Last week Christian Piatt, a Patheos Christian blogger, conducted a survey looking for the “25 Christian Blogs You Should Be Reading.” Readers and bloggers nominated over 400 Christian blogs. While it seemed to me that most of them leaned toward the Progressive end of the theological spectrum, there was a pretty wide array of blogs nominated. I discovered the survey a couple of days into it, and added The Fat Pastor.
I first sent the link to vote for my blog on Facebook at 11 p.m. on Friday night. I did it once again on Saturday and again on Sunday afternoon. I tweeted it twice, I think. I shared the link a few more times on my personal facebook page. I never thought I’d make the top 25, but I thought I could break into the top 100.
The final vote finished with The God Article as number one, Rachel Held Evans as number two, and The Fat Pastor tied for 85th. You can see the whole list by clicking here. I was pretty pleased with finishing tied for 85th, but what was really touching were the comments people made. I went through the top 100, and mine was one of only four blogs that had seven comments. And it was not just the seven comments that touched me, but the kindness and appreciation that was expressed in those comments, largely from people I’ve never met face-to-face. Sure, one of the comments was my brother, but even his words meant a lot to me. The comments made in the survey read like the back cover of a book.
It was a pretty exciting couple of days as I watched my blog rise through the ranks. I was thankful to see a couple of my facebook friends not only vote, but share the link with their friends. I received a little bit of criticism on the Facebook page for the self-promotion, but it was good-natured. And rest assured, there was nothing anyone said there that I had not already thought of. Should I care where I am ranked on some list? Should I care how popular I am? Why do I write? Is it to gain a big audience? What is the mission of this blog?
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the nature of self-promotion on a Christian blog. It takes a certain amount of hubris to write a public blog in the first place. The moment I started The Fat Pastor, I remember thinking, “what do I have to say that other people should care about?” Nearly five years later I am approaching 300,000 page views. In the big picture of internet usage, that is barely a blip. At the same time, I think to my self “THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND!”
Does it matter that I’m approaching 300,000 views? Am I being more faithful to God because I’ve reached this milestone than if I had not reached it? I remember when I approached 1,000 Facebook followers. I made a big deal about it on the page, and it turned people off, so they left. Does the fact that I now have over 2,500 followers on Facebook make me a better writer? Does that mean I’m a better pastor, or a better Christian, or closer to God?
None of the questions about self-promotion on a Christian blog are easily answered. It all boils down to the question of mission. What is the purpose of this blog? Or put another way, if I suddenly had no facebook followers, no subscribers, no twitter followers, and no page views, would I keep doing it? If I had a million followers and high traffic on the blog, what would change?
I am a writer and a preacher. I will write about the love of God and preach the good news of Jesus Christ for as long as I have breath. I will tell people about the transforming power of God, and I will share that with as many people as I can for as long as I can live. I will struggle. I will fail. I will have doubts and questions, but the truth of who I am will never change.
Is it wrong to seek a larger audience for what I do? I don’t think so, as long as what I do is point to something greater than me. As long as what I’m doing is bringing people to the table of grace, then I’m going to keep going. If my self-promotion takes precedent over God-promotion, then I’m in trouble. In the meantime, I’m going to search for new audiences, because each audience is full of people – real people – who are longing to hear about the God that loves them, the God that errs on the of grace, the God that can lift all of us out of whatever hole we’ve dug ourselves, the God that can melt hearts, transform communities, and topple kings.
So yes, I wanted to be in the top 25 – because making the top 25 would have allowed me to speak to more people. I believe in the story I have to tell, so I will continue to tell it.
I’ve been grappling a lot lately about the future of this blog and the nature of my ministry. How far should I push this Fat Pastor brand? And if you’re turned off by my use of the term “brand,” I apologize, but that is exactly what I’ve created here. I try to write from my heart. I try to share my passion, joy, and frustrations. I try to let you into my journey, but no reader will ever know the real me. I don’t write every thought that pops into my head. I make choices, and these choices create a separate entity that is not Robb McCoy, but the brand The Fat Pastor. The Fat Pastor is me, but it is not all of me. It’s not about being inauthentic, it’s just about having boundaries. I create logos, and buy domain names, and craft a motto and wonder, what can I do with this blog?
Can I be the next Rachel Held Evans? Do I even want to be? Should I open a Fat Pastor store? Should I sell t-shirts, mugs, and other merchandise? Can I raise money through this blog to advertise in places to reach more people? Can I raise money to support ministries? Can I create a company that could help make a difference in the world? Are there investors out there that could make it happen? Should I write a book? Should I seek more speaking engagements outside my congregation? Should I open a youtube channel? Should I live stream worship services? How many people can I reach? What does it mean to see “the whole world as my parish?” To John Wesley it meant that he could get on a box and preach in a park and be just as true to his mission as he was inside a grand Anglican Church. To me it means something different, and I pray that the Holy Spirit continues to guide me in understanding what it means to me.
I have a big vision for what The Fat Pastor can be. I have to make sure that it isn’t just my vision, but a God-breathed vision that will build the Kingdom of God, not feed the kingdom of Robb.