December 14, 2019

Riffs: 05:11:07: What You Can Turn Into, Thanks To Your “Internet Pulpit.”

logo.gifThe one reason I would ever quit blogging is what you can turn into on this medium. Case in point, in his own words, courtesy of Verum Serum, Ken Silva tells you about himself and his “ministry.”

It’s not my job to write about Ken Silva. Ken and his writing “recommend” themselves, and those who specialize in discernment can discern whether Silva is a voice who ought to be linked and approved as dependable.

What I want to write about, however, are the typical seductions and delusions that proliferate among Christian bloggers. (And since I detest posts about blogging, consider this a bit of repentance in print.)

Internet Monk has hundreds of thousands of readers every year. Thousands have contacted me or commented down through the 7 years I’ve been writing. Now, let me be personal here. I get a lot of love through this medium. A lot of praise, some nice comments, flattering links, free books and the occasional gift. I’m not embarrassed to put my internet career on my resume. I’m proud of what God has done in and through my writing.

What I experience on the net is in start contrast to my real life. In my real life, I’m just me. I’m not a celebrity. No one goes out of their way to hear what I have to say. I get a fair amount of respect and praise, but mostly I am just an ordinary guy working alongside 150 other pretty ordinary people. Even when the word was out that Time was quoting me, I was very much a regular Joe.

In fact, I go through things on a regular basis that are, shall we say, humbling. Those little reminders that you’re fifty, that you’re not a Superstar, that your feelings aren’t all that important and you don’t call the shots.

Of course, on the internet, none of that is true. I’m my own boss. It’s my own world. I can imagine myself as important. My name is set alongside some real scholars. I’m quoted in books and articles by real writers and journalists. I’m a minor league Christian internet celebrity.

And it can go to your head. You can, if you want, begin telling yourself that internet hits and links are some kind of “ministry” that ought to be recognized, expanded and supported. I’m not denying that web sites minister to those who use them, but as “ministries” they are certainly a special category.

No disrespect, but bloggers who quit their real jobs and portray their blogging as a full-time ministry that ought to be supported by the body of Christ need, in most cases, a serious reality check. With the exceptions of people who become full time librarians and resource consultants like John at Monergism.com (which sells books for support btw) I know of few people who have become “full time blogging ministers.”

The truth? There are mission causes that need that money. If you can’t sustain a ministry in the real world, or if you can’t operate with the endorsement and sponsorship of a church that backs up your ministry, you don’t deserve financial support and you shouldn’t presume to talk as if God wants you to have that support.

If every group you start in the real world dwindles to nothing, if every ministry you undertake dries up, if no church will take you under their wing and put their reputation next to yours, then stop talking like you are something you’re not.

You are a blogger or a podcaster. You have an audience, and the greatest gift they give you is allowing you to write or speak to someone. But if you take that audience and their gratitude or endorsement and go beyond what you are, then- sorry to say it- you’re a fool.

Internet Monk MInistries? Sounds good. I once put out a tip jar and got $150 dollars (which I never cashed in). Would I like to quit and blog all day? And have people pay me to do it? Of course. But what part of me wants to do that?

Here’s some common sense advice:

1) If you seriously believe your blog is a ministry, then put it under the authority of a church, or at least a real-world pastor. If the “church” is you and three buddies, the “pastor” is you and the whole thing happens because you make it all happen, then you’re not what you present yourself to be. Stop lying and be honest.

2) If a church won’t put their name on your blog- and I don’t mean the 6 people in your living room- then why not? That doesn’t mean your blog isn’t viable, but it does mean it’s your hobby and not much more. I’d say that if a church hasn’t found you worthy of financial support, it’s a bit early to ask others to put you into “full time blogging.”

3) If you believe God has called you to “internet ministry,”and you have a plan to go full-time, then let’s assume he can tell a few others to be your board of directors or advisors. They can exercise oversight over your plan, especially whatever concerns money. If this isn’t the case, then why not?

4) Perhaps you need to ask yourself this question: Why do I have the right to ask for full-time support from Christians who have limited resources? Why do I believe my ministry qualifies from full-time support from people who must labor for their resources? This is no small thing. The world is well aware that thousands of self-made “ministers” are simply using the generosity of Christians to get free money. It’s a scandal and anyone who is supported financially in ministry must avoid it.

As a person who works in a ministry supported by donations and who must ask for money frequently as part of my job, I’m deeply aware of what questions of integrity are raised when you say “God wants you to support this ministry he’s raised up.” It can be the biggest scam in the world, or it can be the truth.

5) Have I honestly asked myself if the Internet allows me to maintain a false persona? Do I engage in thinking I am a prominent person when, in fact, I’m a blogger? (Some of us may be prominent bloggers, but get a grip on what that means.) Does my internet ministry reflect my desire to serve, or my arrogance and ego?

6) Maybe you need a reality check on just how much traffic you have and what generates it: Bots, Google searches. Return customers. Those who adamantly oppose your point of view. And yes, fans. Be sure and consider what kind of person dwells on the internet hours a day anyway. (And I’m one of them.) Don’t get too excited. If you imagine your numbers are all people who want you to be their full-time internet pastor, you’ve likely gone off the end of the pier.

7) It’s wise to adopt a humble attitude toward this blogging business. It’s not as big as you think. It’s not as important as you think. Lots of people can do it. It promotes all kinds of illusions that we should avoid (like the emerging church with the cool web site that never seems to actually exist anywhere, or the Reformed theology site that’s one guy carping as if he’s the next Martin Luther.) Bloggers have a niche, but none of them are going to replace the real deal.

8) Blogging is about two things: useful conversation with others and good writing. Those are valuable things in life. I love them both and want to offer both up to God and for others. But it’s not martyrdom. It’s not missionary church planting. It’s not sacrificial service to the poor. It’s not faithfully serving in a difficult and often thankless ministry. It’s blogging. Period.

Comments

  1. Wow! I confess to being late to the blogosphere and really, likely not a very good blogger.

    I made a choice when I began my blog. I would not negatively blog about personalities. I would only blog about issues. I did that because of a deep and painful betrayal that had happened to me. The wound is still there and I am working through it.

    Even though some were blogging on those issues and encouraged me to do so, I purposely built a boundary that would serve me well during times when the strength of my own flesh would dominate my emotions.

    There are bloggers who can speak of personalities with whom they disagree in a redemptive manner. It is possible to have sane, even humorous, internet discussions regarding people and issues while at the same time observing the Biblical principle of honoring a brother or sister in Christ.

    Your comments on the blog in reference are well taken.

  2. Great post. You’re absolutely right about the marginal nature of blogging. This wonderful image from XKCD maps the world of online communities, arranged by size and according to where they fit on the practical/intellectual and real-life/web-focused axes.

    Blogging is that little collection of islands down at the bottom. Yes, in the pointed-headed intellectual sea, dwarfed by the vast landmass of Myspace, Xanga etc. We really don’t matter than much. The blogosphere is just a place where the Lisa Simpsons and Martin Princes of this world find a place to hang out where they’re not going to get beaten to a pulp by the Nelson Muntz’s. Which is wonderful, but it ain’t anything more than that.

  3. I found this Silva quote over at Verum Serum quite interesting. It reads:

    By and large – if not always – those who have big ministries/followings have them because they tell people what they want to hear and are but meeting their “felt needs.”

    What reason could we give for Jesus’ thousands of followers? Solid Bible teaching? Well, sure, but the Pharisees didn’t really think so. We could argue that they felt Jesus wasn’t really doing anything but meeting the “felt needs” of those thousands like quenching hunger, healing the sick, and performing other miracles.

    Unfortunately, and I truly mean this without an ounce of venom — indeed it’s with compassion — if the accounts in VS are true, I’m concerned that Silva is heading down the path of A.W. Pink.

  4. What a lovely post. You’re entirely right, of course – and beautifully sincere.

    I had no idea any of this stuff was around until a few weeks ago. (I don’t read Time.)I’m not too sorry to say that I find it kinda laughable that it could be seen as a full time ministry. But, that being said, it’s sure been nice ‘meeting’ so many other Christians and seeing so many points of view and being able to join in. It does do something very positive, or can, and I think that’s a good thing. But all facets of our lives have that potential in one way or another as little Christs. Even laundry. o.O Thanks for sharing and for the time and thought you put in.

  5. Well said.

    I have a few blogs. The one I update the most (and point people to) is my personal/ranting blog. Since God is important to me, I frequently rant about God, or Christianity, or the Church. Sometimes people think it valuable and comment, “Wow, you ought to do this for a living.”

    God forbid.

    I post to that blog for ENTIRELY SELFISH reasons. I rant about things to get ’em out of my system, and it’s cheaper than therapy. If God uses anything I rant about to bless folks, I expect it’s in spite of me. Although I don’t know that I’m blessing them so much as entertaining them — and I can’t call it a ministry ’cause I do it for me, not them.

    Even if I did do it for them, I personally have a problem with demanding money for it. It takes chutzpah to demand financial compensation for doing the good works that I should be doing regardless of pay. It doesn’t store up any treasure in heaven; I’d be doing it for money, not Jesus. I’d much rather follow Paul’s example and pay my own way. If people want to give money, they should give it to the poor or the Church. What business do I have in taking what God has given me for free, putting little to no effort in repeating it, and charging others for it?

    (Some may disagree, but that’s between them and God. For me, I can’t justify it to myself.)

  6. The essence of good blogging is a bunch of people sitting and talking to each other via blogs, mainly because they are unable to talk to each other face to face, and that largely due to geographical concerns. Now sometimes you might be saying something into the vacuum, and sometimes somebody will pick it up. i have personally been much edified through this medium. But like all media, you have to search for the good stuff, and the good people.

  7. Michael,

    You and I don’t seem as if we’d eye to eye on much but I certainly do agree with the points you suggest here.

    And O, I sure hope, “If a church won’t put their name on your blog- and I don’t mean the 6 people in your living room-,” wasn’t a not so thinly veiled swipe at Connecticut River Baptist Church.

    But let’s just say that it did happen to be; you should know that CRBC itself was an SBC plant and we are still affliated with both the NHBA and the BCNE, and in addition Apprising Ministries is itself a fully integrated auxiliary of CRBC answerable to its leadership as well as to a separate board of directors.

    Because I would definitely want to make sure that I had “put it under the authority of a church, or at least a real-world pastor.” And as the Lord would will, in addition to myself – with a “real-world” ordination from the SBC – why there also just happen to be two other “real-world” pastors upon that board of directors.

  8. I have been reading your blog now and then for about a month now and this is one of the most authentic posts I have read so far. Maintaining humility in whatever role God has for us in ministry is of the utmost importance. Thanks for writing and posting something that will give some of us a reality check now and then.

  9. Mr. Silva has forgotten the Fifth Rule: He has taken himself too seriously.

  10. Great post, Michael. I just had a long conversation this week with a couple guys about some of the idiosyncracies of the internet. I wish I had read your post first. It would have given me some great fodder.

    Appreciate you a ton, my friend.