Well, it’s here. After months of planning, designing and creating, it seems appropriate to describe the new Baptist Times website as up and running. It is the day after the London Marathon after all. It actually would have gone live a week ago had life not intervened: my baby daughter arrived sooner than expected and I was parachuted into the joys of paternity leave. We always knew it would be close. ‘Having two babies in April’ has been the oft-repeated line. These are exciting times, full of hope and thankfulness, and like any pivotal period in life, nervousness too. A heightened awareness of one’s limitations is no bad thing for a Christian: amid the uncertainty comes a greater reliance on God. Less of me, more of Him. It’s the way it should be.
So why is there a Baptist Times Online, and what does it hope to do? In short, we want to help people deepen their faith in Jesus, and better live out His mission. Like the newspaper that preceded it, this is a space to share stories of what’s happening in Baptist churches, to air views and wrestle with issues right across the denomination, to provide analysis of key events and trends. There will be familiar faces alongside new ones, and we’ll be scouring the denomination – both here in the UK and overseas – for news, ideas and writing talent. We aim to keep the close relationship with BMS World Mission. It was hard to gauge the impact of the printed form of The Baptist Times – how do you measure words? – but that it existed since 1855 suggests it spoke to many people over many years. Yet times change. Tough decisions are continually being made on newspapers across the country – a further five regionals hit the wall last week alone – and what may have been once well loved can begin to look dated.
Still, this is a denomination (or family, or movement) that holds independence of local church in equal tension with interdependence on others. It makes sense to have a shared media space. The brilliant Beyond 400 website http://www.beyond400.net/ has shown this.
So the Baptist Times Online is seeking to reach a wider, more diverse and broader audience and age range. People now consume news and share information in all manner of ways, and we hope to maximise what new technology has to offer. There will be greater interactivity, particularly through social media, and immediacy, with the ability to publish when it most appropriate to do so, rather than being tied to a printer’s deadline. We’ve sought to give the growing number of Baptist bloggers a shared space under the website’s roof, which will make it easier for visitors to access current thinking and opinions.
Later in the year we hope to introduce video and audio. A phone and tablet version are being prepared. It’s all about sharing what we have – in thought, word and deed – with the aim of serving our Lord Jesus.
The website will feed into The Baptist Times Weekly News Round-up (emailed to 5,280 people), the weekly, printable newsletter, so hopefully we can still reach those who are not online. The Baptist Times Daily News Sweep (1,140 subscribers) shows, I hope, an awareness of happenings outside the denomination.
The double birth, such as it is, has led to much musing on new life, in all its beauty and fragility, its hopes and responsibilities. Just as I long for my daughter to be happy and reach her potential,
I hope this new website has a purpose and can be a blessing to many. There will be growing pains, I’m sure – what you see before is by no means a finished product – but it will be a gradually evolving site, with new features added and others taken away.
Ultimately it all comes back to the same place. I pray that my daughter will know God; I pray that The Baptist Times Online is Christ-centred and can speak to others in this vein.
(Paul Hobson, Baptist Times Editor)