The blogger interviews: Michael Newnham
This is part of a series of posts in which I interview Christians who use blogging as a platform for ministry.
Michael Newnham is a pastor from Oregon who also runs the Phoenix Preacher website. In its fifth and current incarnation, Michael says the emphasis of Phoenix Preacher (also referred to as PP) “will be on teaching, community, and building bridges to create positive change” and “to facilitate things that look like Jesus.“
Michael’s responses are presented as I received them, with some minor edits.
Explain briefly, please, who you are and what you do.
I’m Trey’s dad…and I’m a pastor and a pilgrim and a blogger.
What got you into the ministry?
God dragged me into it and keeps me there with threats. 🙂
I always had an over active social conscience…always was driven to to overturn tables and rescue children and stray pets.
There came a point in life when I could no longer ignore my calling and I started down the conventional paths to being a pastor.
Those blew up and I ended up leading a home church which I’ve done for about 11 years and I thank God for that.
The blog has been around in it’s various incarnations for about eight years now and we’ll see if it lives to nine.
What got you into blogging?
I was angry and hurt…and had seen a lot of other people get hurt and it was the only viable option I could see to yell for help and act for change.
I saw the same dynamics that had took me out were being replicated over and over again in many places and I just had to say something.
What does blogging do for you?
On the best days it allows me to write and touch people, then grow from their feedback and responses.
It allows me to think outside my box and interact intellectually with folks I might never encounter offline.
It allows me to minister to and be ministered to by people from many different traditions and demographics and interact in a semblance of community.
On the other days it raises my blood pressure and drops my spirits to unhealthy levels…but it always makes me grow in some way.
Why blogging, as opposed to one of the older methods of getting your views out to a mass audience – radio, TV, magazines, books?
Cost is a big factor…personal integrity is another.
I write what I want when I want…not on anyone’s schedule or a corporate agenda.
How has blogging been beneficial to you and your calling/ministry?
It opened up the beauty of the whole body of Christ to me…I learned that God lives in the hearts of myriad traditions and expressions.
It has also been God’s instrument to teach me patience and repentance in ways that I never would have learned otherwise.
Best of all I’ve met an incredible amount of wonderful people and some even call me friend.
What have been some of the drawbacks?
The nature of the subject matter we covered for most of the years was emotionally intense and very time consuming.
I didn’t have good emotional filters so everything impacted me hard, good and bad.
I ended up a complete burn out a number of times.
The biggest drawback is and remains that you can’t look into some ones eyes, hear vocal inflections, or read body language and misunderstandings and broken relationships result.
Some of those breaks have been very painful to me.
The other major drawback is that the blog eats a tremendous amount of content…and nobody really has that much to say that will interest someone else, including me.
What are your impressions of how the church at large has engaged the internet over the past decade?
It’s a mixed bag…it’s hard to scoff at the ability to receive a free seminary education from a number of traditions and have excellent teaching available instantly in so many forms.
What it appears that we’re evolving into is the same sectarianism that is evident offline where we defend our little corner of the net and tell you why to scorn the others.
If I have a “vision” going forward it’s to challenge that sectarianism that divides us unnecessarily.
My biggest concern as a Christ follower and a “Christian” blogger is that all too often we abandon Christian principles in what we write and how we interact with each other.
I have been more guilty of this than most…and I have some deep regrets about how I’ve conducted my self online.
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?
The internet levels all societal playing fields and empowers the individual regardless of class or social distinction.
I think Jesus said that was a good thing.
Make no mistake…this is the atomic bomb of our generation and we still have not harnessed it’s full power for good or evil.
Is the internet a good venue for community and fellowship or not?
It can be…or it can simply end up as an opportunity for endless inbreeding of attitudes and ideas.
It depends on the purpose of the site and how open each is to different ideas.
At it’s best the PP has been a real community of committed Christians praying for each other and acting as a change agent in each others lives and in the church itself.
That was the result of the community, not me…very much like a stick and brick church, the cyber community cannot be focused on one person, it has to be a mix of gifts and callings following Jesus as He leads.
It is, however, extremely hard to hold together.
How do you see the church continuing to develop on the web over the next 10-15 years?
I have no clue…technology is moving so quickly that it’s impossible to predict.
There is a problem with that…each time we go though another development cycle, people get left behind that only understand the prior technology.
The challenge will not just be one of content production but of including everyone on the tech spectrum as we go.
Will blogging continue to be a legitimate forum or will it give way to Twitter- and Facebook status-type updates?
I think blogging will remain viable for people who have longer than a 140 character attention span and as a vehicle to promote community.