July 12, 2013

Why Pastors Should Blog

by Steve Meister

read-my-blogMany pastors blog and I happen to think that’s a good thing, especially since yours truly is one of that number. This is not to overlook, as Carl Trueman has put it, the madness of how many Christians use the web:

This is madness. Is this where we have come to, with our Christian use of the web? Men who make careers in part out of bashing the complacency and arrogance of those with whose theology they disagree, yet who applaud themselves on blogs and twitters they have built solely for their own deification? Young men who are so humbled by flattering references that they just have to spread the word of their contribution all over the web like some dodgy rash they picked up in the tropics?

The Rev. Dr. does have a point, doesn’t he? Much of what Christians contribute online, even from pastors, is little more than an ungodly attempt at self-deification in the pseudo-society of social media. I do hope that’s not why I blog – and if it is, the extent of my readership is a fitting parable to the futility of seeking deification in God’s world. Notwithstanding these ever-present pitfalls, I think pastors should blog today to fulfill that ancient function of pastoral ministry, writing.

should-i-blogWriting is important for those who teach God’s Word and lead His people. It clarifies, cleans, and circulates the thoughts that you think after God’s. That latter motive began with the Church. You may recall that early Christianity was spread by circular letter (e.g., Col 4:16). Fast-forward nearly two millennia and the apostolic encyclical became articles by pastors for the church newsletter or denominational paper. Among more recent pastors, my favorite collection is The Letters of William Still (if you can find a used copy, grab it!). Still wrote one of its gems, “Questions for an Absent Congregation” (May 1954), after disappointingly low attendance at a missionary’s presentation:

Where were you, hundreds who profess to be converted and to have the interests of God’s kingdom at heart? Many of you had not intention of coming. Why not? There was no tea; there were no jokes; there was no sentimental singing; just an account of the astounding workings of God in South America.

The Letters of William Still is a great example of how useful writing can be in extending a pastor’s ministry – not to mention proof that shooting it straight did not begin with the blogosphere. While a church newsletter has a certain quaintness to it, it’d be a waste of time and trees for most of us. Today, pastors should blog, even if just for themselves.

augustineThis more personal motive for writing goes back at least to Augustine, who wrote: “I am the sort of man who writes because he has made progress, and who makes progress by writing.” If your role among the people of God is teaching His Word, then your disciplines must include writing. Peter Schemm recently explained that connection in his excellent article, The Writing Pastor: An Essay on Spiritual Formation:

Pastoral ministry, rightly conceived as a Spirit-led vocation, begins with the personal development of a pastor. The Spirit’s vocational assignment for pastors includes the life of the mind. The pastor is first a Christian who is, like any other follower of Jesus Christ, committed to the deepening of the mind.

… It is also, I believe, what the Apostle Paul had in mind when he instructed Timothy, “think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything” (2 Tim 2:7). Paul told Timothy to think and reflect on his teaching-but not without an important assumption: it is “the Lord [who] will give you understanding in everything.” Effective pastoral ministry requires intentionally pursuing deep thinking that totally depends on God.

That’s where writing comes in. Writing helps to deepen the mind. Pursuing a deep mind, according to Sertillanges, requires “penetration and continuity and methodical effort.” …Writing is uniquely suited to accomplish this work. When we write, we are excavating one sentence at a time. It may not look like much at first, but after a few days of digging, we begin to notice the depth of progress.

What the church needs today is deeply spiritual leaders. And a writing pastor is most often a deeper man than he would be otherwise. So whether in notes, letters, journal entries, articles, blogs, or sermon manuscripts, a pastor can practice deepening his own mind and soul through writing. This will, in time, deepen the souls of those to whom he ministers.

There are things in God’s Word and world that I’d never have seen had I not first written them down – I mean, typed them out. Blogging helps deepen my ability to see God and to think His thoughts, so that I may serve others with what I’ve discovered myself. Pastors should blog, not to lord themselves over the web, but to serve the joy of others in Christ (2 Cor 1:23-24).

I hope that writing causes me to be affected by the truth of Christ and, in communicating it, to effect the joy of faith in others, all to the glory of God. That’s not madness. It may even be something worth blogging about.

Steve Meister

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Steve is the associate pastor of River City Grace Church, in Sacramento, CA.
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  • thanks, this pretty much summarizes my view on blogging

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  • Dave

    A writing pastor – great – but why a blog? Surely a private journal is enough? Do you find you are tempted to love the attention of people reading/commenting on your blog?

    • Thanks, Dave. First, let me ask whether you’re tempted to wrongly love the attention that people give you? Of course you are, and so am I. If anyone, pastor or not, ever suggested to me that they were not tempted to enjoy the attention they received from others, I would tell them that now they’re guilty of lying, along with pride. That’s why I cited Carl Trueman’s helpful comments on much of the “madness” of the web.

      Of course, a private journal is something to encourage, as Schemm does in his great article. I keep one in a moleskin, as well as Evernote – probably more the latter than the former, to be honest. My penmanship has regressed to the third grade level.

      However, the point of blogging, as I explain in the first 3 paragraphs, is that public writing can helpfully extend a pastor’s ministry, as the entire history of the Church attests – even beginning with the NT, itself. Blogging is a medium that pastors can utilize to the same ends that church newsletters used to fulfill.

      Through a blog, pastors can continue thoughts that ended up on the “cutting room floor” in sermon preparation. Or address some specific issue that would not ever make it into a public lesson or sermon. Or keep a catalog of responses to frequent questions to which to point people.

      Hope that helps, Dave.

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  • Derek T.

    Great write-up Steve! I was deeply encouraged to blog or write even though I’m not a pastor. I’ve noticed that whenever I write out my thoughts before teaching a lesson, it has always helped me (and hopefully others) see the intricate details and the grand picture of God’s working. Going back on old blogs, I can read my thoughts on God and see how His character never changes and how mine always does, yet He still remains faithful.

    One of my biggest concerns has always been the responses from people that sometimes are not always edifying on the blogs. Comments on blogs end up to be huge debates that never seem to resolve. How do you deal with such situations?

    Looking forward to many more of your posts. As always, thanks for the encouragement.

    • I’m grateful it was helpful, Derek. You’re right, writing is a tremendously necessary discipline in teaching – to be concise and clear.

      As to blog comments, I suppose you deal with them the same you deal with debates in “real life.” That is, some need to be fought (Jude 3), others just need to be ignored (2 Tim 2:23), and not a few commentators need to be blocked from any further comments altogether (Titus 3:10-11). Of course, we depend on God’s wisdom to decide which is which. If you want to consider this further, I would recommend Roger Nicole’s “How To Deal with Those who Differ from Us” (http://www.founders.org/journal/fj33/article3.html), which is a superb explanation of how we love those with whom we disagree.

      Thanks for the encouragement from you, Derek. Press on.

  • oldalaskan2

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    Hello Steve,

    It’s 2 AM and I’m searching for a blog for the
    purpose of interacting with other people who have dedicated their
    lives to Christian ministry yet find themselves in a state of feeling
    spiritually crippled or crushed. Hense the click on the
    cripplegate,com. I’m not looking for quick, pat answers from
    anyone, nor placating pity. I’m hoping for communication with
    others going through a similar struggle and the sharing of
    experiences of how others are coping. For almost a year now,
    I’ve been unable to attend a church service without having to focus
    all my energy on fighting back what I fear would be uncontrollable
    crying, once I allowed it to start. There is no other way to
    describe it than grief from what appears to be God’s withdrawal of
    his presence from my life. For more than a coupld of decades, I
    used to come home almost every day from my work in a faith-based
    social services ministry feely totally blessed to be experiencing God
    work through me to touch the lives of hurting, spiritually seeking
    people. For no reason that I can identify, that is all gone
    now. I’m new to blogging, and have limited time to search the
    web. Do you know of any blogs you would recommend?

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