Blogging for God
Plugged into culture
Blogs connect pastors and churches to wide, wired world
By Melanie B. Smith
In the Rev. Dave Anderson’s world, getting the word out isn’t just a Sunday thing.
Any time, any place, he spreads his message — at least to anyone with the technology to get online.
Anderson, 46, is a “blogger.” That is, he writes a Web log, a blog, which is a sort of online journal. Anyone with an Internet connection can check his entries.
For instance, the lead pastor of Crosspoint Community Church in Decatur wrote after Sunday’s Easter service:
“I am wiped out. Spiritual warfare is intense. When you are preaching the gospel of the Resurrection, the enemy will do everything he can to stop you. He didn’t stop us but he sure did give it a good try.”
During the last week he blogged his way from wondering why the temperature was dropping to 25 degrees to wishing that computer virus creators would lose body parts to proclaiming that Jesus lives.
Pastor blogs like Anderson’s are increasingly common. They are one more way to get religious messages into the public square — a really big square that is unbelievably public.
One social network site, MySpace, has 160 million subscribers, for example.
In the last two months since Anderson has been seriously blogging, he’s had a daily average of 77 hits, or visits, from Web users. One of the church’s original videos featuring Anderson has had more than 11,000 hits through the video-sharing site to which his blog links.
Anderson said when he originally did a blog, no one read it. He quit but after attending a conference decided to start up again.
Now Anderson goes by “moviepastor” in his blog world. He said he learned to make his blog intentional and to connect with the greater world by such tools as a feed to deliver the content to the Web.
TypePad is his blogging service that allows people to register and get automatic notice of new entries. He said he pays about $5 a month for TypePad but also uses some free services.
Anderson said he uses a blog to keep the church vision fresh.
Last week he and a church worker bumped off a cultural icon in another original video, “You Did What to the Easter Bunny?” Anderson created the video with Jack Alford, Matt Pitts and the church’s creative ministry team to remind people that Easter is about Christ and to promote a “MythBusters” sermon series.
If you go online to watch, be prepared: the bunny doesn’t rise from the dead. Anderson remarks in a blog entry that he considered for a millisecond the bunny’s fate might upset some people but decided it was funny. He posted the Easter Bunny video to YouTube, the popular video-sharing site.
The Crosspoint video that got 11,000 views on YouTube, “American Idol Audition Free Bird,” features Anderson supposedly trying out in front of the Idol show judges. Some viewers cursed the fake audition in responses.
Anderson said the “Idol” clip was first made to promote another sermon series.
The humor, the creativity and the openness in the blog and videos are all in the name of connecting today’s culture to the gospel, Anderson said.
Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer|
Rev. Dave Anderson, aka “moviepastor” Pastor of Crosspoint Community Church
“Our whole goal is to be a church for people who don’t like to go to church,” he said.
Technology is an important tool for Crosspoint, which had attendance of 161 Sunday, the pastor said. Today’s generation is digital, and it is time for the church to catch up, he said.
“I think the church should do everything it can to engage people long enough to present the gospel message,” he said.
Anderson said he called himself “moviepastor” because he loves movies and views them as windows into today’s culture. He also figured the name would help drive Web users to his site.
He said it’s one thing to write a blog, but if it’s not genuine, readers will fast turn critical and stop reading. He said people are looking for authenticity, so he doesn’t shy away from putting his pain and shortcomings in his writing. He regularly uses words like “freaking” and “crappy.”
“If you’re not willing to be vulnerable, I don’t think you will connect with people who have problems,” he said.
He needs to admit mistakes and not pretend that life is always awesome, he said, but it’s a tightrope walk between spilling it all and holding back.
Anderson provides links to popular blogging pastors like Gary Lamb of Canton, Ga. Lamb put a link on his site to Anderson’s blog, which pleases the local pastor. Anderson said a video Lamb posted on YouTube grew so popular that the Atlanta Journal Constitution and Fox news covered it, and 100 people who saw it showed up at Lamb’s church.
Not every congregation can keep up with fast-moving technology and shouldn’t be envious if it can’t, Anderson said.
“A church should ask, ‘Can we leverage this? Do we have the tools to do that?’ If not, they don’t have to be a clone. Not every church has to do this. It’s better to not do it than to do it badly.”
Instead, a church should use what it has well, such as keeping its marquee sign updated, he said.
Crosspoint hasn’t abandoned traditional ways of communication; it still has printed bulletins, for example. But it has invested in technology: a $2,000 camera, a $2,500 plasma TV, $300 video editing software. Anderson said such tools make for good quality, and that’s essential for what Crosspoint does.
Anderson ended his Easter Sunday blog:
“I didn’t hear of the term ‘holy hangover’ till I started reading a few pastors’ blogs. It is actually a medical condition brought about by stress ... I’ve had one since noon today and Wow. I feel like I got run over by a train. Very bizarre. Can’t wait till I get to do it again!”
Inspired by ...
One of Dave Anderson’s inspirations is Granger Community Church in Granger, Ind., where a number of staff members blog. Daryl McMullen, Web director for the church, said they blog to express creativity, to give back to the community and to communicate without e-mailing each person individually.
“We have used blog technology a number of times at the church when nothing else made sense. We are quickly able to obtain a site, modify it to look the way we want and then allow the technology to take over,” McMullen wrote.
Advantages of blogs over traditional Web sites include simplicity, interactivity and automatic tracking of viewers, he said.
New media for an old message
More local churches and leaders are launching into cyberspace beyond standard Web sites.
The Rev. Ken Oldham, 34, lead pastor at Sixth Avenue Church of God, said he blogs because people aren’t going to stop by the church with their questions.
“We bring the questions to where they are,” he said.
His site at servelovepray
.blogspot.com has had a surprising number of subscribers, Oldham said, including people in Haiti.
Sixth Avenue also puts part of its Sunday evening “Worship for Sleepyheads!” services on MySpace.com. Online users can participate virtually by listening and responding, he said. Over the six months it’s been up, the MySpace posting has tallied hundreds of hours of play, the pastor said.
Oldham said because of some ads and postings on MySpace, some people think it’s sinful to be there. But the pastor said such sites are where many people hang out.
“It’s the modern-day Samaritan well,” he said, referring to the place Jesus evangelized a sinful woman.
Other local churches’ outreach in new media include:
Central Baptist Church’s Web site for youths. It includes original videos, photos and more. Student minister Gave Ross said it’s a good way to connect with students who are wired 24/7. He said he’s too busy, though, to keep up a blog.
MP3 formatted sermons from the Rev. Terry Greer, pastor of Decatur First United Methodist Church, and other preachers. The format is for iPods and other portable players.
A blog and youth site from student minister Jeff Gardner at westmeadebaptist.org.
“The Blogging Church,” a book by Brian Bailey with Terry Storch
www.lifechurch.tv, an Internet church
Blog: An online diary; a personal chronological log of thoughts published on a Web page; also called a Weblog.
Webster’s New Millennium Dictionary of English
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