Gaining Followers with Integrity

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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.

 

 

 

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18 thoughts on “Gaining Followers with Integrity

  1. I don’t like unfollowing someone after they’ve followed me back, but if I see something I don’t like, if they tweet something inappropriate or unbiblical, I do. I don’t want to be supporting something in contradiction with Christianity and that could lead someone else astray. The examples that we, as Christians set, is not only important to our own reputations, but that of God as well. Sometimes we can make more of a difference by the way that we live and the things that we do than with our words.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is so true, Whitney! It hurts a little every time I have to make that tough decision, but you’re exactly right. Others are watching us, and what we do reflects not only on us, but on God.

      Thanks for contributing these great thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for writing this. Hope it is ok to offer my personal experience:
    Several years ago, I began blogging and, due to self-centered immaturity began commenting on other sites just to gain recognition. It is one way that is recommended by WP to build an audience, but I lacked godly discernment as I headed down that path. Some of the blogs i frequented (although run by professing Christians) allowed extremely course commentary, and I thought I’d be ok since I don’t use vulgar language or wish to insult others.
    Unfortunately, I did find myself being drawn into debates with people who just wanted to argue, became less sincere when making friendly remarks, dropped my overall standards regarding God’s definition of unkindness (which I justified because I was still notably “nicer” than the majority of guests).
    Thankfully, the Lord checked me , and I made apologies where possible and abandoned my own blogging effort until He and I had sufficiently addressed my attitude. It has been a very humbling experience. But necessary, as well.
    The lesson for me, as a Christian, is to remember that I am responsible to protect His good name as I interact with others.
    Integrity of character applies to not only what I write, (and allow to be written) on my own site, but what I read and write elsewhere. Liking posts without reading them is dishonest and can give the impression I approve of something which I do not. Commenting without a conscious desire to please God will inevitably leave me with destructive selfish motives. Following a blog without first reading through a few posts can be a bad habit as well-for various reasons.
    It is possible that God’s desire is for my site to have only a handful of followers and I should be ok with whatever He decides. Trying to do anything in my own strength always has a way of backfiring badly.
    I guess this has gotten long :/ You happened to touch on a topic I’ve been considering for a while but never actually took the time to articulate publicly.
    Thank you again for prompting me to revisit this experience and re-examine my own heart.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience! I imagine that all of us have clicked “like” on a post we haven’t fully read from time to time, but this is such a powerful reminder for us to take a little more time and to be a little more thoughtful in the way we interact online. Blessings to you!

      Like

  3. Admirable qualities all, JohnMarkMiller, and it’s good that you acknowledge not everyone is a Christian; something not every Christian does. I appreciate your choice to follow my blog even though it doesn’t come with a warning label. When we decide to step out in faith, that is what we must do, have faith. I think it’s probably a good thing Jesus didn’t restrict his followers. Peace.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great thoughts, John Mark. A few years ago, I made the decision to quit Twitter and Facebook. My blog stats took a downward turn, of course. I went through a phase when I almost quit blogging, too. Now I’m starting to be more consistent in my blogging, and trying not to be influenced (too much) by stats and number of followers. It’s a bit like working on my novels: I keep writing whether or not I feel like it or receive any validation from another person.

    I consider myself to be a theologically-conservative Christian, and I’m constantly surprised by what types of people follow me and comment on my posts. I tend to follow them (through WordPress reader or email) in return. I don’t agree with many things I read, but I’ve found that I can usually respectfully disagree, find some point of agreement, and try to maintain contact with the other writer.

    I simply ignore profanity, as long as it’s minimal. Explicit photos, sexual material? I won’t follow.

    If they’ve read my blog, they should know that I’m a Christian and I’ll disagree with some of their views, so it’s not a surprise to them! I think I’m keeping the lines of communication open and possibly helping them see God and Christianity in a more positive light. For many of these followers, mental illness has been an issue; unfortunately, the Christian church hasn’t shown enough (or appropriate) care for those dealing with this, and many have left church and the faith entirely because of this. If I can be honest about my own mental health struggles and my faith, maybe that can help them as well.

    Thanks for providing these thoughts and your perspective as a minister and writer.

    Like

    1. Thanks for sharing your story, Laura! I agree that keeping open lines of communication is a great way to influence others for Christ…but like you, there are certain types of posts that cause me to draw the line. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, but I don’t want to condone poor behavior by my silence, either.

      I’m glad you joined the conversation and contributed these thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Although not Christian, I was bought up with very strong morals in terms of manners and how we should behave. I grew to believe that profanity and obscenity were impure and unnecessary. I am now 20 years old and I think it’s obvious that all our morals as the human race come from religion. Whether the basic commandments from Moses, the love, acceptance and tolerance from Jesus, and even modesty and compassion from Mohammed. The ‘rules’ we live by in society, even for those who don’t believe in God, come from God.

    I am now finding faith, and it’s been a rocky road, but I think that being able to see that there are many people who have faith in a higher power and so much integrity, really helps being able to accept that God is good and that I can fully put my trust in Him.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow… how wonderful that God has continued to show Himself to you in such a variety of ways, and that you are now finding faith in Him! This is incredible, and I am so excited for you!

      I agree with you that morality itself (this knowledge we’re all born with that there is a right and wrong) reveals that there is indeed a Perfect Being in the universe, which is the God of the Bible. I’ll be praying for you and your spiritual journey, and I’m always available for discussions about Scripture and faith!

      Have a blessed 2015, and thanks for taking time to comment!

      Liked by 1 person

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