There's another breed of watchdoggin' bloggin' out there. You are already familiar with the normal watchdog blogs that protect God's church from the scum of the blogosphere by posting daily about how far the church has moved into Babylon. They do this in a general way, occasionally picking on a few individuals [like the evil Rick Warren and the dastardly Brian McLaren] but very rarely do they land on a single person and try to blog him out of existence. Usually, its trends and streams and influences that get barked at by the watchdoggers.
This time it's personal.
However, In the past few years, some blogs have appeared that are designed to air a personal complaint about a Christian leader or organization and to bring them to justice. These blogs sometimes add another side to the story of a successful pastor, or bring to light a discrepancy in their reputation. Sometimes they allow people who have been spiritually abused to speak out publicly.
At best, these blogs add a new level of honesty, balance, justice and accountability to high-profile leaders. At worst, they generate gossip, promote an outlet for jealousy, and show the world that the church cannot get along with each other.
Recently, things have gotten nastier. Courts and lawsuits. And even Google being called in to bring anonymous bloggers out of the closet. Like they did with Thomas Rich, a disgruntled Southern Baptist who was not happy with his pastor at First Baptist Church in Jacksonville. His blog is FBC JAX WATCHDOG. Other blogs were investigated but let off the hook - tiffanycroft.blogspot.com and newbbcopenforum.blogspot.com. More squabble blogs than watchdog blogs. Nothing much to see, folks.
But what I find fascinating here is the role of Google as the keeper of records, the witness to ill intent, the courtroom spotter who identifies the accused.
“It’s hardball,” Rich said of the church’s tactics in uncovering his identity. “It’s hardball religion, is what it is.” Jacksonville Times
Our new future, as I see it, involves opposing voices having a stronger voice than they used to have. In some ways, its a return to the village where everyone got to say their peace, including those who were disgruntled. Nehemiah had his detractors yelling insults to him over the wall. Jesus had the murmuring Pharisees in the back of the crowd, whispering and complaining as he was teaching. Street preachers have hecklers. And now, thanks to social media and micro-blogs, every mega-church pastor and high-profile Christian leader will have his or her blogging nemesis as a normal part of ministry. Better get used to it. It's going to get hotter.
What to do when the watchdoggers are nipping at your heels? Here are 10 ways to deal with them:
1. Don't be a jerk in the first place!
2. Be honest and live a holy life. Secrets get shouted from rooftops.
3. Build your own social media platform and keep friends close to you.
4. Take your online profile seriously. High Google ranking will enable you to tell your own story. [See my blogging tips]
5. If you are too busy to maintain a social media presence then have someone close to you do it on our behalf. John MacArthur (who actually has an untainted reputation and almost non-existant fallout online) has Phil Johnson. John Piper has Justin Taylor who handled the recent "Warrengate" issue. Who do you have?
6. If you fly around in a jet then you should be the first person to tell your church that you fly around in a jet.
7. Educate your watchdogging critics on private email. Don't belittle them publicly. Love them and befriend them as early as you can.
8. Own up to your faults. God might be using the watchdoggers to purify you.
9. Don't get paranoid. You don't have time to track everything that is being said about you and it will be a real bummer to read it anyway.
10. Ask God for mercy because we are all jerks sometimes.
UPDATE: Uber-watchdog blogger Pastor Ken is giving me a hard time on his site for my "condescending" blog post that you have just read. Pastor Ken Silva is the most relentless watchdogger I know and his daily diatribes have earned him a very high ranking. Now, to be fair to Ken, although he occasionally peddles in the trivial, his site is a real watchdog blog and not a squabble blog. And actually, my post was a little condescending - my apologies Ken. But I was not thinking of you when I wrote this. And Ken, I dropped the "emerging church" label a long time ago so please honor me by keeping up with the Joneses.