Blogging Etiquette?

There has recently been a pattern of disputes within organizations being aired through the blogging world. Blogging has been used as a means of accountability and most anyone who reads this blog will know that I am in favor of using it as such, as long as there is accountability on the part of the bloggers as well.

Recently, though, we have seen a new pattern emerging. In at least 4 instances over the past year, disputes within local churches have caused some in membership to create blogs as a method of trying to force accountability in the local church. This article describes what is currently happening at Adrian Rogers former church, Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, TN.

I’m curious to hear everyone’s thoughts on this activity. In my honest opinion, I’m not altogether in favor of it. I know that may come as a surprise to some. It seems to me, however, to be excessive in the case of the local church/organization. Let me explain. Blogging has been used to hold bodies accountable in the past, which is commendable. The necessity of using blogging up to this point has been created by the large scale with which our disagreements have encompassed. In other words, personal interaction and face to face meetings would always be the preferable method, but in the case of the SBC, for instance, the body is large and so spread out that coming together for personal discussion is impossible. The move to blogging, therefore, has been necesitated by the scope of our questions and disagreements.

The local church, however, is a different issue. It is an experience that can be dealt with on a local level, in personal encounters. Face to face interaction is possible and should be utilized. Beyond that, the local church issue does not involve the span of individuals who are reached by blogging. SBC issues, on the other hand, involve people from a worldwide reach and therefore the convenience of blogging makes their involvement possible.

In all things those who we struggle with should be contacted initially, and dealt with in a personal fashion, prior to taking our concerns to a larger audience. In the case of those blogging on these SBC issues, that I’m aware of, this process has generally been followed, though I am aware that at times it has not – and I am opposed to that activity. While I don’t know, personally, it appears that this method of working in the local level could easily circumvent this biblical process.

So, what do you think? I don’t want to sound as if I’m straddling the fence. I’m not trying to endorse an “Ok for me but not for you,” mentality. In your opinions, is this appropriate for the local church dispute?

Micah is a husband to Tracy & a daddy to Grace, Kessed & Haddon. He’s Senior Pastor at Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN. Most of all, he’s a debtor to grace.

13 thoughts on “Blogging Etiquette?

  1. Micah,
    This is indeed sad. My dad was a member of a very large Southern Baptist church that had a group that wanted the pastor to leave. He had done nothing wrong they were just not happy with his style of preaching which was expository. Instead of a blog my dad received a letter in the mail. It was from “The Concerned Members of ____________ Baptist Church.” It was not very long after that letter the pastor resigned.

    Here is the problem. Whether it is done on the web, in person, or by letter what is happening is a violation of Scripture. It is political posturing that is forbidden in 1 Peter 2:1 and not to mention accussing an elder that is forbidden in 1 Timothy 5:19. There is a proper way to handle things and these blogs that stir up unrest are not the way to do it.

    Even for these pastors who are trying to institute change in longstanding traditional churches, they would be wise to teach and pray and wait. Repeat as necessary. Tradition takes a lot of time to break through. Not to mention Gaines is stepping into mighty big shoes at Bellvue.

    My personal philosophy is simple; if you do not think the traditional church is operating in a biblical fashion then plant a biblical church. God help our churches.


  2. Let me get this straight. You believe it is okay to blog about the poor job being done by some people in the SBC leadership, but not okay for members of the local church to do the same about their pastor and staff.

    Smacks of hypocrisy.

    I have seen the blog you are referring to, and it is troubling. My heart breaks for the pastor at Bellevue, because to a certain extent, I know how he feels. I received anonymous letters from people in the church. Mean spirited, hateful, unChristian letters that hurt me, my family, and the church as a whole. My spirit filled with hatred toward the people I believed were responsible, and that hurt my walk with God. The blog you are referring to is much the same way–very hurtful, and the author along with many of the contributors should be ashamed of themselves.

    On the other hand, consider the fact that this blog is not anonymous. The author makes no bones about who he is, and why he is doing this. That can facilitate an open door for dialogue, if the author of said blog is willing. So maybe it is not such a bad thing after all.

    The bottom line, IMO, is that none of this should ever hit a blog site until the matter has been discussed between the parties involved. Otherwise, it is nothing more than malicious gossip, character assasination, and loose lips on a grand scale.

  3. Micah,

    As a member of Bellevue and one of many with access to facts, I can honestly and without reservation say that the website and blogs directed towards the accusation of Dr. Gaines are built upon falsehoods, misrepresentations, and outright lies. The bloggers have chosen to ignore Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians 6 in favor of airing their complaints for all to see. I am embarrassed by their behavior. They are wrong in their assessments and their method of voicing opinion. EVEN IF THEIR ARGUMENTS HAD CREDIBILITY (which I again emphasize that they do not), they have chosen the wrong manner of dealing with them.

    By the way, Dr. Gaines addressed the issues on the website from the pulpit Sunday evening. If you are interested in hearing his response to the allegations, please let me know.

    Will McKay

  4. I forgot to mention that the comment section of Mr. Sharpe’s blog is being heavily filtered. I have sent in perhaps a dozen comments to Mr. Sharpe, all of which are being deleted and refused. Basically, he is painting a partial picture that lines up with his agenda-hardly fair or open dialogue.

  5. Jason-

    Please understand that my purpose is to avoid hypocrisy. I do believe it necessary to contact individuals involved first. In the case of national SBC issues it appears that blogging may be one of the only methods to gather people on a larger scale. I don’t know that it is the wisest idea, but I also don’t know of a better one, because of the national scale.

    In the case of the local church the confrontation of people and the gathering together for godly discussion is possible which is the difference, in my mind.

  6. I think there is somewhat a line between personal and political. For instance, if I disagreed with a policy decision President Bush made, and even wanted to question his wisdom on the matter, I wouldn’t be obligated to contact him to discuss it before writing a blog post about it.

    However, if I disagreed with a decision my Pastor made, and wanted to question his decision, if I wrote a blog post about it instead of talking to him … well, let’s just say that would be a very unwise thing for me to do … probably some church discipline involved, and I would have merited it.

    The local church’s business isn’t the world’s business in the same way discussion about the U.S. government is. So where is the line?

    I think about the laws regarding slander, and the protection the news media gets to report on public figures. A lot hinges on “the truth of the matter” and also whether the person or news item is something of public interest.

    So to the extent there are public figures within SBC life, entity heads, key players in major issues, I think it is fair to post questions about their actions without calling them first.

    One for instance, if I think Dr. Patterson was unwise to remove Dr. McKissic’s sermon from the SWBTS website, I should be free to say so on my blog without having to call him first. It was a public act, by a public figure upon which I would be giving public commentary.

    I suppose it is a fine line, but that is my first stab at discerning it.

  7. Micah,
    I know you want to avoid hypocrisy. Thanks for that. You’re a great guy from what I see on this site and others, and I did not mean to presume anything in your post that was not there.

    Part of me says that what is good for the goose is good for the gander. So if you have a blog on which you post comments about others, be prepared for others to use their blogs to do the same about you.

    I can certainly see Dorcas’ point too, that there can be a difference when it comes to public versus non-public figures. Certainly that issue comes into play.

    Then there is Will, who is on the inside. He rightly points out that the authors of the anti Dr. Gaines blog are using unchristian tactics to make their point. That is purely evil, and God will judge them for that.

    As far as I’m concerned, blogging is here to stay for now, and it is going to be used to hold everyone’s feet to the fire, pastors, political figures, public and private. Time will tell how it works itself out.

    Thanks for raising the issue. Good for you.

  8. Jason-

    You have a good point about the goose or the gander. I recognize the potential that I, or anyone else for that matter, has of experiencing criticism and I accept that. This post was not an attempt to deflect potential criticism of myself. It is an honest attempt, however, to try to understand the parameters within which honest, ethical bloggers should operate.

    This blogging thing is wonderful, and highly powerful, and due to its evident infancy much about it has yet to be defined. I hope that we can move to a better understanding of the ethics of blogging in the near future.

  9. The unrest in a local church has no place on a blog that can be accessed nationally. The controversy should be limited to the people affected.

    That’s the way it is with the issues of SBC matters, the “narrowing” alleged of the IMB, etc. But not with unrest over the pastor of a local church in Memphis. Or anywhere else.

    Shame on them.

  10. Brother Micah

    I am not sure if I agree. On the one hand I agree with you that a local church should not respond to public airing trying to hold accountable the leadership. The local church body has the ability to confront personally and therefore, should do so privately. Also, the local church is a private entity. Thus the privacy of entity matters should be discussed in the privacy of the entity.

    On the other hand, the SBC while a national organization, is a private entity. Therefore, would it not follow the same guidelines? I understand the nature of it being more on a national level than a local church. But disagreeing with decisions of individuals is as simple as picking up a phone, or sitting at a keyboard to email the individual. I have always received a response when I have done either.

    I guess that means I disagree with you on the SBC issue being different than the local church issue.


  11. Tim-

    I think we may essentially agree more than you think. The fact that I’m asking for discussion lends itself to the reality that I’m not certain in my own mind.

    I’m beginning to narrow down my thoughts, however, to the following. If the event happens on a private scale I believe it needs to be dealt with in a private manner (aka a local church.) If an event happens on a national scale (aka SBC) but is not done in public, or is simply rumor, it should be dealt with privately, or not at all if there is no support to undergird it. If the event is on a national scale (aka SBC) and involves a public act, like the act that Dorcas describes above, I believe public declarations and accountability are well within our boundaries.

    As I said, however, I’m still in process in my own thoughts. These are simply representative of where I’m at today. I’m certainly open to hearing more thoughts as we try and work through this as a blogging community.

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