When I set out to begin writing in 2012, I did it because I believed the Holy Spirit was prompting me to use the gifts God gave me and to be diligent in using them. This was the blog I set up in response to that prompting. I didn’t focus on the number of people who followed or read the blog. I was simply being obedient.
Each year since then, though, I have taken stock of the number of readers and the articles that are being read on this site: Navigating By Faith. The numbers have not always increased each year over the previous year, but they have trended up since 2012.
In the 2nd year, I topped 1000. By 2018, I topped 10,000. The blog wasn’t viral, but it was being read. In 2019, I was plateaued at just over 10,000 article views, with slightly fewer views in 2019 than the year before.
The last two years have seen jumps in readership by approximately 10,000 each year: a total of 20,084 in 2020 and 30,749 in 2021. I attribute the big jump last year to COVID. Everyone was hunkering down; they had more time; and they were reading more. I am not sure why the additional jump this year.
Maybe we have been more reflective as a society as we have come face to face with a deadly pandemic and have had more time to reflect? Maybe I hit on some topics that are particularly poignant in the current flux of issues bombarding the Church in the United States.
I began writing two blogs in 2012: one aimed at the general seeker; and this one aimed more specifically at Christ seekers/followers. Over time, I fund myself most focusing on the latter audience. I don’t think I have posted more than one article on the first blog in over a year.
In 2021, three articles account for the 10,000 increase over last year, and each one seems fitting for “the times” we have been experiencing.
The first one,
(written in September 2020) seems to have struck a nerve.
The article It has 6606 views which is over 4000 more than the next most read article. It was the product of my own angst about the evangelical support for Donald Trump, questioning my own increasingly critical posture, and digging deep into Scripture for answers. Could I have been wrong about him? Why are so many Christians defending him?
Because it went “viral” (relatively speaking) on my blog, I wrote a summary of just that one article. It was written before the presidential election and the January 6th confirmation, but it continues to be the most read article on the blog on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. You can read my retrospective of the article for the back story and my current assessment of the article.
The second most read article in 2021, with 1669 views, is:
It is a kind of response to the existential angst of the Christ seeker/follower. It runs along the vein of Psalm 139. We can’t go anywhere that God is not with us. We don’t have to climb up to Him because He “climbs down” to us and meets us right where we are.
The third most read article tackles Critical Race Theory from a Christian Perspective (1226 views).
It summarizes the position of Monique Duson, who gravitated from CRT follower to CRT critic. She now sees CRT as a religion-like worldview that is heretical to and competes with Christian faith. That this article garnered much more attention than other articles I wrote about CRT is ironic.
I am not reflexively against CRT. I believe it has been coopted by people with anti-religious, even Marxist views of the world, but CRT isn’t (in itself) threatening to faith. What troubles me more than CRT is the effort the Church puts into beating up the CRT boogeyman while ignoring the underlying issues of racial injustice and racial disparity that continue to exist.
The top three articles were all written in 2020 as the world hunkered down against COVID. As the world hunkered down, racial tensions and angst rose up. Thus, I think, the reason why these articles got the most attention is easy to understand.
Those three articles, alone, account for over 10,000 views. They exceed al the views of the other articles that fill out the top ten combined. I will address each one and make some comments as I go.
The 4th most read article in 2021 was written in 2016:
This is an apologetic piece, highlighting the creeds that scholars have recognized in the New Testament writings. These creeds reveal the earliest message of the Gospel: the “oral tradition” predating the New Testament going back to soon after the cross. They affirm that the resurrection message was preached from the beginning.
The fifth most read article was inspired by the first article:
It was written in the midst of the prophetic furor and backlash from the initial presidential election results. As “the prophets” were claiming a stolen election and predicting an ultimate Trump victory, I had to pause again.
The article arose out of my own self-doubt. The article is the product of self-reflection, prayer and digging deep, again, into scriptural passages as I sought God’s clarity on what was happening and how some people in the Church, including people I know and respect, were responding to it.
comes in at number six.
Though the title seems to call the Sons of Issachar articles to mind, it couldn’t be further from them. It is a celebration of God’s faithful, redemptive lovingkindness. When the future looks bleak because of sin, we can count on God’s redeeming love to shine through.
Six of the top five articles were written in 2020. Three of the next four were written in 2021. That means that eight of the top ten most read articles in 2021 were written in the last two years – the COVID years.
In fact, the dramatic upward trend in readership is directly linked to COVID, March 2020 set an all-time high in monthly readers at 1487. April was higher, at 1629; June hit 1920, and I topped 2000 readers in November 2020. The blog has exceeded 2000 readers in 13 of the 14 last months, reaching 3556 in April of 2021.
Having recently written articles lead in the number of views is also a departure from previous years in which old “favorites” reappeared annually in the top ten. Most of the older top articles don’t make the list this year, including the perennial front runner, It is Well with My Soul: The Story. (2014)
The first 2021 article and number 7 in the top ten is
This article is an homage to the power of music and my favorite artist, Joe Foreman. Music (and verse) with spiritual meaning (at least to me), has been a theme on the blog for a number of years, but it was given its own page this year: Music and Verse.
The song, A Place Called Earth, carries a repeats a prominent theme in Joe Foreman’s work: the longing in our hearts for the eternity God placed there (Ecc. 3:11). “Oh, how I long for heaven in a place called earth” is the refrain. It is a theme that first struck a chord with me in college, over 40 years ago.
The 8th article in the top ten articles for 2021 is
This article represents another repeated theme of my writing: what message does our conduct and demeanor send to the world? The old adage of not being able to hear what we are saying because of the way we are saying it, the way we are acting, and the things we are doing is the point of reflection. Our actions can help (or hinder) the preaching of the Gospel.
It isn’t enough that we say the right things. Preaching the Gospel is more than the words we speak. It is the lives that we live. Jesus didn’t say the world would know us by what we say, but by our love for one another. When the world looks at our City set on a hill, what do they see?
The ninth article on the list was inspired by someone I love:
God gave each one of us gifts so that we would use them to His glory, for His purposes, and for our own joy in reflecting God’s creativity in the things we do. We should not bury those gifts. We should celebrate them.
Finally, the last article to make the top ten is
Written this year, it was years in the making. God clearly calls us to “do justice”, but concerns about the social justice movement divorced from God cloud that clear instruction to us. The Church in the United States seems paralyzed and unresponsive to God’s call for justice out of fear that we might be erring into “social justice”.
For several years, I have been reading through Scripture from beginning to end with eyes on God’s heart for justice. The theme of justice is everywhere, from beginning to end, but how do we focus on doing biblical justice without getting into the error of secular, social justice?
In a nutshell, we should focus on what God says about justice in His Word. We should spend less time trying to define ourselves by what we are not (social justice warriors), and we should spend more time focusing on doing the justice God clearly calls us to do!
It’s the same with racial justice. We spend inordinate time and energy trying to prevent CRT from infiltrating the Church, while we ignore the racial injustice around us. Yes, we should not devolve into Marxist ideology, but we don’t need to fixate on what we are not; we should focus on what we should be!
We might find ourselves in doing justice at times side by side with social justice warriors who are informed by a different worldview and motivated by different things, but those social justice warriors are as much the field that is ripe unto harvest as the people who are dying for justice. We need to stop making them the enemy and see them as God sees them: lost sheep for whom Christ so loved the world. We can’t demonize them and reach them with the Gospel at the same time.
But, I will step off my soap box and bring the annual summary to an end. Below is a recap of the top ten, along with a list of the top twenty with links to these articles that are not already linked above. Many of those articles have appeared in the top ten in years past.
I will end with the observation that I have been writing less over the last half year. I am not sure where God might be taking me. I seem to have less inspiration and less energy to write. Maybe that is just a passing phase. Maybe God is directing me to devote my energy elsewhere.
I have found writing to be one of the most challenging and difficult things I have done. It’s also one of the most rewarding and meaningful things I have done. Sustaining that amount of writing I have done in the past is a constant challenge.
I recognize that my writing is a very small drop in the modern blog ocean, but I am thankful for those who have read along and commented. Peace and blessings are my prayer in the coming year. Above all, I pray that each of us encounter God in our journeying and be daily changed by His great love for us.
The top twenty articles on Navigating by Faith in 2021 are as follows:
- Who Were the Sons of Issachar? And What Might They Mean for Us Today? (2020) 6606 views
- God Meets Us Where We Are (2020) 1669 views
- (2020) 1226 views
- The Message in the Earliest Creeds in the New Testament (2016) 732 views
- Postscript to the Sons of Issachar Who Understood the Times (2020) 631 views
- The Redemption of Korah: the Sons of Korah (2020) 622 views
- The Borderlines: A Place Called Earth (2021) 598 views
- Apologetics: What It Means for Our Speech to Be Seasoned with Salt (2021) 510 views
- (2017) 479 views
- Distinguishing Biblical Justice from Social Justice I (2021) 422 views
- CS Lewis on the “True Myth” (2018) 395 views
- It is Well with My Soul: The Story (2014) 311 views
- Science and Faith Wrestle with Nothing over the Big Bang (2021) 287 views
- The Ebla Tablets Revisited (2019) 242 views
- Women and the Resurrection Story (2015) 226 views
- Gary Habermas on Near-Death Experiences (2019) 218 views
- How Should Christians Act in Times Like These? (2021) 204 views
- Tuning In To God’s Frequency (2016) 198 views
- Reflections on the Influence of Stephen Hawking (2018) 196 views
- Timing the Walls of Jericho (2017) 191 views