LA MIRADA, Calif. – What would Jesus blog?
That and other pressing questions drew 135 Christians to Southern California this weekend for a national conference billed as the first-ever for "God bloggers," a growing community of online writers who exchange information and analyze current events from a Christian perspective.
The three-day conference at Biola University (search) marked an important benchmark for Christian bloggers, who have worked behind the scenes for years to spread the Gospel and infuse politics with religion.
Topics included God bloggers' relationship with the traditional church, their growing influence on mainstream politics and how to manage outsiders' perceptions.
Some predicted bloggers could play a role in reforming the modern church by keeping televangelists and other high-profile Christian leaders honest.
Joe Carter, author of evangelicaloutpost.com, compared blogging to the 95 Theses posted by Martin Luther nearly 500 years ago that launched the Protestant Reformation (search).
"It's like putting 95 blogs out there," said Carter, who previously said God bloggers offer an "uncensored and unadulterated" view of contemporary Christian thought on politics and organized religion.
Many bloggers are now writing about religious oppression, poverty and world hunger, instead of hot-button issues such as abortion, homosexuality and assisted suicide, said the Rev. Andrew Jackson, a seminary professor and pastor at the Word of Grace Church (search) in Mesa, Ariz.
"With blogging you tend to break out of those circles and you see other points of view," Carter said. "There's a bigger world out there than gay marriage and abortion."
At one well-attended workshop — "When Non-Christians Read Your Blog" — Biola University professor Timothy Muehlhoff (search) gave instructions on writing about faith without alienating nonbelievers.
He stressed that God blogging has the potential to be a "train wreck" because done wrong it can reinforce stereotypes of evangelical Christians as angry and close-minded "pit bulls of the culture wars."
"As Christians today we are embroiled in the argument culture and we have forgotten this one thing: 'Blessed are the peacemakers'," he said. "Wouldn't it be nice if we could say we brought a level of civility back to the conversation?"
Jackson, who blogs at smartchristian.com, said he wasn't as sure what long-term influence blogging would have on evangelical Christians — but he knew it would be important.
"We are just at the beginning of what is going on," he said. "We need to start thinking about how we can harness and focus the Christian blogosphere for greater impact."