Ridiculous facades and online “ministry”, plus better metrics

This weekend I fell down a rabbit hole by accident and this Monday morning I feel like I’m climbing back out as I begin my week… and I’m disgusted by it.

The rabbit hole I fell down was online ministry applications, websites, blogs, and those who make and run them. The disgust is the facades we create to showcase them.

This is complicated though. I’m not saying that it’s wrong to put the best face on your ministry, product, or website that you possibly can. There’s nothing wrong with that in and of itself.

I think I’m more so concerned about some of the statements we make and the ways we try to “sell” ourselves, our work, or our products and services.

We say things like, “We minister to half a million people online daily!” or “Join 300,000 subscribers who believe in what we’re doing!” and so on.

But… really?

Do we really “minister” to that many people? Do we really have that many people who are on board with us? Are they on mission? Are they truly edified? Encouraged? Equipped? Empowered and sent out by us?

And, where do we get these numbers from anyway? Twitter followers (cheap and meaningless), plus Facebook likes (all noise), plus email subscriptions (open rates are less than 2%), plus blog traffic (not counting bounce rates), all added up into one number for the sake of looking successful?

Or what? What does it mean!?

Besides, could you define for me what “ministering” means to you, please?

I’m just… I think… “disgusted” by it.

I will admit that I have a tendency to lean into these facades at times as well. I can throw around big numbers to people who I know don’t know any better about what it means. If I tell my family, “Yea we have 10k+ followers on Twitter”, for one of my blogs, they’re going to be impressed. But, only cause (1) they do know they can’t get 10,000 people on Twitter to follow them anytime soon, and (2) they don’t know that it’s not terribly hard to do if they do start working on it for a year or two (even if they don’t buy fake followers to pad the stats — which is a thing, yes) and that Twitter followers almost never add up to anything of any value for anyone! Really, really, really close to never worth anything!

But, it sounds great if you say it to someone who know no better!

I guess the question we have to ask then is, “Why do we feel compelled to speak like this then!?”

What is it doing for anyone? Do we really believe that’s going to give us credibility? Will it cause some people to say, “Oh wow I must be missing out and this is really going to bless me if I get involved?”

I dunno. Maybe it really does work on some people. Probably some. I think most people — the people we’d want to have join with us — have strong bolognese detectors and they’re going to see right though it.

Even if some of the stats are true, we must ask ourselves: “If all of this were really true, would I really need to tell someone about it, or would it just speak for itself?” 

Is there any person or ministry that I really trust and feel edified by and view as successful who continually tells me they’re successful, they reach many people, that others trust them?

No. No there isn’t. I can’t think of a single one that does, or would need to with anyone.

That question enlightens my own thinking and then, inevitably, actually causes doubt in regards to these other people and ministries and products that tell me this stuff without more clarity on what it means.

I think that we could toot our own horns, if we believed it to be genuinely helpful, but if it were, then we’d toot them in a way that also said, “Here is exactly how we get these numbers and what they actually mean. Now decide for yourself what you want to do with it.”

And, all this from a marketer and public relations guy. I fully believe in marketing and advertising and framing things in their best light. I do.

I believe Jesus even does this! I just believe there is absolutely zero false facade and misleading in it. Never, ever, anything of the sort.

So, not only am I convinced this sort of vague, false-facade-like “framing and presenting” of things actually works against us and undermines our credibility, making us look desperate or shady, but I’d also go so far as to say that I can’t imagine how God would bless it.

That… seals the deal.

It’s disgusting. It’s ignorant.

We should be better and do better.

I get that’s it’s a dog eat dog world online. It’s all so noisy and everyone has idea they think are better than others and we’re all fighting for very short attention spans. I get it…

We’re also fighting our sinful and selfish nature of wanting to be praised… even if it’s through our work that we receive our praise. It’s all the same.

It’s all no good. It’s a sneaky and misleading pride that fools even ourselves. A humble, wise, and mature Godly person will see through it every time and it will actually work against us.

I’m not saying I’m that Godly person, I’m saying I’ve seen and heard it happen from Godly people who saw straight through someone’s bravado and presentation, and I’ve been rightly alarmed by it.

Embarrassed, even. Equipped, thankfully. Humbled, hopefully.

I believe we can talk about our products and services in ways that enlighten, strengthen confidence, and persuade. It can be done. But I just believe it will look and feel different than most of what I see online.

It sets my resolves all the more in what I’ve determined for TheMajestysMen.com as I lead the building of it and the community around it.

Everything will be done in the open public. Everything will be stated clearly as to what it is and what it means. Everything is up for review by anyone. Everything, that is, except for vanity metrics like share counts and page views. They will be used only for what they’re helpful for at the times they’re helpful for… which, is almost never.

Things like what people say, how involved they are each month, how changed their lives are, what they feel compelled to do or not do because of their involvement and relationships in the community, and even what they pay for things like products, support, involvement, etc., can all be way better metrics for measuring success and real service. The rest is vanity.

Ultimately, we must equip and empower for our people to look people in the eye and speak with them, touch them, and serve their daily needs. Otherwise, we’re doing nothing. The rest is vanity.

I spoke with a friend just this morning, on a different topic entirely, and he said, “I think one of our greatest strengths we have with The Majesty’s Men is how we always say, ‘We’re just learning as we go’, and I think if we ever stop saying that and don’t feel like that, we’ll lose it.”

I couldn’t agree more. That makes me really, really happy. And it’s a good way to start the week and focus my mind as I crawl out of this rabbit hole of the new age possibilities.

We have a world of possibilities before us. My generation is going to do amazing things with these amazing tools and abilities we have at our disposal if we stay humble and promote God with them and not ourselves.

“Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.” (Proverbs 27:2)

Leave a thought?