The SharperIron RFP

As of January 2020, SharperIron is fifteen years old. I’ve been involved to some degree for about fourteen of those years, and “in charge” for about a dozen. It’s time—maybe well past time—to seriously explore big changes for SI.

Hence, this Request for Proposals (RFP)—specifically, proposals for taking the site off my hands and into a new future.

Why now?

SharperIron has always needed more time than I could give it and more expertise than I possessed. True, “needed” is a relative term. My time and skills have been what the site “needed” to keep going and arrive at what it is today. But I’ve always seen SI with a kind of Island of Unrealized Potential on the horizon that I could sometimes steer it a little bit toward, but could never really reach.

Concerning time, changes in my family, personal, and vocational life have resulted in an increasingly attractive body of other projects I should consider taking on. I’m pretty interested in writing a book or two. I’ve long been interested in another degree or two. There are some barriers to these pursuits that aren’t at all SharperIron-related, but SI is one substantial barrier—because running it on the cheap means lots of time at DIY work.

Concerning expertise, though I’ve picked up some things, the gap between what I can offer and what the site needs (to reach its full potential) has widened. I’ve learned a ton of technology, and that’s been a ton of fun (truly), but today’s internet has become a much more difficult place to keep a complex website going out of your own garage, so to speak.

If the web of 2005 was like a big box of Legos, today’s web is like a stadium full of Legos, plus truckloads of Tinkertoys, barge loads of Erector Sets, and vats of Play Doh—all interconnected. To complete the image, add in a legion of evil robots determined to hack and enslave everything you build.

So, the days of the tech-savvy amateur who could “leap off the cliff and learn to fly while falling” are over, I think. If they’re not over, I’m either too old to do it anymore, or just not interested enough to do it anymore.

Regular SI readers are well aware that the fundamentalist-evangelical landscape has also changed in many ways since 2005. The ways that impacts faithful biblical ministry and education for ministry have changed a lot, too. Those realities have little to do with my interest in stepping away from SI, but they’re important for whoever takes the site into the future.

The Ideal Proposal

I encourage any persons or groups interested in taking over SharperIron to send me a proposal using the editor at sharperiron.org email address. I’m open to hearing proposals that don’t fit the bullet points below, but these are the general shape of what I’m hoping to see.

Who should consider making a proposal

  • Individuals
  • Partnerships
  • Nonprofits
  • Educational institutions
  • Churches
  • Other ministries

Ideally, these would be entities who substantially agree with SharperIron’s current doctrinal parameters.

What the proposal should include

Ideally, the new owners/developers/maintainers would:

  • Take ownership of the sharperiron.org and .com (currently not in use) domain names
  • Take full control of the site’s data and technology
  • Be capable of maintaining and significantly improving the site’s technology, or have the funding to hire that out. The technology transition would ideally happen fairly quickly once an agreement is made: like within a few months.
  • Have some plans and ideas for the site’s future. Ideally, that future would include:
    • Continued attention to the interests of those who identify with fundamentalist heritage as well as conservative evangelicalism more generally
    • Continued availability of whatever content is of best quality in the current SharperIron database. (This is intentionally vague. A complete start over with nothing at all seems severe, but a range of selective archiving/deleting options should be considered “on the table.”)
    • A vision for making the site helpful to people in new ways, whether as an educational tool, or historical reference tool, or something completely different.
    • Include some kind of community interaction/discussion opportunity, whether internal to the site or integrated with some kind of discussion or social media platform (or old style forum).
    • Permit limited, voluntary involvement by me. I’d like to do some writing now and then. If I decide to write a book, I’d like to be able to promote that at the site.

Some loose ends

What about money? Other things being equal, sure, some more shekels in my pocket would be pretty useful. But, although the site cost me an initial investment in 2008, income through ads and donations (thanks, everyone!) has covered that. The current site costs little to operate. I don’t really need to make money on this. I’m more interested in seeing the site move toward a promising future.

So, proposals that involve paying me nothing are entirely welcome. I’m also happy to assist with data migration and other transitional stuff. If I continue to be involved on the technical side beyond a few months of transition, though, I’ll be interested in some compensation for the time.

Timeline

At this point, there is no deadline for proposals. A deadline may be announced in the future. I’d like to extract myself from obligations to SI by the end of 2020.

In addition, though there are not yet any format specifications for written proposals, there may be a form or questionnaire coming. We’ll see if we need that. A handful of folks will be helping me evaluate whatever comes in.

SI has been a great outlet for me. Though sometimes frustrating for me (and everyone involved, I’m sure) it has been—on the whole—a blessing and a means of growth in my life. I’ll always be grateful for that.

How can you help? I’m so glad you asked! Spread the word via email, social media…maybe even live conversation. Consider sending in a proposal. And don’t forget to pray for wisdom for all involved.

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There are 14 Comments

Ed Vasicek's picture

Aaron, I so appreciate the time and effort you put into Sharper Iron these many years.  As you know, this is one of my favorite "hangouts," and I so appreciate the many articles of mine that you posted.  It has been a special outlet for me and other SI members who enjoy writing and have something to say.

Congratulations for managing this site for as long as you have!  Although we have never met in person, I think of you as a friend and comrade, as well as a bother in the Lord.

Few people have the combined skills and theological depth to be able to do what you have done.  If we should lose SI, I feel like I will be cut off from some SI friends with whom I  have no involvement other than SI. It would leave a void for sure.  Hopefully, someone will pick this up.

I don't know any other forum like SI, with its fine balance and integrity of SI (no fake news, no rumors, not politically motivated).  I keep up with the most important news in the Christian world while being challenged (sharpened) by the articles and ensuing discussion.  I have grown in the Lord and in depth a lot from SI, and am so appreciative. I have learned much and been stretched.

God bless you, my brother.  I will be praying that God would send a person or group along to keep SI going.

 

"The Midrash Detective"

TylerR's picture

Editor

Many thanks, Aaron, for all the work you've done to keep this site running all these years. I found this site in 2011, as I emerged from the darkness of hard-right KJVO fundamentalism. It has been a large part of my theological life. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

RajeshG's picture

Aaron,

I am grateful for all your work in providing the valuable resource of SI. May the Lord bless you and guide you as you seek to serve Him in whatever He has for you in the days ahead.

 

G. N. Barkman's picture

I regularly thank God for SI, and pray for you, Aaron, and others who post regularly.  I've been helped and blessed by reading, contributing, and debating.  It has given me insight into areas of fundamentalism with which I was not well acquainted.  I have no suggestions or offers for the future of SI.  I'm well past normal retirement age myself.  But I will pray that God will be pleased keep it going to help others in the years to come.

G. N. Barkman

Ron Bean's picture

Some 15 years ago (Remember "End of the Spear"?) like Tyler I was starting my personal exit from "the darkness of hard-right fundamentalism". At that time I had been in a fundamentalist "cult" where I had no idea what was going on outside our "Village". The dialogue on SI in those days was both enlightening and liberating and helped me on my journey to where I am today. I've appreciated the battles SI administrators have waged against trolls, hobby horse riders, and dead horse beaters. If this is the end, it's been a good run and I'm thankful.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Thanks, guys. It sounds cliche, but there are times when I'm amazed, thinking, "Has it really been that long?" But it's aging in general... When you're in your twenties and thirties you don't really believe the over 50s who talk about how time seems to go by faster and faster. But it really is true.

It's good to know this life is not "all there is."

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

The RFP post is going to top the article section for another day. ... In case anyone's wondering why there isn't a new Thursday post, nothing's broken.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I haven't looked lately, but email or message me and I'll get the for you over the weekend.

Paul Henebury's picture

SI has been a blessing to me as a contributor and commenter.  I have also grown from the interactions I have had with all the brothers here.  I pray that SI still has a long life.  I don't know another site like it.

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Craig Toliver's picture

Raison d'être (or has S/I outlived its original purpose?)

  • This is the big question for any buyer of S/I!
  • The world has changed dramatically in 15 years. Facebook has scores of groups (eg "The Pastors Fellowship", "Depraved Wretch Community", et al)
  • Who are the prospective buyers of S/I. It would be suicide for a seminary or Bible college to acquire it
  • Regular Baptist Press is a possibility
  • Should S/I be organized as a non-profit 501c3? Or be a one-man LLC?

 

Dan Miller's picture

Thanks to Aaron and everyone at SI for all the interactions and sharpening over these many years. 

I would recommend reducing or eliminating the political discussions that have recently been popular. They distract from good Biblical discussions and have caused me to lose respect for some posters here.  The site would be better without these discussions.

Jay's picture

Dan,

Can you elaborate on what you mean by political discussions?  Are you talking about purely political (Trump discussions) or things like the SBC Abuse / Paige Patterson / Robert Jeffress cases?

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Thanks for chiming in, Craig.

There can be a new Raison d'être. ... and really, we've wandered pretty steadily from the original one since '06 or so. In the beginning it was pretty much about being a place to openly discuss all the things ailing movement fundamentalism, but in 2005, MF was already mostly in a new phase already. So, as a raison d'être, that couldn't last very long.

I'm certainly open to ideas on a different focus. Quite a few have crossed my mind but I don't have the resources and will to pursue them. Maybe someone else does. Maybe not. We'll see.

About political discussions, those have been a part of SI for a lot of years, especially approaching elections. I'm not saying they have to be a part of the future someone else leads, but for my part, I can't see taking the huge arena of life that goes under the heading of political philosophy and social philosophy and refrain from applying biblical principles to it. Right now, the particular application I'm making is pretty unpopular. That's OK. I really don't think it will be, a few years down the road... but taking a position that's popular isn't my goal anyway.

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