The Word on Blogs
Why pastors are launching Web logs and who's actually reading them.
In the beginning, someone (possibly Al Gore) created the Internet. And it was good. Sort of. But it needed something.
So in 1999 Peter Merholz took a cyber rib from the Internet (they were called Web logs at that point), purposefully and creatively misplaced the “space” and named his site “We Blog.” Much merry-making ensued. Millions of others joined in. And it was all good … well, some of it at least.
Within four years, blogs became a new addiction for millions. So many to read, so little time to find and navigate them all. What's an addict to do?
Enter Bloglines.com, founded in 2003 by Mark Fletcher as the Web's first free online service for tracking and reading blogs. Essentially, Bloglines.com allows readers to “subscribe” to any number of blogs and when new content is available it is automatically “shipped” to your Bloglines.com page. Many subscribed.
Blogs multiplied and soon started taking over the Internet. Resistance was futile.
So, what exactly is a blog? A blog is typically a series of short e-mail-style notes that appear on a personal or corporate Web page, arranged by date posted. The oldest “posts” are automatically moved by the software to an archive file. In most cases, setup is minimal and the interface is easy to learn. As a matter of fact, it's the ease of use that makes blogs such an amazing development.
Just ask Mark Batterson, pastor of D.C.'s National Community Church (www.theaterchurch.com). After seven years of struggling to get a church-plant off the ground inside the nation's capital, Batterson started blogging as a way of communicating with a congregation of predominantly single 20-somethings on Capitol Hill. Today, the church is pushing 1,000 in attendance.
“It's all about multiplication,” Batterson says. “And the larger your church gets, the more important it is to blog. It allows the entire congregation to be part of my world, to feel like they really know their pastor. It allows the congregation to feel like you are touchable and approachable.”
Batterson goes on to say, “I think the day will come when it will be hard to imagine a pastor not having a blog and using it as a way of communicating with the congregation at large.”
Batterson is not the only pastoral advocate for the blog. In 2004, Elizabeth Rios and her husband, Hiram, left New York for South Florida to plant an English-speaking church called Wounded Healer Fellowship, targeting college-educated Gen-Xers in the Hispanic community of Pembroke Pines, near Miami.
Liz's newly formed blog (http://lati?naliz.typepad.com) became a major tool in that process. “So many church leaders wear masks,” she says. “I wanted an opportunity for people in my congregation to see what makes me tick. Now our members are referring their friends to the church's Web site and saying, 'If you want to get to know who my pastor is … read her blog.' Visitors come without a fear of being judged because they see through my blog that I am human and approachable.”
In the May 2, 2005, cover story of BusinessWeek, “Blogs Will Change Your Business,” staffers Stephen Baker and Heather Green pronounced that blogs are “simply the most explosive outbreak in the information world since the Internet itself.”
BusinessWeek's advice? Catch up … or catch you later! Many church leaders agree.
Wayne Cordeiro, senior pastor of New Hope Christian Fellowship O'ahu, began?his blog in January of 2005, titled “Mentoring at a Distance” (http://enew?hope.typepad.com).
Cordeiro's blog is primarily a collection of leadership articles designed to encourage, inspire and challenge the scores of volunteers and staff that make up the New Hope team.
The staff of Fellowship Church of Grapevine, Texas, led by Ed Young, and well-known for its creativity and innovation, developed a blog in May 2005 primarily as a news feed, advertising upcoming events and giving reports on past events (http://blog.fellowshipchurch.com).
“Our initial focus is just sharing information,” says Brian Bailey, Web director?at Fellowship. “With 10 services across four different campuses, it is easy to lose sight of all that God is doing here. We want to share the stories of life-change that are happening every week at Fellowship.”
With the numerous blog hosting sites on the Internet, launching your own Web log is as easy as sending an e-mail, and most are free. Some of the most well-known blog host sites include Blogger.com and Typepad.com.
The visual style of a blog is usually simple, but entries may include images, downloads, links to other Web sites and e-mail addresses. Recent advances in technology have even made it possible to update blogs via e-mail, instant messaging and cell phones-and to be notified when readers post comments.
Practical guidelines from veteran bloggers.
1. Blog for yourself. It's a good discipline to be journaling, meditating and?capturing thoughts.
2. Never put anything on your blog that you fear will come back to haunt you.
3. Never talk about other people. This is about you.
4. Be careful to protect your family. Use good judgment concerning disclosure?and transparency.
5. Blog for others. It helps them feel like they know you.
6. Have an abundance mentality. When you discover a great thing, let your?readers know about it.
7. Find your voice. Make your blog a reflection of who you are as a leader.
Visit www.ministriestoday.com for links to these sites and others and our recommended online tools for starting your own blog.
Just Press 'Send'
Don't want to commit to a Web log? Launch an e-newsletter.
If the prospect of keeping up with a regular Web log is too daunting, consider sending out a weekly or monthly newsletter highlighting upcoming church events, providing devotional material or personal encouragement to your church leadership team. Here are some examples:
Follow the Leader
Follow the Leader
Worship leaders are not called to usurp the senior pastor's leadership.
Question: The senior pastor and I butt heads about music styles. I know I should submit to him, but I feel that people want something more contemporary. Is there a way we can both get our way?
Answer: Remember that the praise and worship service is for God. He is the audience and not the congregation. Our first responsibility is to bless the Lord. We want to please Him because the church belongs to Him. God has given the pastor a vision and mandate for that church. God has included in that vision and mandate for the church the types of expressions of worship that He wants that congregation to demonstrate. Your goal as a worship leader is to come alongside the pastor with the skills and abilities that God deposited in you, and help the church realize the vision and mandate that God has given to the pastor.
In Exodus 32, the people of Israel did not like Moses' style of leadership, so they pressured the next person in line-Aaron the priest-to craft the kind of god they served when they were slaves back in Egypt. This of course provoked the anger of Jehovah God, who was willing to destroy them right there in the wilderness until Moses interceded for them.
Inappropriate confrontations with the Lord's anointed can be a very dangerous thing for you and the people who follow you in your displeasure of him. God reveals His way to those He places in authority over us. Follow the leadership of your pastor and pray for him. The church should not be led the pastor's way or your way-it must be God's way. Ultimately God's plan for His church will be fulfilled if we are faithful followers.
Look to You
(Hillsong/ Integrity Music)
Coming up from Down Under for its sixth worship-album effort is Hillsong United’s newly released Look to You, aimed at providing an album of worship for youth by youth.
Recorded on the last night of Hillsong Church’s annual youth event, Encounterfest, right from the start you feel exactly what this talented group of young people are trying to convey-a powerful worship experience that moves you.
Seasoned with an edge of rock, this live worship album stays spiritually connected throughout, lifting you up to a higher place with vibrant songs such as “Salvation Is Here” and “What the World Will Never Take.” These upbeat tracks do not define the album or set the overall tone, however.
It is the mix of music keenly chosen for the album that perfectly guides you right into the heart of worship and brings you to the place you want to be. Connected. Mellower highlights include the atmospheric “All I Need Is You” and “There Is Nothing Like.” The album closes with a stirring rendition of Rich Mullins’ “Awesome God.”
United has succeeded in melding lyrical simplicity with melodic originality-creating a goldmine of songs easily transferable into a corporate worship setting. Whether playing the album at your youth group’s events or using the tracks as inspiration for a new or different type of worship service, Look to You can be a potent tool to guide your flock.
Bigger Than Life
Michael Neale/ Christ Fellowship choir
If you’re looking for fresh choir music and solid praise and worship choruses for your gospel-driven, adult music program, the Christ Fellowship church choir CD is worth discovering.
Michael Neale, worship leader and primary songwriter on the album, is the worship pastor at the booming, multi-campus church in West Palm Beach, Fla., whose congregation is larger than 18,000!
Lauded by Integrity Music as “what blended worship can and should be,” this album has a lot going for it: great choir arrangements, great orchestra arrangements, a kickin’ band, lively songs that are ready for use as choir specials, or for worships sets and passionate worship recorded live.
Song forms generally feature a soloist over the backing choir, and then the choir takes the lead with an interesting bridge or vamp until the end.
Singable choruses and consistent lyrical themes fill all the songs on this album that-aside from one or two songs-are completely original to Michael Neale and the church.
All the songs can be practically used in the context of an adult church service, but highlights include the dramatic “Not Unto Us,” which refers to Psalm 115:1, and ends with the choir singing a line of the doxology.
“Saved the Day” shifts from the norm. It’s a modern worship track in the style of Michael W. Smith, opening with an atmospheric electric guitar line, drum-kit pattern and nicely recorded pop-string arrangement.
The blues-funk verses and driving gospel chorus of “Never Gonna Let the Rocks” are a nice addition, and the acoustic-guitar-driven “In This Place” rounds the album out.
Although it’s blended worship, most of the music feels like it wouldn’t translate back and forth between youth and adult services.
Not as progressive as the music of Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston, but a strong step forward for churches who do choir-based worship and have a wide age group to accommodate.
Freedom From the Religious Spirit (Regal)
Edited by C. Peter Wagner and featuring work from 10 contributing authors (including Wagner, Chuck Pierce, Kimberly Daniels and Chris Hayward), Freedom From the Religious Spirit is a bold exposé of a force that seeks to block positive change in the church.
Freedom reads like a military communiqué from the front lines, maintaining unapologetically that the spirit of religion is an actual evil spirit, and providing a strategy for combating it.
Pastor Rick Joyner contributes an “early warning signs” checklist for detecting a religious spirit. This book is mature teaching on a topic that affects everyone in ministry and holds a special imperative for those in positions of authority.
Destry J. Dobbs
Taking It to the Streets:
Transforming Communities Through Prayerwalking (Regal)
Ted Haggard prays for his community constantly. But, not just from the confines of his office-Haggard actually prays in his community.
The pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., shares a prayer strategy in Taking It to the Streets. “The churches in Colorado Springs have been doing it for years now, and every time we go, something good happens and our community improves,” he writes.
Prayerwalking is simply walking through areas of your city and interceding for needs and individuals that you observe. “Patterns often emerge, and you’ll discover ingenious ways to pray that you never would have considered before.”
Spiritual and practical advice can be found side by side in this book: confronting demonic schemes (“Because Christ is so powerful … 5 percent or less of my prayer time”) is there, as well as an admonishment to pray discreetly. To enhance the ministry of prayerwalking, Haggard offers teaching on praying “Thy kingdom come,” praying the Scriptures and eight strategic places to pray.
Raising Up Spiritual Champions:
Teach Children to Think and Act Like Jesus (Gospel Light)
Children of today’s culture need more than textual reading, biblical songs and poetic prayers. They need scenes and experiences. They respond with excitement when leaders engage them toward reality.
For teachers, congregational educators and ministry directors, Gospel Light offers Raising Up Spiritual Champions as curriculum for classes and small groups geared toward turning children into spiritual champions. The CD-ROM, music, creative clip art and powerful music succeed in seeking to raise spiritual champions in the 9-12 age category. Eight reproductive sessions include key truths of Christian discipleship.
Women’s Retreats: A Creative Planning Guide (Kregel)
In Women’s Retreats: A Creative Planning Guide, Sue Edwards, Kelley Mathews and Linda Robinson provide a thorough guidebook for organizing a women’s retreat.
The introduction examines major planning considerations such as selecting a speaker and site, developing committee members, forming a budget, organizing small groups and tackling emergencies. Remaining chapters provide examples of five successful women’s-retreat themes and an appendix with a sample registration and housing form.
While the authors sometimes sacrifice the book’s pragmatic step-by-step focus to include discussions on less tangible spiritual issues, understanding these may prove invaluable to creating a relaxing, effective environment for experiencing God.
Sarah J. Cobb
Friendship: Creating a Culture of Connectivity in Your Church (with CD)
Do Christians acquire true friendships? Most leaders hope so but feel frustrated when relationships are robbed. Teaming with the Gallup Organization and an analysis by D. Michael Lindsay, Group Publishing offers Friendship, a study to guide today’s leaders toward connecting people with people.
A PowerPoint presentation, statistics, Q & A, a 90-minute training session and a variety of examples provide information on what people seek: belonging and acceptance. As statistics prove the power of close relationships, Friendship offers a guide for making church life more friendship-centered.
This Day We Fight!: Breaking the Bondage of a Passive Spirit (Chosen)
While fans of Francis Frangipane’s former works may be somewhat disappointed by This Day We Fight, the heart and intent of this hero of the faith is still loud and clear.
Throughout the book, Frangipane’s passionate plea to the church is to wake up from its slumber and to engage in a radical crusade against the rampant darkness that influences every aspect of life as we know it. Frangipane divides the book into three sections. Unfortunately, section one lacks the kind of meaty exegesis that we’ve come to love from Frangipane, and the final third of the book seems only loosely connected to the book’s overall theme, almost as if it were an afterthought.
Section two, however, “Exposing the Enemy’s Weapon,” is by far the best part of the book with plenty of encouraging and inspirational insights for believers. It speaks directly to the issues of spiritual disappointment, discouragement and weariness in doing good while giving believers a solid, biblically based response pattern that is full of wisdom, faith, trust and humility. If the entire book had been written in this manner, it would be another classic on par with The Three Battlegrounds.
Manifest Presence: Expecting a Visitation of God’s Grace Through Worship (Chosen)
Manifest Presence is not Jack W. Hayford’s first book on worship. It’s not his last, either. (He has another book on the subject being released this month, The Heart of Praise: Worship After God’s Own Heart.)
But, Manifest Presence is the ripened theology of worship of a high-profile pastor whose heart after God has been seen in the more than 400 songs he has written. Those who are well-acquainted with Hayford’s pulpit and writing ministries know he is a man of balance.
This densely packed treatise is no different. For those drawn to a book called Manifest Presence because of a fascination with the novel or sensational, he has fatherly words of counsel and a strong appeal to remain Christ-centered.
For those unsure of the propriety of leading their congregations into more dynamic worship, he combs Scripture to show the way to a prudent, yet empowering, life of worship. The amount of ground covered in this book is impressive: Hayford goes from teaching about the furniture of Israel’s tabernacle to the new covenant’s communion table. And from the very practical (for example, the cleanliness of a church sanctuary) to an explanation of what God’s manifest presence is.
He ices an already tasty cake with pertinent anecdotes sprinkled throughout-anecdotes drawn from more than 50 years of leading people into God’s presence.
Friendship First: The 1 Thing You Can’t Live Without (Group)
To help congregations apply strategies for successful friendships, Thom and Joani Schultz offer Friendship First A follow-up to Group’s The 1 Thing: What Everyone Craves-That Your Church Can Deliver, these pages dare readers to pursue true friendships.
How is that possible? Think of these phrases from the book: affirmation, making friendship a priority, sincerity, growing closer to God through proper relationships, biblical confrontations, seeking and choosing forgiveness, making and keeping friends, rituals and memories.
For Thom and Joani, “good friends” is a nice description of how true Christianity displays itself.
Their pages offer friendship-first get-togethers for small groups and promote the urgent truth that followers of Christ are not called to “go it alone.”
The Effective Invitation: A Practical Guide for the Pastor (Kregel)
The Effective Invitation by R. Alan Streett offers a comprehensive examination of publicly inviting people to follow Jesus.
An analysis of the nature and content of the gospel is followed by an argument (both biblical and historical) in support of public invitations.
The historical section traces the use of public invitations in every era from the early church to modern times, with a special study of our age’s most notable proponent of the invitation, Billy Graham.
We learn why a Graham invitation “works.” The remainder of the book guides you in understanding and incorporating different aspects of invitation into your ministry.
Destry J. Dobbs
Changing My Mind: A Journey of Disability and Joy (LifeSprings Resources)
Reading the Book of Job is instructive-in a safe sort of way. The thousands of years that separate us from Job take some of the sting out of those boils.
Chris Maxwell’s story is a little more unsettling. He is our contemporary. Two thousand Americans annually are stricken as he was in 1996. In Changing My Mind, the Orlando, Fla., pastor shares how his world was turned upside down by the onset of encephalitis.
The inflammatory disease of the brain took an articulate 35-year-old Assembly of God minister and left him sounding like “scrambled eggs,” according to his wife, Debbie.
“But those 10 days in the hospital, months of therapy, a lifetime of tests and medicine, and now epilepsy, the ‘new me’ is a man I did not prefer to be,” he writes.
But, the “new” Chris Maxwell is miraculously back in his pulpit. This story, told with Psalms-like honesty and even humor, is a model for those times when suffering comes and is not easily dismissed from the stage of our life.
Best-Seller List Top 25 books
1. WHAT ON EARTH AM I HERE FOR?
Rick Warren (Zondervan)
2. FAME Karen Kingsbury
3. THE REVELATION
Beverly Lewis (Bethany House)
John and Stasi Eldredge (Nelson Books)
5. THE FIVE LOVE LANGUAGES
Gary Chapman (Northfield)
6. YOUR BEST LIFE NOW
Joel Osteen (Warner Faith)
7. THE PURPOSE-DRIVEN LIFE
Rick Warren (Zondervan)
8. GOOD GRIEF
Granger E. Westberg (Augsburg Books)
9. THE BIBLE PROMISE BOOK, NIV
10. WILD AT HEART
John Eldredge (Nelson Books)
11. STANDARD LESSON COMMENTARY-KJV
12. LOVE & RESPECT
Emerson Eggerichs (Integrity)
13. FOR WOMEN ONLY
Shaunti Feldhahn (Multnomah)
14. HAVING A MARY HEART IN A MARTHA WORLD
Joanna Weaver (WaterBrook)
15. BLUE LIKE JAZZ
Donald Miller (Nelson Books)
16. YOU HAVE WHAT IT TAKES
John Eldredge (Nelson Books)
17. EVERY YOUNG WOMAN'S BATTLE
Shannon Ethridge, Stephen Arterburn (WaterBrook)
18. THE PURPOSE-DRIVEN LIVE GRADUATE
Rick Warren (Inspirio)
19. BATTLEFIELD OF THE MIND
Joyce Meyer (Warner Faith)
20. THE POWER OF A PRAYING WIFE
Stormie Omartian (Harvest House)
21. EVERY MAN’S BATTLE
Stephen Arterburn, Fred Stoeker (WaterBrook)
22. THE MAKER'S DIET (softcover)
Jordan S. Rubin (Siloam)
23. THE TREASURE PRINCIPLE
Randy Alcorn (Multnomah)
Randy Alcorn (Tyndale House)
25. MERE CHRISTIANITY
C.S. Lewis (Zondervan)
Compiled from The Top 100 Books list in the August 8, 2005, issue of Christian Retailing magazine. List based on distributor sales for English-language books in the United States and Canada for June 1-15, 2005. Copyright © 2005 Strang Communications. All rights reserved.