I walked into the room where the webcast for the Gospel Project would be filmed. The extremely cordial workers from LifeWay had told the bloggers that were there to find the cables that had been provided, hook up and go to town with our blogging, tweeting and facebooking. That’s when I noticed the “reserved” signs on several of the tables. I started to move away and then I realized something – they were reserved for us!
It was surreal. I am used to hearing luminaries of the SBC railing against us, using generalizations that sometimes seem unfair. We can all remember the “bloggers in housecoats in their mother’s basement” disparagement brought by one of our entity heads. Disrespect to bloggers has been much more normal.
But this was different. Ed Stetzer and Trevin Wax were rolling out the red carpet to make us feel welcome. We were introduced to LifeWay employees as honored guests for the day.
I know what some of you are saying, because some have already said it here. LifeWay was buying our support – putting us up in a nice hotel, feeding us good BBQ and treating us like royalty so we’d give their program positive reviews. I hope that my opinion cannot be bought (though the BBQ could have come close). But I will tell you that never, in any conversation with anyone from LifeWay was it suggested to me that I needed to give a positive review to TGP.
But I appreciated the fact that for once in my experience of blogging, bloggers were being treated as something other than an infectious disease.
As we were having our April Fool’s Day fun here (well, I was having fun – I hope a few others did, too) Ed Stetzer left a comment. I posted some fake research from Ed and took a shot at Trevin as well. Ed said this (I think good-naturedly):
I really wonder if I bring this on myself. Sigh.
Am I the only SBC VP who comments? And, as such, do I cause these mocking posts by interacting?
Later, in the comment, he added:
But, alas, maybe I should stop commenting here and just read– like all the other SBC denominational types.
This is one blogger’s opinion – I appreciate Ed Stetzer because he takes the time to comment on what bloggers say. He has too much going on to spend too much time on blogs, but I appreciate the respect he shows to the world of blogging.
So, what’s the point of all this?
Simple. Blogging is just not going to go away. I guess I should say that social media is not going away. Maybe something will replace blogging. But people are going to be communicating electronically and there are several things that this means.
1) We’ve got to forge a new course for handling information flow.
The entities have to realize that the days of tight control of information at the top are probably gone. If something big is happening behind the scenes, someone is going to tell a blogger and its going to be public. You can hate that, you can rail against it, but you cannot stop it.
So, our honored leaders, like it or not, social media is here to stay and is going to have an impact on the SBC. The wisest leaders will embrace it instead of lobbing bombs at it. The trends in this respect are positive. Bryant Wright wrights a blog. Lifeway has gone all-in with social media and is (I believe) doing well with it. Dr. Steve Lemke and others from NOBTS have taken over the direction of SBC Today and turned it into a high quality blog.
I see a growing openness, which contrary to some complaints, indicates a move toward transparency since the IMB/Burleson affair of 7 years ago.
We need now to forge some kind of informal agreement – based on trust – concerning information flow. We who blog need to be responsible about what information we share publicly and leaders need to only try to keep secrets when it is absolutely necessary.
That takes trust, and there has been precious little of trust between bloggers and entity leaders in years gone by.
2) We need to understand the importance of dissent.
No one who is doing a ministry likes to be criticized. I pour my heart and soul into a sermon or a post and someone comes along and levels a criticism – it can get under my skin. But every one of us needs to understand the basic principle of Body life from 1 Corinthians 12.
We are not all alike.
So, bloggers need to be careful to express our dissent respectfully and in a way that builds up instead of tearing down. Let’s be honest, there are blog posts (and comments) that are harsh and critical in such a way that it is hard to justify them according to scripture. Every word we speak is to be seasoned with grace, designed to edify and purposed for the glory of God.
On the other hand, those in leadership need to understand that a difference of opinion is not (necessarily) a personal attack. It is not a sin to disagree with the pastor (and no pastor should ever make his people think that it is). It is not a sin to think that a move by IMB, NAMB, the EC, Lifeway, or the ERLC is not good. It is not a sin to express that.
Let me be clear. I look back on some of the posts I have put out there, and I think that at times, my criticisms strayed into the sinful. As I have read other’s criticisms against denominational entities or other bloggers, I have been convinced that sin is not absent in much of blogging.
We need to remind ourselves as bloggers of the words of Proverbs 10:19, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.”
But leadership can help things along by intentionally showing respect to those who disagree.
3) We who blog need to remember that respect is earned.
The simple fact is that much of the criticism of blogging has been fair. We can be combative, petty, arrogant, divisive an all the things that people have said we are.
We need to change perceptions by changing our ways. Yes, we deal with tough issues and even confront that which is (in our opinion) wrong, but we need to do it in a way that is fair, respectful and edifying.
If we want to be taken seriously, we must always take what we do seriously. And that leads me to point 4…
4) Bloggers need a code of ethics.
I recently posted concerning the unfortunate arrest of one of our fellow bloggers. While I was only getting to know him, I was growing in my appreciation and respect for him. I posted what I thought was a compassionate and fair treatment of the news. In fact, I received an email from the blogger thanking me for what I wrote.
But a man I don’t know wrote me a series of very angry emails calling my ethics and biblical fidelity into question because I wrote the article.
Was I right or wrong to write it? Before God I felt it was proper and good, but another pastor excoriated me for it.
One of the most common complaints of those who are criticized is the appeal to Matthew 18:15. We should never, they say, publish something about another person until weu’ve talked it over privately with the other person involved. I think that is a faulty and untenable interpretation of Matthew 18:15, but it is a criticism asserted repeatedly. Which view is correct?
Of course, last week we had the brouhaha between Peter Lumpkins and Liberty University. Was it right for Peter to publish something that a trustee told him? Clearly, the trustee violated the trust of the university by reporting this information, but was Peter wrong (as Liberty’s counsel asserted) to publish the source’s information? Is there an ethical standard to guide us?
There are a lot of questions and a lot of varying answers to those questions.
What is right and what is wrong? It would sure be helpful if there was a set of standards for bloggers ethics. That is probably a pipe-dream, though. Unless we formed some kind of blogger’s organization (immensely impractical) it would be hard to set forth a unified code of ethics for blogging.
Still, it would be nice to have.
All in all, though, I see very hopeful signs of a thawing of the tension between reasonable bloggers and the leaders of the SBC. It is an encouraging trend and I am glad for it.