Blogging, Baptist Battles & Burnout

Who would have thunk it. My mom has become a Baptist blog fanatic. A lifelong Southern Baptist who is in her late sixties, my mom began reading my blog several months ago. From there, it did not take her long to find the SBC blogs — as in Voices, Tomorrow and Today. That’s a good thing, because she has not had anything new to read on my blog in the last 3 1/2 weeks. On Saturday she commented that I hadn’t published any new articles as of late.  I told her I had taken a break from blogging (more on that in a minute) and that I would have another post up this week (which turns out to be this post today).

In order to keep up on all things Baptist, my mom regularly reads the major Baptist blogs.  Of course, not wanting to read the “wrong” blogs or a post written by the “wrong” blogger, she asked me whether or not she should be reading certain blogs or posts written by certain bloggers. She began tossing out the names of prominent Baptist bloggers as if she had known these folks her whole life. “Is so-and-so someone I should read?” What mom really was asking me was whether or not I thought these were “good” or “bad” bloggers. She wasn’t asking for a critique of their writing skills, but rather what I thought about a particular person. Without missing a beat, I would either say “yes” or “no.”

Reflecting on that conversation, it was clear that I only gave my hearty endorsement to those bloggers who I tended to agree with and who I liked. Other than giving my seal of approval to my “cuz,” CB Scott (who my mother mentioned by name), I won’t divulge the names of the other bloggers my mom specifically called out and who I chose to give a thumbs up or a thumbs down to. In hindsight, I should not have been so quick to “judge” and dismiss a person’s writing simply because I may have disagreed with some of their views. After all, my blog is titled “From Law to Grace.” Perhaps it would be better to show more grace to other bloggers, particularly those with whom I disagree.

Since publishing my last post on May 17, I have had time to get some much-needed rest and to regain a new perspective for my own blogging endeavors. CB Scott, who I affectionately call my “cousin,” noticed my absence from the blog world and emailed to check up on me. I truly appreciate the concern. He has certainly earned the recommendation that I gave to my mom 🙂

I can’t speak for any other bloggers, but there are times when I simply hit a wall — physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually — and find myself with no motivation to write a blog post. As pastor of a large and growing church in the New Mexico desert and as a husband and a father (of three very active boys), I can very easily find myself burning the candle at both ends. I tend to write my blog posts late at night after the family has gone to sleep, but I found myself getting burned out and run down. Instead of trying to keep up with the blog, I decided that I needed a mini-break.

I never know when these sabbaticals will come and how long they will last. Sometimes they are self-imposed and other times the Lord imposes them on me through such things as a ruptured appendix last December or food poisoning during the SBC Convention in Phoenix last summer. I am certainly hoping that there will be nothing similar in New Orleans.

Even though our church’s Vacation Bible School just started last night and I should be extra tired, I find myself rejuvenated and ready to get back in the arena. With today’s post, my brief sabbatical is now over. However, I return to the blogosphere with a slightly different perspective. I think that most Christian bloggers — including those who call themselves Southern Baptists — want to have their voices heard because they desire to make a positive contribution to the dialogue. That continues to be my desire as well.

This goal is oftentimes elusive because we find ourselves engaged in what seem to be continuous and never-ending Baptist battles. When we are in the midst of these blogging battles, it is sometimes hard for us to realize that we are generating more heat than light. However, as I have had the chance to step back from blogging for a season, I have begun what has been a long overdue detoxification for me. Until this past Saturday, I had not read any of the major Baptist blogs in the last three weeks. During that time, I’ve missed some of the more recent battles, including the latest dust-up between the Calvinists and non-Calvinists over the “Traditionalist Confession” signed by several prominent SBC leaders. From reading some of the posts and ensuing comments on some of the SBC blogs, I am somewhat glad that I haven’t entered the fray over this issue.

Don’t get me wrong. There are certain battles that are worth fighting. However, how we fight these battles is just as important — if not more so — than who comes out victorious. When we lose sight of the fact that the ends do not justify the means, we will have lost an important part of who we are as Christians and as Baptists.

In New Orleans and after, we will continue to have spirited disagreements. That’s the nature of a diverse Convention of churches. That’s also a by-product of the freedom that we enjoy in this country to hold differing opinions on any and all issues. However, the reality is that, as Southern Baptists — Calvinists, New Calvinists, non-Calvinists, anti-Calvinists, Traditionalists, or Tradition-minded inconsistent Calvinists like me (which is one reason why I can’t sign the Traditionalist Confession even though I have great respect for those who drafted it) —  we agree on far more than we disagree on.

That’s why I can break bread with a wide variety of Southern Baptists — from Rick Patrick, Hariette Peterson, and CB Scott to Dave Miller, Mark Lamprecht, and Jared Moore to Peter Lumpkins, Tim Rogers, and Bob Hadley. So, whatever side of an issue we might find ourselves on in New Orleans, I look forward to fellowshiping with my brothers and sisters in Christ. And, by fellowshiping, I do mean eating. I am a Baptist preacher after all. See you in the Big Easy!

22 comments for “Blogging, Baptist Battles & Burnout

  1. June 11, 2012 at 2:45 PM

    I love it that your mom is reading your blog and others as well. I join her in a bit of caution on whose to read. I read so many folks, and I agree that most want to write positive posts that edify, inform, comfort and encourage. Occasionally we have lean times in “positive”, yet we can always find something positive in the mix of it all. It’s hard to determine “who” thinks like us and who does not sometimes. I find I have a lot of dear friends that do not necessarily think like I do…but I still like the way they think and address issues.

    Lately, I’ve learned a LOT of new stuff about theology, history and jargon. It’s not always easy to discern exact definitions. But, when I go back to the Word, God always helps keep my head on straight.

    I, for one, am glad you are back, brother. I kinda thought the dust had settled on your keyboard for a well-deserved sabbatical and refreshment. I should do that more. To your mom, I say, “Read me…read MEeeee”. lol

    • June 11, 2012 at 3:16 PM

      Hariette,

      I will encourage my mom to read your blog, as well 🙂 I know that she would appreciate your encouraging and inspiring words. You are exactly right about the Word helping to keep our heads on straight. Without that anchor, we find ourselves adrift at sea. I think my fingers are nice and rested after 3 1/2 weeks of no blogging. It has done both my spirit and body much good. Glad to hear your VBS went so well. We are on night #2 this evening. As my mom said in her first-ever comment on my blog above, it really is about reaching our communities with the never-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ. As the song says, “people need the Lord.” That continues to be true in NM, OK, and around the world. Thanks for your encouragment and friendship. God bless,

      Howell

  2. Peggy Scott
    June 11, 2012 at 3:02 PM

    Dear Howell:Right after I read your new blog for today, I received a call that a young man from our church had just been killed in an automobile accident on his way to work. I began to reflect how his parents were strong Christians and lived their lives through their love of their Lord. As we Christians focus on the things that are not important in our lives except how we live them and what people will say after we die,the little things in life seem so unimportant. The discussions on if we are traditional in our thinking or more contemporary really is of no importance. What we do with our lives each day to reach out to those who need saving and love from our Lord, is or should be our main goal while we move forward each and every day. Yesterday our granddaughter invited a close friend from school to attend VBS this week with her and the friend said, what is VBS. Folks, the people around our community are in need of the Word of God and our testimony, and we can be missionaries here at home and abroad. Mom

    • June 11, 2012 at 3:20 PM

      Mom,

      I had to “approve” you because you have never commented here before. It’s a good thing your comment didn’t go into spam 🙂 You state so beautifully what is true and important in our lives and that is that people need us to share the good news of Jesus Christ with them. Whether at VBS or in our everyday lives, it’s the life-changing message of Jesus that ultimately matters. I would encourage you to read Hariette’s blog (www.selahvtoday.typepade.com). I think that you will really enjoy her writing and her take on the Christian life. Thanks for the reminder about how we should live, especially in light of the tragedy of Bill’s death. Love you,

      Howell

  3. June 11, 2012 at 3:23 PM

    Oh, Peggy, I am sooo sorry for the news of this dear family who have lost a son. It is one of the most gut-wrenching, heart-stopping experiences in the world to endure. May God’s grace abound and give them comfort and peace. This breaks my heart afresh.

    I agree with you about the things which mean so little. When I lost my son, my perspective on life took an amazing turn. Small stuff though annoying at times, fails to be that important unless it is doing small good stuff for others. I’m so glad your little granddaughter invited that child to VBS. She is the example we all need to follow–among others. selahV

  4. June 11, 2012 at 3:32 PM

    Howell, thanks for the recommendation, my friend.

    My heart has been so burdened recently–for lots of reasons.

    My mind is on a roller coaster ride. It’s so very difficult to comprehend so much. I have a greater appreciation for the simplicity of the Word and sometimes think my mind would be best used to meditate on it more than blogs. But, then there is yours, and others that keep me ever challenged to think beyond my routine exercises of brain cells. And they say, “thinking” and learning new things are good ways to avoid Alzheimer’s.

    BTW, I love CB as well. Does he have a blog again? selahV
    P.S. Congratulations to your mom for her first dip into the waters. I think she’s a pretty wise lady.

    • June 11, 2012 at 5:36 PM

      Hariette,

      Looking back, I can laugh that CB (who we both refer to each other as “cuz” or “cousin”) got off on a slightly wrong foot when I first started commenting on Voices. However, unlike some other folks who I started out in a less than ideal way, we were able to quickly put things on the right track. I truly appreciate his sense of humor and the way that the cuts right to the chase on so many topics. I am looking forward to meeting him in person in NOLA. I don’t think he has a blog, but my mom mentioned him by name, probably because of his prolific comments on Voices. Rather than try to distinguish between commenters and bloggers (which end up being pretty much the same thing), I just told her that he was a good egg and to keep reading whatever he wrote 🙂 As for my mom, she is pretty wise. But, then again, wouldn’t she have to be to have a son such as myself 😉 Thanks again for your always inspiring words. God bless,

      Howell

  5. Lydia
    June 11, 2012 at 3:37 PM

    It is too cool your mom is commenting on your blog! I love it! I can remember when my mom starting emailing me years ago always ending with some golden nugget like her Lewis or Spurgeon quotes :o) It was just like her to teach herself how to navigate the internet and email when in her 70’s. She went to be with Christ 8 years ago and I printed out every single email she ever sent me and put in a binder for my daughter.

    I think it is awesome the social media is for everyone.

    I also recommend reading Harriett!

    We are also doing VBS this week, too. I am part of the clean up/prep crew this year because I have taken on a free lance project this month and don’t have all mornings free.

    Blessings to you all.

    • June 11, 2012 at 5:38 PM

      Lydia,

      Hope your VBS goes well this week. We are at about T-minus 20 minutes and counting for the start of our second night of Amazing Wonders Aviation. The kids seem to be enjoying it thus far and we have been blessed with lots of volunteers this year. Glad that you were able to serve at your church this week. Have a great night and God bless,

      Howell

  6. June 12, 2012 at 9:51 AM

    Howell,

    I have to say, my brother, I’ve missed you. I think you bring a sober voice to the table even if you are on the opposite side of the table from me at times ;^) I confess also I really get bogged down in the battles. I often think about hanging us my six-shooters and calling it quits. However, the stubborn part of me–or frankly it could be the egotistical part of me–refuses to stand down when people are howling worst. I’d like to think that’s the free church believer in me who stands for what he believes even if the majority persecutes him. I’d like too, but it’s probably more accurate to stick with confessing my unkillable ego.

    Whatever the case, the day will come–perhaps sooner than many think–that they will click on SBC Tomorrow and it will say, Out to Permanent Lunch

    Grace, brother. Looking forward to a chat in NOLA.

    With that, I am…
    Peter

  7. June 12, 2012 at 10:14 PM

    I can absolutely relate to this post Howell. I would have completely missed the most recent Baptist blowup if I hadn’t gotten an email from Dave a couple of weeks ago. Even then, I pretty much ignored it for the most part. I always enjoy reading your perspective.

    • June 13, 2012 at 11:24 AM

      Jeff,

      In some ways, I am glad that I ignored (or was oblivious to) the dust-up over the Traditionalist Statement and the responses to it. I do have a post up today about my conflicted feelings on the whole thing. I find myself stuck in the middle as what I would call a Calvinistic Traditionalist. I can understand where the Traditionalists are coming from and I sympathize with much of what they are trying to flesh out, but I just can’t bring myself to sign the Statement because I do not endorse some of the theological conclusions that the Statement makes. I appreciate your reading and I hope that I can offer a unique perspective on issues that will help edify (if not always persuade) those who read. Thanks and have a great day! God bless,

      Howell

      • June 13, 2012 at 4:41 PM

        I mentioned in one of the threads at SBC Voices that I was musing over the state of Calvinism in the Dakotas after the initial storm came to my attention. I realized that I couldn’t tell you a single pastor that either is or isn’t Calvinist in the whole of the two states. It just doesn’t come up in our discussions as a general rule.

        The only person I have known in 9 years in the Dakotas who made a big issue out of it at all was a gentleman who was virulently anti-Calvinistic after a bad experience with a hyper-Calvinist pastor at a church that no longer exists here in the Dakotas. The man had a bad case of theological shell-shock and brought it up at every opportunity. I think most of this conversation is driven by people of similar experience and mindset. They have been hurt by someone from one side or the other and simply cannot let it go.

        • June 13, 2012 at 5:48 PM

          Jeff,

          I think that our experiences do affect how we respond to one side or the other. I’m don’t know of any overt Calvinists in our Association, either. I would suspect that most would fall somewhere in the middle, believing that God is the one who truly saves, but that people must respond in repentance and faith to the free offer of the Gospel. I think to the extent that it seems that some Convention Entities and leaders (i.e., Southern and Dr. Mohler) are outspoken in their beliefs, that this maybe where a lot of the pushback is coming from. Apart from my interaction on the blogs, this is not priority #1 in New Mexico. Off to our fourth night of VBS. Have a great night,

          Howell

  8. June 13, 2012 at 11:55 AM

    Howell, well, to be sure you and CB are of a similar mold. Neither of you mince words…which is so refreshing to me. The fog of wordiness can drive one to distraction at times.

    I’d have to agree, you didn’t fall far from the tree of wisdom with your mom. That is a good thing. 🙂

    Now, I move to your new post and see what nuggets you have for me. selahV

    • June 13, 2012 at 2:42 PM

      Hariette,

      I am blessed to have gotten wisdom from both my mom and my dad (who went home to be with the Lord in 2006). As to my not mincing words, that is definitely a gift that I have inherited from my dad. He believed that the rules should be followed and that they should be equally applied to everyone. When someone was trying to break the rules or when pastors would surround themselves with “yes men” who would only tell him what he wanted to hear, my dad would have no part of it. That’s why I come at issues from the perspective I do. Speaking of that, hope you enjoy the nugget from today’s post. I’ve got a side of homemade BBQ sauce you can dip it in if need be 🙂 Thanks and God bless,

      Howell

      • June 13, 2012 at 6:38 PM

        Howell, I’m still chewing on today’s post. I had written one (well, actually, three), myself, and have not let them out of the draft status and published them. And some of what I’ve written in those may speak to some of what you are saying in yours. Oddly, I thought the statement (as I read it) is middle road between Arminianism and Calvinism–only, it is neither nor. So here I am reading where you are someplace in the middle and that’s kinda where I thought I was. LOL.

        One thing I wouldn’t want to call myself is a Calvinistic Traditionalist. I’d be right back where I started. Non-calvinistic Traditionalist. ha. I think for many, the line of demarcation is either Arminian or Calvinist. And I have repeatedly said through the 6 years I’ve been blogging that I am neither one. I am a Biblicist. And of course I’d be accused of saying others were not Bible-believers (which I was not doing). I think some of those would have to admit that they are Calvinistic Biblicists. I couldn’t affirm that for myself according to all I’ve read and experienced with Calvinist, especially those who affirm 5pts, anyway.

        Anyway, I am going to go back and re-read your post. I will see what I can say that makes a bit of sense in the conversation of it all. I’m worn out to be honest. I’ve spent more time reading arguments in the last few weeks than I’ve spent eating and sleeping combined. I probably should do like you and take a sabbatical. I’ve almost burned out on the blogs and their unending repetitive debate points. (I have an edge on some readers on the scene. I know the writers of many of the comments and have exchanged pleasantries (uh…hmmmn), with several of them. Therefore, I have voices I trust and voices I do not trust. Weight is given to those I find most trust-worthy in the past.

        Ultimately, I have gone back to simply reading scripture (focusing on those passages within the TS and the BF&M). I’m thinking it all through. Don’t think I’ve changed my mind. However, given Bart Barber’s post, and some other folks interpretations of what some speak ill of within the statement, I have concluded I may be a bit more guarded with what I put my name to in the future. I think we are all a bit more Baptist than we are anything else in the world. And to me, that makes us closer to the New Testament church example. Grace and blessings, brother. selahV

        • June 13, 2012 at 7:02 PM

          “I think we are all a bit more Baptist than we are anything else in the world. And to me, that makes us closer to the New Testament church example.”

          Hariette,

          That is probably one of the best statements that I have seen regarding this whole Calvinism/Arminianism (or non-Calvinism) debate. Because of my lifelong (nine months before I was born) Southern Baptist heritage and experience, I most assuredly identify as a Southern Baptist. While I have minor disagreements with what has come to be known as the BI movement, I have found myself with much more points of agreement overall with those who would be considered Traditionalists. As I shared in a comment with Bob above, my heart (and much of my preaching) is more Traditionalist whereas my thinking is more Calvinistic. Hence the term Calvinisitic Traditionalist.

          I find myself much more comfortable with Traditional-minded SBCers than I do with some New Calvinists who seem to have a more broader identity than I would subscribe to. If I were invited to preach at a Traditionalist church and a New Calvinist church, I would guess that, notwithstanding my Calvinist leanings, I would be invited back to the Traditionalist church more readily than the Calvinist one. I guess when all is said and done, at least from a practical standpoint, that I might be not squarely in the middle 🙂 Thanks for your thoughts. I look forward to reading what you have written should the Lord give you the green light to hit the publish button. Now off to sign more VBS certificates! Have a great night and God bless,

          Howell

  9. June 14, 2012 at 3:37 PM

    I visit many Baptist blogs, and while I am not a Baptist myself, I do think that the discussions and friendly banter back and forth about theology is a good thing. It keeps us sharp and brings us (hopefully) back to the gospel.

    As a Lutheran, we believe that one of our primary jobs is to keep reforming. Because, as sinners, we always have a tendency to fall back into ourselves.

    Thanks.

  10. cb scott
    June 14, 2012 at 8:27 PM

    Howell,

    I have intended to comment here, but as the title of your post gives reference, being a Baptist pastor does sometimes get hectic. Tell you mother I sincerely thank her for the good word and ask her to remember me in her prayer time right now. A few things are just a little bumpy right now.

    Nonetheless, God is good. God is good all of the time.

    See you in NOLA.

    • June 14, 2012 at 10:43 PM

      CB,

      Sorry things are bumpy for you right now. I will make sure that I pass the word along to “Aunt Peggy.” I often tell my congregation that “God is good, all the time; all the time, God is good.” Hope things get better for you. I am looking forward to seeing you in NOLA. God bless,

      Howell

Leave a Reply