Wednesday, October 08, 2014

My ambivalence towards online ministries

During the online memorial service (which I could accept as a memorial, but calling it a service without actual congregational participation on site is sort of a stretch for me), there were words of remembrances from various people who were very much influenced by Pastor Ken. I know these people online, and have interacted with some of them before. Yet, hearing them speak evokes mixed emotions in me.

One of the issues I am thinking of is how they use the term "ministry." Now, besides OPC scruples, at least for me the main thing is that I'm rather uncomfortable with calling what they do ministries unless it's officially linked to and endorsed by a church. Now, I'm not saying that they shouldn't do what they do. Some of them are women, like my former fellow CRN contributor Erin Benzinger. Others like my friend Mike Ratliff are laymen. The Scripture injunction for women to be silent however is within the church, and I have no problems with women speaking their mind on any issue outside the official church structures. But calling what they do ministries is something I would hesitate on. Is what they do beneficial towards the Body of Christ? Yes. Can God call them to sound the alarm in the form of discernment blogs? I do not see why not. But ministries seem to indicate to me official church authority, the delegated authority of Christ in His visible and institutional Church. Since they're not linked to any Church (besides Apprising Ministries), I would think that calling these "ministries" would not really be appropriate.

The second issue has to do with the calling of God and the temptations of such *online ministries*. As someone who was in those circles, I came to feel a certain temptation. Now, I do not know whether others involved in discernment ministries faced this, but the temptation I had felt was pride. I wanted to sound the alarm and I wanted others to come to know the truth, and I still do. But the issue here is that even our best motives are tainted with sin. Yea, I'm probably nobody in my online presence compared to Erin and Mike and many others, but even the slightest "recognition" of any kind feeds a desire to build one's name, to glorify myself as someone who knows it and can instruct others. That is why incidentally, for those who have been reading my blog for some time, they will realize my output has greatly decreased since it began. Partly this was due to busyness and study, but I needed to wrestle with my own flesh. Am I seeking to glorify God, or seeking to make a name for myself? Again, I am not saying that everyone goes online and into *online ministries* to feed their pride and reputation. I am just saying that is a temptation, and it is something I do struggle. You don't have to be a mega-church pastor to be puffed up and arrogant; you just need a few people who cling onto your very words to do so.

Now, the reason why I mentioned this is because of a remark during the online service that Pastor Ken was instrumental in helping and encouraging people to set up their own ministries. In the online discernment community, which tends towards Fundamentalism (at its best not worst), this sort of talk concerns me. Now, it might be the case that someone is indeed called to warn others in this fashion. But it is a fallacy to think that everyone who suddenly has his or her eyes opened should immediately plunge into *online ministry*. By all means, I think that those who are indeed called should do what God calls them to do, but how should we deal with the issue, especially in light of the doctrine of the Church with her offices — that does not seem to be considered, and that concerns me. God is the one who opens eyes, but the opening of eyes does not necessarily mean that God has called the person whose eyes were just opened to ministry.

So yea, I am ambivalent towards online (and by that I mean online-only) ministries. By all means, blog away, but I really think that the online discernment community needs to think more about the doctrine of the church and ministry praxis in general.

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