Many 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.
Writing 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.
This 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.