4 Things to Ask If You’re Not Getting Blog Followers

Are you sinking endless time into your blog, hoping to expand it, only to find yourself scraping for likes and comments?

Are you tossing out deep, powerful insights that honor God and his Word, but watching everyone meander past like browsers at a farmers’ market?

Are you sharing the absolute bottom depths of your heart, knowing full well there are others undergoing the same struggle, yet wondering why they never show up?

It’s not sinful to desire a larger platform through your blog. It can be, if your motives are wrong. But if your passion is elevating God and encouraging others, it’s unlikely that he has a problem with your goals.

But, as we’ve figured out by now (and of course this is what often drives us to blogging), God allows the world’s rules to matter. If you need a job, you have to submit resumes. If you want friends, you have to put in the effort. If you want to hike the Continental Divide Trail, you’ll need to be in shape. God’s favor and faithfulness will rarely bypass these realities. Though he does intervene, it behooves us to put in the hard work, and hard work includes knowing the rules.

If you’re frustrated with your blog’s inchworm growth, here are a few things you can ask yourself:

 

1. Am I relying too heavily on real-life friends?

I have a few blessed real-life friends who actively follow and interact with my blog. It took me a while to figure out why I wasn’t getting more.

Eventually I realized something that should have been obvious from the start: for the most part, the average cross-section of one’s real-life squad are not blog readers. Or readers of any kind, come to think of it.

When you offer a post to the WordPress community, you’re offering to a crowd that’s all bloggers to begin with. When you offer the same to your church crowd, it’s a very different composition of folks.

Only a certain type of person tends to peruse blogs as a habit. They have to be 1) given to social media habits, 2) possessed of at least some spare time, and 3) appreciative of reading. As you apply each condition, your audience shrinks. And it’s only then that we get to the question of whether your content actually resonates with the real-life chums you happen to know. It might not.

Don’t expect your entire real-life crowd to come flocking to your blog. Lean on the ones who do; encourage them to share on social media and invite the bloggy types they know. But to really grow your platform, you will, at some point, have to rely pretty heavily on pursuing other bloggers. That’s where you’re likely to find some of your biggest and most loyal followers.

 

2. Am I just posting Bible verses?

“The Bible is all we need,” you think to yourself as you post the 1,945th straight blog article containing one Scripture passage and no other content. “If people are going to pass me over because they think the Scripture I present is boring and insufficient, that’s on them, not me.”

You’re right that Scripture is all we need. But you’re still looking at an empty blog. And that may yet be on you. I know how this sounds on the surface, but as a blogger, you do need more than just reproduction of Scripture.

Keep in mind two things. One, Scripture itself tells us that it requires teaching. The practice of humans expounding the Bible is well-established throughout God’s Word, particularly in Paul’s pastoral letters – 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus. If quoting Scripture alone were all that’s required, pastors wouldn’t be needed. (I know a few highly literal minds out there actually feel this way – that none of us should be teaching each other, that our words’ inferiority to Scripture means that our words should not be heard. But that’s a theological debate for another day, and not one in which church history has generally fallen on your side.)

More importantly, though, remember that many of your potential readers are already getting their Bible reading from other places. They attend church; they have personal study and devotional plans; they read together with others. They aren’t coming to you for that. When they seek you out, they’re looking for tertiary sources of spiritual education, blended with witty or evocative writing, soaked in themes they resonate with. That’s what blogging is, and that’s what potential readers are expecting. If all they get from you is the same thing they’re getting in five other channels, they’ll probably just move on.

Make it interesting. Tell a story from your life that illustrates a Scriptural truth. Offer an insight that popped into your head recently. Share something that gets you good and mad. Give them something they won’t get from the Bible sitting right next to their computer. You’re not sinning by doing any of this. You’re doing what pastors and teachers have been doing for generations – leading them back to the Word, just in a creative way.

(Technical note: when you do share Scripture verses – and make sure you do! – don’t make them the first words in your post. The WordPress Reader uses your first words as the teaser for your post, and if all people see is unvarnished Scripture in every teaser of yours, they may pass you up for the unfortunate but understandable reasons I’ve mentioned above.)

 

3. Am I interacting with my readers?

Funny story. It was New Years’ Eve 2016, and I was looking to push my yearly viewer count over a certain number threshold. In the waning hours, as I played Pandemic with friends (a board game I highly recommend) while staring at the WordPress dashboard on my phone, I threw good taste to the wind and simply started liking every post in my Reader. Immediately I got a huge, unprecedented spurt of likes and site hits. By midnight, I’d blown right past my threshold.

For the next 16 months, having learned my lesson, I kept up a high level of interaction with other bloggers. I liked a lot, I commented a lot, and in an attempt to maintain a certain integrity in all this, I actually read their stuff, too. It did take me an hour or so each day to really get myself out there in the WordPress blogosphere, but it brought a lot of attention back to my own blog.

In the 20 months since, I’ve let all that go, and my numbers have languished. There are certain reasons, and sure it takes some time, but it boils down to me. When you stop reciprocating other bloggers’ attention and participating in the community, your traffic drops until you’re left with only your most loyal followers. While they’re invaluable and treasured (hi guys! I love you!), they alone can’t be the platform you need for expansion.

Blogging is a community. We already feel alone in this world; why bring that here, too? Participate in the community. Explore others’ stuff. Cheer them on and let them know they’re doing great. Prioritize the ones who do swing by your blog.

 

4. Are my topics relevant?

I’m friends with a handful of published authors, and one once said: “If I see a blog post containing information, I don’t even think about clicking it.”

You might be excited about the doctrinal knowledge you’ve attained and eager to share it with the world. I won’t even call it pride. You just love learning about God and want others to join in your exploration.

Problem is, Karen, your average potential reader, is tottering through the kitchen with four deafening children on her heels, just found out her father has melanoma, and is teetering on bankruptcy from bailing her younger brother out of prison so many times. She just does not care about your formal dissertation on the doctrines of grace right now. She’s crying out to God.

What do you have for her, blogger?

This, I might venture, is where many male bloggers stumble. They have a tendency to dive deep into the apologetics or hermeneutics or discernment categories that come so naturally to them and don’t realize that, frankly, they’re niche categories. You can get a following there, but it’s even harder than ordinary blogging because your target audience is slim pickings at the outset (and already captured by more established bloggers). It takes a ton of pizazz and talent to even get people into such posts, much less expound this stuff in an engaging, relatable way.

You’re much more likely to make headway when your passions intersect with a topic that more people are dealing with this very day. That is not to say you can’t write about your other passions. Most likely, you will want to diversify your content. If you love breaking down the minutiae of the symbologies of baptism and think you’ve got the writing chops to get people intrigued, go right ahead, but Karen will probably respond more readily to your post last week about God’s fierce attention to the cries of his overwhelmed saints. It’s just how people are, and at one point, we have to play by those rules.

 

I hope this helped someone today. Keep it up. Don’t forget to use intriguing titles – delay a post for a week if you can’t think of one. Don’t post too much, or too seldom. Pray before you write – it makes a huge difference!

 

I’m glad you tuned in today. If you’ve found this post to be of value, please feel free to share it on social media.

 

 

 

Why the Tearful Search for Someone Worthy Matters

I’m struck by John’s confession in Revelation 5:4, in part because it seems at first so alien to us:

“But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or even to look in it. And I cried and cried because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or even to look in it.” – Revelation 5:3-4

Why would the old apostle be so torn up about getting a scroll looked at? It feels like one of those distant, stained-glass religious enigmas that we know we should care about more, but don’t, try as we might. A matter for saints and philosophers, while we stagger about just hoping that we’ll find a cheaper daycare next month, or that our boss will be on vacation just for one day tomorrow.

But then I realize, this is a longing we’re all sharing: the search for a hero. The hero to end all heroes, and to end all sufferings.

Heaven knows where we’ve looked for that. Self, others, philosophies, substances, even death itself.

Revelation 5 presents the final obstacle to which no hero can be found, something against which nobody and nothing will ever cut the mustard.

Benson’s commentary says, “Without tears the Revelation was not written, neither can it without tears be understood.” In some profound way, the scroll of Revelation 5:4 is the final boss, the league championship, the holy grail of suffering itself. We have no answer. No pastor, author, political figure, relationship, or accomplishment will satisfy mankind’s desperate longing to be finished with suffering – no more resurrections a la Palpatine in Episode IX, no more of that old Eastern instinct of “it will always come back around”. An end. To match the beginning.

And then Revelation 5:5 finds someone worthy.

Thanks to my friend Nate for turning me on to this:

 

I’ll let that end this post.

 

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Why Are Lies So Loud and Truths So Quiet?

Brandon J. Adams

If only life had the decency to be the other way around.

I do not know why lies have all the connections to adrenaline suppliers.

I do not know why it’s fear, anger, and self-hatred that can seize your heart and weigh it down with a twenty-pound force, rather than peace and love.

I do not know why worry seems so inescapably truthful and peace so too-good-to-be-truey. (Okay, I didn’t have a good word there, but you know what I mean.)

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But it is so. Some things are promised to the Christian, but not immediately possessed. Truths must be worked for; lies ride the second law of emotional thermodynamics straight to your doorstep. Truths must be fought for; lies dart across your battle lines and start whispering their propaganda. Truth is the gym visit, lies the chocolate cake. Truth is the ponderous jetliner, lies the gravity. The world and the…

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Cast Your Net Again – Because of Who’s Asking

A trailer for The Chosen – a TV series dramatizing the life of Jesus – caught my eye the other day with a depiction of the catch of fish from Luke 5:

When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and let down your nets for a catch.”

“Master,” Simon replied, “we’ve worked hard all night long and caught nothing! But at Your word, I’ll let down the nets.”

When they did this, they caught a great number of fish, and their nets began to tear. So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them; they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. (v. 4-7)

The TV interpretation shows Jesus smiling cryptically at the exhausted fishermen, his gaze wearing down their weariness, as they can think only of the fruitlessness of their endeavors thus far. Those nets are heavy; fishing is back-breaking work.

Sound familiar?

Anyone else been letting down their nets for a long, unrewarding time?

Your net might be those children you’re raising, as it feels like you’re doing everything and yet accomplishing nothing.

Or the endless financial sacrifices you’re making because you know it’s supposed to pay off somewhere down the line.

Or the prayers you keep offering up for your unsaved friend, as he lingers at the edge of hell with no seeming incentive to step away.

Like the walls of Jericho, not even the slightest pebble seems to be crumbling. Yet you keep letting down your net.

If it were just for a pat on the back, or an extra paycheck, you might not do it.

But would you do it for Christ if he asked? Even after year after year of anticlimax and frustration, even after season and season of seeing so little progress you doubt whether God is in this in the first place, would you do it for Christ if you asked? Would you stifle the groan and let down your net again?

Who’s doing the asking, changes everything.

He certainly let down enough for me.

If it seems like my blog has been heavy on faith and perseverance in prayer lately, that’s because it has been. I’ve alluded, regrettably cryptically, to some tremendous happenings at my church in the last year. I hope to elaborate more soon. But we’ve been led through a long season of prayer, groaning at the length and dogged requirements (though those for whom we’ve been praying have certainly endured far, far more). It’s forced us to confront how willing we are to keep letting down our nets.

Our prayers have been rewarded.

I love how the fishermen’s nets are met, not just with a typical catch, but with an immense, boat-breaking mountain of fish. Jericho, too, presents us with this image – the walls coming down not a bit at a time, but all at once, at the time God sets for it.

For that kind of faithfulness, I will pray.

 

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4 Stories of Letting God, Not Pride, Move You Forward

In 1 Samuel, David has not one, but two golden opportunities to dethrone Saul fall literally into his lap. At one point, Saul chooses to relieve himself in the very cave in which David is hiding (Ch. 24); in the other, Saul’s army falls asleep around him and allows David to sneak right up to the slumbering king’s position (Ch. 26).

Everything about both scenes screamed providence. It would have been simple to interpret Saul picking just the right cave, or being let down by an incompetent army, as divine appointment arranging his downfall. Neither is a common situation that one just blunders into.

And this is amongst a spiritual people predisposed towards just such interpretations – and towards David. He’d heard the cries of “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands”, and even though that cry was a more of a poetic call that doesn’t actually indicate superior favor towards David, there’s no question that the future king was popular. The Israelite public would not have hesitated to translate David’s mere possession of Saul’s effects as a divine legitimization of David’s kingship. David’s men may have twisted the prophecies in instigating him to kill Saul, but that didn’t change the fact that God was not on Saul’s side, and everyone knew it.

But David wouldn’t do it. When he cut corners on his obedience in even a small way, he repented.

It goes to show that the humble servant waits for God to remove obstacles in his own way and time.

There was also Moses, who values the things of God over his own ego:

A young man ran and reported to Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.”

Joshua son of Nun, assistant to Moses since his youth, responded, “Moses, my lord, stop them!”

But Moses asked him, “Are you jealous on my account? If only all the Lord’s people were prophets and the LORD would place His Spirit on them!” (Numbers 11:27-29)

Or Paul, who probably has the leverage to shut down his opponents but chooses instead to rejoice in a message greater than the messenger:

“…the others proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely, seeking to cause me anxiety in my imprisonment. What does it matter? Just that in every way, whether out of false motives or true, Christ is proclaimed. And in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice” (Philippians 1:17-18)

And, of course, our Savior sets the prime example:

Again, the Devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. And he said to Him, “I will give You all these things if You will fall down and worship me.”

Then Jesus told him, “Go away, Satan! For it is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve only Him.” (Matthew 4:8-10)

This is actually a difficult thought for me, because it sounds like passivity, and I hate passivity. It’s been keenly observed for years now that passivity in Christendom, especially among men, has done a great deal of damage to homes and churches. Too often, “safe” Scriptural readings basically tell Christians to just not do anything – too much “be still and know that I am God” and not enough “fight for your families” (Nehemiah 4:14) – missing the balance that there’s a part that’s God’s and a part that’s ours.

But we would do well to remember that passivity can be either the refusal to act or the refusal to act well. Both are forms of surrender – to fear, indecision, and apathy, which turns people into spiritual slouches; or to one’s emotions and instincts, which can create domineering or violent menaces.

In these cases, David, Moses, and Paul are not being still. They are most decidedly fighting. Have you ever wrestled with a choice and actually found yourself more panicked at the thought of doing nothing? Bingo. It takes great strength to reject a power-grab opportunity that falls right into one’s lap. It takes immense character to pass up a fair potshot at another, which your own friends and followers are perfectly happy to execute for you, and trust God with your legacy instead.

When there was a clear conflict of interest for David, Moses, Paul. and Jesus, they conscientiously chose against their pride. Whatever other fair arguments happened to be going the same direction as their pride, they just didn’t trust them. They chose to err on the side of humility and counted on God to reward them for it.

God’s ways almost invariably involve patience and trust, precisely because we lack it, and lie in the opposite direction of our pride, precisely because we desire it. Sanctification is the point, not upward mobility. When we ask for a miracle, God instead shows us a mirror. And Scripture bears stories in which God never did move someone forward, because they were unwilling to surrender these parts of their hearts.

But at the right time, God moves the humble servant forward. Be in position for this, by being continually set against your pride. God will see it. He will not let you overthink or shame yourself out of his will for your life.

 

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The Answer to a Painful Christmas is…Christmas

If you’re one of those people for whom it takes everything you’ve got to not hate this season’s guts, I understand.

When I was seventeen, life and Satan hit right where it most often hurts this time of year: family. After that year, we would never again celebrate the holidays as a family. The head count is always one short now.

Some don’t even get the first seventeen years. Others got fifty, yet are now going through their first Christmas without, and finding it just as shattering. It’s difficult to keep our seasonal joy from being diminished by those losses.

Have you ever noticed how vulnerable Christmas is? As inevitable as its arrival is every year, it doesn’t actually offer everyone refuge. For some, it’s the reverse – a reminder of what they don’t have. As long as Christmas is about perishable things, it will be perishable itself.

It’s a good thing that the true Christmas has something to say about those very losses, then.

Imagine if the manger pointed to nothing but another Jewish prophet standing around on hillsides and boats, telling stories and handing out advice. Awfully anticlimatic, don’t you think? Not much worth celebrating there.

But the manger points to much more. It points to the cross that will triumph over the very things that shatter us today. It was the birth of the Conqueror of death and loss, who will return on a white horse to make all things new.

If we make a soft-focus Hallmark family mentality the central purpose of Christmas, we leave it vulnerable to Satan’s attacks. Though God is powerful and good, he has not promised to always protect even that precious jewel in this life.

But if we make hope the central purpose of Christmas – the hope of redemption – then the season becomes as unshakeable as every other promise of Christ.

Christmas isn’t a family reunion, as wonderful as that is. It’s the promise of greater reunions down the road, the reversal of all the theft and death and destruction the enemy has wreaked upon us. It looms large over the damages looming over us. The properly interpreted Christmas heralds victory over its own oppressors.

This is why Christmas is bigger than our opinion of it. It’s why we can truly celebrate: its promise never lay in the present, but in the future. It may be difficult to find joy now. But perhaps the cure to finding that joy, is delving ever deeper in.

 

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The Value of Knowing Your Value

I ran across the following meme the other day (who says the Internet is useless?):

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It is an incredible quote, for it brings many of our lives into sharp relief. It went straight onto the Facebook page for my blog, for it was propulsive and illuminating, at least for me. All of a sudden, through this idea, many of the regrettable actions we take (or see taken around us) gain an interpretation they never had before.

Most of what we interpret as immaturity are unhealthy attempts to prove our value.

The office worker who stirs up drama is trying to prove his value by bringing others down.

The family member who deflects or passes the buck when called out on a mistake does not realize that she can be valuable and wrong at the same time.

The one who turns every conversation towards themselves is too busy securing their own value to see that of others.

I’ve just described all of us somewhere. Like a dog chasing its tail, we are all trying to capture something that could not escape us if we tried. We cannot attain what is already ours.

Being made in the image of God carries incredible value. We are shredded and dirtied by sin, lost in a haunted house called the human heart, yet pursued by the Cross’ offer of redemption. God went to great lengths to open a way to salvation, all because he calls us valuable.

His ways not only clear us of sin’s sentence, but free us to live wisely in the practical realm every day by revealing our value. When one understands his value in God, they are protected from having to prove it. They are no longer driven by those compulsions. They no longer seek their identity in sports, hobbies, political causes, or cruel and legalistic religion. They can admit errors, break addictions, set boundaries, forgive, help, lead, and love. Since they’ve had their core questions about themselves answered, they can start focusing on others’ questions instead.

This is impossible with the world. They’re not even trying to hide their self-hatred anymore. More openly each day, they celebrate our supposed insignificance in the cosmos, place higher value on animal species than themselves, and embrace pornography. Suicide and self-centeredness are epidemic. Satan loves to claim you have no value, then propose an endless series of hoops to prove otherwise.

God cures all that. And only he can.

Come to Christ and let him break your chains. Whether you are new to him or part of the old guard, there is always something to be mended. He welcomes all comers with open arms, and writes new stories where there were only scribbles before.

 

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