A Plea for a More Civil Discourse

"May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, Lord, my rock and my Redeemer" (Psalm 19:14, HCSB).

I wish I could say that I get it right all the time. I wish I could say that I get it right most of the time. But, more often than I care to admit, the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart are not acceptable to the Lord. I do not always bring glory to God in the words I say and the words I write.

I, therefore, consider myself unworthy to pass judgment on those who say and write matters that seem to me to be displeasing to the Lord. But my silence is no longer an option.

Frank Page, our Southern Baptist Convention president, called me today. He told me he would be issuing a statement about the words being spoken and written on church and denominational issues. Though I have not yet seen his statement, I imagine this article will "amen" Dr. Page's words.

Electronic media, particularly Websites and blog sites, is neither inherently good nor evil. This medium can be used for God's glory, or it can be used in a manner that clearly does not glorify God. I have seen it become a particularly wonderful medium to keep us updated on key issues, to engender dialogue, to provide a forum for healthy debate, and to ask necessary questions.

But it can also host forums that cannot please our Lord. Whereas most print media have the accountability of boards, bosses and subscribers, much social electronic media does not have clear and explicit accountability – it's the community's responsibility. Words that are hurtful, untrue and even displeasing to our Lord can be written without consequence. The community then becomes collectively accountable.

I'm not saying avoid substantive issues and the calls for accountability, but I plead with my brothers and sisters in Christ, particularly in our denomination, to move toward a more civil discourse, a more Christlike attitude in what we say and write.

I have made my own mistakes in the blogosphere. Prior to the launching of the Weblog SBC Outpost, I responded positively to a request for an endorsement. My endorsement spoke with a hope that this new blog would be an exciting opportunity to focus our denomination more on missions and evangelism. My words, instead, were construed by some to be an endorsement of every article that followed, particularly those articles that were critical of other entity presidents. That was unacceptable. I was wrong. By the time I contacted SBC Outpost asking for the withdrawal of my endorsement, all endorsements had been removed.

My passionate desire is to be a bridge builder in the Southern Baptist Convention. Not to compromise biblically. Not to be soft in my theology. I desire true collaboration with those of uncompromising biblical certitude to reach a lost world with the gospel of our Savior. My prayer is that the conservative resurgence will now grow into a Great Commission resurgence.

But our witness is compromised when a spiritually lost world sees us fighting with one another, when they see unloving words hurled without restraint, when they see terse comments cloaked in civility – when they see little evidence of Christian love.

Would you pray with me that the world will see us as men and women who love the Lord with all of our hearts, and who love one another? Will you be a part of the conversation that shifts from negativity to Great Commission obedience?

I ask: Will you be a person who speaks a truth in love in such a way that your comments glorify God and are found acceptable to Him?

Such is my plea. Such is my prayer.

This article originally appeared on Friday, August 17, 2007.

Dr. Thom Rainer is president of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist.

Free Religious Freedom Updates

Join thousands of others to get the FREEDOM POST newsletter for free, sent twice a week from The Christian Post.

Most Popular

Free Religious Freedom Updates

A religious liberty newsletter that is a must-read for people of faith.

More In Opinion