This is a blog about blogging. Actually, it’s about my approach to blogging. If that seems a bit self-serving, I apologize. Don’t feel obligated to read it. It’s okay. Really.
The thing is that blogging seems to be a particularly honest, self-revelatory medium. When I first arrived at Marble, I had no idea how to blog (and wasn’t even sure what one was). Victor Lindsay helped me figure it out. He said: “Just write about what interests you. Blogs help people get to know who you are.” It felt awkward at first, almost self-absorbed, but later I began to understand Vic’s wisdom.
Maybe folks who listen to a person expound on biblical Truths and theological principles every week would like to know a little more about who that preacher/teacher is. Did you know we have almost six thousand names on our church rolls? Uh huh. Of course, as is the case with most churches, the majority of those names-on-the-roll are missing in action. Probably one-third of that number actually revolve through this place on any reasonable rotating basis. But that being said, we now also have a huge number of on-line followers from all across America and all over the world. Bottom line: There are so many people who feel some connection to Marble that it is literally impossible for one clergy to have a personal relationship with all of them. I wish I could, but one person simply cannot pull that off. So, how do folks get to know me, if that is something they wish to do? Some do so through administrative committees where we work elbow-to-elbow... some through moments of pastoral need... and some through e-mail. “What about worship?,” you ask. “Don’t most people know you because they sit in the sanctuary (or the Loft) and listen to you preach?” The answer is “No.” When people hear me preach, I am not the topic. My life is occasionally an illustration of the topic, but it is never the topic. The topic is our Judeo-Christian history. The topic is theology. The topic is Bible. The topic is the convergence of Faith and daily life. The topic is Jesus. But the topic is never (and should never be) Michael. I am the messenger. I am not the message.
That, I think, is where blogs come in. I have told people before, “If you want to get to know me, read my blogs.” (Note: I am not vain enough to think that millions of people harbor a desire to get to know me – but for the occasional few who may, I tell them that blogs are a good means to that end.) Blogs do not have sermonic constraints. When I stand in the pulpit to preach, I speak for scripture, I speak for Christian tradition, and I speak for Marble Church. That’s why I try never to be overtly political, because if I create controversy the fall-out hits Marble. It is unfair of me to articulate personal biases on behalf of a church that may not share them, just as it is unfair of me to create discord and then make the church pay the price for it. I’ll speak to pertinent topics, as I often do, but always seeking to encourage thoughtful response but not seeking to inject partisan prejudices. Furthermore, I don’t think people come to church wondering, “What does Michael think about this or that?” They come for something far more substantive – e.g., “What does God say about this or that?” But blogs are different. In a blog I speak merely for myself. As Vic taught me, “Blogs help people get to know who you are.” “So,” I often tell folks, “if you want to know who I am, read my blogs.”
In blogs I talk about everything from food to Duke athletics to environmentalism to current events to Bible-and-theology (often spending more time wrestling with questions than providing answers) to the challenges of aging to remembrances of my own childhood or youth experiences to humorous things I see in New York City or elsewhere to interesting people I encounter to the lovely folks who are part of my family to this or that or the other. It’s often somewhat stream-of-consciousness in format. It usually is moderately to almost totally personal. And sometimes (since I am a preacher), the blogs become sermonic even when I didn’t intend them to be. In fact, I think some of my most thought-provoking sermons at Marble were never spoken from the pulpit but only showed up in print in my blogs.
There should be a witty or poignant conclusion to this, right? Well, the problem is that an alarm just went off on my cell phone reminding me that I have fifteen minutes before I am due at a meeting. (If you read my blogs, you’ll know how much I do not enjoy most meetings.) Anyway, because of the meeting I don’t have time to craft anything witty or poignant. And maybe that’s okay. There’s an old axiom about public speaking that says, “In a speech do three things – Tell them what you are going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you told them.” It’s about the importance of reiteration (my Dad, a great pubic speaker, referred to that as “driving the point home”). So, I’ll close simply by reiterating: If you want to know me personally in some deeper way than sermons can accomplish, read my blogs.