When the Rev. Mark D. Roberts started his blog, he envisioned a small outreach to his community and parishioners at Irvine Presbyterian Church in Irvine, Calif.
A little more than a year later, the blog reaches far beyond that, drawing 1,500 visitors daily — 2,000 on weekends.
“I have readers literally all over the world,” says Roberts, pastor to a 750- member congregation. His review of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” has drawn more than 25,000 visitors since the film’s release, and it continues to draw readers by the hundreds.
It is but one small example of the growing reach of Christian bloggers going online to evangelize, mobilize and occasionally demonize. They marvel at the way blogs give them an opportunity to engage with a lively and diverse audience they could never attract on their own.
The term “blog” is short for “Web log” and refers to the online journals that have given a public voice to anyone with an Internet connection. Evangelicals, for instance, used blogs to get voters to the polls in November, becoming a big part of President George W. Bush’s victory.
But many Christians see a deeper opportunity in blogging, says Hugh Hewitt, author of “Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That’s Changing Your World,” released in January by Christian publisher Thomas Nelson. “The Great Commission is communications-oriented,” says Hewitt of the New Testament directive to spread Christianity. “And so pastors now … have a brand-new platform to use responsibly and effectively to achieve the Great Commission.”
Hewitt, who once worked as a ghostwriter for President Nixon and held several jobs in the Reagan administration, is host of a politically conservative radio talk show broadcast from Los Angeles to more than 75 cities across the country. His blog at www.hughhewitt.com draws up to 40,000 visitors daily, and it drew 250,000 on Election Day. He describes himself as a “political blogger who happens to be evangelical” and says many Christians have embraced blogging because they long have felt sidelined by the mainstream media.
“It’s rewiring completely how the world gets its information,” he says. “The ability to reach everyone is now here, and good Christian bloggers have to flood the zone.”
Roberts started his blog at www.markdroberts.com with a “vague sense that it might be helpful to put up some ideas,” he says. He hoped to reach the unchurched. Now he sees the blog as a natural extension of what he preaches at church and in Sunday school. He writes on theological issues and just completed a 22-part series on a controversial new translation of the Bible.
He proudly notes his response to The Da Vinci Code is among the top 10 in a list of sites returned by a Google search of the question “Was Jesus married?”
He enjoys the broad dialogue and believes it will grow because blogging is easy to do. He notes his newest book, No Holds Barred: Wrestling With God in Prayer, released in March by Waterbrook Press, a division of Random House, is the result of two years of work. “It’s an awful lot easier to get up a blog and start going,” he says. The book “will be really popular — until the next thing comes along.”