SCP Blog Etiquette

Josh and I are fascinated by all the energy being created here at our little bitty site called Stupid Church People! One thing is obvious, we come from a wide variety of backgrounds; a broad spectrum of beliefs, and a myriad of different personality styles. With the name of our site and the nature of our commentary you might think the sky’s the limit here and you can say anything you want. Well, to a degree this is true. At SCP, we are trying to build something positive. Although somewhat controversial and offensive at times…we still desire there to be a positive outcome. Our goal, is for people to talk about what we are sharing and thinking.

However, Josh and I felt it was necessary to share with you some Blog Etiquette guidelines we found on another site that we thought were written very well. I have slightly tweaked them for our uses here.

Now, I want to differentiate for a second between the Blog and the Podcasts. Josh and I feel the Podcasts have a very different flavor and intent than the Blogs. On the Podcasts we take many liberties with the spoken word. We are trying to have fun, speak our mind and let it fly. Think of it as if you were sitting at the next table to us at a restaurant as Josh and I spout off all types of things. Seriously, if you were to follow us around, we have lunch a couple a times a week and this is what we do. Then one day a week we get together and tape it. The Podcasts are thoughts (often not very well thought out ones) that typically provide us with something that we will Blog about later.

The Blogs are more thought out (see number three below) so we understand that what we write should be held to a higher scrutiny.

First, here are some great general rules for our purposes (as found on MMIBlog.com and written by Tally Wilgis at his blog):

1. Each blog you visit is the internet “home” of someone.
You wouldn’t dare walk into a home and run your mouth at the host. It’s inappropriate to do on blogs as well. It’s just ugly and you end up looking stupid. Don’t do it. It’s immature.

2. Any attack on a blog is a public attack.
It’s one thing to debate a friend in college where it’s you two in a room or sitting out on the grass with no one else around. Imagine if you took some of those debates and broadcasted them to every dorm room on campus. Yeah. Be aware of what you say. You can look stupid, no matter how ‘valid’ your point may be.

3. It takes time to type so people will judge you a little tougher.
When everyone knows you took time to type your thought it gets a little more scrutiny than if you just said something in a conversation. It’s one thing (still dumb) to blurt out something ignorant in a conversation b/c you don’t have the facts or you come off as rude but to type it solidifies any thought of you being immature or ignorant. Read what you type. You have time to think it through!

4. A sign of maturity is the ability to delay gratification.
One thing that separates a mature person from the immature is the ability to hold back from immediate gratification. This is true for the blog world. We all have opinions.

If you have a brain you have a thought but not every thought has to be brought forward and presented in the dialogue. I try to operate on terms of ‘value added’. When I’m considering posting I ask “Is what I’m about to say going to add value to the conversation?” My “opinion” sometimes means NOTHING to the core of the author’s post. Therefore I keep my golden brain to myself no matter how great I think I may be at the time.

5. Watch out for Ad Hominem arguments.
Not to insult all of you fine readers, but I had to look this one up.
An ad hominem argument is a logical fallacy that involves replying to an argument by addressing the person presenting the argument as a basis for the argument being incorrect, as opposed to pointing out a flaw in the argument.

The jest of an Ad hominem is that it’s an attack on the person rather than the argument. I see this so much in the blog world it makes me sick.

Goes a little like this–
BLOG POST: “So and so is doing something amazing for God.”
Immature Commenter: “So and so is a blank and blank. Why doesn’t so and so just become more humble, (LIKE ME)!”

Don’t attack the person. If you disagree and you must get your thought on record, do it in a civil way. Don’t go after people. If you must respond, talk about the idea presented.

6. You can be both true and wrong at the same time!
For many immature bloggers they don’t understand that perception is reality. Although the context of what they are saying is true, how they are spraying it is wrong. For effective communication both parts must be able to be received.. the saying AND the spraying.

Those who don’t want to work to make their communication better received by their audience have lowered themselves to bully status. “I’ll say what I want and you WILL listen or else”. The ‘or else’ in blog world is usually “Or else I’ll keep posting!”

7. A challenge to your idea is not an attack on you personally. You as the “poster” have to differentiate. It goes both ways. If you feel like your idea is being challenged it is easy to take that personally. I know…trust me. However, I have been guilty of responding as if the person meant their comments towards me personally. It is hard to read voice inflection, etc in comments, so take it all with a grain of salt. This blogging and commenting is great for developing thick skin.

Now for some more specific rules for the SCP website:
1. Stick to the subject.  All discussions to the blog will need to stay on topic. If the author (Josh or I) posts a topic with or without questions, just respond to that. Seems fair, right?

2. Keep it Short.  Each person will be allowed to post up to 5 comments per blog topic (I think this is quite liberal). These should be kept as short as possible. If you want to have a running dialogue with another commenter (especially when it is off topic), get their email address or phone number and go to lunch.

3. Don’t Get Personal.  There will be no tolerance for personal attacks. Josh and I might be the object of a personal attack but please do not feel the need to add fuel to the fire by personally attacking anyone on our behalf. And if someone attacks you personally… just walk away. For me, I am taking the policy of not responding to anything I deem to be a personal attack on me. I will not be baited and neither should you.

4. Feel Free to Disagree, but… There will be room to discuss different thoughts and ideas… and to disagree. I will continue to tap into controversial topics from time to time and allow for input, but the input should not turn ugly or judgemental.  Be gracious and kind, even when disagreeing. As it has been said, “If you are right, but you are rude, then you’re wrong!”

Bottom Line: All that a personal attack or immature comment does is bring the site, it’s purpose and the dialogue to a screeching halt. People stop by, see all the bickering and figure it is just a waste of time to be involved. If that is your intent, my suggestion is for you to get your own blog. That’s a great way to get your message out to the world.

That’s it. I really hope that this will set the stage for the SCP site to continue to grow and honor God, each other and our individual expressions.

Momentary Introspection #1

So forgetting about “all things church” for awhile…it’s time for some momentary introspection. When I need to think about my life I turn to two sources: Music or Movies. Sometimes I go looking for the inspiration, sometimes the inspiration finds me. Tonight I went looking for it.

So here’s the introspection posed to me from a quote in the movie “Fight Club”. I am very interested to hear what each of you has to say. It’s two questions really…both worth asking and knowing.

1. What do you wish you would have done before you die?
2. If you were to die right now how would you feel about your life?

I Don’t Want to Go to Heaven

According to some, the title of this post is a forgone conclusion. Some would say after reading this website that I am damned to spend eternity in another place made for the likes of me.

However, I do have faith in Christ and believe that his grace is sufficient for me and that one day, when I close my eyes for the last time, that I will be ushered into a place the Bible calls Heaven. And there’s the rub… I just don’t like the idea of closing my eyes for the last time.

I am being brutally honest here. It’s kind of scary to admit this in such a public forum. I just don’t want to die. Around the age of 30, I remember how panic attacks would take hold at the thought. We would be watching a show on TV where someone would die and I would begin to identify with the character who was “breathing their last breath.”

Fade to black. That’s what I imagine it to be. And then what comes next. Well….I hope it’s heaven, that’s what I am betting on. But what if I am wrong? What if it’s just blackness? I mean really noone knows what happens do they?

And why do I want to go to heaven anyway? Can it really be better than my life on earth? I have my two boys and I love them so. I enjoy so many people around me. How can going to heaven be any better then the life I have right here and right now?

The Pastor Crisis

There is a pastor crisis in American churches. It seems that church-work is hazardous to your health. On one hand, you have pastors who tend to serve their churches as if their very lives depend on it. Neglecting their own needs they seem to sacrifice it all for the life of the church. In effect, the church becomes their life.

On the other hand you have churches that seem to take advantage of this fact. Churches tend to heap a huge amount of expectations on their pastors. This can be a volatile and dangerous combination.

A recent article I read had this to say about the office of the pastor:

The pastoral office has a way of chewing up all who come within its pale. Depression, burn-out, stress, and emotional breakdown are terribly high among Pastors.

Consider the following statistics that lay bare the lethal danger of the pastoral office:

* 94% feel pressured to have an ideal family.
* 90% work more than 46 hours a week.
* 81% say they have insufficient time with their spouses.
* 80% believe that pastoral ministry affects their family negatively.
* 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.
* 70% have lower self-esteem than when they entered the ministry.
* 50% feel unable to meet the needs of the job.
* 80% are discouraged or deal with depression.
* 40%+ report that they are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules, and unrealistic expectations.
* 33% consider pastoral ministry an outright hazard to the family.
* 33% have seriously considered leaving their position in the past year.
* 40% of pastoral resignations are due to burnout.
* Roughly 30% to 40% of religious leaders eventually drop out of the ministry and about 75% go through a period of stress so great that they seriously consider quitting.

Unfortunately, few Pastors have connected the dots to discover that it is their office that causes this underlying turbulence. Simply put: Jesus Christ never intended any person to sport all the hats the Pastor is expected to wear! He never intended any man to bear such a load.

So here’s some questions. Do you think churches have too many expectations on the pastors that serve them? Do congregations or pastors bear the reponsibility for such dreadful statistics as the ones listed above? Do you agree with the writer that the office of the pastor is the cause for the underlying turbulence in their lives? What are some solutions you see that could remedy this crisis?

Time

Today is just another day for some. For some this day will represent a special day, such as a birthday or an anniversary. But really as the clock struck midnight on this, the 18th day of July it really was nothing more than another second, in another minute, in another hour, in another day. Time marches on. It is also said time heals. Or another person might say it happened just in the nick of time. And being on time is said to be a wonderful virtue (one that I just can’t seem to get right).

Time, time, time. It means so much to so many…but what does it mean to the one that created it. I was reminded on this day of Ecclesiastes 3, where we learn a little lesson about time. I thought I would share it here. It spoke to me and gave me some perspective on this day. Whether or not it is a special day is dependant on what time it is!

Ecclesiastes 3:1-15

There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth:

A right time for birth and another for death,
A right time to plant and another to reap,

A right time to kill and another to heal,
A right time to destroy and another to construct,

A right time to cry and another to laugh,
A right time to lament and another to cheer,

A right time to make love and another to abstain,
A right time to embrace and another to part,

A right time to search and another to count your losses,
A right time to hold on and another to let go,

A right time to rip out and another to mend,
A right time to shut up and another to speak up,

A right time to love and another to hate,
A right time to wage war and another to make peace.

But in the end, does it really make a difference what anyone does? I’ve had a good look at what God has given us to do–busywork, mostly. True, God made everything beautiful in itself and in its time–but he’s left us in the dark, so we can never know what God is up to, whether he’s coming or going. I’ve decided that there’s nothing better to do than go ahead and have a good time and get the most we can out of life. That’s it–eat, drink, and make the most of your job. It’s God’s gift.

I’ve also concluded that whatever God does, that’s the way it’s going to be, always. No addition, no subtraction. God’s done it and that’s it. That’s so we’ll quit asking questions and simply worship in holy fear.

Whatever was, is.
Whatever will be, is.
That’s how it always is with God.

So, Here’s the Deal!

The following comment was left in response to my article “The Pastor Problem”. It is one of the few that I have received of this nature but this one seems to completely find in my writing something that no one else sees. While I suspect the writer is trying to be inflammatory, there are many areas he touches on that I feel are worthy of a response and will provide you with some of my history as well. So here are his comments as they were written:

seriously, steve, whats the deal? did you get fired for porking a volunteer or something? you seem bitter and resentful with a lot of criticism and not much of a solution besides “all pastors should resign”. was there no one during your tenure in full time ministry that you reached or connected with or cared about that actually had a difference made in their life because of your contribution? perhaps your perspective has been skewed by the incompetence that you discovered about yourself when you were in full time ministry. it is wildly generalizing for you to project onto others from a place of personal dissatisfaction.
-scott

Scott,

You are the only person that has seemed to have this reponse to the posting of “The Pastor Problem”. Do I really come across as bitter and resentful? I hope not. I certainly may have been either of those two things over the years, but certainly time has healed a great deal of that (or so I hope). You are correct that I offer criticism, but that criticism is generally directed at the office and title of the pastor, or the modern American church system and not at any one person.

And actually, “all pastors should resign” is a type of solution, albeit an incomplete one. But are you familiar with the concept of “hyperbole”? Sometimes it takes drastic recommendations to garner attention to a problem that needs to be discussed and not ignored. From the responses I am seeing, it seems I have struck a chord, even with you.

Yes, I have had the privilege of seeing changed lives in the course of my “full-time” ministry. I ministered to several hundred teenagers over the life of my youth ministry and countless adults also during that time. I have served alongside amazingly faithful volunteers that have sacrificed countless hours as we poured our hearts and souls out to young people. It was incredibly satisfying. This one part of ministry is what kept me in it probably past the point of where I should have stayed. I will always fondly remember the lives that I touched, but more importantly the lives that touched and changed me.

Amazingly though, it is since I left “full-time” ministry (are we ever really out of ministry), that I have come to a place of seeing my greatest impact. In my “real job” I have the privilege of going into companies here in So Cal (as a computer network and software specialist) and how satisfying it has been to enter into genuine dialogue with so many of these people.

I also have seen through this website an overwhelming response as many have resonated with our message. It is my honor to come alongside the disappointed and disillusioned people that follow our podcasts and blogs. Many of these people have left the church, are teetering on the brink of faith crisis, or are even atheists or agnostics searching for meaning and answers. Some are pastors or former pastors seeking healing from the system that they find themselves in…it has been an amazing and humbling ride since we launched this site in April of this year. In my opinion, it is a ministry far beyond what I could ever have had within the four walls of a church.

As to my competence or lack thereof in ministry…who knows. Only God can judge that one. But I did get a little frustrated at times when I felt like I was trying to please men and not God. That’s a trap we all fall into from time to time. Now through this site, I feel that I have found my voice again…and I am speaking from my heart, sharing my feelings for all to read and trying through honest reflection to make sense of it all.

Finally, as to your comment on whether or not I got fired for “porking a volunteer or something”? No I never committed such misconduct, however I served on the youth staff where the senior youth pastor (my supervisor) was let go for having an affair with one of our co-workers. I was left in charge to help clean up “the mess” and attempt to bring healing to the 300+ high school students trying to make sense of this indiscretion. It was one of the pivotal moments in my career, one where I blossomed as a leader on the outside, but was left struggling on the inside.

I became disappointed in a church system that heaps an increasing amount of pressure on leaders to “produce numbers” and have “high-profile” events. The necessity to keep “kids busy” and “parents happy” was a priority. The senior staff of the church was very interested in seeing numerical results and gauging that as a sign of a healthy ministry. All of this pressure came at the cost of my supervisor spending quality time with his family or meaningful time with his wife. His life was consumed with spending time with his youth staff (of which the co-worker he had the affair with was a part), all in the name of building a stronger ministry.

Now certainly this man and woman bear personal responisibility for their actions. But the church’s behavior that led to his burnout and affair must also be accounted for…not to mention that when he was dismissed, there were promises of restoration that were never followed through with and commitments made to both families that were never honored.

In the end, in cleaning up this mess for over a year, restoring a healthy foundation for our youth ministry and after assisting the church through this crisis, I was replaced (without cause) by another leader who was brought in from the outside because of his national reputation. Now, honestly, looking back on it, it was a good decision for the church. It was a wise “business” decision for them. But nonetheless I was left feeling a little lost in the shuffle.

Now, I was faced with my own burnout. But I kept going, not recognizing the tailspin I was in and afraid to ask for help for fear of showing weakness, I plunged ahead. I was able to find a place of restoration called Sonscape Ministries that helped my wife and I during some of the worst days of ministry pains. Ultimately, I did find a place of healing to serve my last 5 years of full-time ministry. A church full of other staff “rejects” we called ourselves. This church and its staff became a place of refuge for me and my family.

When it came time to leave there, I decided against finding another job, because I feel that being a pastor is a calling and not a career. Quite frankly, I no longer felt called anymore. The pastor that I grew up under told me wisely when he ordained me for ministry that “if there is anything else you can do besides be a pastor, you should leave the church and do it.” He was exactly right!

So, seriously Scott, that’s the deal!

What’s All The Fuss?

It is frustrating that my first post in almost three weeks will be nothing of orginality on my part. I have been preoccupied with some other things personally and professionally – and quite frankly am working on about 3 or 4 blogs at the same time. I just need to get focused on them and go for it.

However, a loyal friend of SCP (thanks Ricky) brought to my attention that one of my recent writings, “The Pastor Problem” was causing quite a commotion on another website called Monday Morning Insight.

Before you go read, let me first thank Todd at MMI for having the courage to share on his site a post from a site called “Stupid Church People.” You have cajones my friend!

Secondly, this is another reminder that what we say and do can and will have far-reaching effects, especially when it comes to cyber-space. I am reminded that what I write and say online will follow me forever. The SCP site has solidified that there isn’t a chance in hell I will ever serve on a church staff again (do I hear an “Amen” and “Praise the Lord”) nor will I probably be speaking much at local churches or conferences in the near future. Might be hard to introduce me to the congregation as the founder of “Stupid Church People”. What a way to win over an audience huh?

Finally, and for the record, I do not drink beer because of acid reflux – it almost kills me to take one sip. I do eat some fast-food but not enough to put it in the “seven-deadly sins” category. And I do drive a a brand new BMW (an X3 to be exact) and the damn thing cost me my first speeding ticket in about 20 years! Never had to worry about speeding in my four cylinder cars of the past. (You’ll understand this last paragraph when you read the comments on the aforementioned site from my new best friend Jean-Paul. We will definitely be talking about Jean-Paul more on this site. He is such a special person and I bet he is also very cute!)

Take a moment and head on over there and read all of the comments posted. Feel free to post there if you like, but please come back here and post as well. We want to read everything you guys say over there….OK?? Promise?? Thanks!