The new superheroes of the web

Who are they?

Content curators.

What are they?

In The New Superheroes of the Web, Steven Rosenbaum calls them the “web’s secret power…individuals with a passion for a content area [who] find, contextualize, and organize information. Curators provide a consistent update regarding what’s interesting, happening, and cool in their focus. Curators tend to have a unique and consistent point of view–providing a reliable context for the content that they discover and organize.”

And in our information-flooded world, do our boggled minds need these superheroes! Into the data-Tsunami step these superheroes, shielding us from the overwhelming waves, listening to the digital noise, identifying precious nuggets, important news, and fresh voices, then organizing it for us, their grateful readers.

Thankfully there are a number of Christians among these superheroes. And if you want to keep your head above the water, you desperately need them. Here are the ones I depend upon, split into two categories – Blog curators and Twitter curators.

Blog curators
Tim Challies: The most consistent Christian curator out there. Via his A la carte posts, Tim provides 5-6 links, six days a week, with a wide mix of theology, culture, technology, books, controversy, photography, etc. If you have to choose one, he’s the one.

Justin Taylor: Posts excerpts and links 3-20 times a day! Bit more highbrow/academic emphasis than Tim, with interest in philosophy, culture, and biblical theology. Leans slightly Baptist, New Calvinist, Crossway-authors in his choices – which is understandable. If you’re trying to keep in touch with theological and cultural trends, Justin is your man.

The Gospel Coalition: On the top right corner of their web page, you’ll find the “Right Now” section, which daily refreshes with new links to theological and cultural pieces. At times tends towards New Calvinist/Crossway in their picks, with the same names tending to appear as on Justin Taylor’s site.

Trevin Wax: Like Tim Challies, Trevin is a great writer of original content. But most days he also highlights links in his “Worth a Look” or “Trevin’s Seven” posts. He’s a Southern Baptist, which obviously influences his choices, but he also has a knack of picking up fascinating content in politics, sport, culture, etc.

Bob Kellemen: Either at his own blog or at the Biblical Counseling Coalition, you can pick up Bob’s “Five to live by.” Only once a week (usually Thursday or Friday), but I usually click on all five of these carefully selected counseling and Christian living posts.

Blogging Theologically: Aaron Armstrong selects 3-5 posts most days in his “Likes I like.” Operates in the same general territory as Tim Challies, with special interests in Christian books. His book reviews are also always worth reading.

Everyday Theology: Marc Cortez, a Professor at Western Seminary, will connect you with both serious and humorous content, but I especially value his links to helpful education content for teachers/professors, etc. He’s a sort of mixture of Tim Challies and Justin Taylor.

UPDATE: Here’s one I forgot but I’d also definitely recommend for Seminary students and pastors. Bible Exposition links to lots of helpful resources for exegesis and hermeneutics.

Twitter Curators
Michael Hyatt: Carefully selected links to articles on leadership, writing, and publishing.

Nathan Bingham: Cutting edge blogger and Tweeter who’ll keep you right up-to-date with the latest in technology and design, as well as links to the best Christian content that most other people have missed.

Matt Perman: Wasn’t sure whether to include Matt in Bloggers or Tweeters, but I think he posts most links on Twitter. If you follow him, you’ll get lots of great quotes on work, vocation, productivity, but you’ll also get links to Christian and non-Christian posts on the same subjects. Matt fills a large hole that few Christians are doing much blogging/tweeting in. His blog (and soon-to-be book) is called What’s Best Next.

Sarah Pulliam Bailey: At last, a woman! Sarah is online editor of Christianity Today as well as a contributor to Get Religion (a superb blog that analyzes how religion, especially Christianity, is reported in the media). If you follow Sarah, you’ll get connected to current news in the evangelical world.

Anthony Bradley: Sparky Tweeter with much-needed perspective on African American issues. It would take me days to find the links that he regularly Tweets.

Superhero Vacancies
So, do you want to be a superhero? Well, don’t try to copy what someone else is already doing well. Find an area, a niche, that’s presently not being covered. There are five vacancies that come to my mind (feel free to suggest some more):

  • I think there’s room for a female Tim Challies or Justin Taylor. If you’re out there, let me know and I’ll add you to the list.
  • Old Testament: OK, that’s totally selfish on my part, but I’d love for someone else to do some of the heavy lifting here.
  • What about Practical Theology. A lot of blogs are heavy on theology but quite a bit lighter on Christian living.
  • And where are the Presbyterians and the Historic Reformed curators? Got nothing to offer the New Calvnists? Gentle Reformation has maybe a once-a-week digest of links, but we’re looking for more, lads (and ladies).
  • African American/Hispanic issues. I’d love if there was one site that I could go to every day and read 3-4 articles on the kinds of issues affecting these communities. It would be a huge service to the church if this was also combined with Christian commentary/analysis.

Are you ready to step up, then? If so, let me close with a caution from Steven Rosenbaum’s post on Superhero Curators:

It’s real work, and requires a tireless commitment to being engaged and ready to rebroadcast timely material. While there may be an economic benefit for being a “thought leader” and “trusted curator,” it’s not going to happen overnight. Which is to say, being a superhero is often a thankless job.


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1-3-5
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Young(ish), Single, Reformed

Allison wrote me a week or so ago and asked me if I would “address the issue of being mindful and watchful of single ladies in the church who weren’t expecting to go seeking for an established career. I know there is a contingency of female readers who read your blog and Berkhof’s systematic theology among other things. The paradox of being an older female single in the Reformed camp.  :) But the joy of rejoicing in Christ in the struggle.”

Well, I took the wise coward’s way out and asked her to write the post herself! Here it is. 

“I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God; incline your ear to me; hear my words” (Ps. 17:6-7).

As I am on the brink of turning 40 and still single, many a word have I spoken to the Lord regarding my current status. I am a Reformed Baptist, which generally lends itself to assuming I will get married because that happens to conservative girls like myself. Yet silence still pervades the air regarding that issue in my life.

With moxie, I behest the Lord to present before me just the right Calvinistic fellow who would lead me into marriage. But alas, God has the “gall” to not confirm my request in the speedy manner I was desiring.

Called to something different?
But what if God is calling me to something different?  It is easier and more natural to be under the protectorate of men, but to instead slip on heels and work alongside them was not something I expected.  My father was a military officer and my mother was a housewife, and I assumed I would follow her footsteps.  I am a member of a conservative Baptist church, and it is the norm to be married off and support the husband.  Thus it is perplexing to be handed a sword and pushed into a battle I was not expecting.

Many of the female bloggers of the Reformed camp speak mainly of family and marriage issues, and the dutiful posting about being a content single. Instead I look to blogs by men that talk about the workforce in today’s society and other issues my married female counter-parts don’t have to face as often.

So I wanted to encourage the other gals out there, who are flummoxed and bewildered at their current status in life, to still praise God.  To “hold fast to your paths; my feet have not slipped,” Psalm 17:6.

Online dating
Too easily, society quips to “try online dating.” But I caution against that. Do not be too quick to escape out of the mode of singleness with a flash of your credit card. Yes, it has worked for some, but deep down, aren’t you a hopeless romantic wanting true love the old-fashioned way?

I work in a warehouse, not an exciting career, and I gagged when I read this book about single gals who had stellar careers and were at the point of finally buying a house on their own. I can’t afford that. The book actually made me more depressed because I did not measure up to the standard of living that these other ladies possessed.

I too am getting older, not as financially stable as I would like to be, honestly a little fearful of the future.  But praise God that I still cry out to the Lord for help and I listen for Him and wait for Him to answer.

To other gals who are feeling discouraged, I can sympathize and gently admonish.  Cry, get a hug, spend time with God and read.  Sinclair Ferguson is a wonderful author/pastor and his warm, gentle voice is soothing on those hard days.  I recommend “Deserted by God” by Ferguson.

Be plugged into the women’s ministry, get a mentor, volunteer, and read rich theology.  Books in the theology section aren’t just for guys!  Read the biography of A.W. Pink and Adoniram Judson. Instead of checking that online dating site, open that theology book and feel challenged and excited. You will be surprised!

Be a member of your church, volunteer to the highest capacity at your church.  Love God’s Word, memorize it!  Be known as a lady of God. I can honestly say that I would not want a guy who had spent hours on e-harmony. Instead I want a guy who spent hours volunteering at church.

A rock on the hand or the Word in your heart?
Let God’s Word be the focus on your mind, to draw upon that when the dagger of disgust and frustration scrapes against my neck. Hard times will come, but God’s Word will never forsake me!  Have the Word on the tip of your tongue; have it as a goal when chatting over coffee about things to look forward to.  Sure having a rock on the hand is nice, but what is even better is to have God’s glorious Word encrusted and embellishing your heart forever!

Proverbs 31:25 reads “Strength and dignity are her clothing and she laughs at the time to come.” I cannot do that on my own accord. But by God’s grace and by the pouring in of the Holy Spirit, that can be accomplished.

Thank you Lord for breaking me and making me reliant on you to be built back up. It is a good thing to be conservative, and Reformed, and educated, and, yes, sophisticated. I did not say homely or dull :)

It is nice to be able to be at church where men still lead.

Love God, love your church, love God’s Word and love His sovereignty!

Allison blogs at https://1happymongoose.wordpress.com/


The Elephant in the Room at T4G

Although commentary abounds about last week’s T4G (pros and cons, highlights and disappointments, etc), one question I have not seen raised is, “Where were all our black brothers (and sisters)?”

Kim Shay has blogged about what it was like to be one of the small minority of women at the conference. But there was an even smaller minority of African Americans. It looked to me to be about 1-2%, maybe.

In one way I’m very reluctant to raise the question because I’ve discovered to my cost that it’s almost impossible to question or comment about anything race-related in the USA without being accused of being a racist! I’ve waited to see if some of the more culturally sensitive commentators/bloggers would address this “elephant in the room.” So far, silence.

So let me break the silence by saying that I was hugely disappointed by the largely mono-cultural make-up of T4G (the few non-WASPS I did get to speak to were from outside of the USA!). Others, quietly, said the same to me.

TGC Contrast
It was quite different at The Gospel Coalition conferences I’ve attended in Chicago, where there was a much better representation of different cultures and races (not yet representative of society, but much closer). Coming from a fairly mono-cultural church in Grand Rapids, it was one of the great blessings of attending TGC to get to know and fellowship with people from different backgrounds – challenging, but edifying, and some of these relationships endure. I’d hoped for more of this at T4G.

Given the massive and admirable effort people like John Piper, Mark Dever, and Thabiti Anyabwile, have put into challenging racism and expanding the “New Reformed” movement’s racial and cultural diversity, it must have been so disappointing for them to look out on an almost unbroken sea of white faces.

Conference clash?
Why did this happen? What are the reasons? One African American brother I wanted to meet at the conference told me that he would be at the Man up 2012 conference in Atlanta the following week. Maybe that conference clash explained many other absentees. In some ways I hope so, because it would be a real pity if, after all the barrier-breaking, bridge-building work, we all retreated into our ghettos again.

(And if I’ve used any wrong or insensitive language here, I sincerely apologize in advance).

UPDATE FROM COMMENTS:

Well, the racist charge came as expected. Sigh! Where does one begin?

1. I loved T4G. Listen to this week’s podcast with Tim Challies if you’re not convinced. It was a privilege to be there and I look forward to going back. It was superbly organized and the speakers did a great job. Met lots of fantastic people and came back supercharged. I loved T4G.

2. The leaders and organizers T4G are not racist. I did not accuse them of such and I would never dare to do such. As I said in my post, I know these men have done a huge amount to try to build bridges and break down barriers. I’m sure that they were as disappointed as me that we were not as “Together for the Gospel” as we could be.

3. And that’s really my point. And I’m sure it’s the ultimate aim of T4G as well – to be TOGETHER for the Gospel, for such conferences to truly reflect the beautiful diversity of Christ’s kingdom on earth. My post was to highlight the lack of diversity, ask why, and initiate a conversation about how that can be better accomplished in the future. The cause certainly isn’t helped by closing our eyes, shutting down conversation, and throwing accusations of racism around. The lack of “togetherness” was not intentional but we need to be intentional if we want to change it.

4. This is not just about how to get more cultural and racial diversity at “our” conferences. What about ourselves attending conferences where we might be the minority? As well as giving us a sense of what it’s like to be in a minority, that might do more than anything to show to the world the way that the Gospel can unite. I’d love to see it in our churches, but conferences would be a good start. Anyone got any good suggestions?


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Five enemies of the productive church planter


CK Short: Conferences

Fresh off the heels of T4G, Tim Challies addresses the topic of Conferences. A partial transcript is below or you can listen in to hear the two of us interact. Download here.

I have had the privilege of attending an awful lot of conferences over the past few years. At first I went as a liveblogger, sitting through each session and tapping out a summary of what the speaker said. More recently I have gone as an attender or sometimes even as a speaker. I suppose this means that I’ve seen conferences from just about every angle.

I like conferences and I believe in their value. Of course, like every other good thing in life, they demand moderation. I have met genuine conference groupies, people who follow conferences like Deadheads follow the Grateful Dead. I have met pastors whose churches allow them to attend five major conferences each year. I can’t imagine how that can be healthy or financially-sustainable! But a conference or two a year can offer times of learning, refreshment and relationship that can benefit any Christian, whether a layperson or a pastor.

I believe there are several different ways you can benefit from a conference.

Teaching Value
The most obvious benefit of a conference is in the teaching. In the Christian world in general, and in this segment of the Christian world in particular, we have no shortage of great conferences featuring wonderful speakers. There are the usual suspects: Ligonier, Shepherd’s, Desiring God, Together for the Gospel, Gospel Coalition, and many others. Each one of them draws well-known, highly-skilled teachers and many thousands of attendees. Then there are, literally, hundreds of smaller events. There is no doubt: We are well-served by conferences.

I believe in the teaching value of conferences, and particularly so when the event has a well-defined theme. Hearing several people teach on a common subject, moving from the beginning to end of a topic, can be powerful and effective. I don’t think I will ever forget the Desiring God conference that looked at Suffering and the Sovereignty of God. That teaching genuinely changed me. I definitely won’t ever forget R.C. Sproul’s message at the 2008 Together for the Gospel conference where he looked at the curse motif of the Old Testament. Thousands of people sat transfixed as he led us to the cross and to the curse that was laid upon Jesus. It was an intensely powerful moment. I am hearing similar stories from David Platt’s message at this year’s Together for the Gospel.

I believe in conferences for their value in teaching. If teaching is high on your list, consider Together for the Gospel or Gospel Coalition to sit under the teaching of some of today’s most popular preachers. If you prefer an event that sticks closely to a theme, consider Ligonier Ministries or Desiring God’s annual general conferences. And, of course, be sure to look for events that may come to your local area.

People Value
Conferences also have great people value and, in my experience, this may be the greatest and most lasting benefit. Teaching is wonderful, of course, but what I love about conferences is the way they bring people together. In the midst of a digital world, conferences provide one of the only sources of real connectivity that most of us experience. I have emailed with Brian Croft a hundred times, but at last week’s Together for the Gospel I was finally able to meet him, to put a face to the name, to share a meal with him. The Internet gives us the ability to form relationships with more people and often we form these relationships based on common interests. Conferences take people of common interest and give them a good reason to be together in a common space.

When I attend a conference I love to meet new people and form real-world relationships with them. I also love to meet up with people I’ve met before. There are actually plenty of people—friends even—that I’ve only ever been face-to-face with at a conference. These events offer a great opportunity to be with people. So when you go to a conference, be sure that you set aside some time to be with people even if this has to come at the expense of some of the teaching.

If the people value of an event is high on your list, be sure to consider Shepherd’s Conference or The Basics Conference; both of these events offer a relaxed schedule and plenty of opportunities to spend time with people.

Excitement Value
Finally, conferences have a unique ability to get you excited, to get you pumped up about things that interest you. This can be either a great benefit or a great drawback; there are many people who go to a conference and come back pumped up about something that will soon fade away again. But for many more, a conference will renew and refresh. It will refresh them physically or mentally, allowing the teacher to receive some teaching or the busy mom to take a couple of days to get away from the normal routines. The excitement of a conference serves to stir up old feelings, to renew things long forgotten or neglected. They offer a different context or a different way of hearing things and this can be very powerful.
Tim Challies 


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