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High-tech soapbox

From politics to church life, the blogosphere is changing our world

By Christina Quick

As Sharon Snavely battled ovarian cancer in 2006, she couldn’t shake the idea that the lessons she was learning about life and faith might somehow benefit others.

While recovering from surgery, Snavely began chronicling her journey on an online Weblog, or blog. Through frequent journal-like entries, she candidly shared her struggles and triumphs with anyone who happened to stumble across her posts on the Internet.

“I just knew I had something to say that someone out there needed to hear,” says Snavely, wife of Attica (Ind.) Assembly of God Pastor Timothy Snavely. “People are going online to read these blogs all the time. I wanted them to come to mine and see that I’m a real person who has been through some hard times but is serving God and finding strength in a relationship with Him.”

Though Snavely has fewer health concerns to write about these days, she still maintains her blog, A Hoosier Family, at hoosierfamily06.blogspot.com.

“Sometimes I post personal things,” she says. “Other times it’s a devotional thought or something fun. The neat thing is that I’m not just talking to my family and friends. My blog is being read by people all over the world.”

Snavely is part of a rapidly growing movement called the blogosphere. A decade ago, few people had heard of blogs. Today, these online journals are connecting Internet users and redefining how personal information and opinions are disseminated.

“Blogs are powerful because they allow millions of people to easily publish and share their ideas, and millions more to read and respond,” explains the Web site at Technorati, an Internet search engine that specializes in tracking blogs. “They engage the writer and reader in an open conversation and are shifting the Internet paradigm as we know it.”

In many ways, blogs are the soapbox of the technological era, providing a public podium for anyone with a computer and even a small amount of Internet knowledge.

Four years ago, slightly more than 4 million blogs existed on the Internet. Today, according to Technorati, there are 113 million, with 175,000 new ones added daily.

Bloggers, the term for people who maintain these blogs, update their sites regularly with new material. Technorati estimates there are 1.6 million new entries, or posts, per day.

Some blog posts resemble newspaper opinion columns, while others are more like diaries or friendly letters. They usually include a forum for reader response.

“Blogging provides that sense of social connection people are so craving on the Internet,” Snavely says. “The technology has been impersonal, but blogging is personal. You start feeling like you know these people and want to find out what’s going on with them.”

Most early blogs were similar to Snavely’s: informal, personal journals. Today, an increasing number of professionals are getting in on the action. Many newspapers, magazines and television stations maintain their own blogs, and everyone from athletes to fiction writers uses blogging to generate publicity. Even major corporations, such as Wal-Mart, have added blogs in hopes of establishing warmer relations with customers.

Journalists are among the most active participants in the blogosphere. According to a recent survey by the communications group Brodeur, more than 27 percent of reporters have their own blogs, and 70 percent read blogs on a regular basis.

More than half of journalists surveyed said blogs are having a significant impact on the tone and editorial direction of news reporting.

“The blogosphere is an information universe just like the television networks, the newspapers and talk radio,” says conservative blogger Hugh Hewitt in his 2005 book, Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That’s Changing Your World. “People are acting on the information provided there.”

Independent news blogs, some of which attract thousands of readers, are gaining considerable influence. In 2005, a blogger made headlines after being issued a pass to attend the daily White House press briefing. Last year, two coveted media seats were reserved for bloggers at the trial of Lewis “Scooter” Libby, former chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney.

“The old information monopoly had an enormous ability to decide where and when news would be news,” Hewitt says in his book. “The gatekeeping function is gone, and blogs have rushed in for themselves to decide what matters.”

On a smaller scale, blogs are also playing a role in church communications. A blog started by several pastors prior to the 2007 Assemblies of God General Council attracted thousands of readers who weighed in on who should succeed retiring General Superintendent Thomas E. Trask.

“This was a strategic moment in the history of the Assemblies of God, and we needed some format to be able to dialogue together about what we needed in a leader and what was needed in our movement,” says Jeff Leake, senior pastor of Allison Park Church near Pittsburgh, who assisted with the blog. “I don’t think any of us ever dreamed it would get the kind of attention that it did.”

The power of the blogosphere wasn’t lost on Assemblies of God General Secretary John M. Palmer, who started his own blog (Finishing Strong, johnmpalmer.agblogger.org) shortly after assuming office in October. He says the devotions and personal stories he posts have helped him make connections with pastors and laypeople.

“I’ve had several young people say how great it is to see an executive blogging,” Palmer says. “I would encourage pastors to blog as well. It’s a powerful way to connect not only with the church, but with the larger Internet community. Once it’s out there, who knows who will read it and be changed by it?”

Doug Clay, the new general treasurer for the Assemblies of God, is also a blogger. He started his blog, Church Health Enthusiast, in June 2006.

Connecting with readers and impacting people for Christ were the key reasons why Today’s Pentecostal Evangel recently entered the blogosphere with seven new blogs discussing everything from faith to parenting issues.

“While the gospel never changes, the means for communicating the gospel have,” TPE Editor Ken Horn says. “The Internet dramatically increases our ability to share God’s Word. By seizing this opportunity, we increase readership, and many of the new readers are unbelievers. We’ve got to do this.”


CHRISTINA QUICK is staff writer for Today’s Pentecostal Evangel and blogs at Refrigerator Art (cquick.agblogger.org).

E-mail your comments to tpe@ag.org.

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