Last Thursday’s post, “The Godblogosphere’s Black Hole” riled up a lot of people. Unfortunately, I was unable to devote time on Friday to keeping up with the comments because of a hectic day and more household illness, so I think I’ll say more here.
First, I want to thank everyone who commented. I read every comment even if I didn’t reply personally. Blogging can consume all your time if you let it, so I couldn’t comment on everything that readers said. I hope to cover a few general replies here, so read on if you were slighted and just maybe I’ll ramble into addressing your particular concern.
Second, I’m not down on blogging as a tool. Blogs make dialogue possible. While that’s perfect for heated discussions, I feel we’re thinking too small with that use. I know hundreds of people who are hurting or covering for hurts they feel the Church will never address. I want to address them. I want to find a way to meet the practical needs of hurting people all around, whether they be hurting because of physical needs or hurting because they don’t know Jesus Christ.
Before I get a number of responses saying that someone knows of a church that’s meeting everyone’s needs perfectly, I would like to add that my own experience as a Christian is that in most of my darkest times I had to tough it out alone because other Christians hit the road at the point of my deepest need. And it’s not just me. I talk to other people all the time who are left twisting in the wind by the Western Church. I would even venture a guess that the majority of people sitting in the pews on Sunday have a viable need going unmet. Say what you will, but this is the Biblical model right here:
Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.
—Acts 4:32-35 ESV
There was not a needy person among them. Can we say that about our churches today? Or the Church universal?
Now a complete lack of monetary want may very well be the case in some of our upper crust churches; you know, the ones with the chauffeur’s entrances. But while I did attend such a church at one point in my life, I don’t today. My church is packed with needy people. I suspect yours is, too.
If even one person in our churches is going ignored in an area of need, then we can’t sit back and say we’re doing the job right. Not only this, but I think the Lord would have us expand our notion of what constitutes a lack of need by going beyond money fixes. I know people who are dying for someone to call them on the phone to talk for a few minutes. I know single moms who would love to have a solid Christian man around for her sons for a couple hours each week. I know a family who faced foreclosure on their home because the breadwinner lost his job to outsourcing and can’t find a job to replace it. I know a family that would have loved to have had someone talk to them at the church service this last Sunday. But you know what? In every case that need went unmet. No one called, no one took the single mom’s sons to a sporting event, the family lost their home because no one bothered to help them, and the mom, dad, and two kids that showed up this last Sunday made it all the way back to their car in the far corner of the church parking lot without anyone caring enough to say hello.
I’m sick of those stories. I contend that one of the reasons that Christianity is not growing in the West is because of stories like those. Every year more people stop going to church in the United States, Canada, and Europe. Yeah, even if our doctrine is perfect, our living out the Gospel sure needs a major overhaul. This is the major reason why I’m not going to participate in anymore theological “discussions”—especially ones guaranteed to be contentious. I don’t need a finer point on my doctrinal stance. I need a bigger heart for the needy. I need to put the doctrine I already know into practice or else it’s utterly worthless.
The fact is that if all this truly made a difference to us, we’d go to whatever lengths it took to meet people’s needs. Unfortunately, too many of us simply don’t care because:
- We’re too mired in our jobs.
- We’re too addicted to entertainment.
- We’re too geared up about buying the latest digital camera, computer, plasma TV or other piece of ephemeral electronica.
- We’re too in love with the world system.
- We’re too worried about what other people might think if we went 100% counterculture for Christ.
- We stopped asking God if He wanted to use us in a way that could change the world, even if it meant that we started small by just helping our nextdoor neighbor or the family beside us in the pew.
To whom shall we go? Where is the Kingdom of God found outside of Jesus? Do we need to fill our houses with one more gadget when the money we spent on it could have been better spent funding a dozen struggling churches in Africa? And for all the good that Christian books have done us, why do most of us Christian eggheads need one more tome for our sagging bookcases when we’re not putting 0.00001% of that accumulated wisdom into practice reaching out to the lost, destitute, and broken?
I’m not sure we really believe there’s a heaven. We don’t live like the world to come matters more than this one. If we did, I suspect we wouldn’t be so hot to be on our second generation of iPod or standing in line for the latest digital camera to replace the one we bought just four years ago. We’d be asking God every day how to give it all away until it no longer mattered because it no longer held our interest—instead, heaven was ringing in our ears. We’d be known as people who lived unencumbered lives. As Leonard Ravenhill was fond of saying, it is one thing to say that Christ is all we need, and something altogether different to say that Christ is all we have.
If it really mattered, we’d find a way—even if it meant we had to pick up a cross and carry it daily. Oh wait, we’re supposed to be doing that already. It’s easy to forget isn’t it? Hey, there’s a sale at Best Buy….
I’m working on a Godblogger map that may help us field needs more effectively. I also think it would do a better job of getting bloggers together if they saw how close their proximity is to other bloggers. Still, the point of that map is to make it easier for us to help other people. If we purposefully made ourselves more available, especially those of us who get huge traffic running through our sites every day, perhaps we could become a resource for meeting people’s needs. We have so many strong Christians blogging. I’ve got to believe that we can somehow band together to use all the gifts God has given us to make a difference in the lives of the unheard people, many of whom may be too poor to even own a computer.
We know that the world’s need is great. I believe that the power of God’s word paired with a Good Samaritan’s heart might be the synergy needed to reach a world that is not so impressed with what we say as it might be with what we do. We Christians get a lot of bad press today and I think part of that is reflected in the fact that we’re not as plugged in locally as we should be. Our atheist neighbor may have all sorts of preconceptions about the greater unwashed mass of Bible Thumpers that get in his way of receiving what we have to say about Christ, but I can guarantee that those barriers will come down if we’re the one there for him when he is ill (especially if—as is so often the case—no one else bothers.)
And like I said, that kind of charity begins at home. If we can’t practice it in our churches on each other, then there’s no possible way we’re going to make it work with “scarier” kinds of people out there in the gutters of the world.
Earlier in this post I said that I believed that the majority of people in our pews have vital needs going unmet. I’ve been around long enough to know that this is absolutely the case. If you don’t think that’s true, I don’t think you’re looking hard enough. Many people may appear fine on the outside, but inside there’s devastation that we know nothing about. Some people in our churches possess minds ingrained with the idea that they can’t ask for help because American Christianity states that “God helps those who help themselves.” So they go without, sometimes for decades. I think it is a sad thing to hear from people that they’ve been in various churches over the years and no one ever bothered to lift a finger to help them when they were struggling. I heard another one of those stories just this morning. As long as their need is within the bounds of what I can do to help, I can’t call myself a Christian if I can’t be there for that person. Should their need be beyond what I can do, then I either find someone who can make it happen for them or I throw myself on the mercy of God alongside that person so they know they are not alone. And not just once, but for as long as it takes.
God created the Church to be His chosen instrument to the world. Yes, He can act on His own through miracles if need be, but more often than not, He wants us to do the work.
As for me and my house, we’re rolling up our sleeves.
25 thoughts on “More Thoughts on “The Godblogosphere’s Black Hole””
I love everything that you’ve said. I agree that we should be doing all of those things, and that the modern church has fallen far short in these practical areas. The one issue I have however, is that – in your opposition to useless doctrinal debate, your sentiments may have overshot, and hit “doctrine itself”. You said:
“I don’t need a finer point on my doctrinal stance. I need a bigger heart for the needy. I need to put the doctrine I already know into practice or else it’s utterly worthless.”
This is much the same message that Rick Warren is preaching today in his “new reformation of deeds rather than creeds”. For example, here are some similar quotes from his purpose driven life:
“The last thing many believers need today is to go to another Bible study. They already know far more than they are putting into practice.” (p. 231) “Jesus said our love for each other-not our doctrinal beliefs – is our greatest witness to the world.” (p. 124)
There is a real danger to the church in communicating that way. Needy people today are in need of the Bread of Life, even moreso than bread. So many are dying without Christ, and in order for us to communicate Christ to them – we need doctrine. Our churches are watering down the Gospel message with almost complete abandonment of sound biblical teaching. And one of the lies of the age is that doctrine is not practical.
I don’t believe any Christian can ever say “I have enough doctrinal understanding, now I can move on from it, and do other things”. The formula needs to be: learn, then apply, then learn again, then apply again.
I agree with your agenda for Christian blogs, however, I would have it be done with a parallel emphasis on doctrine, rather than with (what might sound like) a subtle downplaying of it.
1. I’m not sure how your map thingy works but could you add Sudan? Or else my blog (I’m in NZ) with some sort of connection with Sudan? You may have missed it but a lot of people know that I co-ordinate the Spotlight on Darfur each month and a number of bloggers are involved.
2. I am always looking for people who will link and or contribute to the Spotlight on Darfur. It a way of using blogs to help people – in this case genocide refugees who are homeless, rape victims, and in danger of violence. They also suffer food shortages. It has been named the world’s worst humanitarian crisis right now. So would you or others here be prompted to participate in what we have been doing? Check the links on my blog sidebar or the Spotlight on Darfur: Christmas Edition post. Both Christian and non-Christian bloggers get involved in this – and since the mainstream media largely don’t report it we’ve appreciated the linkage we’ve had around the blogosphere, including from Instapundit.
3. Three New Jersey High School students have started a foundation, Hekp Darfur Now, and want to raise $5000 for the Darfur refugees. How about some people send them even $5-10? Donations are tax deductible. I discovered them because they contacted them, and I posted about them here.
As well as the genocide (the US govt. has called it genocide) in Sudan’s Darfur region there is still persecution of Christians in southern Sudan also. Helping Darfur is helping the whole Country – a perspective William Levi shares (he is Sudanese, was totured for his faith and now works from the US).
I notice Africa has been mentioned and wanted to let you and others know of ways they can use their blogs. I have no qualms about giving this info here – even as I write I know people are dying there.
Dang – that link to the foundation should read Help Darfur Now. The link in the comment above will still work though.
It is innate in me to try to find solutions and to “fix” something. So I agree with your assessment that we need to roll up our sleeves.
Problem is I don’t always know how to produce the fix. In fact sometimes it is not always my job to figure it out and I need to be reminded of my need to rely on God and to trust his word and study his word. It is there – and dare I say in doctrine – He leads in the direction He wants me to go.
Doctrine is that thing that keeps us on track and it should help us understand who our common enemy is. It also should keep us focused on the battle so that we are not maiming or killing those who are fighting in the trenches with us.
I agree that there is much that needs to be done – and let’s do it! But let’s not ignore the doctrine which comes from our Instruction Manual containing our job description.
Hope you family is feeling better. Blessings to your family!
I’m looking forward to the map for fielding needs. I think that’s a great idea.
My experience with being in need parallels yours, Dan. In the past fifteen years or so, when I’ve reached points of critical need, someone in the church let me down. (I’m currently in that position again, the victim of a good friend who proved unfaithful to the Lord when push came to shove.)While there’s an “all things work for good” providence working through these letdowns to refine and focus my faith in God himself (cf. Joseph’s experiences), that obviously doesn’t excuse anyone’s disobedience.
As for the issue of deeds vs. doctrine mentioned in the first comment, I took your post to mean just a shift in emphasis from pedantic or just unproductive discussion to application. In my experience, the more “works” you do, the more it drives you back to the Scripture to find inspiration, authority and better understanding for what you do.
Dan, for the benefit of people who don’t know me – I do read your blog when I can although I don’t always comment. My comment above is really to a) find out about the map and b) let people know of some things that are currently happening in blogging and that aren’t difficult to lend a hand to.
Doctrine is important and from time to time I engage in discussion or debate. But my primary focus is reaching out with my blog. Which I think is what you are wanting to focus on. So for those who are interested the info is there – and personally I understand that people have different reasons for blogging and focus on different things.
Folks, Dan isn’t dissing doctrine; he’s dissing the continual intake of “doctrine” without putting it into practice.
(I think an Apostle wrote about this sort of stuff, too…)
I think Dan’s "Anti-Church" article is required reading here. (Just stumbled on that one today, as a matter of fact.)
I think it’s obvious doctrine isn’t being dissed. But there have been two things lumped in togehter:
1. Doctrinal debates on blogs
2. Blogging as a way of practically helping.
It seems to be really about no.2
In which case – some people will want to do no.2
Seems pretty simple to me. Lots of people are already doing no.2 – and occasionally doing no.1 too.
My concern is that Jim and Darla might be misunderstanding what Dan’s saying.
Jim said, “The formula needs to be: learn, then apply, then learn again, then apply again.”
And I would say that we all agree about that; what Dan has been saying is that if we’re neglecting “then apply,” the subsequent “learn again”s don’t accomplish much of anything.
Darla said, “I agree that there is much that needs to be done – and let’s do it! But let’s not ignore the doctrine which comes from our Instruction Manual containing our job description.”
And I would say Dan isn’t saying anything about ignoring doctrine; he’s just urging us to put into practice what we’ve learned.
“What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me — practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” — Philippians 4:9 (ESV)
So we have nothing to debate, it seems… we all agree about this! Dan’s just putting more emphasis where he sees a lack of emphasis in the church.
How many of our debates happen because we object to what we think is being said, that’s not really being said? Like Jesus told the Pharisees (and I’m not name-calling here, just using an available example), let’s do the neglected good without forsaking the good we’re already doing quite well.
It’s certainly appropriate to debate theological issues in a pursuit of right worship; let’s just not let our brother starve because we’re so busy debating that we “don’t have time” to help him.
That’s what you’re saying, right Dan?
I remember my pastor telling about a vision someone had of Heaven and entering the gates… the question God had for them at the gate wasn’t how much they tithed or what church they went to, rather “Did you learn to love?”
Real, true love where you would die for your brother.
I wish I could say I’ve felt that more in my 21 years in Christianity. I haven’t.
I used to be a minister. When I was diagnosed with cancer… all those who I had helped, loved, prayed with…
I lost my home, my cars, my possessions, my dignity. My church never visited me. I never got a card. I came so close to death so many times. Nobody cared and I forgot to care after a while. I thought that something I did brought the cancer upon me and as a result, I was being judged and that is why people were avoiding me. I didn’t get ONE card from anyone during that time. It was the hardest time of my life. My own husband was in so much pain watching all of this happen that I feared he would never allow anyone in ever again.
A few years later when I relapsed, I didn’t tell anyone, not even my husband. I privately hoped that I would just die and then maybe someone would notice, or even care.
Well almost a year later from that relapse, I’m walking out in faith again that even if those around me in a new church (newly planted and still alive) turn their backs on me, I can still turn towards God. The hands I had hoped would hold mine, the arms I hoped would hug me and be there for me, weren’t, and if it happens to someone else, I pray I can be the hands and arms. Even if there is nobody to stand with me, I need to be those hands and arms. The depth of the pain I experienced during that lonely time is an incredible motivator of love.
So every day I now ask myself, “Did I learn to Love?”
I read here daily yet rarely comment. This is simply because so many have already been here and said just what I would have but so much better.
Every once in a while I just have to stop and say how much I appreciate your thoughts. This post was exceptional and hopefully, along with the original, will help to change the face of the Christian blogdom.
I am new to this whole blogging thing and so many of the references you all make to other people and discussions out there are nothing I have experienced. At least not on the web.
I don’t think I misunderstood Dan. Quite the opposite. I was just attempting to encourage him in his work here. If I did that poorly, thanks for pointing that out. Sometimes it is more difficult to put in writing what it is easier to say face to face.
Thanks for letting me in on the conversation.
Thanks for your comments.
I think the problem is not blogging per se, it is the noxious combination of blogging and pharisaism. 90% + of the most prolific Christian bloggers are zealous Pharisees.
Perhaps we can all benefit from John Fischer’s “Twelve Steps for the Recovering Pharisee.”
I would be the first to stand up and say: Hi, my name is John. And I am a Pharisee.
1. We admit that our single most unmitigated pleasure is to judge other people.
2. Have come to believe that our means of obtaining greatness is to make everyone lower than ourselves in our own mind.
3. Realize that we detest mercy being given to those who, unlike us, haven’t worked for it and don’t deserve it.
4. Have decided that we don’t want to get what we deserve after all, and we don’t want anyone else to either.
5. Will cease all attempts to apply teaching and rebuke to anyone but ourselves.
6. Are ready to have God remove all these defects of attitude and character.
7. Embrace the belief that we are, and will always be, experts at sinning.
8. Are looking closely at the lives of famous men and women of the Bible who turned out to be ordinary sinners like us.
9. Are seeking through prayer and meditation to make a conscious effort to consider other better than ourselves.
10. Embrace the state of astonishment as a permanent and glorious reality.
11. Choose to rid ourselves of any attitude that is not bathed in gratitude.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we will try to carry this message to others who think that Christians are better than everyone else.
Good stuff Dan. I also agree that Dan is not at all dissing doctrine. I think he is just saying that the endless debates about it in the Godblog arenas have the same effect that the debating schools of Jews did in his time. A lot of debating, maybe some doctrinal clarification and a complete obfuscation of what God intended message is. For a while I spent a lot of time reading blogs like “names removed to protect the innocent”. There is some really interesting stuff there often.
But often there is vitriol, or something pretty close to it. There appears to be an abiding need to be absolutely right. If they can’t be totally right about everything then it all seems to break down. It is that brittle sort of faith that seems so strong yet shatters under enormous stres. That at least is how it appears on the outside. After a while of reading the stuff, it only seemed to make me angry.
Ironically, a lot of their views weren’t really all that far away from mine doctrinally. But presentation-wise it was pretty nasty. Since I have a rage problem anyway, it seemed a good idea for me personally to avoid that stuff. I did so for a while, and then went back with a new attitude in myself. That worked a little, but I still find blogs like Dan to be the most edifying, not in the sense of making me feel good, but of genuinely building the faith up.
Anyway Dan, I’m not sure about the value of blogging as a real world saving tool, but as with most tools, God can certainly use it for his glory and I commend your efforts. This is always a good hate free place to come.
Okay, Dan, here’s my 2ï¿½:
(1) I am one of those Luddites who happen to think that blogging is really not that big of a deal. With something like 10 million blogs out there, things are getting pretty diluted, aren’t they? I am even more skeptical about blogging being a “ministry”.
(2) I daresay that if one were to statistically analyze things, it’s very probable that about 85%, or more, of the querulousness and carping you detect in “xtian blogdom” actually originates from a tightly narrow band of the overall spectrum. What all this newfangled technology really has done is to allow some people to amplify their voices, to megadecibel levels, out of all proportion to their actual numbers.
(3) Blogdom obeys the 80/20 rule: 80% is puffy billows of smoke. 20% is actual fire.
(4) On second thought, maybe that should be the 95/5 Rule.
(5) Anymore, I no longer to bother to read very many blogs, let alone xtian blogsï¿½yours being one of the very few. Most blogging is silly, trivial, stupid, non-constructive, and a waste of time. And with my free time being limited as it is, and all things considered, I’d much rather read a book or listen to a sermon.
Okay, that’s 4ï¿½.
Dan, I love this debate, oops. Your a foot I’m a hand. You love service and are maturing into a new aspect of the mind of
Christ, along with many other like minded people making comments. It’s Ok. I love doctrine I’m still at the foot of Christ and soaking it in. I have no doubt I’ll be in your shoes some day doing more good works than now. Good works are a fantastic thing. Especially when there is no alterior motive of trading a good work for their decision. God bless as you go deeper.
Sorry, again, to my readers, but today was busy and I’m just now getting back to the comments here.
The map idea is proving to be tougher than I imagined. I always need to do one more thing than most of these interfaces allow, and this is the case here, too. Frappr does not as yet allow a self-reference, then side references to other things connected to that self-reference. In other words, I can’t put my location down, then the location of my church and another ministry in town that I support. Some of the other mapping tools have a similar limitation or have an interface so byzantine that even putting in three or four points takes a half hour. We’ll see. The Frappr guys tell me they’re working on it. Hang in there, Catez!
Thank you to all who have said kind words about the tone of this blog. It actually takes hard work to wordsmith Cerulean Sanctum to the point that tough things can be said without hurting people. I appreciate that others of you appreciate that fact about this blog.
As for blogging, much of it IS spurious in the light of eternity, but I think that’s only because we haven’t plumbed what this kind of communication can accomplish. That’s why these last couple posts have existed. For 2006, I’d like us Godbloggers to push the envelope. I think it is very possible that we can do hands-on ministry by judiciously using blogs. Call me crazy, but I’m willing to try.
Dan said: “I don’t need a finer point on my doctrinal stance. I need a bigger heart for the needy. I need to put the doctrine I already know into practice or else it’s utterly worthless.”
Dan: I’m ALL for Christians always having a big heart for the needy. But you seem to be positioning this whole matter as an either/or proposition. In a subtie way, you’re saying that we as Christians are wasting our time if we do chose to carry on with genuine and thoughtful discussions about what the Bible teaches. The problem is NOT debate itself or carrying on such discussions. The problem is that many who choose to participate in such discussions do it recklessly, without humility, without kindness, and oftentimes with a lot of ignorance. THAT’s where the true problem lies.
Your tone is wonderful, Dan. But think carefully about the message you’re sending about doctrine. There are many people who DO need and even WANT a finer stance because they haven’t really developed their doctrine much in the first place. And I would contend it’s perfectly okay for us to continue helping those around us to develop that finer stance while AT THE SAME TIME showing a big heart.
Thanks for the update Dan – I know how time consuming doing things online can get, and how they become suddenly more complicated!
I’ll keep checking in. I’m expecting to do more co-ordinating on my blog re: Sudan around the end of Jan. Should be a different host this time.
Yes, thanks for the update — my own wife and child have been under the weather for the past few days.
Along the Google Map lines, have you seen ChicagoCrime.org? Looks quite a bit like what you’re after (from the sound of things)…at least, as far as the extensiveness of the data is concerned. 😉
Again, that’s an apologetic answer. If it’s not legit to offer a defense of why you think that talking about apolostic gifts is (or is not) useful, but it is legit to offer a defense of your view of what “the church” ought to be all about, I think you’re not seeing yourself as clearly as you think you are seeing other people.
Well said, Centuri0n.
I’m going to offer my concern in a different way.
If the apostolic gifts are present in the church today, where is the healing of the sick? It seems to me that the first thing Paul and peter did when they entered a city was to heal the sick (not by medicine, but by the Spirit), then teach in the synagogue.
Is it a legitimate argument against Christianity that it is holding the gifts of the Holy Spirit hostage because we do not have the apostolic healer out in Africa curing the AIDS epidenic?
I think you’re not seeing yourself as clearly as you think you are seeing other people.
Does anyone see themselves as clearly as they think they are seeing other people? I’d posit that mostly we don’t.
How did this thread become about apostolic gifts? Admittedly in his previous post Dan lumped two things in together (doctrinal debates and helping those in need) and to be fair Dan, I think that was disadvantageous in some ways. But in this post I see clarification – an opportunity, for those interested in doing things that will help meet some needs.
I’m wondering what is more important – getting the apologetic pound of flesh even after the person has explained himself both here and in a comment on Phil’s blog – or simply acknowledging that yes, doctrine is important, people will discuss it and it can be valuable, and yes, there could be an opportunity to use blogs to do some other things too.
Given Scott’s comment on the previous post:
If you figure out a way to feed the poor, clothe the naked, or visit the prisoner through a blog will you let me know.
it suggests to me that some balance would be good. As I mentioned in reply to Scott, people use their blogs in a number of ways to help do all the things he’s mentioned. It strikes me as a retaliatory comment and I am wondering why things which are part of God’s heart cannot simply be acknowledged and acted upon. These are not lesser things – they are not the poor cousin of doctrinal correctness. Neither is doctrine the poor cousin of charity.
In short Frank – not everyone wants to have a theoretical debate about Africa. Some of us would like to do a something.