[The manuscript of my message for the 2009 Band of Bloggers gathering (theme: “Servants and Stewards”) presented in conjunction with The Gospel Coalition Conference on Wednesday, April 22, 2009 at the Rosemont Conference Center in Chicago, IL.]
In the movie National Treasure, the adventure leads to a climactic event in New York City. Nicolas Cage enters an old church building and eventually works his way to the basement and finds the church crypt, a secret entrance into an underground maze of stairwells and hidden doors. Eventually Cage enters a huge dark room and with his torch he lights the tray of oil that slowly illuminates the entire room, revealing billions of dollars of treasured artifacts. You know the story.
This is an image that comes to mind when I think about blog stewardship. The surface of the blog world is a busy place—much like the NYC pavement. Yet, buried under our feet—in the church basement—are neglected spiritual riches.
Bringing up spiritual gold from the basement and into the blogosphere is my primary role in the blog world. I am a blog steward.
I thought of different ways to talk about blog stewardship and I think our brief time will be best spent providing you with a six brief examples from my experience.
1. Puritan literature. As I have grown in the faith, I have grown in my appreciation for the Puritans. They display skill in connecting doctrine to the heart. They are rich both theologically and experientially. I started my blog “The Shepherd’s Scrapbook” (this one) to share various quotes from the Puritans that I believed were especially relevant to contemporary pastors. This vision soon expanded into recommending books in print by Puritan authors, which expanded into developing what I believe to be an optimal library of Puritan resources in a series called “The Puritan Study.” In the series I tried to explain the different ways an expositor can use printed and electronic Puritan resources in their sermon research. I was seeking to steward Puritan literature.
2. Calvin’s Institutes. Of all the books I owned as a newly converted 22-year old Christian, Calvin’s Institutes was the most intimidating. Yet when I began reading, I began to understand, and the intimidation vanished. It was here that I began learning about revelation, the gospel, and I vividly remember the day I first learned about the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit (testimonium internum Spiritus Sancti). Wow! On my blog I wanted to share what I learned, but more importantly I wanted other readers to read the Institutes for themselves. I wrote blog series under the title “Humble Calvinism”—a title ripped off of the New Attitude slogan, “Humble Orthodoxy.” It was my way of getting others to read Calvin for themselves.
3. Herman Bavinck. About three years ago I was introduced to Herman Bavinck, an 19th and 20th century Dutch theologian. I began reading Bavinck and immediately benefitted. I began to see a unique combination of gifts in Bavinck—he was a very careful biblical scholar, a man committed to biblical authority and exegesis, yet a man who retained a wide knowledge of historical theology and church history, a guy who could think as a systematic theologian and simultaneously as a biblical theologian, and all the while being ethically minded, pastoral, affectionate, and aware of contemporary culture. On top of my personal interest in Bavinck I noticed a perfect storm brewing: (1) In 2008 Bavinck’s 4-volume Reformed Dogmatics were to be fully translated into English, which I knew would fuel further interest in him in the Unites States. (2) And I noticed that Bavinck became a point of unity for reformed Christians of different stripes. Bavinck brought together Dutch Reformed folks, Reformed Baptists, Presbyterians, Reformed Charismatics,* and others. And Bavinck unifies pastors and scholars of all ages. I soon realized that Bavinck was not only a rich source of theology, but he also provided a point of doctrinal harmony among a diversity of reformed Christians. So I started HermanBavinck.org, a blog devoted to collecting all things Bavinck (in the English language).
[Pause. How many of you are right now thinking: “I need to check out this Bavinck guy”? That is the power of blog stewardship. I just used a moment of this presentation to persuade you to read Bavinck without ever saying it. Blog stewards can exert tremendous influence in the blog world.]
4. Local church. When I arrive at church on Sunday to hear God’s Word preached, I am a steward. I am personally accountable before God for the message. I am also accountable for making sure my family understands and applies the message. But as a blog steward I further take upon myself the responsibility to pass along particularly important messages to others. Here is one recent example. Recently my pastor, Joshua Harris, preached a sermon series on the economy titled, “The Good Recession.” The two-part message did not receive much attention online. So I decided to transcribe 5 important sections from the series for my blog readers and provide an outline of the messages (see here). My goal was to encourage others to listen to the messages for themselves, and to provide a link-point for other bloggers. My blog post was a way of stewarding a sermon I heard within the context of my local church.
5. C.J. Mahaney. I am honored to work for my living hero of the faith—C.J. Mahaney. Nobody has taught me more about living a cross-centered life than C.J. On applying the gospel to marriage, parenting, pastoral ministry, C.J. communicates very clearly. But C.J. is not a writer. Armed with a desire to see him communicate more frequently to a broad audience, I now work with him, equipping him to speak to the online blog world. His series on “Biblical Productivity” is one recent example where I played the role of catalyst and scribe—provoking him to articulate his process of time management and then documenting that for all to read. Serving directly for C.J. is a unique opportunity, a humbling and valued opportunity to serve the blog world as a steward. Are there men around you whom you could serve?
6. Books. I love books. I love to read books, collect books, and I enjoy promoting my favorite books. And I discovered a quick and effective way to promote good books. Using a digital SLR camera, a wide-angle lens, and a homemade light box I began photographing books—which, I found, was more effective than quoting excerpts and giving my opinions through a lengthy review. If I want to promote a book, I photograph it, and those photographs—uploaded to Flickr—become viral, appearing in magazines, book catalogs, websites, and blogs. Photography has become a fun means of stewarding important resources (although Tim Challies has publically poked fun at this). My unboxing of the ESV Study Bible is one recent example.
As you can see, serving as a blog steward can take different shapes. What does not change is that the blog steward uses his blogging skill and influence to pass along the valuable teaching of others.
FIRST STEPS TO BLOG STEWARDSHIP…
So you may be asking: Where do I go from here? Three steps.
1. Identify your passions. What do you love to do, love to read, love to talk about? These are your passions. Blog about them.
2. Research. Sink yourself in books, sermons, lectures, websites, blogs, magazines, journals—whatever will educate you about your passions. The deeper you go, the more effective your stewardship. Become a disciplined reader. If you are not a disciplined reader, you will likely not go deep, and you will not blog very long or very well. Discipline yourself and research deeply.
3. Share. In your research, identify content that you find most helpful and share it. Develop creative ways to communicate and share content online. [Undeveloped theme: Cross platform conversions of content].
If you do this well, you will not need to find an audience—they will find you.
Identify your passions, research, and share. This is to contribute as a “blog steward.”
Questions? Thoughts? Please leave them in the comments…
* Wayne Grudem writes that Bavinck is “one of this century’s most brilliant spokesmen for a Reformed theological position” and labels Reformed Dogmatics as “great” [Systematic Theology (IVP 1994) p. 1224].
7 thoughts on “How can bloggers steward the teaching of the young, old, and the dead?”
Great insight, Tony. I wish I were there to meet up with you.
The biggest challenge to those who want to begin blogging is staying consistent and disciplined. It is very difficult to come up with worth-while material for a blog every day. Reading helps.
There’s something else to be mentioned here as well. Blogging is inherenly self-promoting (as many have pointed out). That’s why reviewing books or talking about the insights of others can serve as a way of turning the blog’s focus from yourself to the ideas that you wish to steward for the glory of the gospel. I think of book reading and reviewing as a way to go deeper in my own relationship with Christ and also as a way to avoid the cult of personality where a blog becomes all about me, etc.
Thanks for the helpful comment, Trevin! It means a lot coming from one who will certainly be a first-ballot induction into the Blog Steward Hall of Fame.
Tony (and Trevin),
Thanks for your thoughts here. This outline is helpful for me in thinking through how to blog for my own growth, but for the edification of others. I struggle in knowing how to put helpful material on my blog while not rambling, or just quote bombing. What you’ve shared is helpful. Personally, I still struggle knowing if blogging on my part is even worth it in the end considering the voluminous amount of better, more helpful blogs already in existence. Do you have any thoughts on this struggle?
Great job Tony. Your revisions on this were great. I wish I could have heard it.
[…] You can read Tony’s brief manuscript here. […]
I appreciate this concept of stewardship you have introduced. It expands the concept to incorporate more than my preconception of the word otherwise allowed.
I will have to contemplate on this.
I am reading through the Institutes this year. It’s really not that hard. It’s certainly not even close to reading Owen.
I bought the Premium Leather ESV Study Bible. I really like it.
I have four versions that I read usually together: ESV, NASB, NET and HCSB.
I very much appreciate your pointers on blogging.