Ryan Bolger, has a fascinating post on his blog today, called The Web as Prophetic Critique to the Church?. Ryan comes to this piece after reading over at Steve Collins blog.

The main thrust of the discussion between these two bloggers is this (if I am interpreting it correctly). That the web, has taken away control from authors. Authors used to write, then send it to publishers, get it critiqued, etc. But now, with the emergence of online writers, thinkers, etc., more and more texts, and writings are being pushed out there, and critiqued before a product has been finished, etc. The control that an author once had, has changed, and now there is a give and take if you will between an author and the community.

They go on to assert, whether or not this is the same thing happening in the church. Pastors usually control the situation, and are looked to as one with ultimate authority. Is that changing? With online blogging, and communities, there has been a more free exchange of ideas, theology, etc, and the control that a pastor once asserted is now being given over to a more dynamic exchange in community.

This is my paraphrase of what I am reading between them, though they state it more elqouently: Bolger states,

What might the church learn from the web? Any modern church leader is trained to maintain control over the whole process of what we know as church, manifesting most specifically in the maintenance of order. Our church authors/producers/leaders are not prepared to release the text/church service/way of life to the readers/consumers/members. None of their training has prepared them for this uncontrolled way of living in community. So much of church training assumes the leader will face a passive audience that will receive their ‘text’ in its entirety. We are not trained to participate in church as an ongoing dynamic conversation of equals. I know this, because I train these same leaders.

What would it mean for leaders to let go of control, to realize that it is pointless to try and contain the life of faith, just as pointless as it would be to attempt to control the web? What would happen if our authority to act as leaders came from the many unsolicited links one receives rather than the title one bears? What would happen if our members can post 24-7 and are not required to sign in through a single portal, i.e. not seek permission for ministry but are trusted as friends and colleagues to create meaningful God inspired activities?

This is definitely a scary proposition for many, especially those who have a stake in the current system. I think that I am not alone in stating that most of our hesitancy as people in making change, is that there is a certain fear in us. We fear what change would mean for us. We fear the loss of power. We fear the loss of job, etc.

Bolger closes by saying,

I’m just posing a few questions, to which I do not have good answers. Stepping back a bit, it has been an elusive task of the church to see the priesthood of believers realized. If we want to imagine what that an egalitarian, spirit-led community might look like, we need look no further than the liberating freedom that many experience within the web community.

I appreciate that much of the critique of the church, is coming from those who work in the church; those who have a stake in it. These aren’t people from the outside, who have no knowledge of how it works, etc. But these are people with vested interest, who have much at stake, and who are asking good questions.

It’s interesting to note that these conversations in this blog began with discussion over author controlled text, and how the web has been breaking away at that with much online discussion. I have seen this happen in my own life. Before my blog, no publisher, or author was coming to me to critique their book, or to get my feedback. And why would they? I don’t work in publishing.

But this morning in the mail, I received two books from the authors and their publishers, asking if I would review their books, and then post an online review on my blog. For some reason, they are asserting that I have a certain voice, speaking to an audience, with a certain sphere of influence. Though this may be true, this was not happening before. But these authors/publishers have been letting go of control and learning the benefits of working in community.

These two books are:

No Holds Barred by Mark Roberts



Common Grounds by Ben Young and Glenn Lucke


I will let you know more about these books as I begin to read them, and comment on them.

But this whole discussion, that Bolger and Collins, and others are talking about is very interesting. It raises all sorts of questions about the future of church leadership. And for those who have studied much in the way of interpretation or hermenuetics, I’m sure some of the things being raised makes you wonder about the tasks regarding these things as well.

This also raises questions about authority. Where is authority good, and maybe where has it gone haywire? I have a certain authority as the college director in the ministry I oversee, but how do I wield that authority I guess, is a bigger question. Not that there is authority, but how do we lead others?

I require all my student leaders to read Henri Nouwen’s book, In The Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership, because I believe he presents the best model for Christian leadership, etc. I won’t go into detail about this book at this point, but his model as the leader who humbly leads from within, is the most Biblical model that I have seen presented yet. A model that seems to base itself more on a Biblical outlook of scripture, rather than the CEO business models we have been getting fed.

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