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We Know More Than Our Pastors

Why Bloggers Are the Vanguard of the Participatory Church Written By Tim Bednar

Originally published Tuesday, April 06, 2004 Updated Thursday, April 22, 2004

Table of Contents 1.0 2.0 3.0 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 4.8 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 7.0 8.0 9.0 10.0 Introduction......................................................................................................... 3 Blog Sounds Ridiculous When Said Out Loud ................................................ 5 My Cyberspace Pilgrimage ................................................................................ 6 Blogs and “Christian” Blogging........................................................................ 9 We Blog To Participate ................................................................................... 10 We Blog in the Present ................................................................................... 11 We Blog In The First Person ........................................................................... 11 We Blog As A Discipline ................................................................................. 13 We Use Blogging To Preach........................................................................... 14 We Blog To Earn Permission .......................................................................... 14 We Blog To Care ............................................................................................ 15 We Blog Build The Kingdom ........................................................................... 16 Blogging Is Being Spiritually Formed............................................................. 20 Cathedral And Bazaar..................................................................................... 20 Memex Machines............................................................................................ 21 Vanguard Of The Church ................................................................................ 22 Priesthood of All Bloggers............................................................................... 22 Problems with Blogging .................................................................................. 27 Vanity, Vanity All Is Vanity .............................................................................. 27 Seeking a Virtual Journey ............................................................................... 28 Spreading Discord .......................................................................................... 29 Cronyism and Groupthink ............................................................................... 30 Hype ............................................................................................................... 32 Question of Orthodoxy .................................................................................... 33 The Vanguard of the Participatory Church..................................................... 39 Participatory Church ........................................................................................ 42 Epilogue ............................................................................................................ 45 Index Of Names ................................................................................................ 47

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1.0 Introduction This paper explores how Christians are using blogging for spiritual formation and how they are redefining the scope of Martin Luther’s “the priesthood of the believer”. Throughout the paper, I will defend my claim that “we know more than our pastors” and by the end of the paper, I will show why bloggers are the vanguard of what I am calling the “participatory church”.

I started blogging July 9, 2002 and I believe that this increasingly popular online activity signifies an impending sea change for pastors and the church. This paper is the result of a survey I conducted from October to November 2003 and over six months of research.1 My conclusion is simple: bloggers know more than our pastors.2 I believe that our network of blogs exceed the reach of any single pastor. To be clear, no one thinks they are personally smarter or more “called” than any pastor. However, as a network, we know more than our pastors. In this, we are not alone. Thousands of bloggers circumvent established hierarchies and relate unmediated with one another. We are part of a participatory phenomenon that is impacting mass media, technology, education, entertainment, politics, journalism and business. Emboldened by this participatory movement and empowered by easy-to-use technology, we are starting to expect different things from our churches, pastors and denominations. We look forward to something more profound from our churches than vision casting, finding our spiritual gifts, mall-like facilities, coffee bars and candles. We expect to participate; we expect to co-create the church. As bloggers, we take an active role in our personal spiritual formation. We take seriously Paul’s admonition to participate, “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.”3 As we blog, we push the boundaries of what Martin Luther meant when he wrote about the “priesthood of all believers”.4 Blogging is creating a robust and growing network of participators. We are not just a new kind of Christian or an “emerging church” fad. We are a new kind of preacher, theologian, pundit, apologist and church-goer. We exist outside (and inside) church hierarchies. The phenomenon of blogging is transforming our expectations of church. Soon this meme—a product of our online spiritual formation—will emerge from our cyberchurch and transform the existing church. I believe that bloggers represent a vanguard that is co-creating a new kind of “participatory church”. In this paper, I will attempt to describe blogging, explain the specifics of blogging, explore the participatory social movement and describe the emerging “participatory church”.

Tim Bednar |

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Tim Bednar, “UPDATED! Open Survey: Five Questions for Christian Bloggers”, Moxy Turtle, October 30, 2003. The Cluetrain Manifesto states that “markets are getting smarter—and getting smarter faster than most companies.” Dan Gillmor’s first journalistic pivot point is “My readers know more than I do.” My claim that we know more than our pastors extends these observations to the church. 1Corinthians 14:26, NIV. It may be argued that Luther never intended to support my claim. He may have never meant for us to say, “I am my own Priest,” which is essentially what I claim. Timothy George, “The Priesthood of All Believers and the Quest for Theological Integrity,” Founders. Article first appeared in the Criswell Theological Journal (Sp. 1989) and is reprinted by permission.

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Tim Bednar | 2.0 Blog Sounds Ridiculous When Said Out Loud 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 popular.” 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.

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Tim Bednar | 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

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Tim Bednar | 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 eChurch combines the personal publishing tools of Blogger with the research tools of Tinderbox. 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.

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Tim Bednar | After a year of blogging, I no longer seek to be “the” cyberchurch, as the name ”eChurch” 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”.
5 6 7 8 9 Internet Archive.*/ Martin Roth, "Christian Blogs: The Semi-Definitive List," Martin Roth Christian Commentary, July 29, 2002. Tim Bednar, “An Open Letter,” weblog, July 9, 2002. Copied from offline archive of Movable Type blog. Bill Quick, “12:54 AM”, Daily Pundit, January 01, 2002. - 8315120 Phillip J. Cunningham, "Teilhard de Chardin and the Noosphere," Computer-Mediated Communication Magazine, March 1997. Steven Berlin Johnson, “Mind Share: BLOG SPACE: Public Storage For Wisdom, Ignorance, and Everything in Between”, Wired, June 2003. Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think”, Atlantic Monthly, 1943. Joel Weishaus interviews Alan Sondheim, "Being On-line: A Conversation with Alan Sondheim", Rhizome, June 8, 1999.


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Tim Bednar |

4.0 Blogs and “Christian” Blogging I post to my blog several times a day and make daily pilgrimages to my favorite list of bloggers. This process has revolutionized my spiritual life. It has become an important spiritual practice that uniquely combines writing, learning, conversation, community and prayer with an abiding incarnational13 mission. A blog is a frequently updated web page where entries are listed in reverse chronological order (most recent first). Blog entries typically consist of links accompanied by commentary. They may read like dairies, op-ed pieces, letters, rants, essays, documentaries, satire or conversations. Bloggers usually publish a “blog roll” or their list of favorite bloggers. This usually defines (in a fuzzy way) the affinity group to which they belong (i.e. technologists, diarists, marketers, pundits). Blogs encourage conversation through informality, enthusiasm for errata, comments (usually posted alongside the original entry) and reciprocal hyperlinks. Steve Collins writes: my blog doesn't have a theme. it's whatever i happen to feel like--noting links, spouting about random issues and feelings--sure there's church-related stuff, because that occupies a lot of my energies, but my blog isn't about that as such. like i said, i assume the audience is my friends. it's the kind of things i'd say to them over a drink or meal.14 The funny thing about defining a blog is that there are many exceptions. In the end, the most important trait of a blog seems to be that it is updated frequently, honestly and consistently. Darren Rowse explains his blogging regimen: The process for me is quite rhythmic. I make time most mornings and evenings to blog for 15 or so minutes. In a sense, it’s become a discipline. On other days, when I have more time I will do it more.15 Enabled by wireless networking, Jordon Cooper's blogging style is more spontaneous: I have wifi in my house and high-speed internet so a lot of things get posted because I can and not because I really thought about it. I really admire those blogs like Alan Creech's that can communicate deep spiritual truths far better than I do.16 Rudy Carrasco explains how he blogs: Someone asked how I blog so much. Well, you gotta be there mentally. If you are in line at Starbucks and read something in the newspaper headline and think, "I'd like to link to that," then you are most of the way home. I have a laptop, DSL at both home and work, and wireless connectivity at both home and work. This means that I can take my son into the bathroom for his bath and sit in the next room, within earshot, and also blogging a thought (or answering email, or finishing a newsletter, etc.) You get the picture. With the appropriate technology

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Tim Bednar | it's not as tough (or obsessive) as it seems.17 A sub genre of blogosphere is the Christian blog. For this paper, I interviewed over four dozen bloggers and to a person they resisted being labeled a religious, spiritual or Christian blogger. Steve Collins explains that his blog is “not spiritual, except that everything human is.”18 Andrew Careaga reinforces this idea; “I try to consider most of the conscious activities as spiritual activities, even if not exactly religious.”19 This passion to live incarnationally unites these bloggers. Jordon Cooper writes about his blog and describes what I mean: Many of the sites 20,000 monthly visitors can't seem to get their head around how a site that has so much about postmodern thought and the church can also have links to the Calgary Flames and the Saskatchewan Roughriders [...] I started to get e-mail back saying, "wait a minute, it is knowing about you that gives the site some character and credibility.” [...] People went on to say that without the personal stuff, the site just became a collection of links posted by someone they don't know. My stories about my life gave it some context and something to judge it by for good or bad.20 This holistic engagement between author and audience is what makes blogging unique and compelling. In this respect, these “Christian bloggers” are no different than all the other opinionated bloggers except that they intentionally bring their faith in Christ to bare on everything that interests them: hockey, Microsoft, George W. Bush, Jennifer Lopez or Strongbad. 4.1 We Blog to Participate

This sense of incarnational mission motivates many bloggers on a personal level because of deep convictions. It also translates to social networks. Bloggers possess an unsurpassed desire to participate in community. A blogger named Mumcat commented on Maggi Dawn’s Blog: […]For me, blogging is putting something I think and the write about out on the table and I can get immediate (or almost immediate) feedback. It doesn’t happen 100% of the time, but enough that it is helpful. I’m not a college professor or published writer (just a whinin’ wannabe sometimes), and certainly everything I blog about isn’t deep theological thoughts or even good exegesis of a text or a cogent interpretation of a current event or trend. At the end of the day I’m just a butt in the pews who likes to have her say, polished or not.21 There are a growing number of people whose “butts are in the pews” who desire a deeper level of participation in the church. They are not looking for more volunteer opportunities or chances to use their spiritual gifts (these often feel like sophisticated recruiting schemes for bloated church programs). They do not just want to participate in small groups or even lead them. They want a chance to set the agenda and to direct the conversation (not permanently, but spontaneously). The numbers of those wanting a deep level of participation in the church far outnumber the hundreds of bloggers listed in

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Tim Bednar | directories like blogs4God, but we are the most visible part of this phenomenon. 4.2 We Blog in the Present

Most blogs list entries in reverse chronological order or the most recent first. Typically, the first page of a blog publishes the most recent entries and archives the rest as permalinks. Andrew Jones explains: Blogging is about valuing and honoring the moment. It is about the kairos time more than the chronos time, the opportune time more than the continuous progressive time. Jesus said that tomorrow had enough worries. Jesus said "Give us this DAY our daily bread." Jesus said, to his brothers who were rushing him to the Festival, "The time for you is always right, but my time has not yet come." His brothers were running on modern ever-progressive time, the nonstop time that the slaves were under in Egypt, or the Yuppies in New York, or the Salarymen in Tokyo. Jesus resisted "Time's Arrow". Jesus was running on Kingdom time, the right and ripe time. It was not even the non-directional cyclical time of the East. It was moment time. It was Kingdom time, kairos more than chronos, seasonal time, opportune time. Right time. Blogging challenges me to capture the moment. To seize the day and then reflect on it.22 The blog format forces us write in the present and leaves little time for traditional editing. It lends to an immediate, forceful style that attempts to capture the moment. Addressing the complaint that many blogs are thus poorly written, Andrew Jones confesses that he writes quickly and without a spellcheck to preserve the feeling of immediacy. However, he also admits this is also an excuse for sloppiness.23 The typical blogger modus operandi is to write better tomorrow, instead of editing existing material. The resulting entries are informal, spontaneous, reflective entries. Blogs may be likened to a fire; they demand a continuous supply of fuel in order to provide light and heat. Occasionally, we get our hands on some good dry wood, but other times we make due with damp, mealy sticks. Either way, we need to throw it on the fire. Some days I blog well, but what matters is that blog. 4.3 We Blog in the First Person

We blog in the first person. We try not to hide behind worn out platitudes, like “the Bible says”, rather we say what we think and take responsibility for it. As an example of a spiritual blogger's commitment to incarnational mission, I offer this entry posted Alan Creech at 11:19 A.M. October 16, 2003 where he explicitly revealed his thoughts regarding a friend who expressed marital doubts: Married for 10 years with a 5 year old son. And then, suddenly, he thinks perhaps they've been incompatible all along and made a mistake. WHAAAATT???? I realize things are more complicated than they appear in the beginning - most always. I am married you know. But here is my basic response to this deal -BULLSHIT!24 Then at 11:24 P.M. after over two-dozen comments, he posted this follow up entry: 11 | We Know More Than Our Pastors

Tim Bednar | I don't understand what went on with that last post. I don't even understand myself. How can I get so emotionally torn up over stuff like this? I don't understand that any more than I do sneak attacks. I was going to take the post down. I think I've decided against that now. I said what I said. It may be right or wrong or whatever. It was genuinely what I thought. If I've hurt or offended anyone, I am very sorry. If my language has likewise caused you offense, I apologize. I'm sure I'll still talk that way in the future as well as I have in the past, but I don't do it with some underlying intention of making people mad. I feel like I've stepped into a hornet's nest. Not pleasant. I want to say once again, that I do not hate anyone. I may not always say the right things but I do not say what I say out of any kind of hate.25 I have read Alan Creech for over a year. He is vulnerable and transparent with his journey and many read him for just that reason. Alan does not hide behind platitudes in either post. Leila Fast explains the value of being vulnerable: When I started this blog, I did so on the premise that I would be painfully honest. I decided that this would be a place, perhaps the only place, where I would bare it all. As time went by and more people who knew me started reading, I had to be a little more selective, choosing not to write about certain topics, but staying as raw as I could and taking whatever chances that involved. I understood that there are risks involved with posting any kind of personal information on the internet. [...] But as bloggers we share with one another the things on our hearts and the thoughts in our heads, and this is the information that draws us together. For this reason I hold steadfastly to my theory that absolute vulnerability is the only reason I have for writing. Anything less is pointless…mediocrity is not something I aspire to, although I achieve it so frequently.26 This authenticity is the juice that often keeps bloggers publishing. We support and validate those who are vulnerable even if we disagree with them because we do not want to break the fragility of this unwritten pact. Being vulnerable also opens the door to misunderandings, hurt feelings and errors. A recent study reported that 36% of the bloggers surveyd have “gotten in trouble because of things they have written on their blogs.”27 I wrote this at my blog following a recent dust-up over Andrew Jones’ use of the word girl when speaking about women in ministry:28 It is a lesson to all us bloggers to think before we hit post. It also teaches us that if we don't think, there is forgiveness and understanding waiting for us who are willing to stay in there and keep in the conversation.29 Blogging in the first person is deeply personal and spontaneous. For example, I will describe how I write my blog. Bartleby published this quote by Ray Bradbury: "Run fast, stand still. This, the lesson from lizards. For all writers. Observe almost any survival creature, you see the same. Jump, run, freeze. In the ability to flick like an eyelash, crack like a whip, vanish like steam, here this instant, gone the

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Tim Bednar | next—life teems the earth. And when that life is not rushing to escape, it is playing statues to do the same. See the hummingbird, there, not there. As thought arises and blinks off, so this thing of summer vapor; the clearing of a cosmic throat, the fall of a leaf. And where it was—a whisper. What can we writers learn from lizards, lift from birds? In quickness is truth. The faster you blurt, the more swiftly you write, the more honest you are. In hesitation is thought. In delay comes the effort for a style, instead of leaping upon truth which is the only style worth deadfalling or tiger-trapping. In between the scurries and flights, what? Be a chameleon, ink- blend, chromosome change with the landscape. Be a pet rock, lie with the dust, rest in the rainwater in the filled barrel by the drainspout outside your grandparents’ window long ago (Zen in the Art of Writing)."30 To write in the first person, I write by “blurting”. I do not find that ideas emerge consistently--rather they seem to pounce upon me, dig in their claws, tear at the heart, then bound over the horizon. If I do not record them quickly, I lose them like a halfwaking dream. In the liminal moments, I find rest, calm down, and absorb. I swell like a sponge, soaking up the information and data around me. In these times, I do not work. I seek to recognize the memes. Later, I will attempt to find the trails between them. To do this, the most difficult thing is to turn off my internal censor. This does not refer to turning off my moral compass, rather I attempt to disengage from the rules that I have been taught by tradition. When I do this, the world and God have a better chance to appear to me at is it with less mediation. An example might be when looking at a new meme, I try to turn off everything I have been taught about it. I start with questions, giving myself freedom to ask anything, question everything. I need to see this meme as it is rather that as I say it is -- or worse, they way others say it has been. This is where I 'blurt'. I grasp at ideas that flash upon my conscious, but I also seek to experience what feelings lie beneath. What is my unconscious saying? How do I feel about this text? Do I hear God speaking to me? What is He saying? Once I have immersed myself in my subjective experience -- then I take my observations and test them against reason and offer them to the blogging community. I leave a great deal unpublished, but then there emerges the odd meme that shocks, turns my head and changes my life. The Spirit rushes over me and I change. It is then that I blog. It is not always such a epiphany, but never the less the process seems consistent. 4.4 We Blog as a Discipline

Blogging is a regular, interactive discipline where I find God in community. It is a discipline because blogging intentionally seeks to connect with God through hypertext. For most people (including authors), writing is a difficult and often draining experience.

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Tim Bednar | Henri J.M. Nouwen expounds: We should know that a spiritual life without discipline is impossible. Discipline is the other side of discipleship. The practice of a spiritual discipline makes us more sensitive to the small, gentle voice of God. It is interactive because it requires an audience and invites participation. Mike McKee explains, “I share my journey, not as a model but to just say, 'Here I am, kicking rocks down the street, too.'” Dallas Willard says in an interview regarding community and spiritual disciplines ...they are much more effective if they can be practiced in community, and you can't really practice them without community. If you have a community where they are understood as a normal part of our lives, there can be instruction or teaching about them, which brings about a kind of accountability.31 Bloggers crave interaction and community. We desire to find the “truth” not as isolated individuals, who get revelations directly from God, instead we believe the truest truth is found collectively. 4.5 We Use Blogging to Preach

We use blogging to preach (or proclaim) the gospel to our postmodern culture by telling our stories, rather than reasoned apologetic or homiletic craft. Alan Creech explains how bloggers redefine “preaching” by infusing it with incarnational and participatory values: [...] preaching, as I see it to mean “proclaiming the good news” is something that is to be done [by] every believer with their lives. So, in so much as I am a member Christ's body, and I am living my life, and in some way I put my life and thoughts out there for people to see everywhere, I am “preaching” by being who I am and saying what I think.32 This type of preaching that bloggers employ radically departs from the altar-call modality of evangelical pulpits and step-by-step discipleship programs (i.e. 40 Days of Purpose).33 We do not come to conclusions, articulate 'takeaways' or create 'either/or' situations. Bloggers present the truth and curiosities of their lives. Thus, our audience is responsible to synthesize and discover their truth. We release ourselves from the responsibility of having to “lead someone to Christ” or disciple them. We have no other agenda than to share the truth as we experience it, yet it is our belief that the Holy Spirit speaks through us. Thus, we preach. 4.6 We Blog to Earn Permission

As bloggers, we not only redefine preaching, but evangelism as well. We earn the permission of people before we speak in to their lives. For example, because Googlebot crawls my blog daily, thousands of visitors have read my thoughts on Johnny Cash, Hurt, Trent Reznor, and Nine Inch Nails or my explanation of the Corpus Christi Film 14 | We Know More Than Our Pastors

Tim Bednar | Urban Legend because they typed keywords into Google.34 This new way of evangelism evolves out of Christians using Internet technology. Rachel Cunliff explains it better: Blog posts are somewhat timeless. I have people come and leave comments on posts I wrote ages ago and sometimes the conversation is 'lit' again. Google enables people to find posts that interest them, no matter what the date.35 This kind of contextual relevance means that I have a permission to interact with a person at the moment of their interest. Fast Company interviews Seth Godin who contrasts permission verse interruptive marketing practices in business: The biggest problem with mass-market advertising, Godin says, is that it fights for people's attention by interrupting them. A 30-second spot interrupts a "Seinfeld" episode. A telemarketing call interrupts a family dinner. A print ad interrupts this article. "The interruption model is extremely effective when there's not an overflow of interruptions," Godin says. "But there's too much going on in our lives for us to enjoy being interrupted anymore." The new model, he argues, is built around permission. The challenge for marketers is to persuade consumers to volunteer attention - to "raise their hands" (one of Godin's favorite phrases) - to agree to learn more about a company and its products. "Permission marketing turns strangers into friends and friends into loyal customers," he says. "It's not just about entertainment - it's about education."36 Bloggers infuse evangelism with holistic, incarnational values, thus redefining it with their the use of Internet technology. No other form of “evangelism” has achieved this kind of access; Google (as well as other search technologies like Blogdex, Technorati, Feedster or Feed Demon) places my blog at the crossroads of the marketplace of ideas at the moment when people want to discuss it. As they search the web, I am invited in to people's lives; I get permission to speak about how I apply the gospel to Johnny Cash and Nine Inch Nails, The Da Vinci Code, or The Star Wars Kid. This is a radical departure from interruptive practices of direct mail, revivals, or Evangelism Explosion. I think it is impossible to understate the ability of blogging to affect our culture. As we post, we are able to affect the tenor, direction and conclusions of the culture industry37. In the last year, I have gotten permission to dialog with people over the Dixie Chicks, Rocori school shootings, The Da Vinci Code and whether Jesus smoked pot. 4.7 We Blog to Care

Blogging promotes real world care and concern. To “offliners” this seems counterintuitive, however, the fact is that blogging is a way to care for others. Jordon Cooper revealed in an Ooze message board: When my wife Wendy had her miscarriage a little over a month ago. I went downstairs and posted it when we got home in the middle of the night. By the next morning, many people who only know me through my weblog had e-mailed,

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Tim Bednar | commented on the site and later on made several phone calls to see if we needed anything. At the time, I was on staff of a church of 1500 people who went on and on about being an authentic community. Outside of my son's godparents, not a single phone call from any of the staff and leadership. There is a reason we flock online. There is people, interaction, and community here that in many ways is more real than in the offline world.38 Blogging is more than an echo chamber, kicking rocks down the street or navel-gazing. It often results in real world changes in the form of new relationships, social justice, inner transformation and ecclesiastical reformation. As with the Dean For Amercia campaign, we are only beginning to experience the changes made possible by social networking applications like blogging. 4.8 We Blog Build the Kingdom

We blog in community in order to find spontaneous relationships that build the Kingdom in the “real world”.39 Steve Berlin Johnson quotes Kurt Vonnegut: In his classic novel Cat's Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut explains how the world is divided into two types of social organizations: the karass and the granfalloon. A karass is a spontaneously forming group, joined by unpredictable links, that actually gets stuff done? as Vonnegut describes it, "a team that do[es] God's Will without ever discovering what they are doing." A granfalloon, on the other hand, is a "false karass," a bureaucratic structure that looks like a team but is "meaningless in terms of the ways God gets things done."40 Chad Canipe explains in an e-mail how this works in the karass-like cyberchurch: Blogging has provided an avenue for building relationships that just wasn't there in days past. I would've never imagined just a few years ago having conversations with acquaintances from the other side of the globe. But one of the most satisfying results of my blogging experience has been local people finding me and the resulting friendships. In fact, I meet with weekly here in Cincinnati with a group of guys that has become affectionately known as "fight club." This group consists of fellow bloggers and church planter-types, Kevin Rains, Chris Marshall, Glenn Johnson and myself. In fact, this past weekend, all of our families (wives, kids and all) all got together for an evening of hanging out and dinner. Out of this nucleus, an even larger movement here in the midwest has emerged. A semi-regular gathering of likeminded leaders from different emerging churches and networks from several midwestern states gets together here in Cincinnati.41 The vast majority of these folks all got connected to each other through an everexpanding relational network that was facilitated by the web and weblogging. This has been very, very rewarding. Another personal friendship that come about has been with David Moutz, a fellow

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Tim Bednar | pastor/church planter here in Cincinnati, who found my blog via a guy in his core group. We exchanged emails and phone calls and eventually began meeting together fairly regularly to support one another. Each of the guys that I've mentioned are now like brothers to me. It's not an overstatement to say that they are the closest friends that I have. I feel extremely blessed that God saw fit to connect us. Chad captures the potential of blogging to build not just a cyberchurch, but also the Kingdom of God. Blogging has evolved into an advanced social networking tool. Edward Cone writes about how the Dean For America campaign's uses the Internet's social networking technology: Online tools are a way to get people to act -- to meet in the physical world, to put up flyers and posters, write letters and checks, speak to other people face to face. And ultimately, to get out and vote. "The Internet is moving from information technology to organizing technology," she says, sitting in a windowless conference room at the campaign's offices. "I e-mail you that I like Dean, maybe you'll tell your wife. If I tell you face to face, you'll tell everyone."42 The Dean campaign model demonstrates a best practice that can translate in the church. As we apply this same concept to the Gospel, Bill Bean offers this Dietrich Bonhoeffer quote: God has put this Word into the mouth of men in order that it may be communicated to other men. When one person is struck by the Word, he speaks it to others. God has willed that we should seek and find His living Word in the witness of a brother...the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God's Word to him....again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself...43 Jordon Cooper, Spensor Burke of The Ooze and Charlie Wear of Next-Wave organize and promote IndieAllies gatherings using the same MeetUp technology as the Dean For America campaign44. As of April 2004, there are 2154 people in 362 cities that make up this loosely joined group of independent Christian thinkers worldwide that meet to discuss “acts of compassion and the church in our postmodern culture”. Martin Roth points to Darren Rowse where he notes that the Living Room is: “steadily morphing into far more than just a simple blog. Darren is pro-active. He doesn’t simply write down stuff and then invite comments or suggestions. He’s actually making community. His latest venture is a bloggers’ kris kringle – an anonymous exchange of Christmas gifts.”45 Darren expects to connect over 23 bloggers this Christmas in a virtual, anonomous gift exchange and Blogger Idol.46 Ashely Benigno created something called “grid blogging”, which can be defined as a distributed media production model spread across blogosphere nodes.47 By placing “[grid::topic]” in the blog entry title, search engines like Google are able to gather every related blog entry about a particular subject. Bloggers like Andrew Jones and Jordon 17 | We Know More Than Our Pastors

Tim Bednar | Cooper initiated a grid blog for Advent. This penchance to use virtual reality to more fully engage real life is the basis for my forecasting that the existing church will (in time) have to deal with the memes bloggers are co-creating.
13 Richard J. Foster's Renovare ministry defines incarnation as "making present and visible the realm of the invisible spirit. This spiritual dimension addresses the crying need to experience God as truly manifest and notoriously active in daily life" and quotes 2 Corinthians 4:7, "We have this treasure in earthen vessels." Steve Collins, e-mail survey, October 26, 2003. Darren Rowse, e-mail survey, October 30, 2003. Jordon Cooper, e-mail survey, October 29, 2003. Rudy Carrasco, Urban Onramps, November 7, 2003, 7:52 AM. Steve Collins, email survey. Andrew Careaga, e-mail survey, October 24, 2003. Jordon Cooper, “Blogging: Advice for Church Websites”, Next-Wave, April 2002. Mumcat, “Comment on The Blog: A new form of writing? or a new form of transmission?”, Maggi Dawn’s Blog, February 17, 2004. Mumcat’s blog, The Cat's Cradle, can be found at Andrew Jones, “The Skinny on Postmodernity No.3 - Time and Space: Being NowHere”, The Ooze, April 23, 2002. Andrew Jones, “The Skinny on Postmodernity No.3 - Time and Space: Being NowHere.” Alan Creech, October 16, 2003. Ibid. Leila Fast, Little Bear, November 06, 2003, 11:00 PM. Fernanda Viégas, “Blog Survey: Expectations of Privacy and Accountability,” January 2004. Andrew Jones, “The Girls Post: A Definitive History,” Tallandskinnykiwi, Feburary 2004. Tim Bednar, ” The Women In Ministry and ‘Girl’ Saga: The Importance of Language In Postmodernism,” Moxy Turtle, Feburary 24, 2004. Ray Bradbury, “Run Fast…”, Zen in the Art of Writing, 1989. Dallas Willard, “Disciplines in a Postmodern World”, taken from an interview published in Radix magazine, Vol. 27, No. 2. Alan Creech, e-mail survey, October 27, 2003. Rick Warren, “40 Days of Purpose,” Purpose Driven Church. Googlebot. Rachel Cunliff, e-mail survey, October 27, 2003. Interview with Seth Godin, “Permission Marketing”, Fast Company, Issue 14, April 1998. Reference to Theodor W. Adorno, “The Culture Industry”, 1944.'s Culture Industry.htm Jordon Cooper. “The Ooze Message Board, Is it ok to only attend Church in cyber space? Message #11330, The Ooze, November 30, 2002 10:47 AM.

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I have found this distinction dubious. I believe there is a corollary between virtual reality and reality and the visible and invisible aspect of the Kingdom of God. Steve Berlin Johnson, “Social Networks, Steve Berlin Johnson Weblog, March 13, 2003. Chad is referring to Not Alone: Connecting Missional Communities In The Midwest. Edward Cone, "Marketing The President", Baseline, November 17, 2003.,3959,1386051,00.asp Bill Bean, "Life Together, Chapter 1: Community," The Unnecessary Pastor, December 04, 2003. IndieAllies. Martin Roth, "Cybermonks and the Liquid Church," Martin Roth Christian Commentary, December 8, 2003. Darren Rowse, "Secret Santa Blogger," Living Room, December 05, 2003. Ashely Benidgo, "Grid blogging (an invitation)," notes from somewhere bizarre, November 7, 2003.

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5.0 Blogging Is Being Spiritually Formed By calling and gifting, I am a teacher who has long desired to find a way to promote spiritual formation using the Internet. The portal model of Crosswalk and Gospelcom push so-called Christian information; MethodX offers online versions of ancient spiritual disciplines; Beliefnet and The Ooze build community through message boards. Other sites like Next-Wave, Relevant and Christianity Today continue to publish articles using a magazine model. With regard to spiritual formation, these models possess a fatal flaw—members have no way to take essential formative step of application and responsibility. In short, the few people creating these sites are actively engaging in spiritual formation online, but their audience is de facto excluded from that process. Even though they may participate in message boards or chat rooms, they do not own their work, which is an essential to spiritual formation. My blog is a place where spiritual formation is accomplished; where I gather loose strands of conversation; where I participate in the church by writing about my spiritual journey; where I am held accountable. I use term “place” for a reason. Other web ministry models own their content. I visit them and leave a message or chat in their domain. As a blogger, I own my content and that encourages a sort of honesty not found in offline church settings. Elijah Fan explains, “It’s nice to be able to share my thoughts without having to worry about offending people, because it’s on my own site.”48 This makes blogging a powerful tool for spiritual formation. When you maintain your own blog and bypass the structures of traditional Christian education, you become more aware, more introspective, and more connected. You take responsibility for your spiritual formation. 5.1 Cathedral and Bazaar

Jordon Cooper reminded me of a seminal book written by Eric Steven Raymond. Using the metaphor of the cathedral and bazaar, Raymond conveys explains the novel development process used to create the open source operating system, Linux: Linus Torvalds's style of development—release early and often, delegate everything you can, be open to the point of promiscuity—came as a surprise. No quiet, reverent cathedral-building here—rather, the Linux community seemed to resemble a great babbling bazaar of differing agendas and approaches [...]out of which a coherent and stable system could seemingly emerge only by a succession of miracles.49 Bloggers have learned to use a similar process. We gather memes50 from diverse sources and post blog entries quickly. We do not formulate full concepts, but iterations. We are open almost to the point of promiscuity (or heresy) and uncompromisingly reserve the right to change our mind. Andrew Jones explains the dynamism of the iterative process:

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Tim Bednar | I write something in the morning, publish it, and by the evening it has been discussed, argued over, linked to, and the response has already been sent back to me for feedback (or repentance).51 The blogging cyberchurch is not a cathedral with set rules, processes or content, rather it is a bazaar that bloggers wonder around attempting to create order using hypertext. I contend that blogging reinforces the real process of spiritual formation better than seminaries and Sunday school classes. It forces the blogger to set their own course, discover their own truth in public where they take responsibility for their beliefs. A magazine article, Quicktime movie or Flash animation is an artifact of spiritual formation, but a blog is a record of the very process of spiritual formation. We see our individual entries like static frames of a movie--when projected at 24 fps they create motion. While movies are an illusion, my blog represents real spiritual activity. 5.2 Memex Machines

As records of spiritual formation, blogs act like Vannevar Bush's prescient memex machine. In his July 1945 Atlantic Monthly article, “As We May Think”, he describes a mechanical machine that helps researchers track multiple trails of data. Consider a future device for individual use, which is a sort of mechanized private file and library. It needs a name, and, to coin one at random, "memex" will do. A memex is a device in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility. It is an enlarged intimate supplement to his memory.52 Blogs are memex machines that promote spiritual formation through peer review, open conceptualization and continual refinement. This promotes spiritual formation because over time, the introspective blogger sees trends that demand assessment. Chad Canipe blogged about this process: I've noticed -- and maybe you have, too -- that my writing here has been on a more superficial level over the past few weeks, and it's bugging me. Before you brush off this comment as just another example of over-analytical navel-gazing by a narcissistic blogger (heck, I'm even tempted to think that), let me state my case for why it's not. I think part of the "spiritual discipline" of blogging (chuckle if you like, but it can be) for me is that it serves as a sort of stethoscope that listens to the condition of my heart/soul. What am I learning? How am I living? What's important to me? What's not important? Am I growing? Where can I see God at work in the midst of my life? I think those sorts of questions get answered when I read back over my recent posts. So when I find it hard to write anything of substance, it tells me that I'm

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Tim Bednar | either too busy or I'm drifting or coasting through life. I mean, for Pete's sake, I'm writing more about my bathroom tile than I am about what's going on at soullevel. Granted, we all encounter seasons of rest and work, freshness and stagnation. The process of maturity in life is never a straight line -- the need for mid-course corrections are inevitable. So, that's where I am at the moment. Sensing the need for some change in my soul. Not in a self-loathing, "miserable Christian" sort of way, but with an attitude that says "Thank you, Lord, for nudging me again."53 I used my blog archive to write large sections of this paper and offer it as an example of the value of using a blog as a memex machine. If I did not use text directly from my post, I certain used my blog to augment my memory for this research.54 5.3 Vanguard of the Church

I am unable to empirically prove this thesis. However, I suspect that blogging propagates not only the cyberchurch, but is the vanguard of the church (whether Catholic or Southern Baptist or the so-called Emerging Church55). I believe that blogs are where the newest memes emerge and spread. Darren Rowse explains the connection between blogging and emerging church modalities: For me it functions as a sounding board as I think about theology, church, etc. I often post questions that I'm thinking through or ideas for church activities. I love that there are people like me around the world experimenting with new forms of church like me. [...] I don't see blogging as me telling others how to do church or ministry, but rather as a way of learning and forming is very interactive.56 I do not contend that we are completely original in our thinking. We are often accused of getting excited about something outside our personal tradition and then shouting “eureka” even though it has been part of church tradition for 200 years. However, those who think we are cute because we are reconnecting with our ancient past must remember that the Renaissance was birthed by the rediscovery of Greek culture. We will mature and cease having the faux epiphanies. And in the process, we may do some original work and impact church history. And it may be a sad day when we stop being excited by uncovering “new” aspects of our faith. 5.4 Priesthood of All Bloggers

The bazaar of the blogging cyberchurch is naturally susceptible to excesses, untruths, syncretism or blatant heresy. It is not a homogeneous, well-ordered or accurately labeled universe. There is no pastor to shepherd it or denomination handing out credentials. We take Martin Luther's concept of the priesthood of all believers to its extreme conclusion. The bloggers I surveyed seem to organically work out their conflicts over faith, doctrine or praxis through peer review and vetting. Bloggers take their faith seriously and actively engage in the process of spiritual formation. This naturally causes them to protect what

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Tim Bednar | they believe to be true about the church, faith, praxis and the Bible. We unsystematically correct and challenge one-another. In the process, the stories of truth seem to gather strength and eventually overshadow stories of untruth. This is not accomplished through elimination of minority voices; there is no Darwinian “survival of the fittest” at work except that only very motivated bloggers blog for more than two months.57 This filtering process is aptly represented by the PageRank algorithm, which Google uses to rank search results: PageRank relies on the uniquely democratic nature of the web by using its vast link structure as an indicator of an individual page's value. In essence, Google interprets a link from page A to page B as a vote, by page A, for page B. But, Google looks at more than the sheer volume of votes, or links a page receives; it also analyzes the page that casts the vote. Votes cast by pages that are themselves "important" weigh more heavily and help to make other pages "important." Important, high-quality sites receive a higher PageRank, which Google remembers each time it conducts a search.58 None of those I surveyed felt that orthodoxy, doctrine, theology or the Bible were threatened by blogging. Darren Rowse sums up the basic approach that bloggers employ: I'm not sure it is necessary to authenticate another persons faith over the internet. My approach is that we are all on spiritual Journeys (does that sound too new age?). My role is not to authenticate another person's faith, but rather do everything I can to help those around me (virtually and in real life) to move towards Jesus.59 George Ertel is a little more precise: Do I need to authenticate believers? Loosely, I guess. Paul was content to have the gospel preached even by those with weak motives.60 I expect everyone has some bad theology, so I am content to fellowship with those who assert that Jesus is the only Lord. Personally, I feel this will include some who profess belief without repentance, but I’d rather be more accepting than more exclusive.61 Bloggers are not looking for theological debates, watertight syllogisms, acclaim or credentials. Rather, they make the process of spiritual formation their apologetic. Mike McKee explains: I believe that credibility comes from consistency and dedication. Showing up to post on a regular basis helps. A body of work with lots of posts gives people plenty of material on which to judge your credibility.62 You will notice that Mike does not mention any theological criteria, rather he judges according to a blogger’s commitment to the process. Rick Stillwell explains how these subjective judgments are made:

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Tim Bednar | People will show their colors; you'll just know. But I don't like setting up some criteria that will probably always leave someone out. God judges the heart, I can only read their stuff - and if it's worth sharing, it's worth sharing regardless of the label or tag we want to attach to it.63 This does not mean that bloggers are relativists (although some are)—it simply means they do not objectify spiritual progress. They recognize its iterative nature and prefer a subjective inwardness similar to the kind Soren Kierkegaard describes in his August 1, 1935 journal entry: What I really need is to be clear about what I am to do, not what I must know, except in the way knowledge must precede all action. It is a question of understanding my destiny, of seeing what the Deity really wants me to do; the thing is to find a truth which is true for me, to find the idea for which I am willing to live and die. And what use here would it be if I were to discover a so-called objective truth, or if I worked my way through the philosophers' systems and were able to call them all to account on request, point out inconsistencies in every single circle? And what use here would it be to be able to work out a theory of the state, and put all the pieces from so many places into one whole, construct a world which, again, I myself did not inhabit but merely held up for others to see? What use would it be to be able to propound the meaning of Christianity, to explain many separate facts, if it had no deeper meaning for myself and for my life? [...] What use would it be if the truth were to stand before me, cold and naked, not caring whether I acknowledge it or not, and inducing an anxious shudder rather than trusting devotion? Certainly I won't deny that I still accept an imperative of knowledge, and that one can also be influenced by it, but then it must be taken up alive in me, and this is what I now see as the main point. It is this my soul thirsts for as the African deserts thirst for water.64 In the cyberchurch—there is no authority that determines what is 'in' and what is 'out'. Steve Collins explains offers an excellent explanation: A 'closed set' is defined by a boundary - all that is inside belongs to the set, all that is outside does not. Applying this to the Church, 'closed set' believers have a 'territorial' concept of God's kingdom, enclosed within a boundary. Membership comes through crossing the boundary in an act of conversion. Once inside Kingdom territory, care must be taken not to cross the boundary again. An 'open set' has no 'territorial' boundary, but is defined by relationship with a centre: all that is moving towards the centre, seeking relationship, belongs; all that is moving away, abandoning relationship, does not. [...] In the open-set model the Church appears as a fluid network of relationships. The shape and structure of the Church changes constantly as components move and connections change. It cannot be frozen at one moment in time, or fixed in a

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Tim Bednar | particular pattern. Any maps of the Church are snapshots and provisional readings.65 The blogging cyberchurch de facto works like a Collin’s “open set”. The network unsystematically becomes the governing authority. There is no formal action (no one is de-listed or censored). But that does not mean no action is taken. The cyberchurch hyperlinks to those who are moving towards Christ—this highlights the truth without having to eliminate untruth. Bloggers use an appreciative filter that helps them determine the direction of the blogger they are reading. We link to what is good, Google or Popdex aggregates these links, and over time the network distills that information to produce the truest truth.66 We hold to—however lightly--the objective and certain reality of God; however, we believe the truth is discovered as we live, link and blog in community. In this, we are spiritually formed in the image of Christ and participate in the church.
48 49 50 Elijah Fan, e-mail survey, November 6, 2003. Eric Steven Raymond, “The Cathedral and the Bazaar”, September, 11 2000. A meme is an "idea considered as a replicator, esp. with the connotation that memes parasitize people into propagating them much as viruses do." Coined from anology to 'gene' by Richard Dawkins. "Meme", The Hackers' Dictionary of Computer Jargon. gon/chap35.html Andrew Jones e-mail survey. Vannevar Bush. Chad Canipe, “Midcourse Correction”, September 25, 2003. Here is a list of blog entries that informed this paper in ascending chronological order: "Google Adsense; My Dreams; My Wife Decides To Stay At Home; And My Jesus Year," August 20, 2003. "BloggingXXX: The Need For An Audience," September 2, 2003. "BloggingXXX: Questions I'm Thinking," September 5, 2002. "We Know More Than Our Pastors: The New Amateur Clergy Preachers," October 16, 2003. "Participatory Media And the Changing Roles of Preachers: This Rise of Bloggers As The New Amateur Preachers," October 16, 2003. Earl Creps, "Emerging Culture/Emerging Church Resources v2.0," AGTS, August 7, 2003. Darren Rowse e-mail survey. This survey reports that 66% of blogs are abandoned after two months. “The Blogging Iceberg: Of 4.12 Million Weblogs, Most Little Seen and Quickly Abandoned”, Perseus Development Corporation, October 4, 2003. “Google Technology”, Google. Emphasis added. Darren Rowse e-mail survey. John references Phillipians 1:17-18, NIV. John Ertle e-mail survey, November 7, 2003. Mike McKee, e-mail survey, November 7, 2003.

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Rick Stillwell, e-mail survey, November 7, 2003. D. Anthony Storm's Commentary On Kierkegaard, “Journals and Papers.” Steve Collins, “Set Theory”, Small Ritual. Phillipians 4:8, NIV.

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6.0 Problems with Blogging I have purposely avoided using the term Christian blog and employ the term only in order to place us in a context, but not label us. I just want to demonstrate that we are not technical, business or marketing blogs. I use the term blogging solely to place us the wider context of the blogosphere. The biggest problem with “Christian blogging” is being labeled as a Christian Blogger. Michael Cossarwal argues against labeling blogs “Christian”: I am a Christian. My belief and relationship with Christ is the centre and pinnacle of my life. My worldview influences my every thought and action. My words are soaked in my faith. But only a eighth or less of my posts deal with religion in any direct aspect. I write about life. Though life be effused with the divine, so is it also filled to overflowing with the secular. To abandon the secular is to lose perspective - and what good is a writer with no perspective? I am a Christian and this is my blog. But this will never-ever-in-a-million-yearsever be a Christian Blog. [..] This is a Life Blog. Good, bad, and ugly. I embrace life for what it is, holy and secular, and write of coalescence. I am The Dane and this is my Life Blog. Welcome to it.67 For all the promise that blogging holds for spiritual formation, it also is wrought with warnings, pitfalls and hype. If we are to realize the potential of this phenomenon, we need to find ways to deal with the problems inherit in the discipline of Christian blogging even if we do not label it as such. This also does not prevent us from judging the enterprise as Christians. 6.1 Vanity, Vanity All Is Vanity

The most prevalent critique of blogging is noted in this quote of Elizabet Osder by Noah Shactman: "Bloggers are navel-gazers [...] And they're about as interesting as friends who make you look at their scrap books. [...] There's an overfascination here with selfexpression, with opinion. This is opinion without expertise, without resources, without reporting."68 Blogs replaced vanity home pages where people aggrandized themselves by posting narcissistic pictures and information. Anyone who follows the Daypop Top 40 (a search engine that ranks a “list of links that are currently popular with webloggers from around the world”) knows that bloggers are often fascinated with themselves and their enterprise (as this white paper demonstrates). As with any spiritual discipline (fasting, prayer, etc.), vanity often rears its ugly head in the posts by bloggers. However, the counterbalance to vanity is built into cyberchurch created by bloggers. Bene Diction explains why the blogging cyberchurch does not reward vanity:

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Tim Bednar | Some time ago Mark Byron wondered who would be the next 'star' or breakout [Christian] blogger like Martin Roth had been. The bottom line from what I've looked at is we can hope there won't be one. Why? Blogging is interactive and immediate. There can be bloggers that gain a group of readers because of buzz or hype. But the reality is in the godblogosphere the core group are ordinary people who keep at it, pay attention to their readers, add personal content from time to time and lead by serving. They find and link others. It isn't flash in the pan stuff. They can be current and thoughtful without receiving a speck of celebrity type attention.69 Vanity is counterbalanced by the nature blogging; it is hard work and takes a long time to build an audience. The so-called A-list “god-bloggers” did not seek this designation, but it was rather bestowed on them by other bloggers by virtue of their dedication, thoughtfulness and lack of hubris. 6.2 Seeking a Virtual Journey

The other seduction of blogging is getting trapped in seeking an anonymous, risk-free, virtual journey that is dislocated from reality. Dr. Huber Dreyfus, Professor of Philosophy at the University of California Graduate School, adapts Soren Kierkegaard 's critique of the press and the public sphere in the 19th century Denmark to our use of the Internet. Dreyfus explains Kieregaard's criticism of the public sphere which we might call the Internet: [...] the new massive distribution of desituated information was making every sort of information immediately available to anyone, thereby producing a desituated, detached spectator. The new power of the Press to disseminate information to everyone in a nation led its readers to transcend their local, personal involvement and overcome their reticence about what did not directly concern them. As Burke had noted with joy, the Press encouraged everyone to develop an opinion about everything. This was seen by Habermas as a triumph of democratization but Kierkegaard saw that the Public Sphere was destined to become a realm of idle talk in which spectators merely pass the word along. [...] The public sphere thus promotes ubiquitous commentators who deliberately detach themselves from the local practices out of which specific issues grow and in terms of which these issues must be resolved though some sort of committed action. What seems a virtue to detached Enlightenment reason, therefore, looks like a disastrous drawback to Kierkegaard. The public sphere is a world in which everyone has an opinion on and comments on all public matters without needing any first-hand experience and without having or wanting any responsibility. He then applies this to the Internet and by virtue to blogging: Kierkegaard would surely have seen in the Internet, with its web sites full of anonymous information from all over the world and its interest groups which anyone in the world can join and where one can discuss any topic endlessly

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Tim Bednar | without consequences, the hi-tech synthesis of the worst features of the newspaper and the coffee house. On their web page anyone can put any alleged information into circulation.70 Blogging is exceptionally susceptible to this problem because it delights in errata. We can endlessly write about a topic, transferring literate tid-bits between users never needing to resolve the issue. The Apostle Paul warns against the seductive habit of “always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth” (1 Timothy 3:6-8, NIV).71 Andrew Careaga explained why he stopped blogging about the church for a time: You probably won't be seeing much talk about Christianity, church and religion for awhile. Frankly, I'm tired of blogging about it. Tired of the factions, the petty debates, the inchoate chorus of "God-bloggers" who bully and belittle one another, the church, the faith, and the faith of others. The telegraphic posts. The flotsam of links. The attempts at wit and irony. The caustic, know-it-all, soapbox speeches. I'm tired of being a part of that crowd. I wish to wash my hands of it all. For the time being, anyway. Of course, as soon as I say this, no doubt I'll read a posting somewhere, or a news article, that intrigues me or angers me, and off I'll go, into the fray, arms flailing like nobody's business, adding to the confusion and muddle of the blogging hoard.72 All the bloggers surveyed acknowledge that spiritual formation is a process, a journey. However, we need to reach a point where we jump off the merry-go-round and we begin to live the truth. We can never just seek the journey or the process without taking a risk, making commitments and choosing to do something with our knowledge. Otherwise, we are Gnostics not Christians. 6.3 Spreading Discord

Some may see the entire enterprise as iconoclastic providing disgruntled Christians a global platform to spread discord. It is true that many bloggers routinely criticize and deconstruct the church, polity, praxis and doctrine. For example, my blog has followed the plight of McGill Baptist church, pastored by Steve Ayer, which has been thrown out of two denominations (Cabarrus Baptist Association and the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina) for baptizing two homosexual men. I vehemently disagreed with both associations calling their decision “asinine.“ I published this critique on September 29, 2003: It seems that the whole problem stems from a mistaken link between baptism and membership. From my reading of the New Testament, baptism is a sacrament that issues the believer into the church--BUT NOT a particular church, rather the church universal (catholic). Why have many dominations made this link? Because they think of baptism in 'marketing' terms. It is a way to capture individuals and families, and promote allegiance to a particular local church-which allows them to 'grow' (which in the last 30 years almost means buy bigger

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Tim Bednar | church buildings). If that sounds crass, that is because it is. In our pursuit of church membership growth, we often twist biblical principals into shear marketing techniques that grow churches, rather than disciple individuals and families. As the church, we need to repent of making such linkages because they are (at the root) spiritually abusive and unbiblical.73 Is this spreading discord? Or is it a legitimate attack upon Christiandom?74 Some think that I should not “touch God's anointed” (1 Chronicles 16:22 and Psalm 105:15, NIV). I believe that entries, like mine, are what Glen Renyolds and other bloggers call “factchecking your ass.”75 We are entering a new era where bloggers are able to cover church and pastoral misdeeds, hypocrisy and abuses. By analogy, Kathy McGregor used Google to discover that her pastor and employer, Rev. Alvin O'Neal Jackson, plagiarized many of his sermons for a year and a half76. Also, Jackson later admitted to also plagiarizing portions of his book causing the publisher to remove the book from the market.77 Although she is not a blogger, she employed the same values as bloggers and not without consequences. She has received threatening e-mails accusing her of being a "a poor excuse for a Christian and a human being”78. This is not spreading discord, but holding leaders accountable. (As I will argue later, this is prime evidence for my thesis that congregations know more than their pastors because they habitually underestimate the sophistication of their congregations.) Blogging offers lay people an unprecedented tool to express themselves without being filtered by a church, denomination or doctrine. For many in positions of power, these tools may represent discord, but to the rest of us, they are the 21st century tools of the spontaneous prophet. Like any communication channel, blogging can devolve into screeds and rants that are malicious and irrational. Other times they raise valid issues or report real instances of abuse, hypocrisy or excesses. With each post, bloggers walk the line between being a prophet or a problem. We must not allow the odd (or regrettable) screed to overshadow the promise and power of blogging. The best bloggers embrace opposing views attempting to enter into dialog. A constructive rant is sometimes necessary to bring about change, but if it is an end to itself, then we invalidate our mission. It is a grave miscalculation to dismiss bloggers as cranks. The cyberchurch created by bloggers must explore ways to address questions of accuracy, trust, theology and orthodoxy. Not because it must answer to some denominational or Catholic authority, but because it is a worthy discussion. 6.4 Cronyism and Groupthink

The blogging cyberchurch can produce the same sort of “groupthink” that it originally sought to deconstruct in the traditional church. An article at the Ackley Associates website explains how communities or networks form:

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Tim Bednar | As people first gather together into a group, there may be only a rough consensus and partial agreement on shared values, interests and modes of behavior. Individuals may not even be consciously aware of which behavioral patterns are common to most members. But when people of "like mind" continually gather and live together, they create a system with strong feedback. As they interact, their common values become mutually-reinforcing. When one member sees most other members behaving in a certain way, that member will tend to align with them. Over time, these behaviors strengthen into selfsustaining "norms" and standardized, accepted behavioral patterns. 79 Then as the community matures is seeks self-preservation and prominent members of the community attempt to maintain their status and privilege. Again Ackly Associates explain, “Closer adherence to a core set of behavioral norms becomes necessary for the stability of the overall community. Leaders emerge or are appointed to help maintain order and represent the community-as-a-whole in external affairs.”80 Clay Shirky summarizes a common lament of this cultural process in the blogosphere: A persistent theme among people writing about the social aspects of weblogging is to note (and usually lament) the rise of an A-list, a small set of webloggers who account for a majority of the traffic in the weblog world. This complaint follows a common pattern we've seen with MUDs, BBSes, and online communities like Echo and the WELL. A new social system starts, and seems delightfully free of the elitism and cliquishness of the existing systems. Then, as the new system grows, problems of scale set in. Not everyone can participate in every conversation. Not everyone gets to be heard. Some core group seems more connected than the rest of us, and so on.81 Essentially, he describes what we experienced in the schoolyard: there are cliques of popular kids who get all the attention and privilege. Shirky reminds us that cronyism is not malevolent, but natural: What matters is this: Diversity plus freedom of choice creates inequality, and the greater the diversity, the more extreme the inequality. In systems where many people are free to choose between many options, a small subset of the whole will get a disproportionate amount of traffic (or attention, or income), even if no members of the system actively work towards such an outcome. This has nothing to do with moral weakness, selling out, or any other psychological explanation. The very act of choosing, spread widely enough and freely enough, creates a power law distribution.82 Most of us lament this situation for envy, but this misses the real problem. This situation makes the cyberchurch susceptible to groupthink: “a dysfunction in which some group members attempt to preserve group harmony by suppressing the voicing of dissenting opinion”83 Jennifer Howard at the Washington Post summarizes this critique: What began as the ultimate outsider activity -- a way to break the newspaper and

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Tim Bednar | TV stranglehold on the gathering and dissemination of information -- is turning into the same insider's game played by the old establishment media the bloggerati love to critique. The more blogs you read and the more often you read them, the more obvious it is: They've fallen in love with themselves, each other and the beauty of what they're creating. The cult of media celebrity hasn't been broken by the Internet's democratic tendencies; it's just found new enabling technology.84 This critique can also be aimed at the blogging cyberchurch. Bloggers attempts to circumvent the cult of charismatic church growth gurus and the Christian media industry, but we may be simply creating another cult of blog gurus. This may turn us into hypocrites, if we are not careful and intentional. A recent study by Hewlett-Packard also determined that the most popular blogs are not the most innovative: The most-read webloggers aren't necessarily the ones with the most original ideas, say researchers at Hewlett-Packard Labs. Using newly developed techniques for graphing the flow of information between blogs, the researchers have discovered that authors of popular blog sites regularly borrow topics from lesser-known bloggers -- and they often do so without attribution.85 The so-called A-list Christian bloggers (although they may hate being labeled as such) and portal sites like blogs4God carry a heavy burden. We need to intentionally promote less read bloggers, for if we do not, the cyberchurch will fall victim cronyism and groupthink. 6.5 Hype

When I read the hype that surrounded Google's purchase of Pyra (the company that created Blogger), I flashed back to 1996 when the Internet was going to save the world.86 AOL 9.0 now offers AOL Journal to its 34 million members and recently Microsoft leaked that it is working on social networking application mysteriously called Wallop. David Sifry, creator of Technorati (portal site that tracks over 1.2 million blogs), estimates that a new weblog is created every 11 seconds and updated every .86 seconds.87 Perseus Development Corporation survey for BlogCon 2003 counts 4.2 million blogs, but figures two-thirds are abandoned.88 The fact that 66% of blogs are abandoned means that blogging is in fact a discipline. And any as novice blogger can attest, gaining audience is slow and difficult. Jeffrey Henning, COO of Persus, concludes that "Nanoaudiences are the logical outcome of continued growth in blogs" and notes that most blogs have no more than two-dozen readers.89 This may explain why many blogs are quickly abandoned; the majority of bloggers toil for small audiences. Sara writes about her experience with her audience and why she blogs: My Christian site got one newspaper article, which massively backfired and got me a ton of hate mail. That was a crisis which made me take the site more

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Tim Bednar | seriously as a tool for ministry. The blog is just *my* journey, and if I'm getting hostility for my journey, then maybe there are other people out there who are also concerned that they can't be a Christian because they're not like the Christians on TV or the ones who write angry letters to bloggers. If reading my writing makes people feel like Christ isn't just here for Ned Flanders, then yay, I've done my job. Also, I just like to talk about myself.90 Blogging cannot save the world or the church, but it does impact small, niche audiences in profound ways. My research demonstrates that blogging does the work of spiritual formation. In the end, bloggers need a better motivation than mind-share, vanity or hype to persist. In the end, they do it for themselves in light of their incarnational mission and their passion to participate. 6.6 Question of Orthodoxy

On June 29, 2002, Martin Roth's “Semi-definitive List of Christian Bloggers” moved to a more technically advanced site called blogs4God. The new directory lists sites “from professing Christians.” In August, the webmaster, Dean Peters, decided that it was necessary to change the directory's original seven-point “Statement Of Faith” to a list of hyperlinks to creeds, documents and confessions pertaining to “the historic tenants of the Christian faith”.91 The purpose of the directory was to list those who practiced “historic Christianity”. The reason for the change is that the original statement of faith was “over the top,” 92 according to Dean Peters and did not account for historic tradition. Peters explains, “I wanted the list to represent those who practiced Historic Christianity.”93 I use blogs4God as an example because it seems reasonable that we should be able to determine who is and who is not a member of the cyberchurch. It is the purpose of orthodoxy to define a set of standard of beliefs held by followers of Christ. The problem is that it seems that the church is unable codify this standard set of beliefs. I posted an early version of this section online and one commentator surmised, “Orthodoxy doesn't work, because there are too many ‘orthodoxies’.”94 Clay Shirky explains why labels, like orthodoxy, break down when applied to a network: Many networked projects […] have started with the unobjectionable hypothesis that communication would be easier if everyone described things the same way. From there, it is a short but fatal leap to conclude that a particular brand of unifying description will therefore be broadly and swiftly adopted (the "this will work because it would be good if it did" fallacy.) Any attempt at a global ontology is doomed to fail, because meta-data describes a worldview. The designers of the Soviet library's cataloging system were making an assertion about the world when they made the first category of books "Works of the classical authors of Marxism-Leninism." Melvyl Dewey was making an assertion about the world when he lumped all books about non-Christian religions into a single category, listed last among books about religion. It is not possible to neatly map these two systems onto one another, or onto other classification schemes -- they describe different kinds of worlds. 33 | We Know More Than Our Pastors

Tim Bednar | Because meta-data describes a worldview, incompatibility is an inevitable byproduct of vigorous argument. The question of orthodoxy is easily answered (and even useful) within a homogeneous community of self-interest, like a denomination, because the stakeholders approach the topic from a common worldview. The recent election of the Episcopalian Church's first openly homosexual bishop and the subsequent dispute teaches us the question of orthodoxy is not easily answered. Furthermore, answering the question of who is orthodox becomes unwieldy and distorted when applied in a global network, like the Internet or I would contend the church, simply because there are too many so-called orthodoxies. This is why the modern approach to apologetics espoused by scholars, like Ravi Zarcharias, are unable to answer the question of orthodoxy when applied to a network. It is just impossible to craft universally accepted terms as Zarcharias claims are essential in order to arrive at truth.95 (I would argue that the existence of some 33,830 denominations points to a fundamental impossibility of defining orthodoxy.96) I believe that the best we can hope for is a transparent, tolerant ontology that is useful for a particular community of self-interest, like the one employed by blogs4God. (I think it is notable that Dean Peters solved the problem with blogs4God’s statement of faith by creating hyperlinks to documents from church antiquity.) The unsuccessful attempt by Donald Hughes at JesusJournal to create an “Association of Christian Webloggers” and issue a so-called “code of conduct” demonstrated that any attempt to control who is and who is not a Christian blogger is foolish.97 The verdict of the blogging cyberchurch is that nothing could be more damaging to blogging. Paulo Brown observed: I think that such a tact can only add to the veneer of mediocrity which faithoriented forms of media have come to be associated with. Far better to form a community of mutual links [blogs4God] than to artlessly throw manifestos at a crowd which will only dismiss you as ingenuous at best. I certainly don't want to antagonize our misguided but well-meaning brothers and sisters in Christ at Jesus Journal, but what do you all think of this; what causes this "visceral" response, as Bene Diction calls it? Is it because of the grasp of a potentially legalistic religious fist, or is it just indignance at the presumptuousness of this outsider and newcomer to the faith-based blogosphere?98 The difficulty centers on who gets to define orthodoxy and who has the authority to apply the definition. As my earlier section suggests, “The Priesthood of All Bloggers,” bloggers usually devise their own orthodoxy. (I argue that this is a fundamental activity in spiritual formation.) This makes the doctrinal stance of the blogger difficult to codify, and makes the question of orthodoxy insignificant. Issues of orthodoxy arise when directories or researchers (like me) attempt to define who is and who is not a Christian blogger. This question rarely gets addressed by

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Tim Bednar | bloggers unless they are asked. The closest they come to addressing the issue is for their blog roll (list of their favorite bloggers). In my research, however, bloggers employed a generous and open filter when selecting their blog roll. They mostly included blogs they liked or interacted with, rather than those they define as Christian. My research indicates that most bloggers do not feel that questions of orthodoxy yield anything very useful. To make the case that determining the orthodoxy of bloggers is unnecessary, I offer my adaptation of an article by Micky Kauas, “The Case Against Editors”99 (which was written in the aftermath of the Greg Easterbrook's blogging about “Jewish executives” Michael Eisner and Harvey Weinstein100). This is my case against the need to authenticate the orthodoxy of a blogger: Almost everyone can agree that seminary degrees, denominational oversight and ordination are no guarantee of orthodoxy. Christiandom is littered with examples of those who test long-accepted doctrines (i.e. Open Theologians) or who exist on the margins of orthodoxy (i.e. Benny Hinn). Why should bloggers be any different? I also reiterate my previous point that no orthodox consensus exists in the traditional church either. Why should we expect the cyberchurch to be any different? Furthermore, we cannot deny the fact that many bloggers produce orthodox content without proper expertise, denominational credentials, seminary degrees or pastoral oversight. On the other hand, it is pompous to think that church structures, degrees, pastoral oversight and denominational credentials have no impact on protecting orthodoxy. The real question is whether they protect it enough to make the question fruitful? Early church history demonstrates that orthodoxy thrived before the various councils of the early church codified it in creeds and decrees. It was just confusing. It is also a misnomer that all bloggers are untrained, many of the bloggers I surveyed held degrees or some credentials that provided external credibility. So, traditional channels of preserving orthodoxy continue to work within cyberchurch. A good question to ask is “How is blogging any different that extemporaneous preaching or live TV?” These outlets are just as prone to mistakes and heresy. I argue that blogging is more accountable than most media channels because bloggers often keep extensive (unedited) archives of their material, which can be searched, hyperlinked and commented. Blogging has built in checks and balances that provide immediate/continuous peer review and vetting. E-mail, comments, Google and hyperlinks compensate for excesses and act as a corrective force. The collective brain of the blogging cyberchurch demands that readers are editors as well as publishers.101 A case can be made that there is more wiggle room at a blog than in other genres of gospel communication because it is a unique literary form. It is misguided to judge blogs by the same standards as sermons, dissertations or journal articles.

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Tim Bednar | Admittedly, blogging brings with it certain “dangers”. At my blog, the question of orthodoxy is not answered by denominations, bishops or doctoral thesis, rather I answer it with the help of the community that surrounds me. I am not sure that the church establishment can do much to reverse this trend as society embraces self-created experts, peer vetting, continuous-learning and posts more primary source material online. At my blog, I regularly “defend” what I believe to be orthodox Christianity. In one particular case, I commented on this statement by the Dalai Lama: “...I think it is best, if one is a believer, to keep the religion with which one was brought up, which one is used to, which is familiar.”102 Confused by the statement, I set out my reasons for converting to Christianity: the foremost being that I believe it to be exclusively true. I received several comments arguing for a universalist position. For example, Mike McKee commented: Since the Dalai Lama, like other good Buddhists lives his life very much in accord with the example set by Jesus and deeply in accord with His only sermon, I would venture to say that, in practice, his HH is a better example of actually living the teaching of Christ than that of most Christians. Yes, Christianity is True. I cannot believe that God is either so narrow or petty that He cannot be worshiped in many seemingly contradictory ways. I simply don't believe that Christianity is exclusively true. 103 While I disagree with Mike, I am not willing to cut myself off from him as he believes in Christ. Traditional church denominations might find this untenable (they would probably seek to proselytize him), but I believe that we are living in a new (call it postmodern) era where we need to accept all believers in Christ not just those who ascribe to our denominational statement. I do not see Mike as someone to convert, but a person with whom I join in a common desire to be spiritually formed in Christ. I believe the blogging cyberchurch is on the frontline of addressing the issues of apologetics and orthodoxy in this new era. I believe we exist in a liminal moment where old structures have caved in and new structures are being invented, but are not yet formed. Using technology and stories, I argue that bloggers are creating new ways to maintain orthodoxy in this era. These new structures will inevitably emerge from cyberspace and impact the traditional hierarchies of the church. I believe this synthesis will create something stronger and more creative than what existed before.
67 68 69 70 71 72 Michael Cossarwal, Nowwheresville USA, Thursday, August 1, 2002. Noah Shactman, “Blogs Make Headlines,” Wired.,1284,56978,00.html Bene Diction, "I Want To Be A Blogging Star," Bene Diction Blogs On, November 16, 2003. Hubert L. Dreyfus, “Kierkegaard on the Internet: Anonymity vrs. Commitment in the Present Age,” 2002. Bible Gateway. Andrew Careaga, “Have you noticed?”, blogedyblog, August 21, 2003.

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74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86

87 88 89

90 91

92 93


95 96 97 98 99 - 106155543127505254 Tim Bednar. Baptizing Homosexuals: McGill Baptist Gets Thrown Out Of Yet Another Association, Moxy Turtle, September 29, 2003. Reference to Soren Kieregaard’s attack upon Christiandom. Glen Renolds, Instapundit, May 21, 2002. Bill Broadwaym, “Borrowed Sermons Roil Downtown Congregation,” Washington Post, August 16, 2003. Jackson to take leave from National City will skip General Assembly, Disciple World, November 10, 2003. “Woman who discovered sermon-borrowing denies tipping off Post”, Disciples World, August 20, 2003. “Community Culture”, Ackley Associates, April, 13 2003. Ibid. Clay Shirky, “Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality”, Clay Shirky's Writings About the Internet, February 8, 2003. Ibid. Chapter 13 Glossary, Communication Works 7th Edition, Teri Kwal Gamble and Michael Gamble. Jennifer Howard, “It's a Little Too Cozy in the Blogosphere”, Washington Post, November 16, 2003. Amit Asaravala, “Warning: Blogs Can Be Infectious,” Wired, March 5, 2004.,1284,62537,00.html?tw=wn_tophead_1 GartnerGroups' Hype Cycle is a termed explained by Jackie Fenn, "When to Leap on the Hype Cycle", June 30, 1999. Concept developed in 1995. David Sifry, “Technorati Growing Pains”, Sifry's Alerts, November 6, 2003, 9:25 PM. “The Blogging Iceberg: Of 4.12 Million Weblogs, Most Little Seen and Quickly Abandoned”, et al. Jeffrey Henning, “The Blogging Iceberg - Of 4.12 Million Hosted Weblogs, Most Little Seen, Quickly Abandoned,” November 26, 2003. Comment from Sara, UPDATED! Open Survey: Five Questions For Christian Bloggers,” Moxy Turtle, November 10, 2003. The original statement is quoted by Glenn Frazier, "What's New?,", July 29, 2003. The altered statement can be found at "Creeds And Confessions Of Historic Christianity," blogs4God, June 1, 2002. Dean Peters, “Changing The Statement of Faith: Comment #705”, Keith Devon's Weblog, August 16, 2002. Comment by Mean Dean (a.k.a. Dean Peters), "BloggingXXX: Question of Othodoxy (COMMENTS NEEDED)," Moxy Turtle, December 10, 2003. Comment by Torch (a.k.a., "BloggingXXX: Question of Othodoxy (COMMENTS NEEDED)," Moxy Turtle, December 11, 2003. Ravi Zacharias, "Living an Apologetic Life," RZIM, 2003. Richard N. Ostling, "Researcher tabulates world's believers," Associated Press, May 19, 2001. Donald L. Hughes, “Christian Weblogging: A Manifesto,” JesusJournal, August 10, 2002. Paulo Brown, “Christian Bloggers' Manifesto?!”, how now brownpau, August 12, 2002. - christian_bloggers_manifesto Mickey Kaus, "The Case Against Editors," kausfiles, October 28, 2003.

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100 101 102 103 Jack Shafer, "Blogosmear: Gregg Easterbrook and the perils of writing before you think," Slate, October 20, 2003. Jay Rosen, "What's Radical About the Weblog Form in Journalism?," Pressthink, October 16, 2003. Tim Bednar, “Dalai Lama Says NOT To Convert To Buddhism,” Moxy Turtle, November 21, 2003. Tim Bednar, "The Fallacy Of Being Good And Being Peaceful," Moxy Turtle, December 4, 2003.

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Tim Bednar | 7.0 The Vanguard of the Participatory Church 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 increase.104 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 church. 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

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Tim Bednar | 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.

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Tim Bednar | 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 outlet.109 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.
104 105 106 107 108 109 110 Jurgen Moltmann, “Christianity in the Third Millenium,” Theology Today, April 1994. Andrew Leonard, “The Emergent Order: Interview With Steven Berlin Johnson,” Salon, November 2001. Michael Boyink, “The ClueTrain Manifesto For Churches?”, Boyink Interactive, date. Find resource on web. Neely commented on “UPDATED! Open Survey: Five Questions For Christian Bloggers,” Moxy Turtle, November 8, 2003. Clay Shirky, “RIP The Consumer,” Clay Shirky's Writings About the Internet, May 2000. 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. 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.


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8.0 Participatory Church As a former Christian education director with ten years experience, my peers and I lamented the lack of participation in Christian education or discipleship programs in our churches. It seemed as though the majority were content to come on Sunday morning, but had little desire to pursue an on-going discipleship program. I always found this at odds with the dramatic rise in lifelong learning as evidenced by the success of Barnes and Noble and evening college courses. As a result, traditional Christian education programs are albeit eliminated or transformed into self-help teaching series that meet “felt-needs”. And research seems to indicate that the evangelical church, in particular, maintains an immature, unexamined, passive Christian faith precisely because of its ineffective educational programs.112 The seminal ClueTrain Manifesto--written by Chris Locke, Doc Searls, David Weinberger--described the new realities shaping our congregations.113 They uniquely described the transforming effect that the Internet was having on people. I base the following description of the participatory church on their work and the derivative work of Michael Boyink and Dale Lature.114 The traditional church conceives of itself as an exclusive community and determines who is a “member” and who is not. 115 It believes that it owns these definitions. This is no longer true. Christianity is an open conversation by those following Christ. Those involved in the conversation define the terms, not the church. Conversations are all around us. Christianity is one of many. Christians get information for their conversation from multiple sources that include, but are not limited to Christianity. We no longer pursue spiritual formation within the bounds of a single tradition, church, pastor or denomination. We are having hyperlinked conversations that subvert traditional hierarchies.116 Every Christian is a creator. We no longer have to wait for church authorization to think or act or speak in the name of Christ. Christians belong to multiple congregations. Participation in the conversation is spiritual formation. Congregations are conversations. They have a human voice. Congregations are getting smarter and more informed as they talk to each other. Participation in this new kind of networked congregation fundamentally changes people. Churches are not congregations. They do not participate in the conversation of their congregation. In fact, churches spent most of their time, energy and money creating parallel conversations and get frustrated when no one participates in them. In this new reality, churches sound hollow, flat and literally inhuman to their congregations. They do not speak the same language because they do not have a human voice. 42 | We Know More Than Our Pastors

Tim Bednar | Churches that think they do are kidding themselves and missing an opportunity. Congregations are more important than churches.117 Most churches and pastors assume they build congregations. This is not true. Rather they belong to congregations. In this new era, congregations (like conversations) are all around us—we are in search of churches (and pastors). Congregations credential pastors they trust and invite into their conversation. Pastors emerge by building a reputation from within the congregation based on consistency and transparency. Pastors add value to congregations as they add connectedness. Successful pastors and churches of the future will enter into co-creative covenants that help congregations deal with complexity. They see themselves as benevolent keepers of Christian tradition who enable Christians, embrace emergence and foster learning. They do not see themselves as gatekeepers or arbiters of membership in the church. Pastors are not primarily preachers. Sermons are no longer teachings, but learning experiences. Goal of preaching is to learn not teach. Congregations are looking for pastors who serve them and offer the Sacraments. We are not looking for a vision. Church planters are people who are called to find and eventually pastor emerging congregations. The participatory church intimately connects with the real storytellers of Christianity, namely the congregation. Pastors and churches no longer tell the gospel story. All truth statements are co-created by congregations through the process of emergent conversations. These new participatory churches work on a gift economy. This means that Kingdom work is the reward not financial remuneration or power. Relational authenticity and longevity--not attendance--equals success in the participatory church. A church’s primary value to the congregation lies in its ability to connect Christians in conversation, service and sacrament. Connectedness equals healthy spiritual formation. Participatory churches provide more meaningful and memorable experiences because they participate with congregations. Even if Christians do not contribute to the conversation, they still expect a better experience because of the participation of others. The participatory church is diverse in viewpoints and traditions. The new ministry of the pastor is to co-create systems that help congregations manage complexity.

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Tim Bednar | The greatest skill a participatory pastor will possess is the ability to listen. Congregations are their own watchdogs because they are the real stakeholders. Churches and pastors no longer need to screen their congregations for orthodoxy, arbitrate membership or filter their conversation. Orthodoxy will emerge. Call it emergent orthodoxy. Orthodoxy is not determined by a single source, but is distributed throughout the congregation. Neil Cole, a leader in the organic church movement observes, “The best solution to heresy in the church is not to have better-trained leaders in ‘the pulpits’, but better-trained people in ‘the pews’.” What I am trying to describe is a new kind of church created by believers transformed by their use of the Internet. Their so-called virtual life is changing them and in turn, they will change the church.
112 113 114 “Spiritual Progress Hard to Find in 2003,” Barna Research Group, December 22, 2003. ClueTrain Manefesto. Michael Boyink, “The ClueTrain Manifesto for Churches?,” Boyink Interactive, February 3, 2004. Dale Lature, “Cluetrain Category Archives,” Theoblogical, I use the term “church” to mean a local legal entity. Steve Collins called this the network or portfolio church. “Network Church and Portfolio Church,” Small Ritual, August 2002. I confess I got this from listening to Drive105. The on-air tagline states “Your music is more important than any radio station.”

115 116 117

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9.0 Epilogue The initial meme that made me think about how bloggers might transform the church began with my reading of Dan Gillmor’s “journalistic pivot points”.118 Journalism is a stodgy institution that tenaciously protects its constitutional role in democracy. I found that these issues closely mimic those in the church. In his Columbia Journalism Review article, “Here Comes We Media: Tech-Savvy Readers Want In on the Conversation”, Gillmor writes, [...] in an emerging era of multidirectional, digital communications, the audience can be an integral part of the process. Call it “We Media.” Journalism is evolving away from its lecture mode — here’s the news, and you buy it or you don’t — to include a conversation. [...] our readers collectively know more than we do, and they don’t have to settle for half-baked coverage when they can come into the kitchen themselves. This is not a threat. It is an opportunity. And the evolution of We Media will oblige us all to adapt.119 Like professional journalism, the church also needs to deal with these issues and see bloggers as the vanguard of these changes. As Gillmor suggests, this is not an option but a reality. However, I want to go further. We need to view participants as co-creators. This is not what passes for participation in churches today. Rick Warren, pastor of SaddleBack and author of the Purpose Driven Church, often sees participation at church like this: I was talking with some people after a weekend service once, and I mentioned that we really needed someone to create a multimedia videotape for an upcoming event. The person I was talking to said, Why don't you get her? And he pointed to a woman standing a few feet away. I walked over, found out the woman's name, and asked what she did. Her reply was, I'm the chief video production director for Walt Disney.120 He seemingly advocates participation in this example. He is using the gifts God gave to the body. Or is he? Warren does not approach the chief video production director for Walt Disney as a co-creator, but as someone who will help him create the church. In the past, this worked and satisfied the laity. But a new generation of creators do not want to work on “the pastor’s vision”.121 They expect pastors to instead help them realize their vision. I am advocating something more radical that the popular spiritual gifts-based, volunteer recruiting practices refined by WillowCreek and SaddleBack where leaders retain absolute control.122 For example, Edward Cone explains how Dean for America encouraged participatory co-creation in its 2004 presidential campaign:

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Tim Bednar | With the Internet, an effective campaign creates a community that will on its own begin to market your product for you. Properly done, you won't be able – or want — to control it. "We want to let [grassroots volunteers] have control, let them help the campaign how they want to help the campaign," says Dean's campaign manager, Joe Trippi. The trick is to turn the buyers of a product, concept or candidate into evangelists, willing to take action on their own to spur demand. And the recruitment doesn't have to cost much.123 What the Deaniacs were to Democratic Party in 2004, bloggers will be to the church. Congregations want access to the raw and uncensored bits that make up the church in order to use it in their conversation. They do not want to control of the church or eliminate pastors; they want to be co-creators. In this new era of participation, congregations still recognize the unique spiritual gifts and calling of clergy. They just no longer accept that they are the sole creative source or that they should function as gatekeepers.
118 119 120 121 122 123 Dan Gilmore, “Journalistic Pivot Points.” Dan Gillmor, “Here Comes We Media: Tech-Savvy Readers Want In on the Conversation”, Columbia Journalism Review, May/June 2003. Rick Warren, ”The Four Pillars Of A Strong Lay Ministry,”, May 14, 2003. For example, The Power of Vision Conference. “Network Curriculum Kit,” WillowCreek Resources. Edward Cone, "Marketing The President.”

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10.0 Index of Names Alan Creech, 7, 9, 11, 12, 14, 18 Alan Sondheim, 8 Alvin O'Neal Jackson, 30 Andrew Careaga, 7, 10, 29, 36 Andrew Jones, 11, 17, 18, 20, 25 Ashely Benigno, 17 Bene Diction, 27, 34, 36 Bill Bean, 17, 19 Bill Quick, 7, 8 Chad Canipe, 16, 21 Charlie Wear, 17 Chris Marshall, 16 Clay Shirky, 31, 33, 37 Dalai Lama, 36 Dale Lature, 7 Dallas Willard, 14, 18 Dan Gillmor, 4, 6 Darren Rowse, 9, 17, 19, 22, 23 David Moutz, 16 David Sifry, 32, 37 Dean Peters, 7, 33, 34, 37 Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 17 Doc Searls, 6 Donald Hughes, 34 Douglas Adams, 5 Dr. Huber Dreyfus, 28 Dr. Seuss, 5 Edward Cone, 17, 19, 45, 46 Elijah Fan, 20, 25 Elizabet Osder, 27 Eric Steven Raymond, 20, 25 George Ertel, 23 Glen Renyolds, 30 Glenn Johnson, 16 Greg Easterbrook, 35 Harvey Weinstein, 35

Henri J.M. Nouwen, 14 Jeffrey Henning, 32 Jennifer Howard, 31, 37 Jordon Cooper, 6, 7, 9, 10, 15, 17, 18, 20 Kathy McGregor, 30 Kevin Rains, 16 Kurt Vonnegut, 16 Leila Fast, 12, 18 Linus Torvalds, 20 Mark Byron, 28 Martin Luther, 3, 22 Martin Roth, 6, 8, 17, 19, 28, 33 Melvyl Dewey, 33 Michael Cossarwal, 27, 36 Michael Eisner, 35 Micky Kauas, 35 Mike McKee, 14, 23, 25, 36 Neely, 39 Noah Shactman, 27 Paulo Brown, 34, 37 Rachel Cunliff, 7, 15 Ravi Zarcharias, 34 Ray Bradbury, 12 Rick Stillwell, 23, 26 Rick Warren, 18, 45, 46 Rudy Carrasco, 9, 18 Sara, 32 Soren Kierkegaard, 24, 28 Spensor Burke, 17 Steve Ayer, 29 Steve Berlin Johnson, 16, 19 Steve Collins, 9, 10, 18, 24, 26 Teilhard de Chardin, 7, 8 Vannevar Bush, 7, 21, 25 William Gibson, 5

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