I just concluded a phone conversation with a young man that I deeply respect. He is a well-trained brother in New Testament studies with an advanced degree in the field, some years of pastoral experience and is now working in the marketplace. He gives me great insights and a lot of loving input as my friend and peer. I feel like he is my son, at times, and love him dearly. He is also a guy who thinks both biblically and outside the box of conservative/liberal Christian political correctness.

As we spoke on the phone I shared with my friend a growing doubt about the value and place of blogging, or at least the kind of blogging that I have done for nearly four years now. What I have done is similar, at least in form, to what almost everyone else is doing in this Internet medium. Here are the positives I see in such blogging:

1. I am a writer and thus want to use this medium to write and teach as widely as possible.
2. I value input and dialog highly. My blogs and responses to my blogs allow people to "know" me in some settings.
3. I also value community, correction and honest disagreement.

The negatives are also very apparent when you do this and start to think about it:

1. It is impersonal and thus allows people to respond and take the microphone and use it for just about anything they want to say and do. (I can delete their comments but I am inclined, in almost every case, not to do this at all since I invite it to happen.)
2. If stirring up debate is your goal then this medium works very well. At the same time some of the meanest and nastiest stuff I have read by Christians is on blog sites. I see this as very harmful to the church as a community. It can easily become the coward’s way to throw attacks without responsibility and charity.
3. On my own site debates go back and forth, both with me and between my readers. Some of this is good and some of it is not helpful at all, at least from where I sit and think. I wonder, seriously, if blogging is counterproductive to my own goals of mission and unity in the Church.
4. If I post negative comments, which in fairness I choose to do in almost all cases, then there is also the potential that I am using the negative comments to "let people see" how virtuous Space
I am in my response, or non-response. I am serious about this. One can truly use this means to promote their own piety. I fear that happens for me in ways that I do not like at all.
5. I am growing, thinking and changing. This invites various readers to attack my ideas and, to some extent, to attack me. I welcome correction but attacks, and suggestions that I am not an honest Christian, leave me in the place where I must counter-attack in some fashion or remain open to comments that are just wrong without my being able to defend myself.

Some time ago I wrote extensively about a (mostly) Korean group called University Bible Fellowship (UBF). Except for some of my political blogs these comments got the most response of anything I ever wrote on the Internet. The reason was obvious to my readers. Ubf
There is a lot of diverse opinion about this group and these blogs helped stir a lot of anger and emotion. I sought to explain my unique friendship with some UBF leaders and to show respect them for their character and good work as evangelists. I was seen by the enemies of UBF as a defender of a cult. I am still not sure what this all did in the end. I am happy to report that I have even more friends within UBF, people I love and regard highly. But I also allowed enemies of UBF a platform to use my site to attack my own friends. What I question is not the discussion but the context and method? Neither UBF nor ACT 3 is above question by well-intentioned Christians who disagree. But there is a right way and a wrong way to carry out expression of concern. This is really at the heart of my honest question in this blog.

One solution is to write blogs but never post comments, pro or con. This takes away some very good things people write while it also removes the negative and unhelpful stuff. If someone wants to write to me (privately) I can read their response and respond as I have time and strength to do so. But the whole world doesn’t have access to a properly private conversation.

Example: Some who comment on my blog site know me personally and I know them quite well too. We simply do not agree on some things. They have every right to disagree with me and will quite likely keep doing so. The question here is simple: "Should I afford personal comments, which I and the writer know a lot more about than the average reader does, to be used publicly in this forum?"

There is a place for polemical dialog, I will grant. But I think the place is quite limited by what I read in the New Testament epistles. What I seriously wonder about is this: "Is the Internet the place to do this?" By these comments I am actually asking you to respond to this post:

1. Do you think my concerns are valid? Why or why not?
2. Would you read blogs without the freedom to respond to them publicly?
3. How valuable is the response of others, to you personally, if you are a reader of this/my blog?
4. What biblical principles come to bear on these questions? This question is the most important to me to hear what you think.

I would sincerely like to hear from anyone who has a comment to make that will edify and also help me and others in thinking about this subject. Nasty comments will not be posted, which is a given. Thoughtful ones that show love for the Church are very needed at this point. You can write me in private and I can read your comment and not post it if you tell me not to do so when you write your response. All posts must first be read by me anyway so write whatever you wish. I will read it and use it to help me in this thought process. I simply do not know the way to deal with biblical principles and protocol here and would love help.

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  1. Steve Scott April 1, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    The worst thing I can come up with against you personally is that you’re a Braves fan. (GO Giants!) I enjoy your commenters for several reasons. One, I can click onto their websites and see what kind of background they have and how they interact with your goals of ecuminism and mission. Two, I learn from them as they interact with you. As to your questions, there is some cause for concern, but I think overall the effect is quite positive. The attacks came from the Pharisees and heretics, and this has occurred throughout history. Blogging off is just a sign of the times, and most people with the ability to discern can see through the veneer. I would still read you even if I can’t comment, but the comments add wealth. One principle that comes to mind (sorry I can’t quote the Proverb) is that one man’s side of the story seems just until another comes and examines him. That’s how I learn quite often.

  2. Adam S April 1, 2008 at 5:14 pm

    I think that blogging can be glorifying. And comments can be helpful. But I have no problem saying that comments that deviate into name calling or other inappropriate behavior be deleted. I read you and many others because I am seeking out wisdom. I want to read both people I agree and disagree with to deepen my faith. I am under no illusion that I have figured things out and I think blogging is a great way to seek out wisdom.
    But if blogging ceases to be spiritually edifying to you as you do it I would say quit. Your own spiritual walk is too important to let other drag it down.

  3. Gene Redlin April 1, 2008 at 9:35 pm

    If God is Glorified by blogging may not be the real question. Of course He can be Glorified in blogging. He can also be profaned in blogging. People can use blogging to glorify themselves. Blogging is self revealing. If I read a person’s blog very long I can sense his spirit.
    Comments are a way of people who invest themselves in coming to know a blogger by reading the things they write. Certainly moderated comments are acceptable, maybe even important. I will read news stories. I will read essays written by people of exceptional writing skill. However, there is no community in reading those writings. Part of the blog culture is community.
    There are people I consider blog friends I have made by interaction on blogs, Steve and Keith are two I came to know on your blog. I read them both and have a sense of who they are.
    That is a value that in my opinion Gives Christ Glory.
    Now, to be fair, blogging is time consuming. Too much for me sometimes. If it is robbing you of time you may want to do what some of my blog friends do, take a blog vacation. Tell people who read about how long you will be gone. That way you will retain readers.
    Last thought, blogging as you conduct it does fulfill the mission of unity in the Church. Don’t imagine that agreement in all things is unity. That has never existed if you carefully read the book of acts and the letters of the new testament. I doubt seriously that of 100 steady readers more than 3 agree with you 80% of what you write. But it does cause discussion, consideration, even doubt.
    Your blog has a purpose. It’s different from mine, from Keith’s, from Steve’s. Each is a reflection of who we are and what we think is important irritating or entertaining.
    So blog away IF it satisfies YOU to do so. Quit worrying about your capacity to fulfill some mission. God will use you as he chooses. He has in the past. He will in the future. If you choose to stop blogging I will understand that you are called to another purpose for another season.
    You’re a good man John, I came to grow in my love of your heart by reading your blog and disagreeing with you. That glorifies Jesus in my estimation.

  4. Kevin D. Johnson April 1, 2008 at 11:01 pm

    The notion that you are a controversial blogger never came to my mind until you suggested it here in this post. As someone who has been known to be controversial on occasion(!) and has recently been taken to task online and suffered a split between some of our major contributors at our own site a few months ago–I’d say that there is still potential to use this medium for legitimate discussion (and debate, if necessary).
    It could very well be that our own pluralistic age colors our thinking about these sorts of things. I don’t believe everyone should be agreeing or even that discussion–for it to be legitimate–has to follow some polite and endearing course. Sometimes strong disagreement is warranted and needed in the face of so many blogs and perspectives out there.
    We have never had a policy at our blog site that moderates our comments and only the most rude and inappropriate comments never see the light of day. Sometimes we may even post things that seem rude to the Victorian hangover that is the ecclesiastical culture of the American church. But the participation of commenters on our site we see as necessary and important. There is no community and no conversation in a monologue and if we need anything in our day and age it is a resurgence of community, electronic or otherwise.
    We cannot pretend that the most important discussion of our day is to be done by ministers without the thoughtful reflection, delegation, and supervision–yes, supervision–of the covenant community of the faithful. Part of the wonder of technology means that we can expand this community and its perspective well beyond the borders of denominational influence and power (which I am now calling prelacy), geography, cultural mores, and other inessential features of a collapsing American church.
    Your work is a shining light. Your thoughts are important and if I were you I would be working to get my message out any way possible. Ignoring the potential of blogging in doing so seems to me like a huge strategic mistake and I maintain the importance of blogging even after the personal level of grief it has caused me in the last few months. Worse still though is missing the empowerment of your message–even through vehement disagreement–created by those who comment and contribute further in comments and who work to expand your work and message in ways that previously might have been impossible. Often, it has been my experience that the comments to posts on a blog like this wind up being the very thing that clinches it in terms of convincing others of your own perspective. You might also consider a more proactive role in commenting on the blogs of others.
    If I had any additional or final advice, I would try not to think of blogging as merely a one way conversation where you post and people comment but a more three dimensional model where you blog here, participate in commenting elsewhere, and join in with your commenters here as well so that it truly does become a networked web of work that moves you closer towards accomplishing your mission.
    So, these are just some thoughts…I hope they are helpful.

  5. David Moore April 2, 2008 at 9:24 am

    Hi John,
    I think you have found the answer. Post your musings and don’t allow comments. As you well know, many bloggers do this.
    Sometimes I will peruse reader comments, but find most of them are either redundant or unreflective. Certainly, there can be a gem from a reader, but that is pretty rare so not really worth my time to find.
    As one who quickly goes through a number of blogs, I trust yours will remain. Your voice is needed.

  6. jls April 2, 2008 at 11:01 am

    Hi John.
    I have read this blog regularly for the last 18 months. It has been a blessing to me in countless ways, and I hope and pray that you continue with this good work. I read everything you write but post comments only when I feel that I have something intelligent or useful to say. There are many others out there who do the same. The unique aspect of this blog is that is continually challenges us to think outside the box. The body of Christ is very diverse, but the opportunities to be exposed to diverse Christian viewpoints within a single congregation or ministry are limited. Because of your ecumenical outlook, your scholarly and friendly writing style, and your willingness to tackle tough issues and knock over a few sacred cows, you have attracted a core of thoughtful, devoted Christian readers who are not like-minded on many issues but who deeply appreciate what you are doing. Reading your articles and the comments of readers helps to connect us to parts of the Body of Christ that we would not otherwise hear or see. The Internet certainly has its drawbacks, but at the moment it’s the best medium we have for a diverse community to engage in multiway conversations across boundaries of geography and time.
    In response to your concerns about the Internet:
    “1. It is impersonal and thus allows people to respond and take the microphone and use it for just about anything they want to say and do.” Yes, but in any other public forum or medium, people will occasionally hijack a conversation for selfish purposes. The Internet makes it easier for an unruly person to do so, but the Internet also makes it easier to deal with unruly people. The Internet can be anonymous, but it is not impersonal. Whatever people write, their spirit, personality and character always shine through. Not hearing people’s voices or seeing them face-to-face can sometimes be a good thing, as it may help us to get beyond our prejudices and superficial tendencies to judge by appearance.
    “2. If stirring up debate is your goal then this medium works very well. At the same time some of the meanest and nastiest stuff I have read by Christians is on blog sites.” In a fallen world, we encounter mean and nasty people wherever we go and whatever we do. If the Internet occasionally prompts otherwise nice-looking Christians to reveal their mean and nasty side, that may be a good thing, because it brings spiritual problems out into the open where they can be discussed and addressed. But seriously, John, this is rarely a problem on your site. The thoughtful and moderate stance of you and most of your readers tends to drive the meanies and nasties away.
    “3. On my own site debates go back and forth, both with me and between my readers. Some of this is good and some of it is not helpful at all, at least from where I sit and think. I wonder, seriously, if blogging is counterproductive to my own goals of mission and unity in the Church.” Ditto what Gene Redlin said: Unity is very different from agreement. And revealing the lack of agreement can be useful, if not now, for the future. Case in point: your recent articles about libertarianism and Christians who support Ron Paul. Many of those who posted comments sharply disagreed with you. You did not respond with additional arguments to try to defeat them or win them over, and wisely so, because they seemed entrenched in their positions. But it was instructive to show that there are parts of the Body of Christ who think and feel as they do. Perhaps after the election cycle passes and emotions cool off, the discussion may continue and eventually bear fruit. For now, revealing the lack of agreement seems to be an important first step; it’s far better than pretending that there is agreement when there isn’t.
    “4. If I post negative comments, which in fairness I choose to do in almost all cases, then there is also the potential that I am using the negative comments to ‘let people see’ how virtuous I am in my response, or non-response.” As sinners who are steeped in sin, ulterior and impure motives taint everything we do. If something is good or virtuous, it deserves to be done, even as we pray that God will accept the imperfect offering and sanctify it by the blood of Christ. Your manner of dealing with those who have disagreed with you, criticized and attacked you has glorified God and provided a great example for others to follow. “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Mt 5:16).
    “5. I am growing, thinking and changing. This invites various readers to attack my ideas and, to some extent, to attack me.” I applaud you for opening up and sharing your thought process as you try to formulate responsible Christian views. Once again, this provides a great example for others to follow. This is far better than pretending that you’re right and know all the answers. Your honesty is refreshing. While it makes you vulnerable to criticism, it also protects and vindicates as your positions evolve and change.
    Regarding University Bible Fellowship: Your columns on that ministry did provide a forum for UBF’s critics, but they only said what they were already saying elsewhere on their own websites. Bringing these controversies to light on your blog was extremely helpful for members of UBF and for those who had not heard of the ministry. Truth was told, and the spirit of those who posted comments, both for and against, shined through for thoughtful and mature Christians to see.
    Regarding your third question: “How valuable is the response of others, to you personally, if you are a reader of this/my blog?” On a scale from one (useless) to ten (extremely important), I would give it a twelve. Your policy of deleting only the most offensive comments seems to be working well. Your readers are wise enough to discern which comments are valuable and which are not. In the parable of the weeds, the servants asked, “Do you want us to go and pull up the weeds?” The master replied, “No, because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest” (Mt 13). In eternity, we will have the time, energy and wisdom to sift through your comments and pull out the weeds. For now, I think it’s better to leave the weeds alone.

  7. Jordan April 2, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    I think this is a great question and one that I have been thinking about for quite awhile. I plan to write something of a response when I get a chance. Suffice it to say for now that I think there are two different commandments that directly apply to so-called “Godblogging,” and that they are regularly violated, perhaps most egregiously in “theological” blogging. When I get a chance, John, I’ll send you the piece.

  8. George C April 2, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    I think I have made it pretty clear that I appreciate what you contribute in your blogs, even when we disagree.
    I think that comments are what makes blogging worthwhile. I often read the comments on blogs, sometimes comment myself and am a little uninterested in my own blog because of the lack of comments there.
    What I appreciate about blogging is the potential for it to be a dialog where everyone can learn together. I see that you are quite often writing to ask questions as much as offer insight.
    In this way I find blogging much more valuable than traditional teaching and preaching. After a semon there are questions, disagreements, helpful correction that just isn’t going to be shared. Blogging let’s teaching be the conversation that it should be as well as let’s us learn from everyone involved.
    I have seen a number of comments that are ill informed regarding your point of view, but that is just communication in general and I think that you should look at blogging simply as another form of communication.
    Sometimes in a group it is necessary to silence rude people or to pull a conversation back on topic, but I would make your decisions about blogging just like you would about the effort spent teaching and learning with anyone.

  9. Bruce Newman April 2, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    I don’t think there’s a neat answer to this as I sense that you value responses. I have read your blog for some time. I don’t always agree, but so what? In the main I find you a serious Christian who sincerely seems to aim for what glorifies God instead of a political viewpoint or ideology. I find that of far more value than being able to agree all the time. Especially since I have no words to express how sick I am of business as usual and herd thinking inside and outside the church.
    The Internet is the last refuge of the truly common man. Lack of talent and discipline, cowardliness and false bravado thrive in the unaccountability of the impersonal Internet world. And with low character and loneliness being cultivated the way it is these days I don’t see any way to avoid the negatives of blogging or expressing yourself honestly on the Internet – if you want responses.
    All I can say is that I’ve done it for a while myself and find the positive comments and the sometimes truly profound ones in response to my words worth all the unthinking bleats of the sheep. And sometimes I learn something from even those.

  10. John Paul Todd April 2, 2008 at 4:30 pm

    There’s always a first time for everything and I guess it’s finally time to post something now that you’ve been blogging for four years.
    I’m one of those silent lurkers- occasionally checking to see what you and your blogging community are saying but never really entering in-except of course in spirit.
    I was with you at Asbury last year and shared my concerns about the dangers of blogging. They’re real and represent all you’ve said re.vain glory and much more.A healthy fear of God would work wonders for all
    However, a year has gone by, and we’ve both continued to grow in grace and the wonderful love of our Savior and I now am seeing many of the positive ways in which God is glorified and definitely in this new internet revolution, unleashing major conversations about the church and her mission.
    So, I would have to agree with some of those who belong to your blogging community and have through it discoverd other new brothers and sisters-such as Gene Redlin, to name one I discovered just today.
    Besides, you can’t quit now, I’m just getting started.

  11. Chris Criminger April 2, 2008 at 5:01 pm

    Hi John,
    I think the question itself is a great one to explore even though I know you are asking it from your own personal anxst. “Is God glorified in blogging?”
    All I can say is when it comes to your website (1)you do set the standard for others (and your own self-examination is good for the soul; and (2) If its a challenging blessing, continue it and if its a curse, abandon it.
    There have been a few good suggestions from others and I will only say that I have to take “sabbaticals” from the Internet at times for my own sanity and peace of mind. Maybe you should have scheduled and even unscheduled “fasts” from the Internet?
    I will say for now, your blog is the only one I read and I respect your comments and insights so much which both challenge me and widen my perspective.
    I also liked the idea of spending time on another blogs that builds up and challenges your Christian faith in a good way. I would love to hear by others what are some good blogs to visit and interact with? In the end, ecumenicalism will only happen between like-minded Christians and all you can do is contiue to connect and network with those like-minded ones while maybe changing someone’s mind every once in a great while who only wants to keep old walls up between separated Christians.
    Love is a risk . . . ecumenicism is a risk . . . But one that I believe is worth it even though one may feel like a voice crying in the wilderness at times.
    May God richly bless you and give you rest and grace John.

  12. Anthony Velez April 2, 2008 at 8:18 pm

    In response to your question one thing I thought of was the criticisms of Postman or McLuhan regarding how our messages are shaped by the mediums we use to communicate them. I remember someone saying that declaring “Jesus is Lord” on the internet is not quite the same declaration as when it is spoken by a person in a real world setting. I am not sure what the explicit significance of this is in relation to your question, other than to say that we have to be aware of the limitations of the mediums we use when communicating.
    On an experiential level, I enjoy reading your blog, I enjoy reading your commenters, and I enjoy leaving comments, and when I leave comments I often return to see if anyone has responded. Basically I like a good conversation, and an open blog can provide some conversational dynamics. However, one of the limitations is that there is a lack of shared context, and a lack of other communication signals that help us more readily understand what others are saying or the spirit in which they are saying it. This, of course, can lead to problems, but perhaps these problems are like the ones that attend freewill. Sure, freewill brings the possibility of evil, but it also brings the possibility of love, and I am not willing to get rid of the latter to prevent the former. So, in relation to blogging, there are innate and perhaps intractable problems, but I think it is good in that it brings a far-reaching platform for dialogue, and I wouldn’t want to get rid of it just to prevent the problems.

  13. ubfhistoryx April 4, 2008 at 8:01 am

    I think what probably got us (“UBF’s enemies”, former members) up in arms was the uncritical tone of your first UBF article. Yes, their “spirits” may have shown through. Many still get angry. That doesn’t mean they haven’t given truthful testimony of what they have seen and experienced in this controversial group, as thoughtful and mature Christian pastors and counselors have realized upon hearing them. Your later articles did seem to give a nod to the notion that people have left UBF with various wounds, so thanks for that, at least.

  14. Rick April 4, 2008 at 8:53 am

    I would read posts with no comments if they were intended as more of an article. But, posts that are inviting of a response (which may fall under the former as well) need to have the option to comment.
    I stopped blogging because I was looking for more of a community type experience where the goal of what I was writing would generate discussion, etc. This wasn’t happening, so I chose not to continue (on top of issues of time management, and priorities). Point is most people don’t comment, even on blogs that generate thousands of daily hits, but people do read and personally reflect on the content even if you don’t see it.
    I would agree with a previous comment that if this blog is taking a personal toll, then you obviously need to re-evaluate its future, or at least how often you write new material.
    Personally, having had the opportunity to meet you and see your heart for ministry and the church, this blog provides a way for me to stay up to date on your life, so that I may know how to pray for you and follow what God is doing through you and the broader ministry of Act 3.

  15. Nick Morgan April 4, 2008 at 11:11 pm

    Having read the previous responses, I can’t really add much to the opinions given to you in response to your questions. I agree with what most of the responders have written. I too enjoy your blogs very much! And since my free time is very limited, often your blog is the only one I have time to read, yet I’m usually glad I set aside time to read it. I too like to read the responses. Often people make good points or bring out another perspective on an issue you have written about. But there’s certainly nothing wrong when others I’ve grown to respect simply give you an “atta boy” or an “Amen” in response. Like others have said, if blogging is draining you physically or spiritually, a furlough is certainly warranted. However, I hope you can keep doing what you are doing on this blog. I think your posts and the responses of most of your readers are valuable to all of us who read your site; and as you know we already represent a broad spectrum of the Body of Christ. I have to believe that in the sight of God and man that this is a good thing indeed. God bless you my friend!

  16. Helen April 9, 2008 at 8:07 pm

    John, I enjoy reading your blog (well, maybe not so much the sports blogs but I expect other people like them :)) – but I wouldn’t want you to blog unless you feel it’s something God wants you to continue to devote some of your time and energy to.

  17. lauren April 14, 2008 at 7:56 am

    I echo the sentiments in many of the responders above. This blog has been enlightening and edifying, in both the posts and dissenters. I think the moderated comments has made the posting environment much more civilized as well.
    On a pragmatic note, maybe you or one of your family members could consider printing your blog posts and compiling them in the future. There are easy and inexpensive book-publishing programs online (search through google, such as You could even include some of the comments if so desired. Your thoughtfulness, time, and prayer in writing these blogs is evident, and I think it would be great for your children/grandchildren to read your reflections.

  18. Adam S April 14, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    Lauren presupposes that your grandchildren will want paper. Electronic is already my preferred format. My main deterrent is the lack of electronic availability of theology and more specialized works.

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