Tuesday, June 3, 2008

SBC Primer #5 - The Blogs

I still remember my initiation into the world of Southern Baptist blogs very well. I can't remember the exact date, but I do remember, I was sitting at my desk when I worked in Augusta. During some down time, I was reading an article on ChristianityToday.com about whatever the latest controversy in SBC life was. It was specifically speaking of two people, bloggers, who'd become popular in Southern Baptist circles. They were the godfathers of SBC blogging, Wade Burelson, of Grace and Truth to You, and Marty Duren, of SBC Outpost, now of ie:Missional. I don't remember what the subject even was, but I was immediately drawn in, and have been reading those blogs ever since.

Since that first day, I've been introduced through their blogging to men like Tom Ascol and the Founders Blog, Timmy Brister at Provocations and Pantings, Ben Cole, Paul Littleton and the gang at the new SBC Outpost, Nathan Finn at The Fullness of Time, Micah Fries at Husband Daddy Pastor Learner, and Robin Foster, Tim Rogers and the rest of the crew at SBC Today. I've never met any of these men, and have only spoken briefly by e-mail to a couple of them, but I can tell you what most of them think about most of the issues facing both the SBC and Christianity in general. I can also tell you that they all seem to be men who love God and truly care about the future of the SBC in particular and Christendom in general. Trust me, they don't all agree on everything, and those disagreements can sometimes be quite sharp, but they really do a pretty good job of covering all that is good and not so good about SBC life. If you explore the SBC blogosphere right now, you'll discover arguments, ahem, discussions, on everything from Calvinism to tongue speaking to alcohol to proper baptism. All of the bloggers will have firmly held convictions, and will usually state those convictions pretty well.

While thought in Southern Baptist Life was once passed along at the speed of the Postal Service via monthly Baptist State newspapers and the Baptist Press, it now moves at the speed of the Internet (connections may vary depending on location). Southern Baptist blogging has become such a phenomenon that there's a web site devoted just to tracking the SBC blogs. I'm pleased to be one of the newest additions to that site, SBC Voices, which tracks more than 350 blogs daily.

Those blogs have had a pretty significant impact on SBC politics over the last several years. The bloggers have been given at least partial credit for the presidency of Frank Page. They talked up his candidacy quite a bit in the days leading up the convention two years ago. If that Resolution on Integrity in Church Membership that I've talked about passes at this year's convention, it will be thanks in large part, I believe, to a concerted effort through the blogs over the last few years to bring attention to the problem of the SBC's bloated rolls. I would also venture to say that more average lay people know and understand what goes on in SBC life a lot better because of the blogs.

This series has been mostly to help members of my Sunday School class learn a little bit more about how the SBC works as it is presently constituted, but I know over the last week or so, I've also picked up quite a few SBC bloggers, so let me end this post with a story and a word to them and for them.

I do an interview segment in my newscast every day. I usually don't know who it's going to be until right before I walk on the set. One day earlier this year, I picked up the sheet with my interviewees information on it, and the name immediately rang a bell. Just before the interview started, I looked at him and said, "Do you have a blog?" He was pretty surprised that I asked the question, but affirmed that he did indeed. He was one of the SBC bloggers that I'd read over the years, Matt Snowden, now Associate Pastor at First Baptist in Meridian. He blogs at Broken Steeple. We've gotten to know each other a little since then, so I think I can share what he told me with you. He said, "I thought those blogs were just for us insiders. I didn't think anyone else actually read them." He was really surprised that an SBC laymen, or for that matter, some non-Christian out there, might actually stumble upon something he wrote. I can honestly say I've never read anything Matt has written that he should be ashamed of; in fact, much he's written would be profitable to the world at large. But I can't say that for all of the SBC bloggers out there.

Here's the warning: whatever you say, whatever you write, can be seen by the entire world. I've been told anytime I have a microphone on, I should pretend that it's hot, and everything I say will be broadcast to the world. You should think the same thing with your blogs. They are not ways of doing personal correspondence between a small circle of friends. People are watching you, sometimes like me, very quietly, for a really long time, without saying a word. So be careful. My hope for this blog is that all I say will be Christ-honoring. I have a feeling that if I haven't already, I will eventually fall short of that. But the day I feel like I've gone too far, that what I'm writing will hinder the cause of Christ more than it helps it, will be the day I hang this blog thing up. I hope that's a promise that we can all make to ourselves.

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