I just finished attending the 2008 Band of Bloggers conference. About 150 bloggers met before the Together for the Gospel Conference to eat and talk and pray and listen to a panel discussion that included these men. Here are a few (hopefully accurate) quotes from the panel discussion that I found especially challenging and well-spoken:
What does it mean to blog as one entrusted with the Gospel?
Abraham Piper: We shouldn’t bury the gospel in our blog. The focus doesn’t always have to be the gospel, but the flavor does.
Thabiti Anyabwile: Let your gospel be saturated, be soaked in the gospel.
Phil Johnson: a stewardship of my gifts, of the gospel. It is an aspect of my testimony, a reflection of what we are supposed to do as witnesses for Christ.
Tim Challies: The real challenge is to always have the shadow of the cross over top of what you’re writing.
How did you get into blogging?
C: I didn’t know I was a blogger until someone told me I was.
J: I started blogging out of self-defense. Someone deleted my comments out of his blog so I thought I needed to start one of mine. My first post had eighty comments the first day, which appalled me and frightened me.
A: I got started blogging because my wife told me I talk too much. (I thought bloggers were people) who had no human contact.
P: (at Desiring God) (jokingly) We needed to start inventing news.
How does your salvation shape your content? What are your burdens in blogging?
C: My salvation shapes everything that I do and am. Nothing interests me as much.
I started doing book reviews because no one else was doing them. (from a discerning perspective)
J: Salvation shapes the way I think. My salvation immediately and radically changed the way I think and what I’m interested in.
A: I have a love and burden for the church, how do we do us, how do we experience this union of Christ in this very practical and tangible way, it is a marvelously beautiful thing to me.
P: Our goal at the DG blog is to take the theology of Christian hedonism and apply it… buttress it.
How do we handle the desire to have people to read our blog but not use worldly means like controversy?
C: You definitely need to be concerned, you always need to check your heart before you hit the post button.
J: Why did everybody look at me when you asked this question? There are some significant issues where there needs to be some controversy and discussion. The question isn’t controversy or not but how you wage the controversy and on what. None of us are controversy mongers, but you can’t shy away from the heart of the gospel. I think it through every time I write a post.
A: There are some hills we want to die on, things that are connected to the cross and salvation, that is contending for the faith. It is not controversy that we are seeking.
P: If you’re being controversial in a way that all you are doing is getting kudos from people who already agree with you, you may need to change.
What do you do to hold yourself accountable?
J: Something you say and post will not be erased. Not a day goes by when I don’t think about that accountability. My wife reads all my posts… she tones me down.
A: I still have a post on Al Sharpton that my wife won’t let me put up.
C: There are a lot of things we do every day that we can’t have continuous accountability on, and blogging is one of them, but it’s important to be plugged into a local church (and be open and accountable with your church family).
P: Almost every post on the DG blog is read by multiple people. I hate it when I get a letter from John Piper telling me why I shouldn’t have posted that.
What is the value of blogging?
J: It does encourage the cult of the amateur and people who shouldn’t be saying something to go ahead and say it anyway. It is the most egalitarian type of mass communication that has ever come along. Everything that has been said about the dangers of blogging are true, but so are the advantages.
A: I want the democratization of information. I think it helps, it creates an exchange. I’m not afraid of amateurs thinking about the things of God.
How can blogs be a ministry of the local church?
A: I’ve seen churches create a youth group blog to help communicate. You can use that medium to facilitate teaching.
C: there are so many different ways of blogging, …but we want to stay tied to a local church ourselves.
Is blogging too internal, creating just a “reformed ghetto”?
J: That is definitely a danger, but there are different ways of blogging and different reasons of blogging. Hopefully the things we blog about get communicated beyond the blogosphere, a secondary impact.
P: It helps to have a cofocus on your blog, something else you’re good at or that you enjoy.
How can you improve your blog?
P: Read Seth Godin’s blog on marketing.
C: Go find the big blogs, take the best of what they’re doing.
A: Commit yourself to going deep, and let the Lord take care of the breadth.
J: I let Frank Turk worry about the numbers for us. I don’t really care.
How do I balance the responsibility for blogging vs. pastoral ministry?
A: Blogging is completely unnecessary for my ministry. I schedule and limit the time of blogging. I don’t want this virtual community to erode the real.
J: You realize the gravity of real life’s problems, and you have to keep the priority. I hope I never compromise my pastoral duties for the sake of the blog. When my life gets too busy I just don’t blog. Both things are a stewardship, both things are a responsibility, but pastoring takes priority.
C: the challenge for the rest of us is for it not to take the place of our local church.
How do you discipline your day?
C: I have a blogging time. When it comes to time, if I spend 2 hours a day blogging it’s taking 2 hours away from something else.
J: I blog at the end of the day. If I’m too tired to do it then I don’t.
A: (in response to some of Phil’s comments) My readers are holier than Phil’s. I live at the beach. (vs. taking a vacation there!)
P: A pastor’s blog will make his pastoring better, even if no one reads it, because of the things you have to think through.