It is with great interest I have followed Rachel Held Evans‘ blog posts about Mark Driscoll being a bully and her call for people to stand up to him. In my opinion Rachel is spot on. She has challenged Mark Driscoll about his online behaviour and remarks he has made in sermons which are later posted online. As one might suspect there has been a steady flow of people lining up to rebuke Rachel for what I would call “the classic theological scandal” she told the truth!

This particular issue aside (truth is we probably just need to agree to disagree) all of has caused me to rethink the way I behave online and the way I share opinions and interact with people through the blogs I write for and Facebook. I have come to the conclusion; I have at times been a bully. Not always, and not intentionally (and this may also be the case for Driscoll) but at times I have crossed the line in a way that does not reflect the Jesus way. I asked my wife this morning before I left for church. She agreed. Ouch! (Man I love my wife!)

A little background before I apologise. I am a passionate person. I hate injustice. If I believe something I defend it and proclaim it vigorously. I am rarely persuaded on the spot to change my mind. On top of this, I grew up in a blue collar union based (not my political leaning now) family who were not afraid to voice their opinions. They would constantly argue and banter about politics (Of course it was always the other sides fault). I hated it as a kid but have inadvertently taken on the same passion and penchant for arguing as my family.

Things have changed. Now, I am a pastor. A shepherd of God’s flock called upon to proclaim Christ and lead people to Jesus in the Jesus way. As a pastor, I would be horrified, disgusted even, if someone in the congregation were to view me as or experience me as a theological bully. I work extremely hard to shepherd the people in my care; to love them and treat them with dignity. However, truth is, I have not always been as diligent with these same values as a blogger. No one ever gets it right all the time and we all have moments. However, Rachel’s’ piece and the discussion about bullying has awoken me to how my own behaviour may be perceived, Maybe I have seen blogging as an escape, maybe as a place to rant. But rants can be a form of bullying.

Don’t get me wrong. There is a time and place to share passionately, to stand up for injustice and to discuss one’s opinion but I wonder where the line is. Where does one cross the line from sharing an opinion to bullying? For instance I have an opinion on the recent decision of the SBC to discourage the use of the NIV 2011. I shared my opinion. Did I bully? I hope not. What about other things I have said? It has never been my intention to bully. More than anything else I want to be a good and faithful shepherd. Not only of those in our church but those without. Perhaps the best thing to do is shut my mouth and listen. Jesus certainly did that.

I am a pastor. Every person who visits my own blog will read my opinions. Nevertheless they will, from now on, also be treated as someone with whom I am meeting face to face, the same as someone who is visiting the church for the first or the tenth time. The same goes for Facebook. Although I tend to keep FB as a personal place of interaction I must also pay close attention to how I speak with people online because the printed word can be interpreted so very many different ways (one of the reason I think we should all write in the third person giving explanation to the way something is said and the context – but I digress).

Therefore, I would like to apologise to you if you have ever felt bullied by my opinions and views. I would hate to be thought of as a pastor who bullies people. I will still share my opinions and from time to time I will get frustrated theologically, politically and even personally. But my opinions are my own and I own them. I hope they can build up and edify rather than tear down and divide.

Peace be with you,

Rev Mark Stevens