Balancing one’s responsibilities as a Christian, husband, father, pastor and blogger is a constant struggle. In this final section I would like to outline a few of the pitfalls to be avoided as you attempt to blog as a pastor. What follows are the perceived temptations which I believe many bloggers face. I have learned of some of these dangers through my own experience. You will no doubt discover others as you attempt to blog, but these are given with the hope that my fellow-travelers will avoid the pitfalls which I have seen on the information super highway.
First, guard against the neglect the spiritual disciplines! As a pastor, your first priority is to be a man of the Word and of prayer. If you blog at the expense of these sources of your spiritual vitality, nothing of eternal value will be accomplished through your ministry. A common temptation which I face is to spend so much time reading other people’s blogs that I neglect to read the weightier volumes of Christian literature which have endured the test of time. No matter how helpful a blog may be, it should never be confused as a substitute for a time proven book from previous centuries. Pastor Mark Dever warned against this danger in one of his first posts on the Together for the Gospel blog.
One reason that I’ve been reluctant to enter the blogosphere is that I am concerned that blog-writing and reading only adds to a bad tendency that we today already have – a fascination with the newest, latest, and most recent. And the newest and latest also often means that which is of only immediate value, that which is passing. That is opposed to that which is enduring, and which has in fact endured and lasted. We write words here which crawl along electronically and leap out through your fingers and eyes to take precious minutes and hours that the Lord has entrusted to us. Could these small things we write really be that important?
If you only read blogs and not substantial Christian literature which has stood the test of time, your blog (and your spiritual life) will eventually run dry.
Second, guard against allowing your blog to become a time-hog! It is my conviction that your blog should not cause you to read one less book, spend one less moment studying, make one less visit or lose one hour of family time. Where then, you may ask, do you get the time to blog? Blogging pastor Mark D. Roberts, who spends about an hour a day working on his blog, offers this helpful suggestion:
When do I find the time? Mostly I seem to have replaced watching the local evening news with blogging. This means fewer fires, murders, and police chases for me, though I’m not sure my life is impoverished because of this sacrifice.
“Let Us Blog: A Pastor’s New Ministry Frontier is the Blogosphere,” in Leadership 26.1 (Winter 2005): 70.
The amount of time which you spend on your blog will vary, but do not allow it to overwhelm your other responsibilities. If you examine your schedule closely you will probably find that you have time which can be used to manage your blog. Remember that since you are blogging out of the overflow, most of the work (study/research) has already been done. All that remains in many cases is to copy, paste and press the “Publish” button on your blogging software. Don’t become a slave to your blog!
Third, guard against the temptation to attract a particular audience! This goes against the common perception in the blogosphere that one must find his or her own niche which attracts a particular audience and then one’s content must be tailored toward that audience. Instead, I believe that, for the pastor, one’s primary audience is the local congregation to which you’ve been called. Others will benefit from the overflow of your ministry to your local church, but that is incidental to your purposes. The temptation for the pastor to modify his message to be accepted is not one that is only faced in the pulpit, it can be faced in the blogosphere as well! Long before the creation of the internet, Charles Haddon Spurgeon warned of this danger with these words:
I am bound to say, also, that our object certainly is not to please our clients, not to preach to the times, not to be in touch with modern progress, not to gratify the cultured few. Our life-work cannot be answered by the utmost acceptance on earth, our record is on high, or it will be written in the sand.
An All-Round Ministry: Addresses to Ministers and Students (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2000), 317.
If our ministries are to stand the test of time and not merely “be written in the sand,” we must have a higher standard than the acceptance of mere men. We must have a ministry that is grounded in the truth of God’s Word. Blogs which are the overflow of such a ministry will not lack God’s blessing.
Fourth and finally, we must guard against expending our pastoral affections on an unseen blog “congregation” to the neglect of our local congregations! In other words, we should not commit ecclesiastical adultery! Mark Roberts comments on this powerful temptation:
For many pastors, myself included, the adulation of strangers can be a narcotic that threatens to distract us from our primary calling. If I can help a South African pastor with his youth ministry, that’s great, but not if I’m ignoring my primary calling to shepherd my flock in Irvine, not to mention my responsibilities as a husband and father. (Roberts, “Let Us Blog,” 70).
If you stop doing ministry in your local church, then your blog is, at best, a pseudo-ministry. The strongest temptation is to allow the positive feedback received from your blog to cause you to spend more time on the blog to the neglect of that area of ministry which you enjoy the least. You know which area that is for you. But whenever an area of legitimate ministry in your local church is neglected for the sake of the blog there is need for repentance.
Blogging is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. It is my belief that by avoiding the pitfalls listed above and embracing a model for pastoral blogs in which blogging is an overflow of one’s personal life and ministry in the local church, a pastor can increase the effectiveness of his ministry both locally and around the world. Blogging out of the overflow will allow the local church to receive the full attention of the pastor, provides an easily accessible log of important materials for the members of the local congregation to reference, and the wider Christian community also has the opportunity to benefit from the pastor’s ministry to his local congregation.