: To those of us who are Pentecostal or Charismatic, if we are truly filled with the Spirit, then we will be missional in our thinking and lifestyle. We will be change agents in our culture and in the arenas where cultural dialog occurs, like St. Paul on Mars Hill. If there was ever an era where we should not shy away from technology but use it to full advantage, it is in this burgeoning Internet-enabled millenia. Don’t leave it to the pornographers and peddlers of commerce. It’s half an hour’s work to set up a blog on a website, and the cost can be as low as $5 a month. Get your thoughts out there. Tell your testimony. Engage culture. Speak to issues. Believers are called to love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul, strength, and body. We too easily forget that loving God with our minds means using our intellect, sharpening it, honing it, and using it to communicate. Witness for God does not merely happen by “living my life so that others can see Christ in me.” It also means doing what the word implies: witness. Your words must get out there whether as waves breaking on men’s ears, ink poured out on paper, or bits and bytes slung through the ether. There’s a dearth of Spirit-filled bloggers out here. Come on in. The water’s fine. Just avoid the sharks.

[tags]blogging, BlogRodent, church-blogs, church-websites, frank-n-johnson, godblogging, religion[/tags]

7 thoughts on “Unto … the uttermost parts of the blogosphere

  1. Steve

    Couple of comments. First, let me preface my statement with the fact that I do think we (Christians in general, spirit filled Christians in particular) do belong in every aspect of media that can reach the lost. As a couple of examples, though it does stretch me a bit coming from a hard wood pew in the AG, http://www.xxxchurch.com and http://HughHewitt.com (probably the only time those two will be linked together). I don’t really think that we missed it with media though. I just think that is more advantageous to the “the prince of this world”. That doesn’t mean that we abdicate it to him, but that he has more use of it as a destructive agent as we have for a constructive agent. For him to succeed, he merely needs to take our minds off of God. For our spirit to soar, watching a religious or wholesome show is not nearly enough. It takes time with Him and time in His word.

    Second, I like the ideas re: the newer web technologies in the face of the changing church. Our church is currently going through not just a web update, but complete bulldoze and rebuild job. Our biggest ongoing issue though, is with bandwidth. We live in the foothills east of Sacramento, CA, but we have a VERY large portion of the church still on dial-up.

    As I’m now an ancient 41 years old, it does take me a bit of time to get used to things. I’m STILL not sure about churches accepting credit cards their web sites, but it is growing on me. And, you’ve convinced me about the blog. It is now a must for me.


  2. Rich Post author

    Great comments, Steve, and when you make it online with your own blog, let me know! I agree, http://www.xxxchurch.com is a stretch for me too, but I disagree with my fellow A/G critics of the site, I think the ministry and the website are worthwhile. I just shudder to think of the kind of spiritual warfare going on around those guys, and I have to wonder whether exposure to the stuff they see won’t have an impact on them. My wife, for instance, would never believe God had called me to an LA beach ministry. :) For good reason. Thanks for the tip on Hugh Hewitt. I’ve never heard him on the air, had only heard his name from time to time as a political pundit. Didn’t realize he was a strong Christian, to boot. Thanks, again.

  3. Steve

    Rich, thanks for your kindness. Blog is now in place, just need to start writing something.

    Three days short of a month ago, God called my wife and I to ministry. This is not an easy thing to comprehend at my age. But we are thrilled with the opportunity and possibilities. We feel that God has called us to Alaska. Now the preparation begins and the first step is credentials through the A/G. That will be the beginning of my blog, but it will touch a lot of the same types of things that yours does and couple of others.

    I like the calling to the LA beach comment. I’ve told God a hundred times how I’d HATE to go to Hawaii to minister. I’ve found that reverse psychology doesn’t work on Him. :-)

    In regards to media, Salem Radio Networks (http://www.srnonline.com/) does a pretty good job. We have 3 of their stations here. One is the general market, two are Christian markets. I like their approach.

    Thanks again, and keep up the good work. I really enjoy your writing.


  4. John B. Abela


    I think it comes down to the simple facts that (a) most pastors simply do not care about using the internet as a ministry-extension, and (b) most pastors do not have (or think they have) the time to invest in all that is required to setup, maintain and keep up-to-date internet ministry.

    While I agree with all that you say, the above is where the rubber-meets-the-road, if you ask me.

  5. Rich Post author

    I agree with you John, and I would go further and say that not every church and not every pastor needs to set up some kind of internet ministry. That’s also true for broadcast ministry. And bus ministries. And etc., etc., etc. Not everything that can be done should be done by everyone.

    But to ignore as inexpensive a medium of communication, outreach, and community formation as the Internet should be done intentionally, not out of simple ignorance.

    After all, this is what the deaconate is supposed to be for, right? The deacons and other church staff should help shoulder the load of the infrastructure so the pastor can devote himself to ministry and prayer. In many (if not most) churches there are always a handful of tech-savvy people, just as there are a handful of doctrinally sound teachers besides the pastor. This kind of thing can be delegated to volunteers with oversight coming from an elder with occassional reviews by pastoral staff.

    But, then, as you imply, just thinking about this is not worth the effort for many.


  6. Steve

    Another thought to this — we have LOTS of pastors in the A/G that still don’t have a clue how to handle a computer. I’m experiencing this right now with our Pastor. Wonderful man of God, only 45 or so. Problem is, God called him from a sales job that required no computer skills, so he has no knowledge of them yet. So it follows, since he lives life without it, he hasn’t felt the full worth of a ministry through the net. We’re working on him thouhg. :-)

    Side note — Rich and John, are either of you going to the “GodBlogCon”?


  7. Rich Post author

    No, I’m not going to the GodBlogCon, simply because I can’t afford it personally, I don’t want to take the time away from my family, and my job won’t send me. :) Be nice, though.


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