Thursday, July 07, 2005

Methodist Blogger Profile: Shane Raynor

Shane Raynor of Wesley Blog

I live in Austin, TX and work in a management position for a national Christian publisher/retailer. I’m originally from North Carolina, and I’ve also worked in Christian (and mainstream) radio and television (at smaller stations where I had opportunities to do production and on-air work). I was raised Methodist, but didn’t experience conversion until I was 14. My dad decided to become a Mormon when I was a teenager so family religious discussions were never boring. I’m active in the ministries of a United Methodist Church in Austin.

Why do you blog?
I blog to encourage and persuade people. It’s also a spiritual discipline in some ways. Sometimes I blog to figure out where I stand on an issue myself. But I definitely want people who encounter my blog to be challenged by what they read.

What has been your best blogging experience?
It’s hard to choose a single best experience, but I’d say the Beth Stroud interview. After months of covering her case, I contacted her as soon as an appeals committee overturned the verdict that had stripped her of her ordination. . Not only did she agree to an interview, but we released it within 48 hours of the verdict being reversed. I received almost no criticism from either side of the issue, which is rare, because I usually can’t post anything without stirring up a few people. My other best experience has been watching the Methodist blogging community grow.

What would be your main advice to a novice blogger?
The first thing you should ask yourself is if you really want a lot of readers. That sounds silly at first, but some people look at their blogs as personal journals, and they may not want hundreds or thousands of people stopping by daily. Family and friends are usually who they’re targeting. But for those who do want to reach as many people as possible, I recommend finding a niche that no one is covering, one that you’re passionate about, and give it everything you have. General political and religious blogs are a dime a dozen, but well-done specialized blogs are a rare find. When I started Wesley Blog, I could not find a blog by a United Methodist that focused almost exclusively on Methodism. So I started one, and I wasn’t afraid to spend a few bucks on marketing it. (Otherwise, no one would have ever known about it and I would have gotten bored within a week and shut it down.)

If you only had time to read three blogs a day, what would they be?
Boar’s Head Tavern: This is a discussion blog with many authors, and it’s never dull. Some of my favorite contributors are Josh Strodtbeck, Michael Spencer and Matthew Johnson. C.S. Lewis is their patron saint, so that just about says it all.

La Shawn Barber: She’s a Calvinist and a Republican, so Methodist liberals should approach her blog with Alka-Seltzer in hand. I like to read her views on politics and faith.

Progressive Protestant: Chris Tessone always has something interesting to say. He and I have disagreed on many things, but we read each other’s blogs and we even did a series of posts about ways liberals and conservatives misunderstand each other.

Who are your spiritual heroes?
Jesus: He gave himself so we could be reconciled to God, and he wasn’t afraid to rock the boat to release people from bondage.

Martin Luther: He had his faults, but at his best he stood up to an abusive religious system and helped people understand the Word of God and hear the Gospel of Christ.

John Wesley: He did whatever it took to reach people for Christ, even when it meant changing the playbook on the fly and upsetting the religious folks. He also had the guts to tell good chuch people they needed to be converted to Christianity.

Charles Finney: I like him for many of the same reasons I like Wesley.

What are you reading at the moment?
A Wesleyan-Holiness Theology by J. Kenneth Grider (honest!)
Acts of the Holy Spirit by C. Peter Wagner

What is your favorite hymn and why?
“And Can it Be” by Charles Wesley.

Why? Just read the 4th verse:

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

Can you name a major moral, political, or intellectual issue on which you've changed your mind?
Yes. The death penalty. I was once very pro-capital punishment, but that pesky “mercy triumphs over judgment” thing won me over. But having said that, I don’t think we should be soft on punishing crime. Prison should be a place people want to avoid.

What philosophical thesis do you think that it is most important to combat?
Religious and moral relativism. We have high-profile people within our own denomination who teach that there are ways to eternal life apart from Jesus Christ. This is unacceptable.

If you could affect one major change in the governing of your country, what would it be?
I would get rid of political parties. That way, people would be forced to think about individual issues instead of being Democratic and Republican bobble-heads. Government would also get more done without all of the partisan bickering. Instead of “us vs. them” we’d see a real spectrum of ideas in Washington.

If you could affect one major policy change in the United Methodist Church, what would it be?
I only get one? How about two: go from an annual appointment system to a multi-year covenant appointment system, and get rid of certain boards and agencies. (You know who you are.)

What would be your most important piece of advice about life?
Find something you’re passionate about doing in the Kingdom of God, and try to do it better than anyone else has ever done it.

What, if anything, do you worry about?
That I’ll squander opportunities God has given me to affect eternal things.

If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything that you'd do differently?
Yes and no. I’ve made tons of mistakes, but some of them brought me to this point (a good place) so how could I go back and undo them? It’s a good thing that we’re not able to change the past.

Where would you most like to live (other than where you do now)?
Austin is a wonderful city, so it’s hard to beat. Raleigh was a great place to live too, but there wasn’t as much going on as there is here. I wouldn’t mind taking a shot at living in the Big Apple. There are tons of people there and it never sleeps.

What do you like doing in your spare time?
Besides blogging and reading (which both take big chunks of time), I work in youth ministry. I’m also way addicted to Stargate SG-1 and have watched the first seven seasons (that’s 154 episodes) on DVD in the past 13 months.

What is your most treasured possession?
I could get all spiritual here, but I’m assuming you mean tangible possession so I’ll say my computer or my books.

What talent would you most like to have?
It’s tough to choose. Part of me wants to be a better preacher/teacher and part of me wants to be a really good guitar player because they get all the chicks.

If you could have any three guests, past or present to dinner, who would they be?
John Wesley, Martin Luther and C.S. Lewis… and of course, Jesus.

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