Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Serious Blogging? Part Two – Opportunities

I recently posted on the limitations of blogging. However, I do think the medium has merit as well. In fact, I have a higher opinion of blogs now than when I first began blogging. This may sound vain, but part of the reason that I think more highly of blogging now is that I have a few readers. I just did higgledy-piggledy posts for my older two kids and three guys in my church who read my blog, but now I try to be a little more thoughtful … most of the time (sorry kids and three guys, you’re important too!).

Blogging is still a new thing. It is immensely popular. Like many other fads, it will die down over time, but good blogs will survive. My favorite blogs are not self-consciously blogs, they are more like columns. The panelists at Band of Bloggers (Al Mohler, Tim Challies, Russell Moore and Justin Taylor) all have a different style and none of them fit the stereotype of blogs. For these gentlemen, blogs are more of an information based service to the Christian community than personal journaling online.

Knowing the benefit I have received from other blogs, I know that blogging can be an encouragement to like-minded believers. Some of the quotes of great writers, introductions to hymns (and reminders of old ones), reflections on biblical passages and even news of God’s goodness in the little things have helped me to be more thoughtful and thankful. I mentioned the “ghetto factor” in my blogging limitations post, but it is good to know that there are a few more people out there in my ghetto, even as I try to move beyond it.

Blogging is helping me to learn to write, though I still think of this Winnie the Pooh quote from time to time. When I know that a few other people are going to read my reflections, it makes me work harder at being comprehensible.

I do think that the medium of blogging could bear some fruit in evangelism. It’s not likely, but God can use any medium He chooses. Blogging is, after all, the written word in a public format. Gospel-centered posts and links to Christ-exalting resources may go farther than we expect. This is a reason why Christian bloggers have to be careful. Our words must be full of grace and seasoned with salt – perhaps particularly in the comments sections. We shouldn’t post anything that we wouldn’t say face-to-face.

One of the greatest benefits of blogging is the resource recommendations. I’ve found helpful sermons, lectures, books, book reviews, news, websites and, yes, blogs by reading other people’s blogs. I hope my links and recommendations can provide some good tips for my readers over time. Information overload may be a problem, but we can share an embarrassment of riches with each other. That’s a good thing – if we can also be good stewards of our time.  

Blogging may help people in particular church associations learn about issues facing their groups. There is a lot of that going on among our south-of-the-border brethren in the Southern Baptist Convention. Blogging can be a useful forum for intra-denominational discussion and debate. Blogs may not be able to reform the “world out there,” but we may be able to help people think through the doctrine and practice of people on the same team.

The idea of building community in the blogosphere was shot down pretty quickly by the Band of Bloggers panel members. I mostly agree with that. However, if we are sensitive to the limitations of the blogging medium (no body language or voice inflection, for example) and understand the need to prioritize our local church family ahead of our blogging friends, then I believe that there are possibilities for meeting people through blogging. There are, one would hope, real people at the other end of the keyboard. I met a few of them at T4G and Band of Bloggers. They seemed pretty real. In fact, now that I’m home, I can see how much the personalities of these fellows shine through on their blogs.

I wouldn’t hesitate to contact a few of the bloggers that I’ve “met” online if we were in their area. I hope to meet a couple of Southern Alberta guys in early July, if possible. I know our family would be happy to meet any blogger friends that happened to travel through Edson. Jasper is very nice, and we’re on the way to Jasper and points west, two hours from Edmonton. You know, the place the Oilers call home.