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We Know More Than Our Pastors

We Know More Than Our Pastors


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Published by churchmcr
A paper by Tim Bednar on how Bloggers are the vanguard of participatory church.
A paper by Tim Bednar on how Bloggers are the vanguard of participatory church.

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Published by: churchmcr on May 08, 2007
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I will explore blogging in a moment, but first I need to confess that the term “blog”
sounds ridiculous.

“Blog. Blog. Blog.”

I blogged for about two months before I struggled to explain it to a friend. I can still see
his befuddled expression as I uttered the word “blog”.

“I started blogging about a month ago.”

“Did you say blogging?” He suppressed a snicker and smirk.

I too thought it sounded absurd. Suddenly all my enthusiasm evaporated and I began to
doubt the whole enterprise. I was able to write the word with confidence, but had never
used it in conversation.

“Yes, I said blogging.”

It sounded foreign. Blogging had become the most exciting part of my spiritual life, yet it
sounded ridiculous.

He hesitated. “Okay, what’s a blog?”

“Blogging is kind of like journaling,” I offered. “In the last year, they have become very

I admit that “blog” sounds more like a term Douglas Adams would use in Hitchhiker's
Guide To The Galaxy or a word found on the pages of my daughter’s Dr. Seuss books.
It certainly does not have the cachet of a term coined by William Gibson.

The word blog does not sound cool; it is ugly and abrupt. This is regrettable since
blogging is a uniquely literate way to interact in community.

| We Know More Than Our Pastors


Tim Bednar | e-Church.com

3.0 Cyberchurch Pilgrimage

In 1998, I launched a web site, called e-Church, as an extension of my Sunday school
class. It has morphed through several iterations each intending to build a learning
community using the Internet. Each variation—magazine, classroom, and curriculum
publisher—unequivocally missed the mark.5

I spent as much time designing (and
redesigning) web pages as I did creating content. It was a burden to update the site
once a week and the results disappointed me.

I repeatedly failed to build is what I sought most—a community that fostered spiritual
formation without the limitations of time, buildings, money, programs or pastors. After
three years of maintaining e-Church on a weekly basis, I set it aside and did not update
it for the better part of 2001.

I cannot remember where I first heard of blogging, but sometime in 2002, I Googled it
and read Doc Searls’ and Dan Gillmor's blogs. I had previously used Jordon Cooper’s
web site and he pointed me to Martin Roth's Semi-definitive List of Christian Bloggers
(created April 2002), which eventually became blogs4God (July 2002).6

I finally found what I was looking for--a community of people who, like me, sought a
literary way to interact in community. For us, the Internet held a magical allure. And we
wanted to rediscover Christ for our churches, our world and ourselves. I urgently worked
to re-launch e-Church as a blog and participate in this new community.

I researched blogging tools and settled on a popular blogging platform called Movable
Type. On July 9th, 2002, I posted by first blog entry:

Established in 1997, e-church has been many things. As of today, e-church
com.munity is in the process of becoming a user-created online community
modeled after online communities like Kiro5hin and Wiki Web. I want it to be
experimental and explore what it means to be an online church. I want to take
Paul's admonition seriously:

1Corinthians 14: 26 -- What then shall we say, brothers? When you come
together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or
an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. If
anyone speaks in a tongue, two -- or at the most three -- should speak, one at a
time, and someone must interpret.

The purpose of this weblog is to openly develop e-church through online
journaling. Categories of discussion include: promotion/recruiting, mission/vision,
technology, inspiration, and ecclesiology.7

(You can see the seeds of this paper and the current e-Church blogging application in
this first post.) To my amazement, I experienced community as I blogged. In the past, I
modeled my web site after a traditional church. I expected my visitors to follow a certain,
predetermined program: I e-mail my newsletter on Fridays; they visit the site and read
the full article where at the end I pleaded for feedback. Now, as a blogger, I let go of

| We Know More Than Our Pastors


Tim Bednar | e-Church.com

agenda and just started posting entries.

I blogged and read other bloggers like Andrew Careaga, Dean Peters, Jordon Cooper,
Rachel Cunliff and Alan Creech. I hyperlinked to their posts and participated in the
larger conversation. Soon, I found myself in the position of initiating memes (fragments
of culture that act like a virus) that other bloggers discussed. In time, they read my
entries and interacted with me.

Then one morning my cell rang and fellow blogger Dale Lature said, “Hello.” I never met
Dale except through his blog, now we were talking. I knew that he was going through a
rough patch of unemployment. It was a remarkable moment, but an awkward one (I am
an introvert and was caught off guard).

I got off the phone and it happened.

I opened my eyes and found myself in the midst of what can only be called the
cyberchurch. I was interacting on a spiritual level with other believers scattered across
the world. We shared ideas, but also extended concern and caring to one another.

Pioneer blogger, Bill Quick, coined the term blogosphere to represent the intellectual
space that bloggers occupy.8

As a subcategory of the blogosphere, I think that the term
cyberchurch--a network of sacred places created by believers through blogging—might
be an appropriate term to describe the subject of this paper. I believe this is similar to
Teilhard de Chardin's mystical noosphere. Chardin imagined an organic thinking layer
evolving above the visible biosphere.9

Steven Berlin Johnson believes that we
traditionally organized the Internet around pages (i.e. Yahoo! or Google). He proposes
that we can just as easily do it around minds.10

Ever since the Web entered the popular consciousness, observers have noted
that it puts information at your fingertips but tends to keep wisdom out of reach.
In a space organized around connected minds, however, the search for wisdom
becomes more promising. The Web remains a space of functionally infinite data,
but that space is increasingly mapped by human minds, linked in ways we're only
beginning to imagine. If it's wisdom you're looking for, you couldn't hope for a
better guide.

I suggest that we need to consider the Internet as a map of the soul. Before I
understood and experienced this, I arrogantly sought to establish my web site as “the”
cyberchurch created by bloggers. And late fall 2002, I re-launched e-Church. Heavily
influenced by Vannevar Bush's seminal Atlantic Monthly article, As We May Think,11


Church combines the personal publishing tools of Blogger with the research tools of

As e-Church evolved and I matured in my understanding of the cyberchurch, I realized
that one web site cannot create the cyberchurch. It exists and I am a member of it
because I participate. No one created her—she manifests in the interaction of believers
who use Internet technology.

| We Know More Than Our Pastors


Tim Bednar | e-Church.com

After a year of blogging, I no longer seek to be “the” cyberchurch, as the name ”e-
Church” implies, rather I participate with bloggers who collectively link the cyberchurch
into existence. (It is Alan Sondheim who said, “I write myself into existence. I write
myself out of existence.”)12

As believers use blogs for spiritual formation and organically form the cyberchurch, the
memes we co-create are emerging from cyberspace and beginning to transform the
traditional church. I believe this change will result in what may be called the
“participatory church”.


Internet Archive. http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.e-church.com


Martin Roth, "Christian Blogs: The Semi-Definitive List," Martin Roth Christian Commentary, July
29, 2002. http://www.martinrothonline.com/oldbloglist.htm


Tim Bednar, “An Open Letter,” e-Church.community weblog, July 9, 2002. Copied from offline
archive of Movable Type blog.


Bill Quick, “12:54 AM”, Daily Pundit, January 01, 2002.
http://www.iw3p.com/DailyPundit/2001_12_30_dailypundit_archive.php - 8315120


Phillip J. Cunningham, "Teilhard de Chardin and the Noosphere," Computer-Mediated
Communication Magazine
, March 1997.
10 Steven Berlin Johnson, “Mind Share: BLOG SPACE: Public Storage For Wisdom, Ignorance, and
Everything in Between”, Wired, June 2003.
11 Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think”, Atlantic Monthly, 1943.
12 Joel Weishaus interviews Alan Sondheim, "Being On-line: A Conversation with Alan Sondheim",
Rhizome, June 8, 1999. http://rhizome.org./thread.rhiz?thread=446&text=1469

| We Know More Than Our Pastors


Tim Bednar | e-Church.com

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