I call them my “blog friends.” Quite simply, these are people who I have “met” through blogging and who I now consider “friends.” Whether or not they view me as their friend maybe a different story entirely! Most of my blog friends I have never met face-to-face. I had every intention of meeting some of these good folks during the SBC Annual Meeting in Phoenix this past June, but that was not what the Lord willed as I ended up sick in the hotel for almost all of the Pastor’s Conference and Convention.
In one of two brief ventures from my hotel on the Monday of the Pastor’s Conference, I did run into SBC Tomorrow’s own Peter Lumpkins. We spoke briefly prior to a meeting we were both attending. I had every intention of talking with him more following the meeting, but not feeling well, I had to excuse myself and head back to the hotel before the meeting concluded. And, it was at the Radisson where I stayed until I finally could get out of bed on Thursday. But, by then, everyone who I wanted to meet was gone.
One of those who I had looked forward to meeting was Dave Miller, Iowa Pastor and Editor of SBC Voices, a Southern Baptist group blog for which I am a “regular” contributor (not as regular as I would like because of my own schedule and failure to submit posts). I think that Dave thought I was trying to avoid him in Phoenix. I told him that wasn’t true, but, just between us, after seeing a photo of him in a hideous-looking suit (which, providentially for him, I cannot seem to locate at the moment), I’m not sure that I would want to be seen with him. But, then again, that’s like the pot calling the kettle black. Dave probably doesn’t want to be seen with a lawyer-turned-pastor!
I don’t need to be reminded that I am a strange animal — part lawyer, part pastor. As if my wife reminding me of that fact on an almost daily basis were not enough, one need only look at my blog friends to know that I march to the beat of my own drummer. And as one who has absolutely no rhythm (as members of my congregation will gladly attest), that makes for what some might call odd or even slightly weird. I really don’t mind you calling me names. With a first name of Dixie, I’m used to just about anything. You can call me odd, weird, conservative, fundamentalist, moderate, liberal, or what have you. The only thing that I will get upset over is if you call me late for dinner! I am a Baptist pastor, after all.
If I were to be judged on the basis of my blog friends, I’m really not sure what the verdict would be. Some of you already have reached a verdict, but you are wrong! Since starting From Law to Grace in July 2010, the Lord has opened doors of friendship with a variety of people. And, these people don’t always (often?) see things from the same perspective. That’s okay. I don’t always view issues the same way as everyone else either. From Peter Lumpkins, Tim Rogers, and Bart Barber to Dave Miller, Mark Lamprecht, and Jared Moore to William Thornton, Aaron Weaver (aka, the Big Daddy Weave), and Stephen Fox, I have become blog friends with people who span the theological/methodological spectrum within Southern Baptist/Baptist life.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I think the diversity of blog friends that one can have is positive, not negative. Oh, there will always be those nattering nabobs of negativism who cannot seem to grasp that Christians can have a wide variety of friends, both in “real life” and in the blogosphere. There will always be those who would rather verbally spar with their theological
enemies opponents than enter into constructive dialogue. I should know — I was trained and paid to verbally joust with opponents and I still often have to keep my inner lawyer in check (not always successfully, I must confess). There are only a few in the Baptist blog world who I have encountered who have tempted me to “go all lawyer” on them. Thankfully, that has never happened on my own blog. Usually it happens only at other blogs, but I am getting better at ending certain conversations before I write things that I would later regret.
Someone asked me the other day if I thought that people would talk to each other in person the way that they talk to each other through blog comments. I’m generally an optimist, so I would like to think that our language and tone would be much different (i.e., softer) in person. However, I am enough of a realist to know that how one communicates on a blog — either through posts or comments — will probably not change a whole lot if we were sitting in the same room as one of our theological opponents.
And, herein lies the problem. Far too often, we have no intention of becoming “blog friends” with someone whose theology or methodology differs from ours in any substantial way (and I’m just talking about those within the Southern Baptist Convention). We may allow for a small variance, but not too much. When we begin to view brothers and sisters in Christ as opponents — and sometimes even as “enemies” — then our dialogue will be counter-productive. It’s one thing to argue strong and hard for a Biblical position that you believe is true and right — I plead guilty of doing that all the time. It is quite another to begin to call into question someone else’s salvation or love for God just because he or she happens to interpret a passage of Scripture differently than you do.
So, what’s the solution to these “blog wars” that keep breaking out within the SBC blogosphere? Call me naive or overly optimistic, but I think that if we really did talk to each other through blogs like we would if we were hosting someone whom we had invited into our home, then our fight clubs would turn into fellowship clubs. No, we wouldn’t always agree with our brothers and sisters in Christ on every theological doctrine or methodological practice, but we would find it far easier to “agree to disagree.”
So, the next time you are tempted to “go all lawyer” on someone who you view as your opponent, choose instead to make a new “blog friend.” In the end, it makes for better blogging and better witnessing. At least it has for me. What about you?