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Blogging Baptists

For some people, blogs are like a family reunion where people barely know each other. There’s a lot of talking going on, but there’s little agreement on much of anything.

But for many of the increasing number of Baptist bloggers, that’s the beauty of it.

A blog—short for “web log”—is a website or online journal where authors regularly publish commentaries on personal and public issues. Typically, blogs allow readers to comment on posts, creating the opportunity for readers to dialogue with each other and a post’s author.
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The blogosphere is the world’s online dinner table, where people from all perspectives can share their thoughts and opinions on what is going on in their lives and the world around them.

Diane Schiano, researcher at the Palo Alto Research Center in Palo Alto, Calif., said people sit at the cybertable for as many reasons as there are blogs. Some are meant to update friends and family about what’s going on in someone’s life. Some use blogs as a kind of self-validation, seeing other people reading their blog as an indication that what they’re doing or saying is important. And younger people are clamoring to have their own place in cyberspace, she added.

“There are a lot of people who want to feel in constant contact,” Schiano said. “I call it hyper-connectivity. Wherever they go, whatever they’re doing, they want to be able to reach out to someone.”


Family, evangelism

Amanda Sturgill, a journalism professor at Baylor University , blogs on media and religious issues at aejrmig.blogspot.com . She believes Baptists, in particular, blog for two reasons—they are family-oriented, creating a desire to share their family lives with others, and as evangelicals, they believe they have something important to add to the global conversation.

Baptists may be supplying information and perspectives that Internet surfers are wanting, Sturgill noted. Research indicates 25 percent of web users have looked for religious information on the Internet.

“People from evangelical faiths have classically seen new media technologies as being a great witnessing tool—allowing believers to reach all the world in an expeditious manner. This has been true for everything from print to the World Wide Web. It’s no accident that Gutenberg’s first product was a Bible. But usually it doesn’t live up to hopes. There is Christian broadcasting, but mostly existing Christians watch and listen, for example,” Sturgill said.

“Blogs have the potential to be different because they can, at the same time, be both a megaphone and an intimate conversation. But to do this requires the blogger to actually interact with readers through comments and the like.”


Iron sharpening iron

Many Baptist bloggers point to participating in the online conversation as the primary reason they write. They talk about “iron sharpening iron,” noting that thinking through blog posts and responding to comments helps them improve their ministries. They also hope it helps others.

Marty Duren, a former contributor at www.sbcoutpost.com —a prominent blog pushing for change within the Southern Baptist Convention—now blogs on missional living at www.iemissional.com .

Duren believes he has learned some lessons in ministry and hopes to help others, multiplying his spiritual influence. And he wants to bring a biblical perspective to issues.

The blog also has given him the opportunity to meet people he otherwise wouldn’t have met. Recently, he had lunch with an Atlanta atheist he met through his blog.

Melissa Rogers, director of Wake Forest University’s Center for Religion and Public Affairs who blogs at melissarogers.typepad.com , said her blog was a natural outgrowth of her regular media tracking and discussions.

“I thought since I’m tracking these things anyway, they may be of use to others as well,” she said.


Access to younger generation

Aaron Weaver, a Baylor graduate student who blogs at www.thebigdaddyweave.com , uses his blog to stay informed of Baptist issues related to politics, but he also advocates what he calls Baptist distinctives. He believes blogging is a way to connect with younger generations.

“For the most part, the young Baptists that I know don’t read Baptist publications. They don’t read denominational newspapers. But they do read blogs; they like blogs. Many even have blogs of their own. They are exchanging ideas with each other, and they are willing to read blogs from other Baptists of all ages,” Weaver said.

“Their blogging is definitely not limited to Baptist or even religious subjects, but some young Baptists are thinking and writing about topics of interest to other Baptists. It is my hope that more younger Baptists will discover the Baptist blogosphere and become more interested in our distinctives, history and the future of Baptists.

“In our increasingly pluralistic, post-modern, post-denominational world, what is the future of Baptists?  That is a question which Baptists—young and old—should be dialoging about. The Baptist blogosphere is the perfect place in which to have that much-needed conversation.”
       
 
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