A primary concern for most bloggers is gaining new followers, since this is often how we track the growth of our online presence. There are all sorts of techniques out there for accomplishing this… some of which are good and some of which are not.
As a Christian writer and especially as a minister, I’m extremely sensitive to the need to exercise caution while building my online readership. Just like any other blogger, I very much want to gain new followers. However, I also want to follow the Scriptural command to “abstain from all appearance of evil” (I Thessalonians 5:22), and would hate for my ministry to be harmed in any way based on the fact that I was following someone who displayed inappropriate behavior online or promoted unbiblical ideas.
So how should we as Christian writers approach this situation? Here are a few principles to keep in mind:
Beware of Automated Services
Automated services exist for Twitter and other social media outlets that bring in huge numbers of followers per day with little to no effort on your part. This sounds fantastic at first, but the problem with this is that you have absolutely no control over what sort of accounts you’re following. Not only does this have the potential to clutter your newsfeed with unwanted material, but it could potentially harm your testimony as well.
Give People the Benefit of the Doubt
The flip side of the coin are the many ministers and professors of theology I know who simply decide not to follow anyone online, period. While I understand the desire to protect one’s good name, to me this feels a bit like burying our head in the sand. Perhaps someone with national name recognition can get away with it, but for an everyday writer such as myself following other sites is necessary in order to help my message to be heard. Sure, I’ll end up rubbing shoulders online with people who may not agree with all of my religious views – but why is this a bad thing? Jesus didn’t pray that we’d be kept safe and separated from the world, but that we would dwell in the world without being of the world (John 17:14-15), and commanded us to let our light shine before men (Matthew 5:14-16).
Personally, I’m willing to give people the benefit of the doubt. Even if they don’t hold to every one of my Christian views, I’m willing to follow them if they publish material that is helpful or interesting.
Remember…You Don’t Have to Put Up with Trash
I really hate having to hit the “Unfollow” button and burn a bridge with an online personality, but sometimes it really is necessary. Scripture makes it crystal clear in Proverbs 4:23-25 that we are to guard our hearts and eyes from evil things, and I’m just not going to subject myself to posts that include distasteful photos, curse words, or ideas that are obviously meant to fly in the face of Scripture. Does this mean that I’ve lost followers? Yes… unfortunately, this has happened quite a bit. But as Proverbs 22:1 reminds us, “a good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.” And today I feel that we could take this to mean that a good name is rather to be chosen than great numbers of online followers.
Seeking God’s Approval Alone
At the end of the day, gaining new followers is nice but it cannot be the driving force of my motivation. Not only will this lead to frustration and impatience, but it feeds into the spiritual downfall of seeking the approval of other men. Proverbs 29:25 warns us that “the fear of man is a snare,” and Paul gave us a wonderful example in Galatians 1:10 when he wrote, “Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.”
Fellow writers, let us find our satisfaction and approval in God alone, and approach the task of building our readership without tarnishing our integrity.