A comment on Scot McKnight’s post about the influence of bloggers on denominational power structures says this:
I think blogs will have the same effect on the church today as
printing the Bible in the common vernacular had at the end of the
Just as the printed Bible allowed for differing
interpretations (and thus allowed for challenging the power structure),
so does blogging do the same today.
It’s a decentralizing shift we’re talking about. Just like normal people having a translation of the Bible in their own language challenged and decentralized the power structures of the church of that day, the Internet and the "flattening of the world" is having the same effect. And just like the Bible translation movement was met with some fierce resistance, there is some resistance in the church today to the decentralization of power, information, and influence. No longer is the pastor of the local church the sole proprieter of all things religious; he’s now one of many sources, and for the most part, he’s having a hard time dealing with it.
The outgoing head of the SBC is having a hard time with it. In his farewell sermon, he expressed disdain and annoyance with bloggers (who had a significant role in the electing of a new president, I guess, one that he doesn’t entirely approve of), as well as technology in general (cell phones were targeted as distractions from witnessing). But the shift from a central locus of power, information, and influence to a decentralized model is well underway. We’ve gone from a vertical model to a horizontal model, and not just because of blogs. People can read all kinds of books from all kinds of theological perspectives at their local bookstore. Anyone can download messages from great (and not-so-great) preachers all over the world. And if the best response church leaders can come up with is complaining about the technology that made it all possible, they will be viewed with increasing suspicion ("What do they have to hide?" people will think).
I think the way forward is to realize that because technology has changed, the way we lead must change as well. We’re going to have to realize that everyone has left the cozy living room modernity had set up, get up off the comfy modern couches we’ve been sitting in for years and start to engage people where they’re really at (the postmodern world), instead of rant and rave that they should come back to the living room so we can minister to them from our comfy couches again. We’ve looked at the despair-ridden caves of postmodernity and looked for a way to turn back the clock. But we can’t go back, we have to go forward through the valley of the postmodern shadow of death, and out the other side.
UPDATE: This graphic from a post on Creating Passionate Users called Mosh-Pit as Innovation Model illustrates my point:
I’ve been super-imposing all this into the realm that I’m most familiar with…that being homeschooling. The internet has been a HUGE catalyst for improved curriculum and wonderful pools of knowledge and experience via eLoops, forums, message boards, blogs and the like.
I’ve been expecially surprised and encouraged by the number of authors of superb curricula who are homeschool parents themselves, never having had any previous drive to ‘publish’ anything. They are accessible (regularly responding on the forums or via email), and they are open to constantly updating/changing/improving their materials by taking large amounts of critique and feedback from the users themselves. There are few ‘giants’…even the Convention speakers are ‘normal joes’ who don’t seem too drawn to the fame their followers shower on them. It’s rather refreshing.
I hope the Church in its myriad forms can begin to embrace more and more the idea that we are all the Church. I think the layfolk need to learn this just as much as the leadership. Consuming is easy. Following one’s talents and passions is risky. But if you’re ever ready to take the plunge, there’ll be a plethora of destinations on the world wide web waiting to introduce you to others doing it too!
RC of strangeculture says
I completly agree w/ you…and as i think about decentralization I’m learning that although many parts of it seem natural to the times and better than old ways, i think I’ve been surprised to feel like some things are lost in the process.
The web of relationships and functions allows random and unique things to fall through the cracks.
–RC of strangeculture.blogspot.com