Case Study in the Need of a Great Commission Resurgence

One of the things I have learned about blogging and addressing issues is that whatever issue you address that is most controversial ends up sticking to you whether you like it or not.  When people in the “real world” sit down with me and get to know who I am or what makes up my life, I make it my goal to describe myself as a follower of Christ, husband, father, and pastor/missionary.  Our conversations for the most part are markedly different than the kind I experience on the internet, and I’ve come to accept that.

However, it goes without saying that whenever I meet someone who knows me via the internet, it is typically Timmy the blogger guy or some variation of that.  There are other guys who nominally refer to me as the leading “Calvinist” blogger in the SBC.  While some may not find this a surprise, I do find this rather intriguing.  For you see, over the course of the past four years, I have submitted some 1,700 blogposts here on P&P.  How many of them do you think have to do with Calvinism?  94.  That comes out to 5,5% of everything I have written.  Is it fair to label a person based on 5% of what they write?  Perhaps. I’ll leave that for someone else to decide.  Furthermore, regarding the SBC, I have written a total of 225 blogposts on or around SBC issues, again coming to 13%.  Not exactly the kind of percentages that would seem to dominate or characterize someone’s internet presence.  But I digress.

In any case, I want to make a simple and yet very frustrating point as a Southern Baptist and a Calvinist.  Over the past two weeks, I wrote about two main issues (a few misc. posts excluded) : Calvinism in the SBC and missional prayer.  Here’s the breakdown:

Calvinism in the SBC

11.30 David Allen, Hyper-Calvinism, and James White: The Rundown
12.4 Ed Stetzer Responds to David Allen’s Critique of Calvinism Research
12.5 Hyper-Calvinism, Anti-Calvinism, and Founders Ministries
12.8 Casualties of Anti-Calvinism
12.9 Nathan Finn on Calvinism and Cooperation

Missional Prayer

12.10 Missional Prayer: Introductory Thoughts
12.10 Missional Prayer: Jesus
12.11 Missional Prayer: Early Church
12.15 Missional Prayer: Paul
12.16 Missional Prayer: Concluding Thoughts

Now I want you to see the stat chart from the past two weeks.  Notice the change from Dec. 1-10 to Dec. 11-17.

blog-controversy

On a whole, I put about 1/3 the amount of time, effort, and study with Calvinism as I did missional prayer, and yet this kind of controversy brings more than double the traffic.  This kind of thing has happened time and again over the years, and while I am never surprised, the level of frustration and disappointment continues to grow.  I have no way of knowing exactly who takes the time to read my blog, and so I am perhaps going to be “preaching to the choir” here (the controversy hungry readers probably have all been run off by all this talk about prayer, mission, and Jesus). But that’s just it.

It is a case study of the kind of conversation (or controversy) that people want.  It speaks to the direction we prefer to go–divide and conquer.  We are excited (or upset) when controversy ensues or Calvinism is brought up, but no one is excited to talk about Jesus and discuss His mission of which we have been entrusted.  The solemn call gets little serious attention or single-minded earnestness.  Anyone who wants to kill traffic on a blog just mention the gospel, mission, Jesus, or prayer.  You will be rewarded with 50% less readership.  But it will be the readership that really counts.

I don’t know what kind of credibility this little case study lends to analyzing where we are today.  Honestly, I hope that the trend is opposite of what I just experienced on my blog!  A Great Commission Resurgence will need indicators that show our interest is more in the building of His Church, living out the gospel, being faithful to the mission, and seeking to glorify Jesus with those who are Southern Baptist or not, those who are Calvinist or not.  I know it is not sexy or titillating, but it is coronary and commissionary.

Yes, I’m a blogger, a Southern Baptist, and a Calvinist.  I wear those titles because that is how the game works on the internet.  But there’s a whole lot more out there on my blog and the blogs of other Southern Baptists that are well worth reading and considering if we could get beyond ourselves and realize that being servants of Christ and stewards of His gospel are the only titles we should ever be concerned about in the first place.

After all, those are matters of first importance.

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14 Comments on “Case Study in the Need of a Great Commission Resurgence”

  1. Brent Hobbs Says:

    I’ll admit I read the Calvinism posts pretty closely. The prayer posts, I read one closely, skimmed a couple, and didn’t read a couple. To be honest, I think it has to do with the blog format. Its conducive to news, current events/happenings and commentary on such. The prayer posts are more likely something I’d sit down with a printed copy to read.

    Maybe its just the way I’ve become hardwired: current events and commentary on a computer screen, theology in a book.

    I understand your frustration. Just realize there are more factors at play than what you might originally think.

  2. Carl Says:

    Hi there,

    I didn’t know any other way to contact you with this unusual request. I didn’t see an email address anywhere.

    Anyway, I am a frequent visitor to your blog and appreciate the information you supply (even the 5.5% written on Calvinism *grin*). I humbly come here with a rather unique request that may not even come to fruition even if you accept. Would you possibly be amicable to a small project that may not even happen? I have tried to discuss Scripture with a non-denominational individual who claims to be a teacher and preacher but admits not to have received any formal or informal training. In fact he speaks strongly against such training. He claims that God taught him but in his posts he basically admits he is self-taught. He does hold to several unBiblical points including salvation by works. He also exhibits great disdain for Baptists but has refused thus far to explain why. One claim he has made consistently is that no Baptist will discuss Scripture with him even though several Baptists have tried. What I am thinking of doing (and any input you have would be wonderful) is pointing him to your blog letting him know there are Baptists who are more than happy to discuss Scripture with him. He goes by “Pat H” in the newgroups and seems to always go back to his one-trick-pony topic which is “once saved always saved is WRONG.” He has a website where you can get an idea of where he is coming from (http://www.geocities.com/1christlover/). Now more than likely he won’t even bother going to the blogs and will dismiss it out of hand, but I wanted to run it by you out of the great respect and admiration I have for you based upon my visitation and participation on your blog. So I won’t do anything until I hear back from you.

    May God bless,
    Carl McCaskey
    my website – http://www.nettally.com/saints
    my blog – http://www.anniemayhem.com/cgi-bin/wordpress/

  3. Carl Says:

    One other brief thing…if my request is offtopic, I won’t have any problem with you deleting it.

    Carl

  4. D.L. Kane Says:

    Timmy – This type of transparent and honest post, is what we all need. This is real. This is fellowship. This is desperately needed. This makes everyone stop and think about our motivation, our “addiction”, our focus. Just a word of encouragement–you are on the right track as far as this reader is concerned.

    Blessings to you, your family and your ministry. “REFRESHING”-is an understatement!

    D.L. Kane


  5. What is funny to me is that until I started reading your blog I saw you as “an angry young man of the SBC” (in the words of Dr. Gregory Alan Thornbury) and a hyper-Calvinist. Then I started reading your blog and realized “hmm… he is definitely well rounded and talks about a lot of things, that are not Calvinism, and is pretty well grounded and not crazy when it comes to that.”


  6. Brent,

    I think those are helpful observations, but they do not alleviate the frustration I feel. 😦

    I know that I probably sound harsh, but I’m looking forward to the day that Jesus gets more coverage in the SBC as does His communion table or anything else we choose to bicker about. I will commit, by God’s grace, to do my part in redirecting the discussion away from ourselves and onto the mission.

    Carl,

    I am currently on vacation but will take a look at your request and try to get back with you via email since this is a personal request. For future reference, my email can be located in my about page (see “essentials” on the right side bar).

    D.L.,

    Great to hear from you brother. Always encouraging and gracious. Thanks for reading, commenting, and always having an edifying word!

    David,

    So did Dr. Thornbury attribute those words directly about me? If so, he and I will just have to talk! 😉 Just kidding. I have great respect for him, although I almost got him in trouble one time at a conference UU sponsored a couple of years ago. I do appreciate you taking the time to look around and consider the body of writing I have attempted to put together and allow the author and not his critics to define him. We’d go a long way if we took the time to get to know someone (and what they have said) before making hard and fast judgment calls. We’ve all done it (myself included), but that does not mean we have to continue to. Thanks for the comment and taking the time to read my blog.

  7. MzEllen Says:

    Timmy, maybe more of your readers are Calvinists than are Southern Baptists…I grew up Baptist (but not Calvinist) and now I’m a Calvinist (but not Baptist).

    Another thought, I generally read blogs in a blog-reader, so you don’t get the “hits” unless you track subscribers as well as direct hits. So you may have many more readers than show up in site-reader – until you write a post that tempts them to write a comment. It is true on my blog also – it is a VERY small blog but when I write something a little more controversial I see more direct stats because the people who read in a blog-reader click through to comment.

    Enjoy your vacation and have a blessed Christmas season.

  8. Todd B. Says:

    Well, I don’t know how I figure into your statistics, but I have kind of agreed with the “angry young man” analysis whenever you are speaking about Calvinism (although I am a Calvinist myself). You may want to consider how you come across to others on this issue. Anyway, I read those posts, but only with a casual interest. Your prayer series, however, I downloaded so I can refer back to it for ideas when I preach on our church’s core values next month.

    Another way of looking at the statistics: there are are a number of people who are keenly interested on the topic of Calvinism in the SBC. What percentage of the total posts on Calvinism in the SBC originate from and/or link to this blog? From a cursory view, I would say quite a lot. On days you post about Calvinism, you get a lot of hits from the group that looks for issues, googles them, or follows links from their favorite blogs. On other days, you get hits mostly from those who subscribe to your rss feed like myself. In other words, It’s not that people are seeing your posts and ignoring them so much as that they are not looking for them in the first place.

  9. Scott Slayton Says:

    For what it is worth, I do not buy that you sound like an angry young man when you write about Calvinism. Even if you do, sometimes anger is warranted in the face of such overwhelming ignorance.

    On a personal note, for anyone reading, I have known Timmy Brister since 1997. From the day that I met him, he has been one of the most passionate personal evangelists that I have known. He has been thinking and writing deeply about evangelism for a very long time.

    I read this blog on an RSS feed everyday. I think that the interactions on Calvinism make a bigger splash, but Timmy’s writing on God, the church, and its mission is what you read here on a more regular basis. I often find myself challenged and encouraged in evangelistic endeavors from reading.

  10. Brent Hobbs Says:

    If MzEllen is correct, then that would be true of me too. I use a reader and only click through to the actual blog to read comments or post one.


  11. MzEllen,

    Thanks for your comment, and I think you make good points. May you have a wonderful and blessed Christmas season as well.

    Todd,

    I regret the fact you see me as someone who is an “angry Calvinist.” Bothered? Yes. Angry? No. But alas, that is your perception. In any case, thanks for your comment.

    Scott,

    Thanks for the kind words in your comment. You indeed are in the minority of people who know me from both the real world and internet world (the former prior to the latter). While I appreciate the critique of all my readers, I am much more concerned with what those who know me (personally) say about my character or disposition. It was great to hear from you, brother, and I hope you and your family have a great Christmas.

  12. johnMark Says:

    Hey…I appreciate this post. Why is no one mentioning the “angry old men” in the SBC? I suppose they get a free pass when it come to how they come across? I just don’t see how Timmy is answering in any different manner than is normally presented.

    Mark

  13. John Says:

    Hi Timmy,
    I feel your pain, brother. I just preached through the book of Acts, and after 54 sermons, found that not much had changed on the surface when it came to passion about evangelism and missions. Admittedly, I cannot see hearts or hear everything that goes in people’s lives. But I have found that we as Southern Baptists like to talk a lot about the Great Commission, but rarely actually make a planned effort at being a part of its fulfillment. I find this incredibly ironic and sad since our origins are rooted in missions! I think the only way forward is for those in leadership to lead – by example and in prayer.

    In regards to Calvinism . . . . Passion can sometimes be hard to read in email or online postings. And I do not doubt that some could see you that way. However, I also think we often read into something what we think is there. If people come looking for an “angry, young Calvinist” they will find one. However, whenever I stop by P&P I find a brother who attends the same school I did, is close to my age, has similar views about biblical ministry, and is passionate about knowing God and understanding his word – in others words, a kindred spirit. Keep faithful, friend.

    Blessings,
    John

  14. Greg Alford Says:

    Timmy,

    Is it fair to label a person based on 5% of what they write?

    Seeing as Rat Poison is 99% grain and only 1% Poison… Your writing is quite toxic at 5% Calvinism for some in the SBC.

    All,

    I know something about “Angry Calvinist” and “Angry Arminians” and trust me Timmy is neither.

    Grace Always,


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