In my work at Grace To You (GTY) I have the great privilege of working with, and learning from, a team of outstanding writers and editors. Our president, John MacArthur has spent almost half a century building and maintaining a record of faithful Christian ministry and an unwavering commitment to biblical truth.
Integrity in ministry is built over a long period of time, but it can be demolished in an instant of irresponsibility. That is a sobering reality for all of us who represent GTY. As a writer, editor, and researcher on the GTY blog, I have to take my responsibilities seriously. Sure, launching into a rant or venting my frustration has strong cyber-appeal. But that is the wide and easy road in the blogosphere. Modern evangelicalism may be serving up plenty of cannon fodder, however honoring God and reinforcing the gospel is never the result of shooting from the hip.
This post is for those who want to take the narrow road of blogging. I get to learn from champions and I wanted to share some of the “do’s and don’ts” that I have learned when it comes to writing, and particularly blogging. Consider these carefully, because once your thoughts go through the transit lounge of your keyboard and enter into the vast expanse of cyberspace it is virtually impossible to round them up and put them back in an enclosure.
1. Be Biblical Not Opinionated
Doctrine statements have become cheap these days. Many charlatans have learned that one of the best ways to throw discerning Christians off the trail is to deceive them with an orthodox statement of Christian doctrine. Just ctrl C and ctrl V a good statement of faith from the website of a reputable Christian ministry—it’s not that hard! The doctrine statement only takes on importance when the owner practices what he preaches, and preaches what he confesses.
Good Christian writing is always displayed within a strong Scriptural framework. Ask yourself if what you are saying is biblically supported. Furthermore, make sure that your conclusions are textually driven rather than driving the biblical text to support your presuppositions. No one is without bias, but Scripture rightly handled provides a tremendous safeguard against being purely opinionated. Paul reminded Timothy that “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17).
2. Be Motivated by Love Not Driven By Vendetta
When Jude wrote his wonderful epistle calling on Christians to “contend for the faith” against wicked false teachers that had infiltrated the church, he did so with a deep love for the brethren and a preference to write about their “common salvation” (Jude 3). If you get a kick out of heresy hunting or mowing down your enemies then the blogosphere is the wrong arena for you. Try the prayer closet instead.
3. Be a Researcher Not a Speculator
The world-wide-web is the wrong place to air your suspicions. Deal with objective facts rather than subjective speculations. Emotions can run high during debate and grown men can regress to the school playground where my dad’s tougher than your dad. But we have a heavenly Father who sets the bar much higher. Godly men do not traffic in idle gossip or in petty name-calling (1 Timothy 5:13). They stick to the substance and content of the argument. Scandals usually swirl around false teachers but it is almost always a byproduct of their theological error. Good discernment writing will biblically refute heresy and leave the rest to gossip columnists.
4. Be Humble Not a Spin Doctor
When you get something wrong (and you will) be quick to apologize and make sure to correct the error. It is an important part of maintaining your integrity. That kind of humility will also win the trust and respect of those who read you with caution and skepticism. Spin doctoring excuses is for politicians and those who “never inhaled.”
5. Be a Comments Policeman Not a Conduit of Perversity
Those who allow for a “free for all” in their comments section usually live to regret it. All sorts of rabbit trails, profanity, and heated arguments can land right in the middle of your blogging backyard. It is wise to lay out some clear rules of engagement and screen all comments before posting them. While not exhaustive, the following list provides some good basics:
a) Make it clear that no profanity, blasphemy, or irreverence is allowed. I like to even insist on using CAPITAL LETTERS when writing any of God’s names. Atheists love to use lower case letters to express their contempt and it is actually a lot of fun to watch them begrudgingly conform to your rules so that they can express their hatred for the God they don’t believe exists.
b) Allow negative comments when they play by the rules. A blog free from negative responders gives off warning signals of a totalitarian dictatorship. There are evangelism prospects out there who currently oppose your views. Giving the impression that you sanitize your blog comments of all negativity will encourage these people to take their bat and go home. Conversely, negative comments coupled with vibrant discussion create a strong inviting atmosphere of authenticity.
c) Don’t post anonymous comments. If people think they have something to contribute then call on them to identify themselves. Anonymity can often be treated as a license to speak recklessly with no accountability.
d) Stay on topic. Don’t let commenters steer the conversation away from the subject at hand and ride their hobby horse off into the sunset of their own subject matter.
e) Argue forcefully without resorting to personal insults. Refer to point 3.
6. Be a Man Not an Alias
Discretion demands that we don’t expose every little aspect of our lives to the prying eyes from cyberspace. But internet dating sites reveal the other ditch of building yourself up into something you’re not. Be honest about who you are, what you stand for, your theological persuasion, and the kind of church you go to (for some people it is necessary that they don’t name their home church). It is all too easy to take pot shots from the safety of standing behind a fabricated internet persona.
7. Be Subject to Church Elders Not a Law Unto Yourself
It is with good reason that every employee at GTY is a member in good standing at Grace Community Church (where John MacArthur pastors). Our accountability to the elders there provides necessary restraint to our sinful tendency to speak and act out of our own emotions and ideas. It provides reassurance to one another that we are on the same theological page and that we live lives consistent with the doctrine we confess. The internet has no desperate need for theological cowboys who shoot from the hip and invent theology on the fly. Furthermore, it is important to the reader to know that the material they feed on comes from someone who is biblically sound and submits his life to the scrutiny of godly elders in his local church. If we are going to speak on the world-wide-web as an ambassador for Jesus Christ then we need to be subject to the oversight and discipline of those He appoints to lead His body (Matthew 18:15–20).
I was taught in the military that my first priority was my commander’s last orders. As Christians we must be constantly mindful of Jesus final orders to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” Christian blogging should be like every other aspect of the Christian life—motivated by our Lord’s gospel agenda. If that is not the ultimate reason for your presence on the internet then it is best that you go and serve God elsewhere.
Family: One gorgeous wife Four beautiful children Education: Currently Studying at The Master's Seminary Certificate IV in Christian Ministry Graduate of the School of Biblical Evangelism Internet Ministry Assistant at Grace To You http://www.gty.org
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