Sunday, June 03, 2007

The Ethics of Spirit-Filled Blogging

I wouldn't have dreamt about writing a post on the 'art' of blogging because I still count myself as a huge novice in this area. In the past if anyone has come to me and asked "How do I start" or "What do I write", I have always pointed them to bloggers like Tim Challies or Adrian Warnock - who are established, respected and influential bloggers with a vast amount of experience. However as is usual with me a few key posts have brought some thoughts together in my head on this subject so I thought I would write them down. Pete Day's recent and excellent post, "Fueling the charismatic resurgence" made me wonder if people might be asking, "Well how DO I write a charismatic post!?". But then two incidents made me reflect on the "Anonymous" aspect to blogging - Luke's post, "The Drill-Down of Anonymity" and a flood of comments in a recent post of mine.

How does one cover those two subjects in one post? Well let's start off with the negatives - What Spirit-filled blogging ISN'T.

a. Spirit-Filled Blogging isn't Anonymous (Luke 6:32-49).

Luke wrote quite rightly that;

" publicly align myself with a group or a theological view without the accountability for the reader of knowing my identity would be like trying to have a staring match with a pillowcase over your head: you might be staring magnificently, but the achievement of that is lost; you might make a wonderful argument but its urgency and power is lost".

Anonymous blogging and anonymous comments both seem to have the same effect I've noticed. On the one hand anonymous writing on the internet brings a measure of security and safety. You can say what you like and no-one knows who you are. But I have also noticed that anonymous writing on the internet brings incredible suspicion. We all do it. As soon as an anonymous comment is left on mine - or anyone else's blog - the immediate question is, "Who wrote this?". Especially if the comment is vindictive or particularly negative.

Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones told up and coming preachers that when he received correspondance through the post he would immediately look and see if it was signed and who it was from. If it wasn't signed, he would throw it in the bin. I wonder if he would do the same thing with anonymous comments or posts if he were alive and interacting on the internet today?

If you are tempted to write a comment or a post anonymously then heed Adrian Warnock's wise advice;

"So why not bin that post and then write another one that responds with grace where there is arrogance, humility where there is snarkiness, peace where their is rancour, and yet doesnt shy away from tackling the many difficult and important issues we can helpfully discuss online".

I know he was addressing post writers but surely the same counsel could apply to those who leave comments. It troubles me that a church pastor felt the need to publicly defend himself because he felt he was under suspicion for writing anonymous comments, when surely his time could be better well-spent in prayer and study for his up-coming Sunday sermon? I'm not quite sure that the benefits for anonymous posting and commenting outweigh the negatives.

But now the positives. What Spirit-filled blogging IS.

b. Spirit-filled blogging is faith inspiring.

The term "charismatic resurgence" of blogging has been bandied around these parts for the last month or so thanks to Jesse. But what does it actually mean in practice? Well Jesse didn't just come up with that phrase and not help us any further. In true theologian style he helped define it;

"... if blogs could contribute to a reformed resurgence, could not the blogosphere also contribute to a charismatic resurgence, particularly by increasing people's faith for gifts such as prophecy, faith, miracles or healing?".

Surely true Spirit-filled blogging will be unpacking the Scriptures and increasing people's faith with accounts of what God has done and is doing in their lives. I found Sarah's two posts on the recent Newfrontiers Prayer and Fasting days incredibly faith-building because she was testifying to what God is doing here and now. That's why I think live-blogging (or as live-blogging as is possible) from charismatic conferences like "Together on a Mission 2007" is a great concept and I hope is done so that those who can't be present can here what God is doing.

c. Spirit-filled blogging asks the Holy Spirit what should be written.

While I agree in part with Luke's post on "Stickability" - namely that it is a good thing to try and write as regularly as possible, and with Pete's post, "Fueling the charismatic resurgence" and his simple encouragement, "PUBLISH!" - I think there is a danger with trying to write so regularly and maintain such a huge publishing output.

Namely that we move from writing what the Spirit of God wants into what we want just so that our blog will show up as "updated" on other people's blogrolls.

Let me re-emphasise that I do think regular publishing is good and helpful. I am so excited by the charismatic blogging resurgence - that people everywhere (and not just church pastors) are writing of the great things that God has accomplished and will accomplish. But let us be wary too of the ever-present disease of legalism (that Julie has been warning us of regularly!) that will make us feel guilty if we don't keep up with our friends who are blogging more regularly than we are.

When we sit down at our computers, let's just wait a minute and welcome the Holy Spirit into the room to sit with us and guide us. I have found myself recently biking too and from working and asking the Spirit if He has got anything He wants to say. Because surely if our blog reflects His heart and His passion, then it will be a lot more effective than if it reflects our heart and our passion (and that's not to say that I'm against personal blogging particularly! Like Luke I find it "powerful and welcoming").

d. Spirit-filled blogging will often be reflected all over the world.

This is honestly true. Just as I was writing this post and looking for a few links, my friend Luke has just published a post called "Strange Coincidences?". And he said exactly what I was about to write! Let me quote what he wrote because he said it far better anyway;

"Over the last few days there have been a number of other bloggers who have said what has been on my mind (without realising it I presume!). Part of me wonders whether this happens because I read bloggers whose minds work in a similar way to mine. But another part of me is secretly and quietly excited that in God there are no such 'coincidences'".

When God has got something to say, I don't think He restricts it to one or two prophets anymore. The Spirit has been poured out lavishly and freely upon the whole Church and "Would that ALL God's people were prophets!" rings true here. Time and again I too (like Luke) have come to write something and found it on one of the blogs that I read regularly and enjoy. That excites me too! Because it shows that God is speaking to me - but it also shows that God has a message He will get out by whatever means and through any child of His that is listening.

So there we have it. Let me repeat - I'm a novice and I'm rubbish at technology. I can't get my blog looking posh or flash like other peoples. But I hope some of those thoughts may be useful somewhere to somebody.

Have an AWESOME Spirit-filled Sunday and may God in His grace pour out His Spirit upon your church today!! :)

PS: Just to show that I'm not all talk ... I have changed my profile name from "Baxter's Boy" to my real name. I know that most people by now know who I am but for the sake of any new visitors and for the sake of showing I am not going to hide behind any pillowcase - here I am!


jul said...

Great post with lots of food for thought. Thanks for the reminder to invite the Holy Spirit in our our blogging. I love that quote from Luke and wholeheartedly agree. The speaker at the Vineyard conference said last night 'God sends bulk mail'. And it was demonstrated through specific prophetic insights brought that corresponded to things his wife already had written down (in regards to conditions God wanted to heal).

Baxter's Boy said...

Thanks for the comment Julie!! So spine-tingling to read of your encounter with God last night. Please, please keep testifying and sharing - it builds faith and increases our desperation for God Himself!!

Dan Bowen said...

PS: Please note the update I added at the bottom of the blog post. I was just writing some bits and pieces over on "Spirit of God" and I felt the gentle tug of the Spirit that Adrian Warnock spoke about. I know by now that most people know who I am but I don't want any new readers wondering "Who is Baxter's Boy" and I certainly don't want Ern Baxter being blamed for any theological views I have - even though most come from him as my spiritual father!!

So here I am ... the pillowcase is off Luke!! ;)

jul said...

Wow! That IS a big step! Congrats on losing the pillow case , now noone will be tempted to think your head is stuffed with fluff...sorry, winnie the pooh is quite popular at our house at the moment...

Dan Bowen said...

Ah thanks - ooh are we using Winnie the Pooh as our new typology symbolism?! Excellent - I am sure I could get a whole sermons worth out of his love for honey ... honey ... Holy Spirit ... many inspirations!!

James B said...

Excellent post. Are you going to turn off the Anonymous option on the comments then?

Anonymous said...

I love that new links box that you have added at the side of your blog - excellent. It's a helpful indicator as to what you are reading and where we can go! Do keep it updated won't you!!


DR S A J Burgess.

PS: By the way your comments on blogging are excellent. Highly agree.

Dan Bowen said...

I'm not sure yet James. I'm going to wait and see if the situation improves but if the negative stuff keeps rolling then yes I will.

Peter Day said...

Wow, this is a great post! It is true that the Lord is doing great things and stirring people to say similar things.

While I have issued a call to publish, I agree that this is not something to become a legalistic burden. We are not in competition with each other. Nor are we simply to publish for the sake of it. However, I just get the stirring of the Holy Spirit. It can be something I read, or something comes to me as I pray and then a post begins to form. I often type it out in draft and come back to it later.

But the important thing is if God is speaking, then I want to write it down. And if its suitable for others to hear as well, then it is good to blog it.

Just as you said in Wednesday's post Write What You See!

Dan Bowen said...

Exactly Pete!!

The crucial thing is looking and seeing what God is doing! If we aren't looking, then we won't see and therefore there will be nothing to write! So let's seek to be true prophets - watchmen - and never lose sight of the horizon to see when God is coming!

dr annette marshall said...

Off with the pillow-case!! Bravo Dan!!

Jesse P. said...


I have a question and would be interested in your email address. Would you mind emailing me

Thanks for your work!

- Jesse