In both Lisa's and Aimee's posts, Tim Challies is mentioned as a sort of bellwether marker for what's going on in the world of reformed blogging. Given the current trends in reformed blogging, I'd say that is a fair and accurate assumption. The other highly visible, and uber popular blogging presence is housed at The Gospel Coalition website. There are many others that probably deserve mention, but far beyond the others, Challies and TGC are the most widely known.
Yet, for many of us reformed bloggers, who've been out here in the blogosphere for a very long time, we know that the blogging landscape has changed immensely in the past 10 years or so.
An Overview of the PastWhen I started blogging in late 2005, I did it mainly for my own personal thought processing and as a devotional endeavor. However, in 2006, I learned about some other women who were blogging and got connected with them via blog comments and discussion forums. From their blogs, I learned about about two popular blogging aggregators: League of Reformed Bloggers and the PCABlogs. The League of Reformed Bloggers was co-hosted by Tim Challies and David Wayne, the JollyBlogger. The PCABlogs blog roll was hosted by and managed by David Wayne, the JollyBlogger. Both were set up originally by Adrian Warnock and the prerequisite to have one's blog added to the blog list was for the blogger to subscribe to the five sola's of the reformation, the appropriate confessions, standards, or creeds and to send their link to Mr. Wayne for approval. These aggregators pulled together blog posts from all across the spectrum of reformed writers and members in the PCA, including men and women alike.
Our posts would go up simultaneously, right along side the top bloggers of that time, such as Justin Taylor of Between Two Worlds (pre-Gospel Coalition, when Justin Taylor was arguably bigger than Challies.com), The Internet Monk (Michael Spencer), and others. The contributions varied from missional and evangelistic to more formal practice, and every thing in between.
Participation was encouraged by men and women alike. The feed served, more or less, as a self-correcting process, whereby one writer's blog post would often be countered by another writer's post on the same subject, but from a different angle or viewpoint. As one of the regular, almost daily participants to these aggregators, I interacted quite a bit with other men and women bloggers, and as a result, learned quite a bit along the way. And I had the opportunity to provide a unique voice and perspective that was valued in these blogging communities (including this testimony from 2007).
Nothing New Under the SunAs I was reviewing the old posts from the JollyBlogger site this morning, a scan of the content confirmed one of the reasons why some long-time bloggers may have dropped out of the field in the last few years. Most of today's "hot topic" issues are the same as they were seven, eight, or ten years ago. So, most bloggers who've been writing for a while have seen, heard, and read all the angles more than once. It's no longer a "new thing" that we need to process to understand. As King Solomon has told us before, there is nothing new under the sun,
Here are a few examples of genres that the younger people are still chattering about today:
In 2008, David Wayne and others blogged about the issue of Women Deacons in the PCA. The General Assembly committee produced a full study and report on the issue which dealt with the scriptures and the Book of Church Order. Today, younger women bloggers are attempting to re-tackle the issue female deacons, but for the rest of us who've been there before, we feel that we've already studied all the angles and the issue has been fairly settled (in the PCA).
As early as 2006, The Jollyblogger was addressing issues of Women in the Church head on, by engaging with both the complementarians at Together For The Gospel (pre-Gospel Coalition), and with the egalitarians alike:
Women's Roles in the Church In the comment section, you will read engagement from Ligon Duncan and Joel Hunter (not an uncommon thing, btw, back in the earlier bloggy days!!)
The Jollyblogger held a solidly complementarian position, but recognized luminaries like Dr. Roger Nichole at RTS and others who did not buy into the idea that one's stance on complementarianism is a Gospel issue, per se. Furthermore, The Jollyblogger was cautious to warn men of how the remaining stain of our sinful human nature can often lead to oppression in some complementarian church cultures.This is just one example of how issues and topics recycle, and why some of us who've been blogging for a while can easily lose motivation, as most of things have been done before. A few other re-hashed themes I came across include:
The Mystery of Joel Osteen (2005)
Media and Culture(2008).
On Politics and Society (2008 Election).
Sin as a Disposition (2009)
"Some Jolly Good Links" - David Wayne's predecessor to Challies' A La Carte today
A Blessing to the ChurchAll in all, The Jolly Blogger was blessing to the Church and the aggregators served as a catalyst for robust dialog on a variety of issues. Mr. Wayne did not shy away from engaging with all manner of bloggers, and didn't succumb to propping up the "big name" people (like John MacArthur or Tim Keller) or turning guys like Justin Taylor (again, possibly the most popular blogger back in those days) into celebrities. The main emphasis was about how we engaged with one another. To that end these were some of the resources quoted and referenced frequently:
As a result of the focus and emphasis, the Jollyblogger and the blogging aggregators turned out to be a tremendous boost for the voice of women bloggers and really enabled us to network with one another. I remember some of the key women bloggers in those early years, like, ConsiderableGrace (Tara Barthel), SoloFeminity.com (Carolyn McCulley), PalmTreePundit (Anne), Recovering Legalist (Emily), and many, many others! Most of these women no longer blog, but I still enjoy one or two of them!
The Year that Rocked the Blogosphere - 2009Within the backdrop of mega conferences and coalitions forming, Mr. David Wayne was diagnosed with cancer in 2009 and had to give up his ministry efforts of serving the reformed blogging community. The Jollyblogger, along with Michael Spencer (the Internet Monk) and Matt Chandler of the Village Church, contracted cancer in 2009. Few remember Spencer's predictions of "The Coming Evangelical Collapse" from early 2009, just prior to finding out he had cancer. You can read him here: Part 1 "Why is it Going to Happen?", Part 2 "What Will be Left When Evangelicalism Collapses?" and Part 3 " Is This a Good Thing?" Essentially, the break up of the aggregators coincided with major shifts in the blogosphere that actually mirror Spencer's predictions quite a bit.
Timing wise, Justin Taylor had linked up with folks at Together for the Gospel and The Gospel Coalition and transitioned his blog over to their website as their first official blogger. Tim Challies had moved front and center with his Free Stuff Fridays promotions, A La Carte linkage love, and Reading the Classics Together, which were staples by 2009.
The two key branches of change blogging wise were 1) an increase in tribalism, on the one hand, and 2) a move toward commercialization and consumer-oriented approach on the other.
Many bloggers, previously connected via the broad reaching aggregators set off to create blogging networks that focused on particular affinity areas, like missions and outreach, or promoting a more serious orthodoxy with a confessional focus. Some bloggers, seeing what Spencer saw about the coming changes within Evangelicalism, went off and cultivated a network of "discernment" focused websites. Eventually, most of the little people disappeared from the public conversation and the mammoth, highly-commercialized models superceded them. In 2009, The Gospel Coalition and Challies.com would come to mostly own the reformed sector of the interwebs from a content perspective.
Under this system of commercialism, newer bloggers largely see their work as a commodity. They are often inadvertently set up as a sort of 'Issue Avatar", where the work of one or two specific people emerges as representing the particular viewpoint or experience of a whole demographic.
Whether readers are still welcome to comment or not, the former community and atmosphere of participation has been largely discarded -- exchanged for click-throughs and shares. As a result of the consolidation of authors into mega-blogs, newer bloggers tend to be primarily be interested in seeking to grow a "platform" where their work can be seen by as many "consumers" as possible, and perhaps, even as a place where they can monetize their content. Cultivating community, dialog, and participation is no longer seen as a desirable outcome.
Additionally, these changes in the reformed blogging community since 2009 greatly improved the opportunity for many men bloggers and men authors. However, the changes have had an overall negative impact on women bloggers and authors. The majority of my former bloggy women friends no longer blog.
My Personal Reflection
For me, I mostly feel that because of the current context, anything I blog is just whispering into the wind. At other times, it is just a matter of not getting worked up anymore over a topic that has been discussed to death already. So many things that younger writers see as something novel has already been settled by previous generations in council, committees, or creeds. Unless it personally concerns me, I don't feel the need to spend time on it anymore. Maybe I should? And finally, as I get older, I just don't feel as driven to take sides on every little thing that crosses the computer screen. Besides, the things that are troublesome are more like overarching themes, such as the tribalism and commercialism that I mentioned earlier or the few recent issues I've engaged like the nature of sin and redemption in Christ.
I certainly don't speak for mature women overall, as I would hope to read and learn from more mature women than myself!! However, there is a touch of conviction in writing this that perhaps I have more to share than I even know.
And this may be the biggest thing standing in the way -- convincing the older women that they actually do have the wisdom and experience that we need!
In which case, maybe what we need most is a generation of Ruth's... (keep reading)....