If ignorance is bliss, then when it comes to computer technology and surfing the Web, I must be the happiest man alive. At one time when we pastors would gather together, we discussed sports, hunting, golf, and God’s grace in our ministries. Now the discussion topics often center on authors and subjects of recent blogs or on the latest rants on a discussion board. To be able to participate in conversations with my pastor friends, I decided to surf the Web for myself. After spending time in the world of blogs and forums, I began to feel as if I were in ancient Athens when “the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or hear some new thing” (Acts 17:21). Most of the conversation “threads” resembled what my former college professor described as a pooling of ignorance that happens when a Sunday School teacher opens a book, reads the first paragraph, and then asks the class, “What do you think?” One nonsensical comment follows another.
When traveling through the Internet, I observed the following dangers in the “Athenian” world of blogs and forums:
- A lack of substance
While a few good helps exist, most sites are empty of content worth reading. A person logs on with a plea for help or understanding, and in minutes answers are offered. The answers often require no meditation, no study, no “beating upon the Scriptures” as Calvin used to do, and no assembly—just a quick response presented as a solution. An understanding of the immensity, transcendence, and holiness of God does not come by a microwave approach.
- A misuse of sharing information
Imagine that a lady in your church shares a prayer request regarding so and so. Instead of asking for God’s sufficient grace, she indiscreetly leaks to the congregation all the seamy details in the form of a prayer request. In the Web world, the apostle Peter’s admonition to lay aside all malice, guile, hypocrisies, envies, and evil speaking often goes unnoticed and unheeded. Anyone may become a target of the “spider’s poison pen.”
- An opportunity for the enemies of God to blaspheme
What do the unsaved think when they read postings that are accusatory, inflammatory, or otherwise barbed? When bloggers argue over issues of holiness, worldliness, separation, and absolute truth, and use condescending jabs in defining worship, they are not functioning as salt and light to an unbelieving world. A pastor friend told me that when these sites began, he was excited about their potential for good and encouraged his people to log on frequently. Now he does everything to discourage their participation because sites have fostered division and disruption.
- A lack of integrity
There are some pundits whose philosophy and practice of ministry at home do not match their “fundamentalese” talk on the Web. Undiscerning Christians could easily be led astray.
- A distraction from the ministry
Computers are light-years ahead of TVs as time-wasters. While surfers may justify their large quantity of time spent on the Web as a harmless pursuit, the expressed frustrations of spouses, parents, and church members suggest otherwise. One blogger said he was blessed because so many individuals were visiting his site—his ministry was now much larger than his local congregation. It is important to remember that pastors are called by God to shepherd local congregations. Pastoring is a personal ministry; you can’t bottle feed lambs, search for the missing, or bind up wounds through a coaxial. Re-examine your use of time on the Web. God has entrusted you with a flock of sheep. Make your time count for shepherding.
“Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away” (1 Peter 5:2–4).
Chris Humburg, Pastor
Altoona Regular Baptist Church
Read resolution (PDF) on using the internet with New Testament principles in mind.