Blogging is only a start

by Doug Hibbard on August 6, 2012 · 2 comments

I posted my first blog post in 2008. Since then, I have blogged at my blog, blogged at other people’s blog, and I blog here as well. I have blogged on issues, I have blogged to get free stuff, and I have blogged to vent anger. I have also blogged to celebrate events and to promote places I think are good. Some of what I blog about are things I would like to see changed.

That’s good, but there is a relevant addition to this reality. Blogs, on their own, do not change much. That is not to say that a blog is not useful, but when you want to see organizational or institutional change, a blog is frequently not enough.

For example, earlier this year when the Southern Baptist Convention spoke about the Trayvon Martin shooting through our Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, we spoke poorly. There was a fairly large outcry in the blog world, and that outcry raised awareness of the issue. However, the actual act of correcting the wrong statements was not done via a blog. Instead, the trustees of the ERLC met, considered the situation including the blog outcry, and then acted to correct and publicize repentance.

The blogging helped, but it was only a start.

With that in mind, there are several issues that continue to raise their heads around the Southern Baptist Blog-Vention (SBBV). While the SBBV is able to raise awareness and share ideas regarding those issues, the actual power to change those issues rests instead in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) itself. On these items, we must remember that we can blog until we need healing for our carpal-tunnel syndrome and nothing will change without persuading the SBC to act.

However, you must also keep this in mind: the SBC acts through the various boards and committees that are elected annually at the SBC Annual Meeting. As is evidenced by Lifeway, the SBC can vote their displeasure of an entity’s behavior, but if the trustees do not share that displeasure, then the entity does not change actions. (Please don’t make this about Lifeway’s NIV or Blind Side decisions: these are just examples of the process.)

What do you need to do if you want to change the behavior of an entity?

First: you need a specific issue that needs to be addressed. Not some ethereal phantom issue, but an expressible problem. For example, you do not approve of the continued sale of imported catfish at the Golden Gate Seminary Dining Hall or the excessive overplanting of Bradford Pear Trees at Midwestern Seminary. These are definable problems and ones that you can see if there is correction. You will gain very little traction if you are only blogging about “the menu choices offered by some seminaries in our system” or a concern that the “groundskeeping processes may result in a decidedly one-sided outcome.”

Determine, instead, specifically what you would like to see happen.

Second: consider whether or not this issue is truly relevant to the cooperation of Southern Baptists or if it just your personal preference. Knowing that American catfish farmers are struggling to stay in business is not enough, but if it is clear that those catfish farmers are going to stop giving any money to the Cooperative Program and will instead find other missions giving opportunities helps make the dining hall issue relevant. That you would rather eat hot dogs does not. Relevant issues hinge on our cooperative work to spread the Gospel to the nations and our commitment to the Word of God.

If your issue, left uncorrected, results in Southern Baptists failing to carry the Gospel and make disciples, then it is relevant.

Third: contact the currently responsible individuals about the situation. A great start is “I blogged about the unilateral foliage issue on your campus, and found that quite a few people voiced their concern as well.” Then go on to express, clearly, why you and the others have the problem. If you personally know a trustee, then approach just that one. Otherwise, the institution should furnish you with the public contact info (mailing addresses) for their trustees. If they won’t give it to you, it’s in the SBC Annual or the Executive Committee should release it. Use letters and stamps. According to both religious and political figures, investing ten cents in the paper and forty-four cents on the stamp, less than a dollar, buys a load of credibility. You actually cared enough to write a real letter, not click “Like” on Facebook.

If that looks too expensive, see if some of those in agreement can spot you ten dollars for a book of stamps. Then, mail those letters and give adequate time for a response. Adequate time is not just time enough for the letter to arrive: did you wait for the Trustees to meet? It is possible that your concern can be addressed and fixed but there has been no awareness that it was a problem. Trustees, after all, are volunteers and only have the information given to them.

Give the organization a chance to fix the problem.

Fourth: It is likely that you will not be satisfied with the results. The Trustees may feel that imported fish tastes better or they may like those blasted pear trees. Do not expect the trustees to seek a second opinion. It is going to fall to you to elevate your concern. You have a couple of options.

Option 1: the slow path. Attempt to work through the SBC Nominating Committee to replace departing trustees with ones sympathetic to your view. Over time, it may be possible to shift the board in your favor. This will take several years and requires prodding the SBCNC to choose trustees that the entity itself may not want. Also, you will have to convince the SBCNC that this issue is worth being the litmus test for trustee recommendations. If it fails the test at point two, they won’t think it’s worth it.

Option 2: the quicker path. At the SBC Annual Meeting, move to amend the SBCNC report to replace the trustees they have recommended with ones that are sympathetic to your cause. This will be an uphill battle, as the platform will be against your motion to amend. If you have blogged and networked enough support, you might succeed. Especially if the issue if very important and you can demonstrate that the proposed trustee will derail proper behavior at the entity.

Option 3: the instant path. Or the nuclear option, if you will: I believe that a motion from the floor can be made to sack an entire trustee board and replace them. I actually cannot find this in the Constitution/By-laws, but I remember it being mentioned. Just keep in mind that this was not even tried during the Conservative Resurgence.

Real results will likely require you to participate in the political process of the Convention. It may not be fun, but it is necessary.

If you want change, you can start with blogging about the change you want. But it’s only a start. In time, if you do not begin to take some of the steps to bring about change, your blogging will be relegated more and more to the background. That does not mean you have to win the first time out–Cubs fans the world over demonstrate that winning is not the only component to building a following.

Yet if you do not take the microphone, at some point people will no longer care what you say when you take the keyboard. So start making your plans for Houston now, and see what happens. You may be pleasantly surprised that you can change the SBC in a positive way after all.

1 Dave Miller August 6, 2012 at 2:04 pm

Good post, Doug.

2 dr. james willingham August 6, 2012 at 2:35 pm

Being compared to a Cub fan is a self defeating proposition. Almost like a Red Sox fan until recently. :)

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