Wherever Two or Three are Gathered

Filed in ReligionTags: Christianity

An interesting post at Worship Matters about a Christian "community" of bloggers. While I generally agree with his earlier thoughts on Blogging to Worship God (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), I have to take issue with a couple of his conclusions here.

First, the issue of a blogger community, with respect to the church:

I’m not sure how much of a healthy community CAN exist in cyberspace. Any community I experience with people over the Web is going to be severely limited at best. Community requires “doing life” together – praying together, eating together, evangelizing together, serving together, worshipping God together. The key word here is “together.” It involves much more than exchanging information over the Internet.

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While I may identify with someone of a common interest over the Internet, that hardly qualifies as true Christian community. Those in my community see me at my worst, challenge and encourage me in daily life, observe how I live, and can exercise discipline if I am engaging in unrepentant sin. The kind of community requires a church, not simply an Internet connection.

If the question is whether or not an online "community" can - or should - replace the local church, then I would agree whole-heartedly. However, the question does not inherently imply anything of the sort.

Not to be incredibly anal (okay, so, I can't help it...), but according to Dictionary.com, the following is the definition of community:

    1. A group of people living in the same locality and under the same government.
    2. The district or locality in which such a group lives.
    1. A group of people having common interests: the scientific community; the international business community.
    2. A group viewed as forming a distinct segment of society: the gay community; the community of color.
    1. Similarity or identity: a community of interests.
    2. Sharing, participation, and fellowship.
  1. Society as a whole; the public.

It appears that Worship Matters is focusing only on the first definition of "community". Certainly, the blogosphere - Christian or otherwise - does not fit this definition (which I would argue to be a credit/strength of the blogosphere). However, the Christian blogosphere is certainly a "group of people having common interests", a "group viewed as forming a distinct segment of society" (and of the blogosphere), having "similarity or identity", and indicative of "sharing, participation, and fellowship".

The salient question is not whether or not the Christian blogosphere constitutes a "community", but to what end that community exists. Certainly, for the vast majority of Christians, the blogosphere cannot and should not replace a local body of believers. However, even on this point, the Christian blogosphere can serve as a very important - even vital - link to believers for some Christians: for example, missionaries or other Christians in remote or hostile locations. The Christian blogosphere can also serve as a means to maintain fellowhip with a local body of believers from whom a Christian is separated (military personnel, missionaries, those in prison, etc.). The Christian blogosphere can also foster unity and fellowhip among believers world-wide, in a way never before possible.

So, certainly, the Christian blogosphere is not the local church; but that it is not the local church is not a detriment, and does not mean that it does not constitute a community of believers nor does it lessen the importance or usefulness of such a community.

I also contend with the second conclusion, with respect to oversight of blogs:

But, it seems wise for every Christian who writes a blog to be accountable to a pastor or leader in their local church rather than someone they’ve never met. I’m unwise, and possibly arrogant, to share my thoughts with the “world” when they haven’t been received by those who know me best. I suspect that if local pastors approved or at least viewed their member’s blogs prior to posting, we’d have a significant reduction in the number of blogs being written, but a welcome rise in the quality.

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Here’s the problem. Increasing the number of people talking doesn’t automatically increase the quality of the conversation. Judging from many blog comments I’ve read through, it only adds to the confusion.

With all due respect, my thoughts and words in general are accountable to One: my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I do not need "oversight" in order to speak - much less, to speak the Word and preach the Gospel (the very thing we are commanded to do)! Further, recognizing the lack of a need for such oversight is not inherently "unwise" nor "arrogant".

If my local pastor ever tried to - or even suggested that he ought to - "oversee" or "approve" what I think or say or write, I would immediately be in search of a new local pastor. For one, we "laypeople" do not need such approval, for we too speak with the full authority of Jesus Christ - since ALL believers have the Holy Spirit. I am guided by the Spirit as my conscience - who knows me far better than anyone ever could, including myself. We do not follow Christ under the supervision of a priesthood, for we ourselves are a royal priesthood (I Peter 2:9), serving Jeus directly as our High Priest (Hebrews 3-9). While a pastor has a Spiritually appointed office of service, he has no more ability to discern, interperet, or understand the Word than we "lay" people, nor does he have any more authority to preach the Word to others. We each, to some extent and at some time or another, are commanded to preach and to teach the Word.

The Christian blogosphere provides a medium for discussions of interest to Christians in a format that is safe, instantaneous, and self-regulating. We will never always agree, and at one time or another, each one of us will be wrong about something. However, it has always been my opinion that more voices - more perspectives, more points of view, more choices - adds to the quality rather than detracts from it. Obviously extreme voices will be more easily recognized as outliers, while overwhelmingly common voices will be more recognizably familiar. The benefit we as Christians have in this "conversation" is we have the One Voice - the Word - to which to compare and in which to anchor our conversation. Letting our individual voices be "filtered" or "vetted" or "approved" by pastors - or anyone else - will not inherently increase the quality of the conversation; it will only limit the conversation unnecessarily.

So I say, let every voice be heard! Let every question be answered a thousand times in a thousand ways. And let each of us discern the truth in the Word, through the Spirit. That way, the collective quality of the community "voice" will improve, to everyone's benefit.

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8 Responses to “Wherever Two or Three are Gathered”
  1. Jayne says:

    I actually turned to the blogosphere because I felt it was more welcoming and it’s much more acceptable to express your true opinion out here than in the church. The community of the blogosphere is vitally important to me, especially when it come to bible study. My church doesn’t even offer one.

    I’m still pondering some thoughts on what “church” means to me and will be posting that on my blog within a day or so.

    Take care!

  2. cb says:

    I’ve been blessed to have God provide me with wonderful local churches everywhere I’ve lived.

    I don’t want to disparage your local church but, it doesn’t even offer a Bible study?

    You may have reasons for not wanting to look for a new church; of course, that’s all the *more* reason to be thankful that the Christian ‘sphere is able to fulfill needs that aren’t currently being met elsewhere!

  3. rev-ed says:

    Just wondering here… if I were your pastor and noted than on your blog you were promoting heretical thoughts (not that you are, mind you!), shouldn’t I then come to you and talk about what you are writing? That certainly wouldn’t be “approval” yet it would be Biblical. A pastor is an overseer of the flock.

  4. cb says:

    Absolutely – just as if I were to make such statements in church, or in a book, or wherever.

    Correction is absolutely biblical – and I have been and will be subject to correction from my brothers and sisters in Christ.

    It is also wise to seek advice about something about which I am unsure, before I write or speak about it.

    But I see nothing in Scripture about requiring prior approval, as the blogger suggests.

  5. Catez says:

    Very interesting post. I’ve been blogging for over two years and initially knew nothing of any “Christian blogosphere” – my blog was just my personal website. It still is. But of course now I know some people, network with people and so on (and they are not all Christians). From time to time I see posts suggesting some kind of external regulation, e.g. from pastors or other bloggers acting like “elders”. I agree that a pastor might advise if he is aware of a member of church posting heresy or something like that, and see Ed’s point there – but I certainly wouldn’t want to get approval for every post – partly because I post when I have time and when I do I want it up on the blog then, not in 2 days time after the pastor has found time to read it. I post on various topics and issues in the same way that I have discussions with people (ok a bit more informative and detailed on the blog).

    As for community – I think it’s more like networks but see your point. It can get a bit insular the whole “God blgosphere” thing. But at the same time we have a strength in our networking and there are some people I consider friends.

    Hmmm. Long comment for my first visit. Good thought provoking post. THanks.

  6. cb says:

    Thanks for stopping by, Catez! Not much to add to your thoughts. 🙂

  7. John Howell says:

    I do not “pre-approve” my posts with my pastor – but I email him a link to everything I post.

    I would assume Carl would chat at me if I went crazy

    Good thoughts on community

  8. cb says:

    I’m sure all of you would chat at me if I got too crazy. 🙂

    Thanks for stopping by, John!