This is kind of an open question to my readers. I got called out a little bit for yesterday’s rant about Christian celebrity in which I laid out pretty volcanically my own struggles with narcissism and probably didn’t differentiate enough between my own baggage and whatever Jon Acuff is or isn’t teaching people. One of the things that caught my eye and troubled me was a comment that I was undermining my credibility as a teacher. So I wanted to pose the question to you since I really believe that God tells me what I need to hear through your feedback. Should I write with less vulnerability and more decorum or does the rawness speak to you in a way that’s edifying?
I have often wrestled with the question of vulnerability vs. decorum in my role as a teacher and pastor. My role model as a pastor was my grandpa since he’s the one who really kept me Christian when I was a teenager. One of his primary evangelistic tactics was to be intentionally irreverent with me in order to win my trust. He told me jokes that Southern Baptist deacons aren’t supposed to tell. We had secrets that never came out anyplace except on the country roads of south Texas. It worked. Because it caused me to trust him with everything and I figured that if he could be a Christian, I could too.
That’s why I basically adopted his way of doing things as a high school teacher and a youth pastor. Obviously when you’re dealing with a large group of kids en masse, decorum is important as part of classroom management. But one on one, I found that I built trust in my relationships better if I was real with the kids about my own doubts and struggles rather than being “the adult” who doesn’t have any problems and knows everything. And sometimes I would even use language that teachers aren’t supposed to use, particularly if I was talking to kids who were used to being the “bad kids.” I’m still not sure whether my approach to teaching and shepherding youth “worked.” Many of my former students are now facebook friends, whatever that means. I do know that the mentors who have had the most influence on me are the ones who let me see them without their pastor face on.
I’m not sure that my sensibilities as a youth pastor and high school teacher are necessarily transferable to blogging. Writing a blog is a very strange phenomenon because it feels private but it’s completely public. It’s a bit dangerous because I can hit “Publish” whenever I feel like it. I don’t have an editor giving me a word count and refusing to run anything that isn’t timely or heavily researched. I wouldn’t have the time or energy to write professional, carefully nuanced pieces supported by quotes and statistics that would be worth putting in physical print. If that were all that were available to do as a writer like it was 50 years ago, I would be spending my time otherwise.
I feel like my blog posts are divided between topical, headline-based rants in which I dump out the contents of my heart about Christian culture or current events (which gets the most hits), and Biblical and theological musings that fascinate me but often go into esoteric territory that not a lot of people are interested in. So do I need to shut off the former and focus on the latter? Do I need to conduct myself with more decorum and less vulnerability? Are there other aspects of what I’m doing that are a distraction? By the way, I’m not fishing for affirmation, so don’t feel like that’s what this is about. If that’s all you’ve got to say, I will receive it graciously, but what I’m really inviting and coveting are words that will challenge and convict me. So bring it. I promise I won’t bite. Maybe you’ve got something God has been wanting to tell me.