“The essayist is a self-liberated man, sustained by the childish belief that everything he thinks about, everything that happens to him, is of general interest….Only a person who is congenitally self-centered has the effrontery and the stamina to write essays.”
– E.B. White
In a recent post, pastor and author Kevin DeYoung referred to the “fetid pool” of self promotion in social media. He writes:
With all the tools of social networking and all the trappings of evangelical celebrity culture (whether in a hall with thousands of people or in your own circle of friends), we must all be vigilant against shameless self-promotion. Especially those of us who have a blog.
Now, aside from the fact that anyone using the word “fetid” is just looking for attention, he raises some interesting questions about the dangers of pride, especially for writers in a world where publishers and editors insist that promoting our own work is a necessity. As my colleague Mary Darling’s editor told her, her Midwestern humility was charming but she was going to have to get over it.
Carl Trueman’s rant on the subject seems a little over the top. He describes some of the self-promotion he sees, particularly by Christian authors, as “madness, stark staring, conceited, smug, self-glorifying madness of the most pike-staffingly obvious and shameful variety.”
It’s not a new problem, of course. Calvin seldom spoke of himself and was buried in an unmarked grave. Spurgeon, however, perhaps the most prolific preacher of all time, spoke of himself often and people lined the road for miles at his funeral. The Apostle Paul, while downplaying his pedigree defended his apostleship vigorously.
So here I am, trying to build a readership for my blog, sending out announcements on Twitter and posting an announcement on our church website. How does one think about this? Where does one draw the line?
At the ever-present risk of rationalizing, I do feel responsible for the stewardship of a gift, long recognized and encouraged by others. And I feel responsible for my message as well, and for the discipline of crafting it carefully.
So when someone links to my blog on Facebook or Twitter I’m happy. If they subscribe to my blog or forward the email I’m happy too. But is that the same thing as pride?
OK, so I admit that checking the metrics on my readership every fifteen minutes is a little obsessive, but shouldn’t I want people to read what I’m writing? And how will they hear without a Twitter?
Seriously, I could be just as proud of not asking people to read my blog. DeYoung notes: “Whatever humility I evidence, I bet half of it comes from not wanting to look proud.” But once we become proud of not promoting ourselves we’re right back where we started.
I like DeYoung’s solution- to look at Christ much more often than we look at ourselves. Ultimately a successful Christian blog depends on the integrity of the message and the messenger. Motives always matter. And readers will respond.