Monday, October 31, 2005
My interview with Jason Janz of "Sharper Iron"
Late last week, Jason Janz, site publisher of SharperIron.org, happened to be in my city. I took the opportunity to have him on my radio show and pick his brain about Christian blogging.
Jason is a graduate of Northland Baptist Bible College: he is married to Jennifer and they have three sons; Hudson, Champlin and Paton.
The following is excerpted from my radio interview with Jason.
CINDY: Jason, welcome to Weekend Rockford.
JASON: Cindy, thanks for having me on.
CINDY: I understand that you are on the pastoral staff of a church in Colorado, right?
JASON: Yes, Red Rocks Baptist Church. We're on the west side of Denver, right up against the foothills.
CINDY: Wow, I'm jealous of you for living in Colorado (laughs), I love Colorado.
JASON: I was born in the Midwest, but it is nice to live in the West.
CINDY: How did you personally get into this thing that we call blogging?
JASON: Well, I heard the word "blog" kicked around, and I've kind of always been an early adopter type personality, pioneer-type individual and entrepreneurial in spirit, and so I always want to kind of see what's out there.
I didn't know what blogging was, and I went around the Internet, and I really still couldn't get my hands around the idea. So then I bought Hugh Hewitt's book, Blog, Understanding the Information Reformation, so I took that book and I read it and then it clicked in my mind, the potential of blogging, and that kind of gave me the impetus to start it.
CINDY: From that, how did Sharperiron the website, which includes forums and a blog and all kinds of stuff, come about?
"A niche market"
JASON: They say if bloggers are going to be effective they're going to speak to a niche market, and be very effective at reaching that niche, but also able to speak to a wide range of issues.
My niche was Christian fundamentalism, where I wanted to specialize in that niche and really explore the issues that were of concern to them.
We speak to a number of issues...anybody can read my blog, but I'm really targeting that niche. I wanted to help those people; I wanted to have some conversations, and so that's why I began Sharper Iron.
CINDY: You attended the God Blog Conference a couple of weeks ago in California. What was the purpose of this conference?
JASON: I think it was just to gather Christian bloggers in one room and have some conversations about the potential of Christian blogging, the frustrations that there are with Christian blogging...A lot of people had a desire to try to harness the power of the Christian blogosphere to use it for good. But there were discussions on a number of levels. You know, there's the pro-life bloggers, then the political bloggers, and then there's the pastors who blog, so it was just kind of a wide smattering of journalists, lay people and pastors who are blogging and trying to use that for good.
CINDY: Can you just share some of the highlights of what you came away with from this conference?
"I'm not one who thinks blogging is going to change the world"
JASON: I came away with the fact that I was honestly kind of disappointed, in a way, that blogging, I think, is really overestimated. It's just another new technology, and a new medium to get voices out there. But I am not one who thinks blogging is going to change the world. Because to me, it's the new newspaper, and it's going to be how we communicate most effectively, and I think the advantage of live communication and live interaction is going to change communication. However, at the same rate that we're getting into the blogosphere as Christians, the Muslims are doing the same thing.
So, I don't expect worldwide revival; I don't have huge, high optimistic hopes. I derive encouragement..we sat around the table at lunch with many pastors who blog; I think that's where I got the most encouragement. I got more comfort from their stories of how difficult it is on their end, because we all face the same struggles and the same issues.
We all have spouses, and the "blogging widow" idea has been propagated, that we spend so much time on our blogs that our wives come knocking on the door...so, blogging can be a harsh mistress.
CINDY: Well, you know how I look at it...I really appreciate blogs like Sharper Iron, like Hugh Hewitt and La Shawn Barber; blogs that, many of them, are really on the cutting edge of the news...some of them even report the news, and I appreciate that too. Because that has made the mainstream media realize, "Hey, we don't have a corner on disseminating the news anymore."
JASON: Yeah, people want a trusted voice. So like, Hugh Hewitt, when the presidential debates were going on...he had a couple of million people tuning into his live comments while the debate was going on, because they weren't trusting just everything that was coming across the airwaves. They wanted it interepreted for them. And I think in an information society that is just overloaded with information, people are going to start turning to trusted voices.
CINDY: I agree. But blogging doesn't have to be so--ambitious, perhaps. The way I look at my own blog, I just hope that it's a little grain of salt and a little ray of light in the blogosphere...I let it be about anything I want it to be, but it's always out there that I'm a Christian, and the stand that I take. And my blog is just a tiny little segment of the blogosphere, but that's my prayer for it, is that it will be a little bit of light, a little bit of salt out there, because there's so much ugly stuff on the Internet.
And you're right, we tend to look at our own little corners...I remember I heard someone talking about the Internet as being like a huge city, with streets and byways, big places and little places, but then there's those ugly parts of the city, the seamy side, the "yeeuch" parts of the city. And that's true of the Internet.
And one thing that does excite me about Christian blogging is that they are getting out that salt and light through the things that they're saying on their blogs. Sharper Iron, I think, is a great segment of that, one of the things that is showing salt and light.
"Fundamentalists will do battle royal for the truth"
You talked about how you wanted it to be a voice for Christian fundamentalism. Sometimes that word "fundamentalism" is considered--I don't know, a stumblingblock, sometimes, when people hear it, they're like, "Eeew...I don't want to be involved in anything crazy like that." How would you reply to that?
JASON: Sharper Iron is a closed community, meaning that only those who subscribe to our beliefs are allowed to comment. Anybody can read. We have 11-hundred members, but this month we'll welcome 12-thousand different visitors with a different URL coming into our site. So anybody can read us, but only those that are members of the closed community can post.
Fundamentalism is very simply the belief that all the Bible is important, all the truth is important, and that we believe in the fundamental truths of Christianity. But we're also maybe different from a lot of evangelicals in that we will do battle royal for the truth. We're not the Rodney King evangelicals--we know why everybody can't get along; it's about the truth, and the truth does divide.
CINDY: What are your aspirations or your hopes for Sharper Iron?
"Blogging is a means to an end"
JASON: I really just want to publish views and ideas from a Christian fundamental Biblical worldview. Blogging to me is a means to an end, it's not an end. My heartbeat is really to help pastors and church leaders; to me they're the true heroes of this culture and the world, because they are doing...I don't think politics can do anything to save the individual. The way to save America is to save Americans.
I remember talking with Cal Thomas, the most nationally syndicated columnist in the world, and he said to me,"I've never convinced anybody to my conservate position based on the logic of my arguments. But many people have changed to conservative views because Jesus Christ has saved their soul and regenerated them...that's the business I want to be in."
And Cal Thomas even has a ministry to people that are in the communications industry, to lead them to the Lord, and he's done that on many fronts.
I would ascribe to that, that I want to help pastors and church leaders be more effective. They're a discouraged bunch...it's hard in a wicked culture to keep a voice that is Biblical. I just read the stat yesterday that one in eight pastors commit adultery while they're in the ministry. And they're just assaulted on every side, and I just want to help pick them up.
CINDY: Well, it sounds like you have a very balanced view of blogging. But you did happen to mention the quote "blogging widow" (laughs)...is it possible for Christians to become a little too focused on things like blogging, and the Internet, and that sort of thing?
JASON: Absolutely. Satan can use anything to get a Christian out of balance. I believe that we need to keep Christ's commands forefront in our minds, that our job on this earth is to make disciples. And so I tell people, "Get off my blog...and get out there and do the work on the ministry." While some of them, I think, need to have discussions, I think there is a time to just put the keyboard away.
And if blogging causes you to neglect your responsibilities as a father, as a spouse and as a pastor, then it is wrong for you to continue to put time into it.
CINDY: Yeah, it's a case of something that's really a good thing becoming a bad thing when you give it oo much focus and too much emphasis.
Going back a little bit to the God Blog Conference...I had read that they're talking about maybe having one the next time in a more centralized location, maybe in the Midwest. Will you go again? Is it important enough that you think you would go to it?
JASON: I don't know if I could answer that question right now. It all kind of depends on my schedule, my life. Blogging, to tell you the truth, I could take it or leave it tomorrow, because it's not the ultimate end for me. SharperIron, I've enjoyed it, it's really sharpened me as an individual. But I don't know if I could answer that question; it all depends on the nature of the discussion is gonna be and what the purpose is.
"Iron sharpens iron"
CINDY: Speaking of the name "Sharper Iron," some people may not be familiar with the Biblical reference on that; tell us what that means.
JASON: Yeah, Proverbs says that "Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend." And the idea is there, if you think of a forge where a blacksmith is working, that he takes iron and smacks it down on iron, and and when that conflict happens, and sparks fly, there's a good result. And so our job as believers is to exhort one another to love and to good works. And I think that's the iron sharpening iron process. And a lot of times that happens in the realm of ideas.