Nurturing/ Teaching Courses
Five Reasons Why I Begin Blogging
by Dr Alex Tang
I always think that a blog is a stain on my shirt after I ate laksa noodles until someone pointed out to me that a laksa sauce makes a blot but a blog to give it its full name, a weblog, is a specialised website where you can write your journal or your ideas and post it into the Internet for all to see. Thus, in an attempt to reduce my ignorance, I ventured into the land of cyberspace and to my delight discovered that there is a vast domain there, waiting to be explored and to bring into the influence of the Kingdom of God. Here are the 5 reasons why I blog for God.
Firstly, there is a vast store of information stored in various servers (computers) in the whole world. The Internet refers the network of computers in the world and the software that connects them. It started as a means for scientists to exchange information and for the military to maintain communication in case of a nuclear attack during the era of the cold war. Then come the World Wide Web (www) which are programs that makes it easy for interconnect computers and very easy to use. We know them as Windows Explorer and Netscape. All these have made it easy for everyone to access information stored on millions of computers in the world. While it is important to recognise the fact that not all information on the Internet is reliable but this is also true of much of the information from television, books, newspaper and our friends. The onus is now on the receiver of the information to filter them and decide which to trust. One rule of the thumb is that the source of information must be trustworthy. An educational or recognised organisation is more reliable than a personal website (unless you know that person, of course). Those in schools and higher institution of learning are using the Web more and more. And I am convinced that Christians should be making our thoughts and information of our faith available on the Web for anyone to read. Unless we do so, searchers on the Web will be reading distorted information about Christianity and not benefit from the rich intellectual heritage of the church. The church has always been slow to accept new technology. There was a public outcry when the printing press was invented because it was believed that people cannot handle so much information. The church was not pleased when Martin Luther’s Bible was printed because it made the Scriptures available to everyone, instead of only the priests.
Secondly, the Web has made communication easier. Email has replace postal or snail mails in many ways. People send out electronic Christmas cards instead of paper cards. This has made the dissemination of information easy and fast. Mobile phones now have SMS, MMS and GPRS which are also forms of electronic communications. The impact on this is that information can be available to all instantly. Many corporations and learning institutions have incorporated this into their information structure. I am surprised that many churches have not ventured into this area.
Thirdly, the Web has made a true democratisation of knowledge. Information and knowledge has always been controlled by government censors, media magnates and professional watchdogs (also called peer reviewers). Now, anybody can post their comments and their thoughts on the Web. Where some websites have moderators to block the more offensive contents, independent websites are relatively free to post whatever they want. The bad side is that a lot of nonsense is on the Web. The good side is that there is a freedom of speech. What has impressed me is the ‘wiki’. A wiki is an encyclopaedia-like website where people are working together in consensus to build up a searchable information database free for anyone to use. One good example is wikipedia www.wikipedia.org. Here is a large encyclopaedia slowly being built up containing most of the knowledge of mankind. Contributors are professionals and others who are giving away their knowledge for free. One would expect such a collaborative effort to be full of errors. A recent study done by Science shows that the context of wikipedia is as reliable as online Britannica Encyclopaedia! Personally I feel more Christians should be contributing to the building up of this type of databases. The apostle Paul asked a question of how people are to know of the gift of salvation if they have not been told about it first.
Fourthly, over the years, the way we are learning have changed. Gone are the days when we can sit down and listen to two hours long sermons by Charles Spurgeon and Jonathan Edwards. Nowadays, if the preacher speaks for more than 30 minutes, comments and letters of complaints appear. We are now used to being given information bites in small amount, interestingly packaged with sounds and pictures courtesy of CNN and MTV. People who will not listen to a professional like a doctor yet will believe what they read on the Web. Teens are learning more from the Web than from the church or schools. The forms of communications have changed. And the church has to change its forms of communication if it is to be relevant to the present generation. The church’s mandate is to go forth and make disciples, not wait for the disciples-to-be to come to them. The message has not changed. Only the ways of saying it.
Finally, there is a lot of debate whether there a community can be formed online because there is the lack of non-verbal communication. Interestingly, while the sociologist and church is debating this, communities are being formed in the Web which has defied the nay-sayers. These communities transcend geography, politics, ideologies, age and ethnicities. The community are formed over a common interest, for example a forum on poverty or Star Trek. But over the weeks and years, the contributors to the forum get to know each other and care for each other. To me, it fits the definition of community.
Weblog is another area in which communities can form. A blog is a personal website where one can post whatever thoughts or comments. This is a form of discussion forum but less structured. This is read and commented upon by other bloggers (people who write blogs). If there are common interests, over time communities will form. Christians and seekers have also formed such online communities. One of the challenges I see to the church in the coming years is that these communities will become more numerous and may even outnumber the existing brick and concrete churches. Such church communities share sermons transcripts, listen to sermons online and offer comfort and fellowship to one another. Instead of condemning such communities, the church should embrace these communities and incorporate them into the existing church structure. I am waiting to for pastors of cyberspace churches to appear.
People perceive and receive information differently nowadays compared to those twenty years ago. For people to believe the good news, they must first hear it. To hear it, they need to have the good news communicated to them. The forms of communication have changed. It is time Christians learn to use the new forms of communication. Why do I blog? To communicate. Welcome to blogosphere.
Soli Deo Gloria
"treat, heal, and comfort always"
"spiritual forming disciples of Jesus Christ with informed minds, hearts on fire and contemplative in actions"
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