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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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The dominant theme to emerge from my research is that bloggers value this medium
because they can participate without being filtered by church structures, denominational
restrictions or even doctrinal impurity. We have grown tired of pastors being the
gatekeepers of what is important. In this, we feel our pastors are often times set apart
from our real, authentic lives and not by choice. But they are distanced by traditional
church structures. We genuinely believe that we have more to offer than what the
church is structured to receive. Jurgen Moltmann observes this trend in his article
“Christianity in the Third Millennium”:

The more modern people become conscious of their freedom, the less they want
to be cared for and watched over by a hierarchy of bishops, theologians, and
pastors. All polls indicate that people want more participation in the church and
that they are ready for responsibility. […] The strength of religious belonging on
the basis of birth and custom is diminishing. The strength of individual choice is
growing. People themselves are making a new participatory church out of the old
church in which they remained passive and were cared for. The number of
members will diminish, but the active participation of those members will

With the explosion of easy-to-use “blogware”, we are able to circumvent traditional
structures, publish our ideas and unite with others with a common desire. It would be a
mistake to simply label us as disgruntled or individidualistic. In fact, we desire to reclaim
our spiritual formation from pre-packaged sermon series and small group programs that
structurally resist (or suppress) participation in favor of a solitary voice. We are not
convinced that pastors know more about following Christ than we do.

We feel we have every right to participate. In an interview for his book Emergence,
Steven Berlin Johnson crafts the catchphrase for my thesis, “the whole is sometimes
smarter than the sum of its parts.”105

This is why I believe that bloggers know more than
their pastors and why we make up the vanguard of what I will call the participatory

In the process of blogging, we have discovered that our emerging network is smarter,
more responsive and more creative that our churches, pastors and denominations.
Michael Boyink interprets it this way rephrasing a point from Cluetrain Manifesto,
“People in networked congregations have figured out that they get far better information
and support from one another that from [their churches].”106

What we seek goes far beyond being elected to a board, obtaining credentials, working
in the ministry or being in leadership. The Purpose Driven Church model of finding
“spiritual gifts” and leadership development may have been a good start, but we desire
to participate in a more fundamental manner.107

Neely explains the empowering effect

of blogging:

It has given me a voice that I normally would not have as a volunteer lay leader
and intern. It also gives me a sense of freedom in that I can express my opinions

| We Know More Than Our Pastors


Tim Bednar | e-Church.com

without fear that I will be judged for my thoughts. I also gain some confidence
when other readers respond to what I write...108

The one-to-many communication paradigm found in existing church structures needs to
change. We want a church that encourages and values participation; that sees
congregations as a conversation. This change is not happening in a vacuum, but we are
part of a larger social phenomenon. Bloggers belong to the same cultural shift that is
transforming journalism, business, mass media, education and politics. For instance,
Terry Heaton writes about how these changes are affecting journalism:

The institutions of the world would do well to listen to the people on the street, for
their view is quite different than the opinion of those atop their pedestals. Of
course, they have no incentive to do so, so the smokescreen of polling is offered
as an attempt to hear the voice of the people. This is not only true in the business
world, but it’s the mainstream media’s sad excuse for interactivity. […] There’s a
new movement underway today that says relevant journalism could be—and
perhaps should be—a conversation, not a lecture or the squawk and noise that
comes when journalists talk to each other. […] The essential conflict between the
old and the new in journalism is the belief by those of the new breed that ongoing
feedback—and interaction with that feedback—advances the story.

The church growth and mega-church phenomenon answered the question of how to
present the gospel to a consumer by adopting the language of business. They began
using marketing techniques, excellent production values and consumer-focused service
in order to recapture the attention of the Baby Boom generation. But the culture is
shifting from passive consumerism to participative producerism. Doc Searls writes after
hearing a keynote speech by Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple computers:

[Steve Jobs] spent an almost unbearabley long time showing off a new
application called, GarageBand, “an anytime, anywhere recording studio packed
with hundreds of instruments and a recording engineer or two for good measure”.
For the first time I saw that this isn’t simply a technical or marketing hack—it’s an
economic one.

It’s easy to say that what Apple is doing here is about marketing. But it’s not,
even though clever marketing is involved. See, marketing is about influencing
markets. It’s about spin. In the mass-market milieu where Apple lives, it’s about
maintaining the fully saturated Matrix-like habitat we call Consumer Culture. That
culture was built by those who own and control the means of production. So,
what we call “consumer electronics” is really producer electronics. It isn’t about
what you and I invent and contribute to the marketplace. It’s about what Sony
and Panasonic and Nikon and Canon produce and distribute through retailers for
us, the mass market, to consume constantly. It’s producerism, really. As a label,
“consumerism” is a red herring. Talk about “consumerism” takes the conversation
off into victimville, where the poor consumer needs to get better stuff and less
abuse from the big bad producer.

| We Know More Than Our Pastors


Tim Bednar | e-Church.com

Apple is giving consumers tools that make them producers. This practice
radically transforms both the marketplace and the economy that thrives on it.

As I describe what I call the participatory church, I am answering the question, “How
does the church present the gospel to participative producers rather than consumers?”
Clay Shirky writes in “R.I.P. The Consumer”:

The Internet heralds the disappearance of the consumer altogether, because the
Internet destroys the noisy advertiser/silent consumer relationship that the mass
media relies upon. The rise of the internet undermines the existence of the
consumer because it undermines the role of mass media. In the age of the
internet, no one is a passive consumer anymore because everyone is a media

Pew Internet & American Life Project recently found that, “44% of Internet users have
created content for the online world through building or posting to Web sites, creating
blogs, and sharing files.”110

Whether the existing church likes it or not, we are giving
birth to a generation of people who view themselves as participants. For now, we are a
small minority, but still number in the hundreds of thousands.111

We make up the
creative vanguard that will guide and mentor the emerging participatory church into
maturity. Our elders, the Baby Boomers, learned how to communicate to consumers,
but to find success in the future; a new generation will need to learn how to speak to a
new breed of producers who have been radically transformed by using the Internet.

104 Jurgen Moltmann, “Christianity in the Third Millenium,” Theology Today, April 1994.
105 Andrew Leonard, “The Emergent Order: Interview With Steven Berlin Johnson,” Salon, November
2001. http://dir.salon.com/tech/feature/2001/11/28/emergence/index.html
106 Michael Boyink, “The ClueTrain Manifesto For Churches?”, Boyink Interactive, date.
107 Find resource on web.
108 Neely commented on “UPDATED! Open Survey: Five Questions For Christian Bloggers,” Moxy
, November 8, 2003. http://www.e-church.com/Blog-detail.asp?EntryID=410&BloggerID=1
109 Clay Shirky, “RIP The Consumer,” Clay Shirky's Writings About the Internet, May 2000.
110 Pew Internet And American Life Project, “Content Creation Online: 44% of U.S. Internet users have
contributed their thoughts and their files to the online world”, February 29, 2004.
111 The Pew Project identified the “power content creators” as young with an average age of 25 and
equally divided along race and gender lines. While most Boomers fit the profile of a “content
omnivore” which remains the majority of Internet users.

| We Know More Than Our Pastors


Tim Bednar | e-Church.com

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