Civil Discourse


I am preparing to leave for the weekend to lead a Men’s Retreat and will be out of pocket until tomorrow. Until that time, however, I would encourage you to read this article from Dr. Thom Ranier entitled “A Plea for a More Civil Discourse”. It is highly recommended.

NASHVILLE, Tenn., 8/17/07 — “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, Lord, my rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14, HCSB).

I wish I could say that I get it right all the time. I wish I could say that I get it right most of the time. But, more often than I care to admit, the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart are not acceptable to the Lord. I do not always bring glory to God in the words I say and the words I write.

I, therefore, consider myself unworthy to pass judgment on those who say and write matters that seem to me to be displeasing to the Lord. But my silence is no longer an option.

Frank Page, our Southern Baptist Convention president, called me today. He told me he would be issuing a statement about the words being spoken and written on church and denominational issues. Though I have not yet seen his statement, I imagine this article will “amen” Dr. Page’s words.

Electronic media, particularly Websites and blog sites, is neither inherently good nor evil. This medium can be used for God’s glory, or it can be used in a manner that clearly does not glorify God. I have seen it become a particularly wonderful medium to keep us updated on key issues, to engender dialogue, to provide a forum for healthy debate, and to ask necessary questions.

But it can also host forums that cannot please our Lord. Whereas most print media have the accountability of boards, bosses and subscribers, much social electronic media does not have clear and explicit accountability – it’s the community’s responsibility. Words that are hurtful, untrue and even displeasing to our Lord can be written without consequence. The community then becomes collectively accountable.

I’m not saying avoid substantive issues and the calls for accountability, but I plead with my brothers and sisters in Christ, particularly in our denomination, to move toward a more civil discourse, a more Christlike attitude in what we say and write.

I have made my own mistakes in the blogosphere. Prior to the launching of the Weblog SBC Outpost, I responded positively to a request for an endorsement. My endorsement spoke with a hope that this new blog would be an exciting opportunity to focus our denomination more on missions and evangelism. My words, instead, were construed by some to be an endorsement of every article that followed, particularly those articles that were critical of other entity presidents. That was unacceptable. I was wrong. By the time I contacted SBC Outpost asking for the withdrawal of my endorsement, all endorsements had been removed.

My passionate desire is to be a bridge builder in the Southern Baptist Convention. Not to compromise biblically. Not to be soft in my theology. I desire true collaboration with those of uncompromising biblical certitude to reach a lost world with the gospel of our Savior. My prayer is that the conservative resurgence will now grow into a Great Commission resurgence.

But our witness is compromised when a spiritually lost world sees us fighting with one another, when they see unloving words hurled without restraint, when they see terse comments cloaked in civility – when they see little evidence of Christian love.

Would you pray with me that the world will see us as men and women who love the Lord with all of our hearts, and who love one another? Will you be a part of the conversation that shifts from negativity to Great Commission obedience?

I ask: Will you be a person who speaks a truth in love in such a way that your comments glorify God and are found acceptable to Him?

Such is my plea. Such is my prayer.

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.

6 thoughts on “Civil Discourse

  1. Micah, thanks for the post. I believe Rainer is spot on. That is not unusual for me, I have devoured his books for years. I found it necessary to retreat from the discourse on both blogs that I sometimes offered comments due to the continued themes and responses. May the spirit of the article multiply.

  2. Brother Micah,

    I appreciate your balance in this chaotic time. Dr. Rainer has now removed an endorsement and I praise God that he has.

    I too desire to see civility return in our differences of opinion. Brother Alan and I discussed just this very issue a couple of weeks back.

    Blessings,
    Tim

  3. The world is waiting for Southern Baptist to step up to the plate and carry the message of Christ to a lost and dying world. Let’s be done with lesser things and get on with the major things facing us today, namely winning the lost, and carrying out the Great Comission.

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