How many Americans specifically sought out their pastors for help on a major life decision over the last two years? Yes, they go to church; they like the “practical” applications at the end of sermons; they buy self-help spiritual books–but how many call their pastor and ask them for help with a life decision? How many even asked for prayer for a major life decision at their church?
My intuition says that the Internet (more specifically Google), rather than pastors, performs this function for lots of people; and instead of going to pastors as experts they are instead turning to trusted peers using the Internet and making decisions for themselves (and often publicly sharing the results for others to read).
Tim quotes from the recent Pew Foundation report, “The Strength of Internet Ties: The internet and email aid users in maintaining their social networks and provide pathways to help when people face big decisions”.
(A)s the internet has become a part of our everyday routine, it has changed our form of community and broadened our social networks. Today, few people inhabit urban villages or rural “Pleasantvilles” where everybody knows their name — and minds their business. Instead, they inhabit socially and spatially dispersed networks through which they maneuver to be sociable, to seek information, and to give and get help.
Getting the right answer is wholly dependant on how good your peer network is–if you are networked with smart, spiritually mature people–you will make good decisions. Congregations are responsible for getting the right answer; no longer is the pastor responsible to give the truth to their congregation.
A new spiritual discipline should be how to build your peer network, how to subscribe to the best spiritual information stream and how to use it. Your email address book and RSS feeds are critical tools for making life decisions.
Social capital is gained through sharing, transparency and frequency–not through ordained authority or being right. Being wrong is just as valuable. Spiritual bloggers are at the forefront of expertise in doing this; and many act as “pastors” to their peers. I believe the next Billy Graham will be a blogging geek.
Or maybe a spiritual blogging network is the next Billy Graham and already exists!
Perhaps we’re a small part of it. Or not.