Friday, February 02, 2007

Musings on blog traffic and ministry

Any human being who undertakes a task wants to see something come of it, some success. Axiomatic, no? This may particularly be true of males. I heard it said once that what matters most to a woman is security; what matters most to a man is significance.

So farmers don't plant seed, and then lose interest in what comes of it; builders build to see a building stand firm; and writers, whatever they may claim, yearn to be read.

What do pastors—to say nothing of pastors who write—want? Being a pastor has to be one of the most difficult jobs in the universe, if only for one reason: you never really know how to measure your effectiveness. Numbers, praises, criticisms—any of these actually can be counter-intuitive as evaluative factors. Are you a failure if you are heavily criticized? Then Jeremiah was a failure. Are you a failure if you are richly praised? Then Spurgeon is a failure. Was Jonathan Edwards a success when his preaching sparked a revival, or when he was driven out of his church? Or both? Do thronging crowds mark a success, or a failure? Then is Joel Osteen a success? Is John MacArthur a failure? Is the faithful laborer with 217 people in his church—or 27—a failure?

You never know, and you know you will never know, until the judgment seat of Christ.

That's not easy for a man to live with.

Now, in blogs, we have some devices. You can see that I use both SiteMeter and the TTLB to measure traffic. They give me some means of measuring the impact of this blog, as do comments.

For instance, between these two, I know that currently this blog is enjoying about 400 visits per day. That's not bad. What's even cooler is when I check out the world map in the morning. Look at where my last hundred visits came from:

You see a lot in North America, but also there's Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, India, South Africa, Finland, Poland, Ecuador, Spain, France, the Netherlands, and the UK.

That's an international impact such as Paul or Spurgeon could only have dreamed of. What a gift from God.

But how to explain the imponderables, and what to make of it? Over at Pyro, we get 2000-3000 visits a day. Some of my posts there have garnered some very gracious praise. But that blog's on hiatus, which hasn't translated into 2K-3K visits here. Or again, explain the links to this blog. TTLB counts up 44 linking to me, but I'm still stuck as a "Slithering Reptile" in the Ecosystem, where I've been for some time. So most of those 400 folks aren't linked to me... or something.

What has meant an awful lot to me have been the comments, and the emails. A sister whose son had just died wrote me of comfort she found in a post. Others going through struggles I can only imagine have shared of help or direction or encouragement they've found; they've told of printing up this or that article to hand out in church, or of discussing one of my studies in Bible study. Read some of the comments over at Pyro in the Four Faces meta, or the ...and you were going to do this, when? meta, or the Calling him "lord" -- or, Blacks and women meta, or the What if? meta; or the gent who wanted to print up and distribute the Sister... show mercy! post at his church — it's all very uplifting, but very humbling, at the same time.

So now what has come of those essays, since then? Those, and the others? Lasting changes in individuals, in churches? Incremental shifts? Nothing at all? A great deal? Only God can evaluate.

One writes, aware that he has literally no idea who might be stopping by, or from where in the world, or from where in his or her own life. Believer, unbeliever; happy, sad; sorely tempted, or on the verge of great service to God and just needing a word of counsel or encouragement (or correction). Perhaps someone just clicked "Next blog" by accident—except the Bible knows of no accidents, in the strict sense. "Who is sufficient for these things?" Certainly not I.

And that's where we are, in the final analysis. Whether it's you or me, pastors or bloggers (or blogging pastors): you sow the seed; you water, if you can. But you trust both it and the results to God, and you pray for God to give growth. If growth comes, if lasting, spiritual fruit forms, you know it is from His hand alone (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:5-15).

UPDATE: but then Technorati says there are 254 links from other 101 blogs to this one. So... go figure.


Connie said...

Enjoyed THIS post and the links you provided to other Pyro posts, esp. " mercy".

Regarding "success" or "failure", being a new blogger I'm delighted when my daily visits hit 30!!!. :-) Very often I have to remind myself why I started in the first place, and press on!

DJP said...

Connie, FWIW, I think you're doing it right.

A brand-new blogger just wrote me for advice (!). I may expand on this in a post someday, but I basically had two suggestions:

1. Write well. All the publicity in the world may get you one visit. Only good writing will make folks want to stay.

2. Comment appropriately on other blogs. Don't link-troll ("Yeah, great blog. So, anyway, come visit my blog!") Make salient comments on the posts on blogs you enjoy or admire, and folks will click on your name, go to your profile, and then go to your blog. The blog owner may link to your blog, if the "product" speaks for itself.

Pastor Steve said...

For me this blog and others help a lot when I'm getting pounded and get into my Elijah mode where I feel like I am the only one standing for the truth.

I am thankful for this blog and Pyro because I consistently get the sense it is more about God than the individuals writing it. That in my mind is when a blog "jumps the shark" - when you get the sense that the author(s) are more concerned with hit counts and building their own "blog empire" rather than God's glory.

LeeC said...

I KNOW the Lord is using you in others kives, because he has used you in mine so much. :-)

I wish I had the time to write, or that I was able to write in a timely fashion, But barring that I am happy to be able to read the writing of those that are able to.

Just keep on preaching the Word Brother, in season and out!

Antonio said...

Hi, I'm a still a very new Christian (about 2 months now) and I found your blog a few weeks ago and have been reading your older posts at Pyro and the articles on your website.

So to me this blog has actually been quite formative and given me a well needed kick in the right direction.

Yours gratefully from somebody who almost started attending a church with an entire Benny Hinn section in it's bookshop :-)

donsands said...

Nice thoughts.

God's not depending on me. If He is He's in big trouble. But I sure do depend on Him. Can't do a thing without Him. John 15:5

rick said...

finally - good use of metrics ... ;- )

I link to you almost every time you even hint at leaky-Canon but unfortunately my readership is barely better than 10% of yours.

jeff said...


Thank you for teh encouragement in this post. I have always admired your writing and thoughts (your series on Proverbs hooked me for life).

I find that sometimes I just blog for me, regardless of who is reading. It helps me to think through issues and exegesis of texts, to sharpen my own interpretation of Scripture and the reasons I believe what I do. Even if no one reads, that is fruit for me, though the occasional reader who leaves a comment and encourages or challenges does go a long way.

Keep up the good work.

HeavyDluxe said...

Yeah, great blog. So, anyway, come visit my blog!


Seriously. Thanks for a thoughtful post. I started blogging for myself... I've never had a journal, but I figured starting one (and having it visible to people I care about) wouldn't be a bad thing.

Funny how pride sneaks in... Now, I could easily become a stat-nazi as if people reading my writing validates me somehow.

HeavyDluxe said...

Oh... One other thing: I've heard a couple people mention (including you stablemate Mr. Turk) that there seems to be something wrong with the TTLB ecosystem.

Seems like the crawler might not be updating or something. So, don't let your Reptilian status get you down.

ann_in_grace said...

I admit - I am not a regular visitor TO the blog, but I read it regularly via the rss-reader. That does not give you the hits...
Coming back to the topic :) - I do not think that the number of hits is soooo important - 400 a day is a big lot, anyway :)
As Conny, I am happy for my 20...

Your blog is human - which I value very much, and which cannot be said about many other blogs. When you open this window to your life, thoughts, feelings - you become alive and real. I mean - we read various blogs for information ALSO, or sometimes MAINLY, but this portion of reality and human touch makes it all worth while.
And all the valuable theology does not hurt ;)
Greetings from Sweden - you are read here :)

DJP said...

Antonio—I'm so glad you commented. Praise God for your conversion! You're the second relatively new convert to Christ who has contacted me about the blog, today, and it really gives me joy to be able to have some part in helping and encouraging you.

If you have a chance, take a look at my Encouragement for New Christians. I hope it's of some use to you.

Andrew and Carolyn said...

Hi Dan

I for one am so glad that you've decided to sow seed online - its been a benefit to me in my ministry in Ireland. Now, how else could that have happened but for your blogging? I find such encouragement as a young pastor to be able to find fellowship with other servants of the Lord across the world through their blogs - especially those with more experience and wider reading (which wouldn't be hard to find admittedly).

May the Lord continue to richly bless you.


Catez said...

I agree and have thought on this more than once. I have no idea what real effect my blogging has. I get some feedback which I appreciate - but I reallt don't know what happens in people's heads and lives.

You can add new Zealand to the countries (I mean just in your thoughts). We are small but mighty! How do we know we are mighty? Um... we took the Brit cricket team to the cleaners. And their rugby team. We just know.

Also - been meaning to tell you - I like your new blog look.

Oh too funny - my comment word verification is nzsoai. NZ is so A1. I'm not saying it's confirmation...

DJP said...

Well, and you have The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia. Just a beautiful country, from any picture I've ever seen. We'd love to come there some time. I want to fish there sometime!

I'm surprised I didn't mention NZ; I do see it on the world map often. Thanks for mentioning it.

Even So... said...

Good stuff Dan...I remember when I started seeing the same IP addresses from India, Saudia Arabia, Serbia, and others every is the reason why I started to blog with substantive posts six days a week...what a blessing when one of them, a missionary, sent me an email and told me how what we write blesses them...keep at it, man, God bless you...oh, and good points about increasing blogging traffic...

candyinsierras said...

Well, there has to be SOMEthing good that comes out of Sacramento!

Rebekah said...

I enjoy reading your blog and others that are doctrinally sound, for they all help me to practice thinking biblically about various topics. Personally, I'm not sure I want my own readership to be very large. I'm scared enough when I hit the post button as it is! And I'm not writing to teach anyone, it's more of a journal, of sorts. I have to really think hard before leaving a comment anywhere, but sometimes I just have to say, "thank-you," to a blogger whose work is meaningful to me. So, thank you - your writings are, indeed, helpful and thought provoking, and I learn much from them.

DJP said...

ann_in_graceYour blog is human - which I value very much, and which cannot be said about many other blogs. When you open this window to your life, thoughts, feelings - you become alive and real. I mean - we read various blogs for information ALSO, or sometimes MAINLY, but this portion of reality and human touch makes it all worth while.

I think I know what you mean and, if so, you've hit exactly on my central aim. Since my own conversion, the writing and preaching which has had the greatest impact on me is that which takes a healthy dose of objective truth, and opens up its personal, human impact. Neither bloodless, free-floating truth alone, nor bubbling, churning experience alone; but truth experienced.

Naturally enough, since that hits me the most squarely, it is also my aim in preaching, teaching, and writing.

Insightful analysis.

striving... said...

The only thing I could add, is it is not based on #'s in attendance, look at Haggard. He had a huge flock, not trying to start anything about the whole situation with him, but it is a great example. You reach many people in a way that a lot of pastors did not have access to years ago. And I believe that you are on the mark, except when you get into deep theology and I get lost, but when you speak of scripture, you are "spot on," as far as I can tell, I am no theologin(sp)

4given said...

"Truth Experienced" or "Experiential Truth" = "Biblical Christianity"

This blog of yours is a ministry that extends beyond your keyboard reaching people you may never meet this side of heaven ...or may never meet if hell is their eternal destination... :-/
But you are touching many lives, causing people to think Biblically, to get out of their comfort zone, to be encouraged. There are times you even make people
weep :-(
or laugh :-D
or drop their jaw because they don't know what to think. :-O

Thank you for sticking your neck out on the chopping block for the sake of the Gospel. I cannot say I agree with every single thing you write... but then that is more likely just ignorance on my end. ha. Teachable but not tossable... I have much to learn so keep on.

4given said...

One more thing... this is a very timely, much-needed post. I encourage everyone to go to the links Dan provided to his previous articles. Make sure you do not miss out on the comments left at these posts. Even if you think you have read them before, go back to them. It is worth your time.

DJP said...

Teachable but not tossable

I like it.


Catez said...

Thanks for your kind words about NZ (down here we lap up kind words about our little islands).

You would love the fishing here - freshwater and seawater. You can catch kawhai (yum!), flounder, John Dory, snapper, crayfish, and lots of other edibles, or go on a trip to catch the real big ones or enter a competition. I love the shellfish myself - mussels, rock oysters, Bluff oysters, scallops... If anyone ever offers you kina say no politely though (trust me).

Smoked eel sounds awful and tastes fantastic. So does baked eel (I'm making myself hungry here). Especially if you caught a big fat one yourself.

Ok - you got me completely off topic now! I would like to check out the sea life off some of the shores in the US one day. And visit Yosemite and the Southern states like Tennessee and Alabama. And go to NY of course. :) Just for starters.

Scott Welch said...

OK, I realized after reading that I am a regular reader that didn't have you linked. So, I linked you on all three of the blogs that I moderate (Our Sovereign Joy, Jumpin' Jehoshaphat, my youth blog). Can I get a prize or something?


DJP said...

Um... sure.

Tell Turk to give you a free "Dan Phillips Is My Homeboy" T!