How vanilla should a pastor’s blog be?

I recently had a very important conversation with a good friend who had the courage to share with me that some things I had written online were hurtful to people I care about. It was hard to hear, but very helpful at the same time. I’ve been trying to wrestle with what to do about it. At first I wanted to protest that other pastors are doing the exact same thing I am, but then I looked around on the web at other pastors’ blogs and found that they’re mostly a lot more vanilla than mine is. I know “vanilla” is the wrong term. I just spent fifteen minutes trying to decide whether to use a different word, but I’m sticking with it because it expresses what might be my attitude problem or at least my stubbornness in resisting the way I think I’m probably supposed to be. Basically, the pastors’ blogs I looked at were edifying, gentle, and prudent in a way that I can’t seem to make myself be. Most of the other Christian bloggers who write in the prickly way that I tend to do are seminary students, professors, and laypeople, not pastors.

I have two basic assumptions which are hard to shake that undermine my ability to be edifying, gentle, and prudent in my writing. One is that I feel like my blog is supposed to be a place where I wrestle openly and say smart-alecky things that are unbecoming of a pastor in the hope that I can reach people who don’t fit in with all the other Christians and think that pastors are probably completely pious people who always have the right thing to say and couldn’t possibly understand what they’re going through. This is because when I was a rebel teenager, my grandpa played this role in my life. He evangelized me by being deliberately irreverent around me even though he was a Southern Baptist deacon. Some things were certainly non-negotiable, but he used humor and horseplay to create an environment in which I felt safe asking questions that I would have never asked my pastor about Jesus.

The other assumption I have is that a blog post worth reading is supposed to say something like, “Everybody else has always told you X, but here’s why X is wrong and Y is right.” In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “You have heard it said ____, but I tell you ____.” I often assume without giving it too thought that I’m supposed to smash a sacred cow of popular Christian theology every time I sit down to write. Ever since I got indoctrinated by the deconstructionism of postmodern literary theory, it’s hard to think any other way than as a critic debunking the Enlightenment presumptions I’ve been taught to see behind everything that’s wrong with the world. It’s hard to be comforting and encouraging with what you write when you operate under the unconscious assumption that you’re always supposed to be critiquing something. But if my primary calling is to be a shepherd, then should I be critiquing every time I write just because that’s how I learned to write papers in grad school?

So I’m still wrestling. I still have an attitude problem. But God is working on me. I hope that I can learn how to be prophetic without being cynical. I hope I can learn how to be irreverent without being disrespectful. What I write on here will never have the same level of pastoral discretion as what I say from the pulpit, because when I preach, I’m supposed to be sharing God’s word with God’s people. When I blog, I’m sharing my foolishness with my friends so that by wrestling together with me, they can hopefully straighten me out. So please call me out when I say something ignorant. In the meantime, I’ll try to be more thoughtful and sensitive and mindful of my pastoral responsibility.

8 thoughts on “How vanilla should a pastor’s blog be?

  1. I have said it before and I’ll say it again: I love your perspective and your willingness to be real and honestly wrestle with things in your blog posts. That said when I first found your blog and read some of the articles to my husband we were both like “and he actually still has a job as a pastor? :)” because unfortunately most of the leaders we have encountered who so openly wrestled with big questions we have seen removed from their posts over the years. God always uses your insights though to get me to think about something in a way I’ve never considered before. Keep it up!

  2. Perhaps it shows how far I’ve come from the other direction (or possibly how far I have yet to go) that I don’t find your blog harsh. I avoid harshness. I find you to be plain-speaking and gospel-focused, not harsh, or snarky, or mocking.

    • Good. Thanks for giving me your assessment. I think the problem was how I titled some of my blog posts, particularly one where I used the words “God” and “hate” in the same sentence as part of the title.

  3. Thanks guys. Somebody play the devil’s advocate though and show why I’ve got it all wrong so it won’t look like I was fishing for compliments.😉

  4. Morgan, I like so much that you say what you feel, very refreshing. You cause people to think. Your blog is the perfect place to express yourself. For people it makes too uncomfortable, they don’t have to read it. But the rest of us can use it for some serious deep reflecting. I get so tired of “politically correct” talk, we musn’t offend anyone, be different, hurt anyone’s feelings. Keep the faith that people are reading and you are reaching and inspiring them to think and reflect.

  5. Agree with Joshua. I greatly enjoy your blog and encourage you to continue with the “wrestling together” model. Thanks for all the hard work you put into this blog

  6. Morgan, I have always appreciated your gutsiness. I enjoy your blog for its harshness and realism; sometimes I think we focus too much on the pastor-as-shepherd model and not enough on the pastor-as-teacher model. Part of Jesus’s pedagogy involved liberal portions of snark!

    Then again, I’m just a snarky postmodern seminary student.

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