On Being a Blogger-Officer in the SBC

by Bart Barber on December 3, 2013 · 31 comments

In 2006 I told every blogger-friend who would listen to me, “Of course you realize, by blogging today we are guaranteeing that we’ll never work as or be elected to anything in Southern Baptist life, and it might even be very difficult to move from one church to another.” Some of us chose to blog anyway, for a number of reasons. Foremost among them would have to be (a) we thought what we were doing was important, and (b) we weren’t sure any church, denominational entity, or voting body would ever be terribly interested in using us whether we blogged or not!

That’s one of the reasons why Dave Miller’s election as Second Vice-President of the SBC surprised me so much. I had supported Eric Hankins. I don’t feel bad about that: Eric is a great guy and gives good leadership to the SBC without having been elected to anything. During the timeframe of that election he released the “Traditional Statement” and entered something of a firestorm. In the months since then, Eric’s behavior has been exemplary (consider, for example, his recent visit to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary). I’m hoping that even some of you who might have considered Eric to be your enemy on the day of that election have come to see the Eric whom I have known since we sat together in Ph.D. seminars at SWBTS.

But that’s neither here nor there.

Dave won and served Southern Baptists very well. I don’t regret supporting Eric; I don’t regret that Dave won. OK…I only regret that Dave won in this sense: He doubly proved me wrong when he did so, and I dislike being proven wrong. He proved me wrong because I was supporting a worthy leader who was a Mississippian and who had a lot of friends attending the convention. My (foolish) thoughts about the election were that Dave could have the 20 messengers from Iowa and we’d take all of Louisiana and Mississippi along with a goodly share of Texas, Alabama, and Georgia. Boy, did he prove me wrong! And he also proved me wrong on the subject of whether SBC bloggers could ever be elected as anything.

And then, a year later, I decided to prove myself wrong, too. ;-)

A day after he was elected, Dave sought me out for advice. My advice to him was simply that he should be very, very careful about his blogging during his term of office. Prior to his election, he was blogging simply for himself. After his term of service was over, he could return to simply blogging for himself. But for the duration of his term of office, Dave would be blogging on behalf of millions of Southern Baptists.

I think that Dave scored pretty well on that particular test. And for the past six months, I’ve faced it myself. For two consecutive years the SBC has elected bloggers to convention office. I doubt that I’ll be the last one to be elected. Someday, we’ll probably even elect a blogging president, completely destroying my early predictions about the future of SBC bloggers.

When that day comes, what advice would I give to a blogging SBC president? Yes, I’ve told him to be careful, but be careful how?

  1. Try to constrain your blogging mostly to the consideration of larger, weightier matters that befit the dignity of your office. I say “mostly” here because it is probably worthwhile to put up the occasional frivolous post predicting the outcome of the NCAA Final Four or celebrating the moment, say, if some particularly obnoxious football team were to lose in dramatic fashion to an historic rival. Such posts humanize the author and they probably don’t stir people up very much.

    But if you are going to write something that stirs people up, expend that capital and energy stirring people up to inspire them toward something of grandeur or significance. The people of the SBC have entrusted you with something. Use it for things that last and are eternally meaningful, to the best of your ability. Walk in a manner worthy of your calling! Really, that applies to every Christian. But Christ also spoke of the greater expectations that come from those who have received more, and having received elected office in our convention is something rare and extraordinary.

  2. Avoid petty controversy. The President of the United States may not like his daughter’s math teacher. The country doesn’t care to know about it. Really, it’s more than that—the country doesn’t want to be represented by someone who is pugnacious. If he were to chew out the math teacher, it would necessarily become public knowledge, simply because of who he is. And when it did become public knowledge, the nation would be embarrassed by the President’s actions.

    Now keep in mind, this would be absolutely true even if a reasonable person might conclude that the math teacher had graded a test unfairly. Who’s in the right and who’s in the wrong only barely enters into this. It’s just that no matter who is right or who is wrong, the nation is embarrassed to have a President making the news over something so petty and so far beneath his office.

    I think the people of the SBC would feel the same way about a blogging SBC president. And so, I would advise him that he should be prepared simply to let some things go, at least until he leaves office.

    And he can, especially if he believes in the sovereignty of God. In my hypothetical case of the bad math teacher, if he’s a bad teacher, that’s going to show up in his interaction with OTHER students and OTHER parents as well, right? He can simply allow someone ELSE, who doesn’t reside at the White House, to take up the fight against bad math instruction. All the more for Christians, we can trust in the hand of God to deal out justice in areas where the duties of office preclude us from acting, can’t we?

    Not everything that needs to be said is something that needs to be said by YOU.

  3. Remember to serve the broader constituency of the SBC and not only (or even primarily) the people who read your blog, quote your blog, or otherwise demonstrate their affinity to your blog. Ask yourself this question: If the ministries of the SBC had to survive on the support of your blogging allies alone, how well would it fare? Elected officers of the convention have a fiduciary responsibility to the people of the SBC to serve the interests of the convention at large.

  4. While in office don’t put anything in your blog that you didn’t or wouldn’t have put in your nominating speech. Of course, the future SBC president would not have written his own nomination speech, probably. But the fact remains that the nominating speech is the basis upon which the messengers elected you. If while in office you encounter a topic and you think to yourself, “Man, I wouldn’t have posted this on my blog the day before the election, and I certainly would not have had my nominator read this from the platform as a part of my nominating speech,” then I don’t think you have any business posting it the day AFTER the election, either. To do so is to subject the people of the SBC to a bait-and-switch.

Will that future blogger-president come back to this post and read it? If I’m alive at that time to give him this advice face-to-face, would he receive it from me and follow it? I do not know. But I am convinced of this: Even though sometimes my predictions turn out to be wrong, I’m confident that he will live to regret it should he completely disregard these principles in managing his blogging and his office.

1 Bart Barber December 3, 2013 at 4:17 pm

And let me go ahead and say it: Somebody needs to nominate Eric for something again, and this time he ought to win.

2 Jared Moore December 3, 2013 at 4:24 pm

Bart, great article brother. I agree with all of it.

3 Tim G December 3, 2013 at 5:11 pm

Dear Brother Jared,
That last comment of yours has to be the funniest thing I have ever read on any comment stream or blog! Thank you for reminding me that laughter is indeed the best medicine!

4 Jared Moore December 3, 2013 at 5:13 pm

Tim, you’re welcome brother. I’m the same man before, during, and after my time in office. Keep on keeping on brother.

5 cb scott December 3, 2013 at 7:49 pm

Tim G,

Obviously analytical minds run together and have the same sense of humor.

6 Dave Miller December 3, 2013 at 5:15 pm

Last year was the toughest year of blogging I’ve had, for several reasons.

1) Several times, when I wrote something, I’d get the “how can a 2nd VP of the SBC say such a thing” comment. I ignored those.

2) I felt that I had to pull back from criticism. Several times, in the middle of an article I’d be writing, I just say to myself, no! I kept a lot of stuff to myself I might otherwise have written on. I was now part of the leadership team (however inconsequential that leadership was) and I tried to take that seriously. I was accused at times of being a sell-out or lackey, and that was not wholly untrue. I felt like I had to support the team!

3) The fact is that there are NO guidelines! What are the responsibilities of a blogger/officer? I made sure to communicate that I would never blog about anything that was given to me in private as an officer, and I could see the fear in peoples’ eyes sometimes! But other than that, there are far more questions than standards.

Even though Bart had publicly endorsed Eric, he was one of the first people whose counsel I solicited after the election.

And, since the election, I have has some interactions with Eric Hankins, and with the exception of my jealousy of his near perfect hair, I have found him to be a man of honor. I think he has acquitted himself well in his role as chief spokesman for the “other” side (though I am more of a moderate/wishy-washy Calvinist, I still accept the C-label).

7 Bart Barber December 3, 2013 at 6:43 pm

Don’t be jealous. All of that time that you spend every day reading the Bible, Dave? Eric spends it working on his hair. #priorities

8 Dave Miller December 3, 2013 at 6:44 pm

Food for thought. Think of what he spends on hair product, too.

9 Eric Hankins December 3, 2013 at 7:28 pm

“Near perfect hair”? Near perfect? It’s perfect. Unlike my record for election to national SBC office.

10 Bart Barber December 3, 2013 at 7:33 pm

:-)

You just needed a better campaign staff.

11 Dave Miller December 3, 2013 at 8:11 pm

I ran Bart’s campaign last year, intimidating all who thought to run against him. Brute force.

12 Bart Barber December 3, 2013 at 5:38 pm

Unbelievable to me that CB Scott has not yet entered this thread. :-)

13 volfan007 December 3, 2013 at 5:52 pm

CB is still in mourning after the Bama loss to Auburn. He’s unable to talk.

David

14 Tim G December 3, 2013 at 6:01 pm

CB is seeing a shrink due to his new foound understanding that SabanNation is not fortified as previously thought!

15 cb scott December 3, 2013 at 8:10 pm

Bart Barber,

I read your post with great interest. I just want you to know that I have absolutely no animosity toward my daughter’s math teacher. I came to the conclusion that I have no animosity toward my daughter’s math teacher after after I began to kick the thought around at 3:30 this past Saturday afternoon. Finally, after I had given the subject exactly 109 quick moving thoughts without any obstacles to impede my 109 thoughts, I realized that to hold any animosity toward my daughter’s math teacher was futile for the clock revealed to me that no time was left for me to have such thoughts of animosity. Therefore, I shall, for the next twelve months, remain thoughtless about having any animosity toward my daughter’s math teacher. However, math teacher, beware. Next November, I shall think of having animosity toward you again, and you may not be as pure “lucky” next time.

16 Bart Barber December 3, 2013 at 8:17 pm

Ah…now THAT’S the kind of comment I was awaiting!

17 Dave Miller December 3, 2013 at 8:13 pm

I hear that Alabama has outlawed Robert’s Rules of Order because it requires a second after every motion.

18 Rick Patrick December 3, 2013 at 8:23 pm

No, Dave. Alabama is only kicking that idea around, although it doesn’t seem to be going in the direction they want.

19 cb scott December 3, 2013 at 8:49 pm

That did happen three times. The fourth time the idea just completely got away from us all together.

20 dr. james willingham December 4, 2013 at 3:41 pm

I need a humorous remark to pull me out of bad funk. And that one did it. With deep appreciation for the same.

21 cb scott December 3, 2013 at 8:50 pm

Therefore, We Alabamians shall never, ever “Foster” that idea again.

22 Les Prouty December 3, 2013 at 9:38 pm

Or, as the Boy Scouts say, “Always be prepared.” “Gimme a second” and I’ll think of something else.

23 Robin foster December 4, 2013 at 12:43 am

Is my name being said in vain?

24 volfan007 December 4, 2013 at 11:18 am

CB,

I really got a kick out of that game. From end zone to end zone, it was just….wait a second, I’ve got a decision I’ve got to make……

Seriously, that was the greatest, one second in football history. And, why in the world did Saban not have some fast people, out there, in case that happened? I mean, when watching the replay for the 10th time, all I could see where Bama players that look like me, and Robin Foster, and Dwight McKissic running after a fella that was skinny and fast as greased lightning?

David

25 dr. james willingham December 4, 2013 at 3:42 pm

A second laugh. Thank you Brother Foster for fostering my rebound.

26 Dwight McKissic December 4, 2013 at 12:52 pm

Volfan,

I always wanted to be a great football player but never made it. Thanks Volfan. You put me on the field with a Alabama uniform on in a Nationally televised game for at least one second. I finally made the big league. Thanks again. -:).

27 volfan007 December 4, 2013 at 4:43 pm

;)

28 dr. james willingham December 4, 2013 at 3:50 pm

CB. You have my deepest sympathies, but I still have to laugh about what the folks said above in good natured humor. Just look at Dwight’s delight. That was better than Flip Wilson’s, “The Devil made me do it.” Man! I am in high cotton, and livin’ high on the hog. While I never heard the first expression until I was well along in my studies in Black History, I did pick the same (long staple grown on newly cleared new ground in the upper Mississippi River Delta, the great swamp areas of Northeast Arkansas and Southeast Arkansas), I did hear and experience the second.

29 volfan007 December 4, 2013 at 4:45 pm

BTW, Dwight, I heard 3 of the sweetest words in the English language, today, at 11:45 am….”Welcome to Moe’s.” It just made me feel better all over.

David :)

30 Dave Miller December 4, 2013 at 6:32 pm

Bart said, “Try to constrain your blogging mostly to the consideration of larger, weightier matters that befit the dignity of your office.”

I’m guessing there must be dignity befitting the office of 1st VP that I never experienced as 2nd VP.

31 Bart Barber December 4, 2013 at 8:01 pm

:-)

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