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.