THE HOLY SPIRIT, THE INTERNETAND BLOGGERS LIKE YOU AND ME

This post is in response to Brian's comment on the "Thanks, No Thanks" post below.

Christians who blog (or who are active on the social network sites), especially those who are part of an online community of one sort or another, are pioneers. We are the first. But, if we are in it for God and not just ourselves, it is not our job to decide how to do Christianity on the Internet. It is our job to try and work out how the Holy Spirit want's the Internet to be utilised by Christians in order to help bring in the Kingdom of God. This means that what we do is experimental. We should not pre-judge the outcome of our experiments and we should be prepared to expect the unexpected, even a negative result.

Because we are the first explorers of this virtual continent we are in a unique, but also frightening position. I have not yet come across a single Christian blogger who is 100% convinced that they are doing the right thing and, if it is an experiment, the chances are none of us are doing the right thing all of the while.

For me, this means there is a constant conversation (at times a battle) going on within myself. One moment I am full of enthusiasm for online ministry and community and the next I just want to go back to how I experienced church before I became a blogger. Because, as pioneers, we are explorers and experimenters, we don't have any tradition to cling hold to and to automatically validate our online ways of being Christian.

For example, Brian's comment concerning the support he has received from the OCICBW... community is about a reality. If a member of a geographically located congregation made such a comment to me I would have no problem with awarding myself a gold star. Intellectually, I accept Brian's comment as having an equal reality to a similar comment made outside a church door after the service on Sunday morning. But, because of the tentativeness of online Christianity I can't seem to be able to embrace it emotionally in the same way as I would a similar comment from a local parishioner. This is silly. In a local situation I would use such a comment to validate my ministry and give me strength to carry on. Within a virtual context I am far less able to derive encouragement from such comments because of my attachment to the systems and practices of my pre-blooging existence and illogical feelings of guilt.

The next generation of Christian bloggers will come into an existing tradition and should not have the same apprehensions that many of us "first peoples" are experiencing. They will not have them if we persevere and gain confidence in the one who is guiding us. As in local Christian congregations we need the support of each other to be able to do this. In fact, as pioneers without a map of what lies ahead of us, we need to support each other even more than is necessary in local congregations. Thank God that we seem to be able to sustain this level of support for each other in our particular virtual neighbourhood. Thank you, Brian and thank you all. Your words have given me new resolve - but I will, no doubt, need you all to say exactly the same things all over again next week.

And that is okay and you can all expect the same repetitive support from me.

Comments

THE HOLY SPIRIT, THE INTERNETAND BLOGGERS LIKE YOU AND ME — 29 Comments

  1. MP, I too am unemployed and have been for the past year, although I have been fortunate enough to work more Sundays than not as a supply priest. One thing I have learned through doing supply (often just a one-shot deal) and writing a blog is that I am a priest to people in those situations. A sermon I preach touches someone I don’t even know. A post I write opens up something for someone halfway across the world. I just put these things out there, like you, and it’s like dropping a pebble in a pond, and I don’t know upon what shores the ripples will touch. As you say, this is pioneer work, we have no models, we just do what we are called to do and see what happens. You are doing ministry and as much as you would like and no doubt ought to be in a parish, what you are doing has real value.

  2. My feelings aren’t logical, Penelope. They are not even based on reality.

    Perhaps I only believe something I do has merit if I get paid for it in a conventional way. That’s a scary thought.

  3. I agree with your post, Mad One. It is great to see your blogging ministry receive some long overdue praise.

    Of course I could be wrong, but it looks to me like there are going to be many priests who are ‘excess to requirements’ and, under that climate, the chances of you landing a conventional job, in a conventional parish, competing against conventional priests, must be slim, especially considering you are, despite all your orthodoxy, not a conventional priest. I have seen a similar decline in my own profession and, at 50, I am facing the prospect of having to retrain at something. There are just so many more people we have to compete with these days to be people of influence.

    Now the positive that comes out of this negative is that you are in a better position than most priests to make the transition to the internet, an experiment which the current climate dictates. You are already making that transition. And we watch with interest. If you can’t make a go of it, using your gift for writing, your talent for analysis and your broad knowledge and interests then I don’t see who will.

    You must look to being a full-time blogging priest and to that end your readership must support you financially. It can’t work any other way and it won’t work unless the people who follow your blog see themselves as part of the experiment and look to see if God is calling them to support you in this. In that way they would be not just supporting you but also supporting people like Brian who themselves aren’t in a position, at this stage, to support your blogging financially but who gain spiritual sustenance from it.

    OCICBW

  4. Good post, MP. I don’t understand why anyone would take exception to you asking for finanicial support when you actually use your blog to promote other people & good causes.The amateur ethos is often espoused by the richest sections of society who don’t have to face the harshest elements of life.(You’re not shoving the money “up your nose” or visting Spearmint Rhino with it, so what is the problem?)
    I don’t complain about paying for a newspaper, magazine or book – why a blog?
    It is odd how Christians are very touchy about money when a certain Jewish chap often used it as a symbol in his parables.

  5. Brian’s comment was so beautifully phrased. He talked of how your writing ministers to him, MadPriest, and that is an absolute reality that no one can deny. I’ve received the occasional comment or email in such a vein, and the words encourage me that my time spent blogging is not entirely wasted.

    When you first began your blog, I’m sure you had no intention to put an end to your work as a priest in the Church of England, but, sadly, that seems to be how it has turned out. I’m fortunate in that I risk little by blogging, except the response of those close to me who are confused about why I “spend so much time on the computer”.

    The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.

    We follow the wind.

  6. Well, thank you to everyone who has commented, and to you, MP. This post gives me the courage to keep on blogging, even if it’s intermittent, even if it’s interesting only to me. I never thought of it as a calling. That changes everything.

    wv=implat. Spearmint Rhino, whatever that is, but flat.

  7. The great thing about being the first, Lois, and I’m in no way referring to your blogs here, is that even when we fail it is important.

  8. Lois, keep writing. I do so that both of my readers have something to read. 😉

    Mad One, yes indeed we are part of a new thing. The Spirit will take it where it will. The next generation of spiritually oriented lay blogers and clergy will inevitably stand on our shoulders.

    FWIW
    jimB

  9. Thanks, Jim. It’s all an experiment with me. I’ll be wasting a lot less time being disappointed after this thread.

    wv=explat. Ya gotta love it!

  10. MP, you are an innovator. The use of technology in ministry work isn’t new. We have seen TV ministry (USA)for decades now but the use of the internet for ministry is quite something new.

    You have used this medium in a spirit led way, to me, and you have provided me with Christian ministry. Even my daughter is always keen to find out about ‘Mad Priest’. Perhaps it just will take time for you to work your way through the road from personal ministry, which you miss, to online ministry.

    Rest assured though that you may not be able to see our faces but we are real people, not virtuals, and we appreciate your ministry.

  11. Spearmint Rhino is the sort of ‘gentleman’s club’ no gentleman would be seen dead in.

    I’ve got no doubts about blogging, but plenty about how to do it usefully. We’re trying to build a democratic, inclusive church within Methodism, free from the sort of petty corruption that’s eating away at our congregations. The big question is, how can I use the internet to encourage other people to try to build a genuinely different type of church? I don’t think the church is finished yet, and I’m convinced our current structures have a lot to do with our problems!

  12. I can’t remember where the whole ‘pioneer/settler’ thing came from but it’s so true that we need pioneers to make the way, and of course that does mean making a few mistakes along the way. I like the idea that I might be a pioneer for the settlers of the future 🙂 As in all things technology seems to BE the future and Christians need to embrace that along with everyone else. Actually I think in reference to your comment about Brian, who felt supported by the online community, I think it’s often far easier to be open online as you are usually conversing with people you don’t know. I can’t imagine half of us on here would be quite so open amongst a ‘normal’ congregation. It’s very refreshing when Christians can be honest about the crap in their lives, and to know that they will be supported here by people who won’t be gossiping behind their backs the second they step past the lych gate 😉

  13. Thanks, Red and you are probably right about reticence off line. Although I can confirm that Grandmère Mimi is even more open in real life than on the Net. But then, Americans have absolutely no idea about what it is appropriate to speak about in public.

  14. Red, it’s refreshing to have MadPriest gossiping about me openly on the internet, rather than behind my back, although I expect he does a bit of sub rosa gossip, too. OCICBW!

  15. Red
    “I think it’s often far easier to be open online as you are usually conversing with people you don’t know. I can’t imagine half of us on here would be quite so open amongst a ‘normal’ congregation.”

    Without wishing to be alarmist, how sure could you be that someone from your “normal” congregation (if you have one), or someone else you might know IRL is not reading this? Belonging to a virtual community can sometimes make us forget the possibility of an unseen and silent audience (ask +Pete Broadbent).

  16. Revsimmy
    of course you are right and I would hope that we all do watch our words, unlike +Pete. Personally there are a few people I know IRL reading my blog but I’m ok with that – I never go too far. well I hope not…;)

  17. Gary Vaynerchuk points out that the internet hasn’t grown up yet. Web 1 was the child. Web 2 is the teenage who wants a social life. The adult is not yet known to us. MP I agree with you about Christian bloggers being pioneers of sorts, and the online world is definitely the undiscovered country, but where are we going with all this? We don’t simply keep blogging and blogging. Some online Christian pioneers will need to build new ways of filling the great online commission. I would suggest new forms of crowed sourcing perhaps? – but hey i’m no profit just a blogger (www.sacredpolitics.com by the way – shameless plug!!) but my one thought is that it will lead to a new kind of ecumenism.

    I grew up believing partisan thoughts about the state of other believers souls, and it wasn’t until I met and heard the stories of other believers that I began to lighten up. I would suggest that the ubiquitous connectivity of the online ecclesia which draws believes across the world into the same living rooms, will lead to greater understanding, creativity, and ecumenical prayer. I hope so at least. thanks for the posts, and some great comments as well.

  18. Thanks, Dan.

    The Greek word, “ecclesia,” usually translated as “church” or “congregation” originally meant “a community of the likeminded.” The Internet has encouraged the coming together of such groupings. Likemindedness is not always healthy, so one of the tasks of Christians on the Net should be to try and enable such groupings to express their faith in positive ways.

  19. I quite agree MP. Of course there is also a political component to the greek word also (bottom up rather than top down in the NT sense). The internet has busted wide open the traditional political barriers to the human voice and made insignificant the gatekeepers such as the media to get a message across. Just look at the revolutions across the Middle East. The viral nature of the mobilisation of oppressed people has been possible because the web connects people, not just to chat and date, or to add 3 stars to a TV I have just purchased, but it connects people politically. I think therefore that the web is a very natural place for the christian to be. But not simply alone as us lonely bloggers are doing it, but socially leading to action. So I would propose that perhaps this is a communion of motivation around themes rather than perfect likemindedness is the future…maybe?.