I conducted a little experiment several months ago. I joined LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is “a business-oriented social networking site…mainly used for professional networking.” After I joined LinkedIn, the site instructed me to complete my profile. The profile included basic biographical information, the content of my C.V., and a listing of skills. I completed all of the requested information.
Boy, did I!
And this was the whole point of my experiment from the get-go. I listed more skills than you can possibly imagine. Everything I even remotely have the ability to do, I listed. Now—and this is important to me—I did not lie about anything. All of these skills are things that I can do, even if I cannot do all of them WELL, necessarily. But I can say that I was entirely honest in completing my profile. Here are the dozen skills that I listed:
|Pastoral Counseling||Biblical Hebrew|
|Koine Greek||Private Pilot|
|Microsoft Exchange||CDL Class A|
|Microsoft SQL Server||C# 3.0|
|French||Mac OS X|
I completed my profile and put it out for all the world to see.
Now, LinkedIn also features an endorsement feature. One user can endorse another user for the skills that the user has listed in the profile. My entire purpose for setting up this account was to see who would endorse me for what. I was setting a trap.
You see, out of all of these skills, there are only two of them for which the world at large could possibly have even a slight notion as to whether I’m any good at them at all: Biblical Hebrew and Koine Greek. I have, after all, written some things on this blog and others in which I’ve employed the biblical languages. There’s scant evidence of my preaching online, and what does exist is not particularly heavy in the biblical languages, I don’t think. My dissertation was in Church History and did not feature extensive use of the languages. IF you follow my blogging carefully, and IF you’re in a position to evaluate my use of the biblical languages in those posts that feature them, and IF you consider that sample to be a large enough one from which to draw a conclusion, I suppose you might consider yourself to be in a position to endorse me as a scholar in the fields of Biblical Hebrew or Koine Greek. And 28 people did so in Hebrew; 21 in Greek.
And then there were the other things.
Some forty-eight people endorsed me for Pastoral Counseling. Of those forty-eight people, I have served as a pastor to five of them. The remaining forty-three, frankly, haven’t the foggiest idea whether I’m a good pastor or a bad one. They don’t know what approaches I use in pastoral counseling. But I have their endorsement in the field of pastoral counseling.
I’m a private pilot, although I haven’t exercised my privileges in years (if God had intended for man to fly, He would’ve given him more money). Eight people endorsed me as a private pilot. None of them have ever flown with me. I’m tempted to show up at their local airports in a Cessna 152 and see how confident they are in their endorsements! 😉
It gets better. I have a Class A CDL. Now, while I was trying to get my Class A CDL, I ran over a tree at the DMV. Yes, you read that right: I ran over a tree at the DMV. Ran. Over. A. Tree. Statistical studies have shown that you usually fail when you do that. As did I. But I stuck with it and got the license. Would you endorse me as a commercial driver of a tractor-trailer? Two people did, neither of whom have ever seen me in a truck.
Eight people endorsed me for computer-related skills, and I do have them, though not with the proficiency that any professional would have. How anyone outside of a very small group would know whether I’m any good at them or not, I cannot remotely imagine. By the way, I’ve deleted my LinkedIn profile, because I don’t want to embarrass any of the folks who gave me endorsements.
A few years before he died, my father (who had served on many a search committee for a Baptist church) told me (his son serving as a Baptist pastor) the following: “I would place absolutely no confidence in the professional recommendation of any Southern Baptist minister.” Although he wasn’t talking about me—just struggling with another pastor-search—when I heard what he said I hurt a little for all of us. And since that day I’ve felt a little conflicted over the whole matter of references and recommendations.
In the Ten Commandments God warned us never to bear false witness against our neighbor. What about when you bear false witness FOR him? Our collective reputation is on the line. I’d like to encourage us all to think carefully about the importance of our integrity when we are asked to give recommendations and to serve as references.