I have been involved in blogging and social media for over 15 years, and have been running SBC Voices for nearly 12 years now. For a while, I was spending way too much time on this site and in the last year, I have largely ignored it, with the exception of two brief times – the SBC Annual Meeting and the unfortunate upheaval surrounding the Executive Committee’s refusal to follow the will of the Annual Meeting, leading to the resignation of Ronnie Floyd and several EC members. I haven’t looked at the stats, but I’m guessing I posted fewer articles in 2021 than any year since 2009 when I started writing here.
The last couple of years have been, in several ways, the toughest of my life. I have been in the ministry full-time for 40 years as of next Wednesday and have experienced nothing like pandemic ministry. It gutted our church. We had hard-headed people saying they wouldn’t come back unless everyone wore a mask and equally hard-headed people saying they would never come back if they were asked to wear a mask. I spoke at a men’s retreat last year and when I mentioned this, I noticed every pastor in the place was nodding in agreement.
Barely a Saturday goes by now when several of my social media friends don’t post “Going to church on Sunday is a Saturday night decision” or some variation of that. Evidently, pandemics are a good chance for cultural and half-hearted Christians to make a decision not to go to church at all anymore.
During the pandemic, I lost both of my parents, dad in October of 2020 (COVID/leukemia) and mom in October of 2021(cancer). I remember dad talking about this 35 or 40 years ago, that one of the biggest stressors in the lives of people in their 50s and early 60s is often dealing with the illness and aging of their parents. Their deaths were hard to deal with but the stress of their final years wore on me in a way that many of you can understand because you deal with the same thing.
Now, Jenni and I are at a crossroads. We are nearing retirement age but I did not set apart adequate savings in my younger years so we do not have the money to retire. We feel like maybe the time is right to make a move, but frankly, when you are 64 your resume tends to go right into the circular file at 99.9% of churches. Perhaps the Bible speaks of church leaders as “elders” but Baptist churches want their elders to be “younglders.” We are in an unsettled time, seeking God’s direction, unsure of what is happening and where God is leading.
In all of this time of stress, of depression, of wondering, and of confusion, I have done a lot of thinking about what to do with SBC Voices. God has given us a great opportunity here. Blogging is not the booming media that it once was, but when we write here, people read it – especially when we write about convention topics. When there is major news in the SBC, our traffic goes right back to where it used to be.
Here’s my conundrum, though.
SBC Voices is not what I envisioned it to be when I took over on my birthday in 2010.
I wanted it to be a community, a place we could talk about issues that were dividing the SBC, a place diverse viewpoints could be expressed and discussed. I worked hard to make that happen. I made sure we had Calvinists and non-Calvinists in our writing group. I invited people to write counterpoints to our points.
Over time, though, the zeitgeist of the SBC has become so hostile, so angry, that maintaining that kind of community has become impossible. When I became convinced that racism was still a present problem in the SBC, I realized I could sit back and be neutral like I tried to be in the Calvinism wars. You can’t be neutral on racism – either you are part of the problem or part of the solution. When I began to realize the extent of the sexual abuse issue in the SBC, and the systemic coverup that had taken place by leaders at the Executive Board level and in other parts of our convention, I could not be neutral. How can we expect God to bless us when we fail to respond swiftly and justly to accusations of sexual abuse? How can we pray for revival while also suppressing and oppressing survivors of sexual abuse?
There were some issues on which I could not be neutral and the more we pushed, the more others pushed back. I hate that and yet I realize that it is as it must be.
So, as I have been going through two years of personal stress, depression, introspection, and reflection, I have tried to decide what to do with SBC Voices. I have no answers yet, but here’s where I am.
1. I think this struggle will always be with me, with us. People who want to honor God want to walk in unity with the Body of Christ. We do not enjoy the fight, the wars. Some do. Those who are about power and control and self…they love the battle and the blood. The theobro mentality has spread widely in the SBC, but it is poison.
2. The comment stream has always been and will always be our biggest struggle. I can’t tell you how often people have told me they have stopped reading Voices because of the comments. I have struggled to find a way to manage comments effectively, but until I’m retired and can do this full-time, I don’t see how. None of us have the time.
We have considered turning off comments. We have some other ideas. I can only say this – if you think our comments are bad, you should see the ones we deleted!
3. My greatest desire is to write on theology and ministry and biblical topics, but that isn’t what our readers come here to read. Statistics show that. Back at the beginning, I tried to balance it, but people who wrote theology and ministry and biblical topics often got chafed when a provocative SBC topic posted and got a few thousand hits. I have considered starting a sister site and having Voices strictly for SBC-related topics and another for ministry and theology (non-controversial topics – no Calvinism arguments!).
4. My goal is to be as positive, as unifying, as edifying as I can be. I believe that the SBC is worth investing in, worth saving, worth fighting for. I want to see it reformed and rebuilt and prospering.
5. On the other hand, relentless cheerleading isn’t the way to do that. There are problems among us. There is sin in the camp. There are bad actors among us who lie, abusers who abuse. We have not fixed our racial problems. We cannot join arms and sing Kumbaya while ignoring these wicked sins. There is always a danger of theological drift (though I disbelieve most of the current accusations as dishonest), so we must remain vigilant. There are people in the SBC who need to be confronted, trends that need to be opposed, and ideas that need to be corrected. So many of our leaders want the freedom to do as they please without transparency and someone has to shine the light.
I want SBC Voices to be a positive force for change in the SBC. Often, I feel ready to despair about the future of our convention and I have no idea where God is leading me, but I want to be used, to be useful in some small way.