…and I don’t know what I want to blog about 😯
It’s not quite that bad…I’m not lacking for ideas. I just don’t know what I want to say about them right now.
One of the things about running a blog is coming up with topics to write about and then actually following through with writing those posts.
Sometimes, the hard part is coming up with a topic.
Sometimes, the easy part is coming up with a topic…the hard part is figuring out what you want to say and how to make it interesting to your audience.
Let’s pick a topic: blogging.
As with any other topic, the angles you can take with blogging is limited only by yourself, and your ability to come up with those angles and have interesting things to say about them.
A couple of angles continue to interest me.
One is Penelope Trunk’s assertion:
Like, I’m thinking that the future of all writing is short, twitter-like stuff, based on traits we see in Generation Z. This group only uses phones, and very few use phones for email. For Generation Z, email is for diatribes and texting is for communication. There are few laptops in our future. Laptops will be for dorks, and keyboards will be too small for big typing sessions, so only dorks will write long form.
That was the inspiration for one of the questions in my blogger interview series.
Another is Mark Driscoll’s long-standing disdain for bloggers and critics, dismissing them as “bloginistas” “blogging from their mother’s basement”.
It has and continues to bug me (mind you, I’m not losing sleep over this), but what’s interesting to me is 1) how his church is using blogging as a platform and 2) how Driscoll’s attitude influences members not only of his church, but of other churches in the Acts29 Network.
In my own church, I notice heavy Facebook and Twitter usage. I also notice a ton of dormant blogs, with the relatively few members still actively blogging primarily being seminary students writing about theology.
Apparently, pastors and seminary students – and those of you reading this and other blogs – are not members of Penelope Trunk’s Generation Z 🙂
So, it’s not a matter of lacking ideas, it’s trying to overcome mild writer’s block and figure out what to say and how to say it.
Of course, I could take the easy way out and blog about this
Chapter 5 of Michael Spencer’s book Mere Churchianity asks, and defines, What Does Jesus-Shaped Spirituality Mean?
Spirituality, as a term, is something that Michael Spencer sees the mainline church embracing and the traditional, conservative, evangelical church as rejecting.
At the risk of his phrase Jesus-shaped spirituality “sliding into the Christian-terminology sinkhole and never coming out”, Spencer presses on with his use of the phrase spirituality. He does so particularly in the case of those who have given up “talking about God and religion because it was such a frustrating dead end”. And while taking care to not use spirituality in the manner used by non-Christians.
Spencer moves on to talk about things that shape people: their pets, what they eat, what they invest their time in.
“Invest yourself in anything…and it will alter what kind of person you are…if humans are spiritual by nature, and we were created to relate to God, then our lives will bear the imprint of that interaction…it’s essential that we talk about and understand spirituality.”
The starting point for such a discussion, Spencer says, is recognizing that we are human beings created in the image of God. “..we all have the inclination to recognize God, but most of us prefer to create a God-substitute”, even those who deny God or any other gods.
Through our varied life experiences, God shows us aspects of Himself and His nature. “Spirituality grows out of life.”
Religion, in contrast, “claims to have plenty of spirituality available for anyone who comes in and plays by the rules.” Spencer asks if the church’s offer of spirituality is a “safe bet, a big con, or an offer that comes with a lot of small print that warrants a careful reading?”
Here, I will skip over Spencer’s commentary on influence of sports on the church because I believe it worthy of a separate thread, that I plan to post and discuss next week.
Moving on, he makes the claim that “North American Christianity may have the distinction of having promised more of God and delivered less of God than any single act on the stage of church history.” Despite all the resources available to Christians, many still don’t “experience God”, being told that “what the church and its activities deliver is the spirituality of Jesus.” Jesus is behind the church sign and all of the activities going on in the church from Sunday morning through the week in the various programs it presents.
People merely have to come to church, and get involved. In fact, one church implied a “continuing relationship with Jesus comes through being present and involved in that church.”
Another provocative Spencer quote:
“I’m going to suggest that many, perhaps most, of those who are leaving the church or are about to leave are doing so because walking away seems to be the only path to authentic spirituality.”
Before one links those people to seeking after whatever “new age” teachers are selling, Spencer suggests asking what the chances were of those people genuinely finding God in what was offered in the churches “that advertise Jesus is Here”. Many of those Spencer knew who left the evangelical church found homes in other Christian communities, often those conservatives viewed as sell-outs or liberals.
Spencer says Jesus-shaped spirituality may not be “dispensed…as advertised” within evangelical churches. “The truth is that many of the leavers, and those about to leave, are headed in the direction of a Jesus-shaped spirituality when they walk out the church’s door.”
Spencer lists the various types of spiritualities he saw within evangelicalism: church growth, the culture war, family and worship. He asks if “the transforming, revolutionary spirituality of Jesus” is found in those spiritualities. He then goes back to the idea behind the quote in my last paragraph and asks what other option is there for those who seek spirituality and not religion.
That other option, he says, is “religious junk food” in the form of the next building program, the next topical study, latest attendance figures.
A couple of more quotes:
“The problem does not lie with those who refuse to sit down, be quiet, open their wallets and do what they are told.”
“I’m looking for a spiritual experience that looks like, feels like…acts like Jesus of Nazareth.”
Ever have a strong impression you need to do something or not do something?
The kind of deal where you KNOW you need, say, to stick around the house that day…or NOT go somewhere…or TAKE a job in a certain town, GO into the ministry, WAIT to get married, AVOID that particular person…and you either think it’s God’s will for that situation or you review what God’s will would be.
This leads up to figuring out what God’s will might be or is (or is NOT) in a given situation. Do you go with the impression or do you brush it off?
Some Christians believe that impressions are important, that they need to be perhaps filtered through Scripture but essentially heeded: God spoke through dreams in the Bible, why not impressions…especially when there the Bible doesn’t speak specifically to things like “should I buy three shirts from Macy’s or four shirts from Kohl’s?”
What about you?
Or the camp that believes everything God wants us to do is listed in Scripture, and He gives us great freedom to choose in areas that the Bible doesn’t specifically or indirectly speak to? (scroll to page 3)
I….I’m both/and on this issue.
God definitely lays out His will in His Word. And some impressions are like feelings…it’s your fear talking, the conspiracy in your mind talking, that two-day-old pizza you grabbed out of the fridge talking 🙂
But remember, the Spirit hasn’t stopped working in our day…and I believe He still speaks to us not just in general but in the day-to-day. The trick is in determining His voice from the other voices in our heads, and sometimes that is hard to figure out.
What do you say?
Marshall Jones, Jr. is a young man from Louisville, Kentucky who’s already done some significant things in his young life. He is a writer, a teacher and a blogger who earned two bachelors’ degrees before he turned 20. Marshall blogs at bondChristian; The Lens (an unofficial blog about Southeast Christian Church in Louisville); and his personal blog, Marshallogue. The About page at bondChristian summarizes very well who Marshall is and what he is, well, about 🙂 You can connect online with Marshall in several ways, all of which are linked to here.
Marshall’s answers are as I received them, with some minor editing for grammar, punctuation and style.
Explain briefly, please, who you are and what you do.
I try to encourage people to encourage people.
In practical terms, I serve at my local church through music, speaking, and the children’s ministry. I run a couple blogs including bondChristian.com. And I spend hours each day connecting with people via Twitter, Facebook, and Google Chat.
What got you into the ministry?
I like to say that my father is a pastor, but I’m a Christian anyway.
Growing up in it, I didn’t know much difference between ministry and everyday life. When I got a little older, I noticed it, but by then I was wondering why Christians separated the two.
I think everyone’s made for the ministry, even if that means pursuing a career in a Fortune 500 company instead of moving to Africa or something. It’s just a matter of breaking down the distinctions between “ministry” life and normal, everyday life (whatever that is). I think that’s the most natural ministry anyway.
So the most direct answer, for me anyway, is that I got into the ministry because I gave my life to Jesus. It’s just a matter of making myself available for what God wants. Once that happens, the opportunities are everywhere.
What does blogging do for you?
One, it helps me hash out ideas I have that otherwise would only end up in my journal somewhere. The public aspect has downsides. I don’t share everything I would write in a journal. But having an audience forces me to structure as I write so I get decent feedback.
Two, it gives me a home base where (almost) anyone can find me. A static website doesn’t offer much reason to come back, but a blog hopefully does. Through that home base, I’m able to stay in contact with people who’d normally slip out of my life or who I might have never met in the first place.
That snowballs when we take it back offline. I see people and speak, and they already feel a connection to me and what I have to share because they’ve read my thoughts already.
Why blogging, as opposed to one of the older methods of getting your views out to a mass audience, such as radio, TV, magazines and/or books?
The most obvious reason, in my case at least, is that I couldn’t get into the other mediums as easily, especially without losing control over what I want to say. That’s why so many of us choose blogging, right?
I mean, if someone’s up for offering me a radio or TV show or a book deal, I’m not opposed to that. 🙂
Meanwhile, though, as a blogger I like the ability to connect with people daily. Other mediums have too many gatekeepers, including costs, to provide that kind of constant interaction.
Also, I think the other mediums are excellent for building authority and even grabbing some eyeballs for now, but those mediums lack the potential to scale over the coming decade.
How has blogging been beneficial to you and your calling/ministry?
First and foremost, as I said already, the connections. I think friendships are the core unit of ministry, and blogging plus other social media lets me make hundreds of them instead of one or two.
Secondly, I can test ideas. If I think I have an amazing idea, I can write up a quick post about it, publish it, and then gauge the reaction. If I get a good response, I can continue to push it or look at it from other angles. Otherwise, I can drop it.
In a way, I’ve tested hundreds of ideas like this through my posts. It would take years of public speaking or perhaps longer if I only spoke one-on-one with people to get the same feedback.
I get ridiculously excited when I hear back from readers who try out something I wrote about and then tell me their amazing results. Those emails are a wonderful confirmation that it’s all worth it.
What have been some of the drawbacks?
The major drawback for me is the time commitment. Friendships take time. Those friendships are accelerated with social media, but it’s easy to let those connections throw the rest of my life off balance because I love it so much.
The other drawback is that my blogs are free. While that’s also one of their strengths, it’s a weakness because people take the content less seriously than if they paid for it or had to show up in person. It’s a trade-off between reach and depth.
What are your impressions of how the church at large has engaged the internet over the past decade?
I think it reflects our offline culture fairly accurately, though the early adapters certainly still have a huge share of the influence.
Right now, as with our offline culture, we like to squabble among ourselves…and I’m as guilty as anyone here. I’d like to see more of us connecting to those outside the church. But again, that’s an offline issue too…and overall, we probably are doing a better job of that online than off.
That said, I’d love to see us leveraging the Internet more, but yeah, that’s why I’m doing what I’m doing.
What do you make of the Internet’s ability to give any number of voices a venue for expression, and a mass audience to hear those voices…no matter how solid or crazy they might be?
It’s pretty crazy now. We’re still sorting out who all the big players are. Someone can start a blog tomorrow and build a huge following in a couple months, especially if they start with some offline traction. Many of the fastest growing blogs (Christian or otherwise) started in 2008 or something.
Like anything, though, we’ll settle down in a few years once the big players are established. Then the online world will more closely resemble the offline world instead of how it is now where it’s skewed toward the early adopters.
Until then, I love that everyone has a voice. That’s not what concerns me. I’m more concerned about all the ears. “He who has an ear to hear, let him hear,” right? Now more than ever, each of us need the gift of discernment. But I’m concerned that now more than ever that gift is downplayed as being close-minded or irrelevant.
Is the Internet a good venue for community and fellowship or not?
The Internet is a lot like money: by itself, it’s not good or bad — it just accentuates who you are already.
So in general, yes, the Internet can be a great place for fellowship. I think it can also be a great source of information, even if it’s more of a broadcast and receive model instead of an interactive model.
The downside of online, though, is that we have little incentive to unify with those we’re not comfortable with. We can be pickier.
A huge problem in church culture, at least in the U.S., is that we have a church on every other street corner. If we don’t like a particular style of worship or we don’t like a particular group of people, we move on.
Now multiply that by thousands, perhaps millions, and take away the barriers to entry, like actually having to brave a visit to a new congregation. That’s what the Internet does.
It’s not the Internet’s fault, but I think each of us need to be aware of that tendency to individualize instead of unify online. We need to be aware of those major accountability issues.
I think many of us can see this happening in a general sense, we see others making these mistakes, but when it come to our own personal decisions, we forget.
How do you see the church continuing to develop on the web over the next 10-15 years?
The biggest change I see coming over the next couple years – and it’s already started – is in our expectations. A couple years ago, members of small churches might get a call from their pastor once a month. And that was pretty good.
With the social aspect of the Internet taking off, we’re starting to expect giants like Starbucks to read our tweets about them and maybe even respond. That expectation will carry over into the church. We’ll start expecting our pastors and leaders to connect with us on an almost daily basis.
That’s both bad and good: bad because it means more for us to keep up with, but good because it means people will expect connection, which is what ministry is all about. It’s permission marketing at its finest.
But that’s just over the next couple years. Ten or 15 years? I have no idea.
Will blogging continue to be a legitimate forum or will it give way to Twitter- and Facebook status-type updates?
I don’t see Twitter or Facebook replacing blogs. They’ll just integrate more, the way we’ve seen comments and link sharing move to Twitter and Facebook.
To me, blogs are home base and micro-blogging platforms and sites like YouTube or USTREAM or even StumbleUpon are outposts for reaching people where they are. I think we’ll always have those two parts, home bases and outposts. But the distinctions will continue to blur.
That said, I’m very bullish on Facebook pages, and I’m looking forward to seeing how they build out.
Which websites do you use frequently?
Facebook and Twitter for getting in touch and staying in touch with people. Google for almost everything else (Gmail, Docs, Reader, Chat, Search, etc.).
My computer and operating system don’t even matter anymore as long as I have Google Chrome and Internet access.
I probably use 10 or 20 other sites on a regular basis during the week for video, research, or analytics, but I spend at least 90 percent of my time in those big three.
I (hopefully) am at church today…I’ll post the highlights later on. You are free to let us know how your church service went, too. Prayer requests and praise reports may be posted at Dustshaker’s or Phoenix Preacher.
Coming up on the blog: tomorrow, a blogger interview with Marshall Jones Jr., a young man from here in Louisville who’s using the internet to serve and encourage people locally and around the world. Also, chapter 5 of Michael Spencer’s book Mere Churchianity, along with the Linkathon and…possibly…taking a look at the proverbial bloginstas that Driscoll is so fond of 🙂
For those preparing for marriage, they could do far worse than take the advice given by pastor Craig Groeschel in his book Going All the Way.
Groeschel, pastor of LifeChurch in Edmond, Oklahoma, wrote for single adults preparing for marriage, and also has things to say to those who are dating and those who are already married.
One plus in my mind about Going All the Way is that it is written with adults in mind; you’re not reading a book written for teenagers and having to filter things to see what is applicable for you.
Groeschel gives some very good advice in this book.
The most important advice perhaps is given in chapter 1, and it’s something I’ve heard before – and dismissed, because I too felt like I had to have the ‘perfect’ woman complete me:
Are you ready for a radical thought? Don’t miss it. You can’t know the intimate marriage you desire…until you know Jesus first.
You have to receive His love before you can give it. His love must overtake you, envelop you, and fill you. Only then can you share it with another. (p. 18)
Groeschel goes on to say that Jesus wants to be first in every aspect of your life, and for you to give 100 percent of yourself to Him. Only then, can you have a great relationship with someone else, with you two placing Jesus first and each other second (by the way, Groeschel believes there could be any number of potential spouses out there for you, and that you have to do your part to find that person instead of asking God to do all the work).
Going All the Way is chock-full of good advice that isn’t just about what to do and what not to do, but how to go about doing (or not doing) it. Groeschel covers everything from the potentially married couple having a friendship to avoiding sexual temptation to breaking up (I personally think a re-read of Chapter 8, on how to start over again after you’ve messed up, is wise for anyone who picks up this book). Chapter 14 (the next to last chapter) has seven ‘habits’ people can use to work on themselves, to better prepare themselves for that future spouse.
Overall, this is a good of a book to start out with as any if you are considering marriage, although I would consider other authors as well. I’d carefully consider Groeschel’s advice, especially given that he has a track record as a husband, a pastor who hasn’t fallen sexually, if I was considering or in the process of getting married.
Disclosure of Material Connection: A copy of this book was provided to me by the author and publisher, but my opinions are my own and not those of the author nor the publisher. I was not required to give a positive opinion as a condition of reviewing this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”