Brett rolls out of bed at 7 AM each day. His first order of business is to check his blog stats. He used to pray first thing in the morning, but God got bumped to #2. Sometimes he misses his time with God altogether.
Each day opens with the new possibility of his blog stats being better than the day before. Throughout the day he checks to see if his little bar exceeds yesterday’s bar on the stat graph. It’s a game for Brett, or so he tells his friends. If you could see in his heart, you would see something more insidious. His blog stats are becoming a means of his self-worth (Hebrews 4:13).
As earthshaking and extraordinary as Gutenberg’s invention of the moveable type machine (circa 1450), it pales in comparison to what people can do with the Internet.
In his day the number of people who could produce reading materials was minuscule compared to the explosion of the blogosphere. In 0.21 seconds you can find over 250,000,000 pieces of info on anything. Johannes’ heart would explode if he woke up in our century.
A workable and attractive website can be setup in 15-minutes. Think about it. No less than 30-minutes from now you could create something that reaches around the world. There is an echo of omnipresence in you, with minimal effort. Amazing.
Granted, nobody will be reading it, but the framework can be in place. All you need to do is figure out how to get the people to your site. The network of roads that bring the traffic to you is called Social Media. This article is not about that.
This article is about the reason we want traffic to come to our site. Why do you write? Why do you blog? Why do you have a website? Why do you want traffic? Those are very important questions for any Christian with a website to answer.
There are at least three reasons a Christian would choose to have a website:
- To spread the fame of Christ around the world.
- To make money.
- To have a hobby.
I think we can all agree number three should not be on the list because if you squeezed it through a biblical framework and pulled it out the other side it would fit snuggly into the first category.
So, whether you eat or drink, or blog or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. – 1 Corinthians 10:31
Okay, you caught me. I added the words or blog in that verse. There is grace for that so don’t bust me, but roll with my point–or Paul’s point. Having a hobby is a good thing. We all have them.
We just need to occasionally remind ourselves that from a Christo-centric worldview it does not matter what we do, as long as we do it for the fame of Christ. In our small group we talk about it this way–using this scenario:
If your wife asks you to go to the grocery store to buy a gallon of milk, what would be your main purpose for going to the grocery store?
The answer to that question is to “glorify God” according to Paul–whether you eat or drink or buy the milk… You could also answer it the way the Savior instructed us in Matthew’s account of His life. Different answer, same idea:
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. – Matthew 6:33
The God-centered, Christ-centered, Spirit-empowered, gospel-centered, and other-centered Christian sees all opportunities–including buying milk, as a means to promote the fame of Christ.
Who knows what God has planned for the man as he makes his way to the grocery store. Whatever it may be, he is ready, with the excitement of a kid at a birthday party, anticipating His great God giving him an opportunity to put Christ on display. Christians always seize the moment, even the mundane ones.
That is how Christians think. That is how we live. That is what makes us different. We’re not hobby-centered people though we love our hobbies and have many of them. We’re God-centered people who see hobbies primarily as a means to a greater good.
We’re aliens in this world, using hobbies to promote Christ. It’s not sneaky. It’s biblical. We’re all secret agents, who should not be so secretive about what we’re up to. We’re really gospel agents.
This reduces our reasons for blogging down to two really good ones: (1) To spread the fame of Christ around the world, even if it’s your hobby; (2) To make money. It could be possible, as in my case, that both of these things are why you blog.
From Good to Bad
As with all things, give it to a man for five minutes and he will find a way to turn it in on himself. Though his original intentions may have been good, he soon found himself motivated by other things. Enter the stat god.
This reminds me of a quote I read regarding the recent death of the great poker player, Amarillo Slim. I like the quote and have been trying all week to figure out how to use it in an article. It does fit here.
Like a parasite, Slim sucked the energy right out of people. Just as taking their pride or money was what gave him life, he could energetically rob people of their life force, drinking it in through his lungs. (From Grantland website)
How’s that for an eulogy? But we’re not any better. Apart from the grace of God actively working in our lives, we’re worthless. That is how Paul said it in Romans 3:12. Whether it’s poker or blogging, there is potential in all of us for parasitic idolatry–blog stats giving us our identity.
This is where it gets tricky. I’m typing slowly now. I want to be clear. When the Lord first began teaching me how to build a ministry I almost immediately lost focus. Without batting an eye, it quickly became all about the stats. I became a stat-centered Christian.
When I talked to people about my site, they all talked about the numbers too. They helped the novice learn ways, tips, tricks, and techniques to get my numbers up. I was just like Brett. Social Media replaced my devotions.
Then one day God rebuked me. He gently reminded me it was not about the numbers. He began to reorient my mind around the original intentions for the website in the first place–it was about redemptive transformation not a race to the top of the number ladder.
The Greatest Marketer of Them All
The Father reminded me of His Son, who only had 12 regular daily readers and one of those was there for vetting purposes. Judas was trying to figure out how to capitalize on this new venture.
When He was presented with the opportunity to take over the world, He turned it down (Matthew 4:8-9). When He was in a potential fundraising moment where He could have raked in a lot of money, His interest was on a lady who could only muster up two coins.
The Savior hung with the elite. He hobnobbed with the political gurus. He was comfortable with the religious folks. He had the world by the tail. He could have caved at any moment, tapping into pretty much anything He wanted.
But His gait was sure and His face was fixed on one thing–redemption. He was not after 15-minutes of fame. He had eternity in mind.
His business plan was methodical. He was precise and measured. He knew exactly what He wanted and did not have to speculate with the masses. It was a well-thought out and slow plan that eventually turned the world upside down. He did more with 12 followers than what today’s Christian blogger can do with 1000.
After the Father’s gentle rebuke I began to care less about the numbers while caring more about the transformation of lives. Prior to, I could not see what I was supposed to see because the numbers were in the way.
Too much of my time was about building numbers rather than building lives. My mind became less fertile regarding redemption and more active regarding Social Media. It was about who is most popular and I want to do what he is doing rather than about objective and measurable transformation statistics.
Signs of a Blog Stat Addiction
You might have an addiction if you follow more than 250 people on Twitter. I used to work with the one-to-one ratio: if you follow me then I will follow you. The secret handshake in that pretend world is that we’re not reading each other’s stuff. At least I was not reading theirs.
Their stuff was not meaningless, but not important enough to eat into my time. Even if I wanted to read their stuff, I did not have the time. What human reads from 1000 different people each day? If they are, they are not productive for the glory of God.
Essentially I was saying I was “following” them, but I was not. I was really hoping they would follow me so maybe somebody would see me on their site and follow me too. Or maybe they would see I had 3000 followers and want to follow me too. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch your back and we can feel good about all of this.
It’s a game of pretending: I have a lot of followers because that is what my numbers say. They were mostly just numbers. They were not following me and I was not following them. It’s a cyber game I spiritualized God would bless because who knows, somebody out there will read my tweet and get saved.
I gave up the spiritualized-mystical-come-on-Lucky-Sevens approach and began to focus on something more measurable: transformed lives. I don’t want followers who are not really following me. A follower is a disciple and I’m interested in folks who want to be discipled.
I understand the build-your-numbers routine: I’m going to throw my seed all over the place and see what pops up. Even if I never hear of anything popping up, God can use it. He does not have to report back to me. That’s cool I suppose. It just not me–anymore.
I even found an application where I could tell if a person followed me back. If I followed somebody and after a week or two they did not follow me back, I would unfollow them. Somebody stop me, please. I needed prayer for sure. Better yet, I could have spent that time in prayer. That’s a novel idea.
For me, it soon became an integrity issue. For me, I was lying. I’m saying for me. If your conscience is not convicting you, then to God be the glory. Rock on. Build those numbers. Scatter that seed. For me, I began to focus on individual lives. It was no longer subjective. It became objective and less of a guessing-hoping game.
A New Marketing Strategy
Almost every week someone asks me how do I put out so much information. One of the biggest reasons God allows me to do this is because I spend most of my time producing resources and less and less of my time trying to build up my numbers. Ironically, that has caused my numbers to grow.
Christ did not seek to build His numbers. He seemed carelessly anti-blog-stat-ish. He could hardly get away from the crowds (Matthew 14:22). How about that? And what did He do? He preached. He discipled. He talked about Himself. (He’s allowed to do that.)
That was His marketing strategy. What did the people do? A whole bunch of them came to hear Him because nobody was talking like Him (John 7:46). He had this real cool disinterest in the numbers and He could hardly get way from the people. This brings us to the crux of the matter: Why do you blog?
Whether we eat, drink, buy milk, or blog, we do it all for the glory of God. May I ask you an honest question? When it comes to your website, what drives you–really? What is your primary motive as a Christian with a website?
- Are you motivated by the redemptive possibilities of technology?
- Do you think more about increasing your blog traffic or increasing transformed lives?
- Are you making compromises to your integrity in order to get more traffic?
I read this quote recently while making a mental adaptation from preaching–which is what the quote is about, to blogging. You can do the same. Pretend he is talking to you about blogging instead of preaching.
The pulpit is intended to be a pedestal for the cross, though, alas! even the cross itself, it is to be feared, is sometimes used as a mere pedestal for the preacher’s fame.
We may roll the thunders of eloquence, we may dart the coruscations of genius, we may scatter the flowers of poetry, we may diffuse the light of science, we may enforce the precepts of morality, from the pulpit; but if we do not make Christ the great subject of our preaching, we have forgotten our errand, and shall do no good.
Satan trembles at nothing but the cross: at this he does tremble; and if we would destroy his power, and extend that holy and benevolent kingdom, which is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, it must be by means of the cross.—John Angell James, quoted in Spurgeon’s Feathers for Arrows
Perhaps you’re thinking. Dang, Rick–I just have a family blog. Good for you. Make sure Christ is lifted up. That’s all I’m saying to you. Bless your family and your friends by keeping Christ at the center of it all.
If you are a Christian blogger, blogging for the expressed purpose of making Christ’s name great, then my appeal to you is not to prostitute yourself. Spend more time producing for the glory of God. Do a little Social Media, but pray to God–asking Him to bring the people to you.
Do you believe God can do better than the Social Media gurus? The answer to that question is measured by your time allotments: prayer time vs. Social Media time.
Write what God moves your heart to write. I write primarily to God and my family. That’s it. If other people choose to come and read, I praise God for each one. I rejoice when they subscribe or follow. I rejoice when they unsubscribe or unfollow.
Better than Blog Stats
You’ll know if you’re hitting the mark when the main report you’re interested in is how lives are being transformed by the work God is doing through you. I was reminded of this very thing this week when a lady wrote:
“Thanks so much for all the free content you supply. Blessings and thanks for your work for Christ’s fame.” In-between these two sentences she talked about an adultery situation where the husband and wife are happily reconciled.
Two other friends said this:
“Dear Rick: You know, here in my country there’s not many christian resources regarding biblical counseling, so I’m very happy that God has blessed me finding your website. Every article, comment, webinar, etc. you publish is highly appreciated. I also would like to thank you for your deep insights, your sincerity and openness of heart. I appreciate you too.”
“Dear Mr. Thomas, Firstly, as I stated in my post in the Forum…thank you for your website. I found it on Facebook, but can’t remember just how. It’s a miracle of God in my life to have found this online form of counseling.”
This is why we blog. It’s not about the numbers. It’s about transformed lives.