A long-time reader conducts a rare interview with Ernest Goodman. He gets the inside information on the controversial posts that inspire commentors and the anonymity that keeps them from taking him seriously.
Long-Time-Reader: Who is Ernest Goodman?
Ernest Goodman: That’s one of those questions people ask, but it’s really just one of those things that would be a real let-down for them. It’s not like anyone would know me anyway. What good would it do at this point for me to give you my name?
Long-Time-Reader (LTR): It might give you some credibility in the eyes of some of your readers.
Ernest Goodman (EG): Yeah, some of the comments on my blog allude to that. They question my integrity for staying anonymous. But I’ve tried to be pretty clear about my reasons for not wanting to let people know exactly who I am. When I first got to the field, I got myself into a little bit of trouble: this friend (a national) calls me and says, “I found your website. Why am I on it?” Since then, I’ve tried not to put my name and the word “missionary” on the same page.
LTR: Couldn’t you tell more about yourself, though?
EG: Yeah, I suppose I could. I guess at this point I’m kind of okay with certain people knowing and others not knowing. You know, in some ways, my identity could take away from my credibility (laughs).
Seriously though, my leadership knows who I am. I’m being open with them about everything.
LTR: Why call your blog “Missions Misunderstood?”Are you saying that everyone else has it wrong, and you have all the answers?
EG: No! Wow. I never- the whole point is that I feel misunderstood as a missionary. I even misunderstood missions when I first got into this. I never meant to say that I have all the answers. I do have lots of questions, though. I think we have misunderstood some things along the way. That’s not to say we’re getting it wrong, just that we might benefit from rethinking the missionary “task.” Maybe I should rename it.
LTR: Some of your posts take a negative tone. Are you afraid that you might offend some of the “powers that be?”
EG: It’s funny, I never thought of my blog as being “anti” anything. Somewhere along the way I sort of got lumped in with the anti-leadership conspiracy group. I really wanted to avoid the politics of it all. I do have lots of questions that I’m struggling with, though, and blogging helps me work through a lot of that. I don’t imagine many organizational leaders are reading my blog anyway.
LTR: Didn’t (IMB trustee) Jerry Corbaley comment once?
EG: That’s true! I almost forgot about that!
LTR: You have expressed some pretty radical ideas.
EG: I don’t think “radical” is the word. Maybe “convoluted.” Its funny, I’ve written some things about missions strategy, some things that really fly in the face of what many missionaries are doing, some of the current trends. But the only posts that have really generated any real response have been the one on alcohol and the time I said something about not trusting organizations.
LTR: The drinking one had like fifty comments.
EG: Yeah. I thought it was great. To have a discussion with these people I don’t know about this stuff was refreshing. I don’t really have that here on the field. In my situation, I want to be careful not to come off like a rebel or anything. And I’ll be honest- there was a little- I was tempted to keep blogging about more controversial things. Just to keep people interested and commenting. But not all that things I think about are controversial. A lot of it is just regular stuff. Besides, I kind of ran out of controversial topics!
LTR: What kind of response have you been getting from the people who know who you are?
EG: Positive, for the most part. A couple of people that I really respect warned me to be careful. Oh, and to try to stay positive, which I find really difficult. Its easy for me to identify the things that concern me. What’s hard is proposing solutions or finding the good. A friend and I are working on a paper that explores the parts of modernism that we as believers should adopt, what we should adapt, and what we should reject. Right away I came up with like a hundred things we should reject, and I couldn’t come up with a single thing for the “adopt” section.
LTR: What other projects are you working on?
EG: You mean besides ministry? I guess it’s all sort of ministry, but outside of my “day job,” I’m working on a couple of things. I write a lot. I know you can’t tell by my skill level, but I do. I’m working on a book. We’ll see how that turns out. I kind of keep getting sidetracked. I write lots of “papers.” Most of the early posts on my blog were actually portions of a paper I wrote a couple of years ago. I pieced it out so it would fit the blog format, and so hopefully people could digest it and talk through it with me.
LTR: It seems like some of your readers, at least the ones that comment, have a hard time getting exactly what you’re trying to say sometimes. Why do you think that is?
EG: A lot of that is my fault. I’m really not that good of writer. I’m trying to improve, but I still struggle. Usually, it makes a lot more sense in my head!
LTR: You’ve also blamed some of it on modern vs. postmodern worldviews.
EG: I don’t ever like labeling people, but yeah, I think some of it is that. I wrote about wanting to get away from the rhetorical style of debate in these discussions, and a couple of readers wanted to debate me on that.
LTR: Who reads your blog?
EG: I honestly don’t know. For a while, I followed my stat counter pretty closely. I was so excited to see that people from around the world were visiting my blog. But other than the IP address, I don’t really get enough info to tell who’s out there.
LTR: So someone at the IMB is reading your blog!
EG: Yeah, I guess so. But it could be anyone! I’m pretty sure Dr. Rankin has better things to do. Even though he did practically quote some of my posts in a recent address he made to our region…
LTR: Did he cite you?
EG: No! None of my ideas are original to me, anyway. But when he talked about Gideon, and God doing great things with fewer people than we think, I was reminded of my post “Personnel.” He also talked about Blackaby’s “go where God is working” idea, which I write about a lot, and that God does the work, not us.
LTR: Which is Luther, right?
EG: Right, Luther. And, you know, Jesus. I really didn’t come up with that one.
LTR: You aren’t the only m blogging in Western Europe. Do you read anyone else’s?
EG: Sure. I read David Rogers’, and Derek’s (Webster). I link to Mentanna’s, on Missions Misunderstood, and I really like the Barcelona girls’ blogs. Of course, I participate on SBC Outpost and Steve McCoy’s Missional Baptist Blog. I really feel like I’m part of that community.
LTR: Do you still have a lot to say, or are you getting this off your chest?
EG: There are some things that I keep coming back to, and new things that I run into. I try to only post when I have something to say. That’s why sometimes I post back to back, and other times I’ll go a week between posts. I usually know which ones are going to spark some discussion and which ones aren’t, so I give some more time than others. I guess I’ll keep blogging until I run out of things to say.
Long-Time Reader also lives in Western Europe. He wants you to know that he has only commented once on Missions Misunderstood, and that it was not on the infamous alcohol post.