The day I was almost an influential church blogger

'influence' photo (c) 2011, Sean MacEntee - license:

If Kent Shaffer’s list of influential church bloggers went to 225, I would be golden.

But alas, it only goes to 200. So instead I’m just one of the faceless, unwashed masses.

I hate lists. It can be so easy to get caught up in who is in and who is out and the successes and failures of those who are “above” and “below” us. We tally up the numbers and figure out our ranking. She’s better than me. I’m better than him. This person shouldn’t be on the list. That person got completely screwed over by the list.

Influence is such an odd thing. The most influential female writer on Kent’s list was Rachel Held Evans. I found her blog by way of my best friend Tina about four years ago, before her first book was out. Rachel wrote about things that resonated deeply with me in a way that I wasn’t able to articulate. She wrote brave and beautiful words. At a time when I was questioning everything I believed, she was able to provide a safe place for those questions.

She wasn’t a huge blogger at that point. She wasn’t on lists. She wasn’t on the front cover of Christianity Today. She wasn’t even 30. But she wrote out things that I needed to read. And those words were instrumental in saving my faith.

On Thursday night at Story, a group of nearly 30 of us got together for dinner and drinks. Some of the people there were on Kent’s list of influential bloggers. And some of the folks probably weren’t in the list of 330 blogs that were evaluated. But when we went around the tables and everyone shared who they were and where they wrote, we clapped. And we clapped just as loud for the small blogs as we did for the big blogs. We even clapped for the dot net blogs. Regardless of status, everyone was cheered on in what they were doing. It was, by far, my favorite moment of the entire conference.

The truth is, Rachel’s blog is influential. Scot McKnight’s blog is influential. David Hayward’s blog is influential. All of those top 200 writers have things that connect with an audience and shape opinions. And because they have larger platforms, they are able to shape more opinions. That’s okay. I like seeing people who I admire being honored for the hard work that they have done.

But please don’t think that you need to be on a list to be influential. Here’s the list of things that I appreciate about bloggers who have influenced me:

  • They show up. You can’t influence if you’re not around.
  • They share their heart. Your story is good enough. Really.
  • They talk with people rather than at them. We’re talked at all day. Conversations are nice.
  • They don’t take themselves too seriously. We’re all nerds. We’re bloggers, for heaven’s sake. Get over yourself.

You don’t have to be on any lists to do those things. You don’t have to have thousands of readers or hundreds of subscribers or a good Alexa score. If you write, you can influence.

Though I think you should all petition Kent to extend his list to 225.

  • Sonny Lemmons

    “We even clapped for the…” Thank you for extending such grace and dignity to the lowest of these (raises hand) whose “dot net” is not fit to carry the sandals of you “dot com”mers.

    We even clapped for those who have hyphens in their URLs. :)

    But I agree with you: when the margin that squeezes us out makes some of us feel even more marginalized, I have to question what the use of these lists are. We’re not back on an elementary playground, making someone feel like crap for being chosen last in kickball. We should be above it all.

    And even if the selection list was extended with a few more zeroes on the end, and the standards for selection were lowered (to include “dot net” slack blogs), the whole point is not to set the “best” apart; it should be to reach out to those who aren’t on this ladder yet and help them to climb to the next rung, and the next, and the next.

    The people I know on that list are influential. And inspirational. And inclusive.

    All the way down to number 223. ;)

    • Alise Wright

      You know I love your dot net. And you’re in good company. MPT is a dot net. I’m pretty sure a hyphen is WAY worse than a dot net.

      But I’ll be honest, Thursday night was probably my favorite bit of the conference. Cheering on every single writer just made me so happy. I loved that.

      Now I just have to figure out how to give you a hug again, sooner than later.

  • Sarah Moon

    yay for almost influential bloggers! by the way, I found your blog through Rachel and it was SO influential for me. COMPLETELY changed my thoughts about LGBT people, about depression, about hell…

    • Alise Wright

      Thanks Sarah! I think we can all be influential, regardless of how big our audience is. If we have ANYONE reading, we can influence them. Hard to remember when these lists bring out the competitive junk in us, but still true.

      • Sarah Moon

        Agreed. I’m actually more honored to be on Slacktivist’s list than on any list by a website with the word “relevance” in it. ahaha

  • Joy in this Journey

    “We’re all nerds. We’re bloggers for heavens sake.” HAHAHAHAH! SO TRUE. I think influence is one of those things you can’t measure. It doesn’t fit into metrics, no matter how hard we try.

    • Alise Wright

      Exactly. And seriously. My kid loves to remind me how nerdy it is to blog. I’ll get all stoked about a guest post for a big blog and she’ll be like, “Yay. More people can see how dorky you are.” It keeps me humble-ish. ;-D

  • Christie @ Random Reflectionz

    A very honest examination of the love-hate relationship with lists. We don’t like them, yet we want to be on them. For my own blog and writing, I struggle to even find a category/niche that I could be part of as a liberal, non-Christian person of faith. It is difficult to find my “home,” if you know what I mean. In some respects that makes it easier not to get too caught up in the “list” thing. Heck, if we can just influence one person with what we right that should be enough. You are definitely touching lives with your writing. I appreciate your open-minded perspective and your honest writing.

    • Alise Wright

      Thank you! That tension is hard, because when you want to look into publishing, those lists sure are helpful in pitches. But they aren’t super helpful to my mental health, hence posts like this, where I just throw all of my crap out there and hope that by getting it out, I can get to that healthier place.

  • Matt @ The Church of No People

    Atta girl, Alise. :) Although I don’t comment as much as I want (challenging on a phone), I read you and other bloggers I like, not because everyone else and their mom likes them.

    • Alise Wright

      Yeah, probably not too many moms like my blog. ;-D

  • Sarah Askins

    “We’re all nerds. We’re Bloggers!”Can I have that on a t-shirt?

    Being a “small” blog(whatever that means), it is really easy to feel like your no longer invited to the “blogging club.” Unless any blogger gives me a reason to read his/her blog, I won’t. I read yours because I found it via Rachel’s blogs, and one of your comments resonated. Then, so did your posts, so I kept reading.

    • Alise Wright

      I try to keep the whole blogging thing in perspective. It’s so easy to feel very self-important with my words, but seriously. The days that I get out from behind the computer and DO stuff for people matter a lot more. Not that writing is unimportant, but I need to keep it in perspective.

      And I’m super glad you’ve been reading. And glad that you write, regardless of your stats. Your poetry still goes to my soul every time.

  • Ed_Cyzewski

    This listfulness and listlessness stuff has me thinking quite a bit about how we use our platforms and influence. Back in 2011, I decided that I wanted to use my little blog (and it was little back then) to help address the women in ministry issue. It has grown significantly since then, so basically, any growth I’ve experienced as a blogger is by sharing my blog with others. And if my blog is going to make it on a list, then that just motivates me to keep sharing it to shine some light on the issues that matter for the church.

    • Alise Wright

      Generosity is definitely one of the things that makes me love a blogger. I think sometimes we think our platform is only big enough to fit us on it, but I’ve found that when I make space for more people, the platform just expands to accommodate it.

      Goes back to the choir thing you mentioned a few weeks ago. The more voices we add, the more beautiful the sound.

  • Michelle Woodman

    Thanks, Alise, for writing this. Suffice it to say I needed it today. :)

    • Alise Wright

      Believe me, I need it all. the. time. But especially when those lists come out. Dangit.

  • Jennifer Luitwieler

    We need to remind ourselves of this everyday. There is room in the world for every story, every voice. We all have value, and they do not find their locus in the stats, but in our skin.

    • Alise Wright

      So beautifully said, my friend. And really, one need not search very far to find that they’ve made an impact on the lives of others.

  • ThatGuyKC

    Thank you for this, Alise. I didn’t make the list either, but I was kind of disappointed in the Twitter twaddle yesterday.

    I think any list by anyone is going to alienate people who “should” have made the cut. The best we can do is show up and write for ourselves and others in a way that shares an authentic story.

    Lists be damned.

    • Alise Wright

      I think the discussion is okay. Because really, what IS a “church blog”? Or a “Christian” blog? The lack of female and non-white blogs matters and these lists help bring that conversation to the forefront. I’m glad for that.

      But at the end of the day, I’m just going to keep doing what I do. If that gets me on lists (and it has), awesome. If it gets me kicked off of lists (and it has), that’s okay too. I got an email lats night that was worth WAY more to me than any lists I’ve made or been snubbed from. I just sometimes need to remind myself of that. ;-D

  • HopefulLeigh

    I love hearing about you all cheering one another on, regardless of readership, goals, or page views. That’s how I hope such a meet up would be.

    I don’t expect to find myself on any such lists so I’m not necessarily discouraged by it. I get discouraged when I compare myself to other bloggers who are doing “better” than me. But then I have to remember what I’ve cultivated at my place. I’ve somehow lucked into readers who engage and read faithfully. I’m blown away by the ways they say I’ve influenced them. Maybe I don’t have the big numbers but I’m grateful to have quality readers over quantity. Though if more want to join the HopefulLeigh bandwagon, they’re more than welcome. :)

    • Alise Wright

      Comparison is The Worst. I do it all the time. What’s really awful is when I decide that I need to be more like X blogger so I can have their success. Nope. That never, ever works.

      And truly? That time around the table was the best moment. THAT was what I went to Story to experience.

  • Leanne Penny

    We weren’t all called to reach everyone, but I believe that God has specific words in me for specific people. And if that is all, that is everything.

    That’s the thing we are all trying to do, and the lists are … probably confusing and challenging for those who make it on and those who don’t.

    I pray that I can screw the Stats, listen to the Spirit and be my own brand of faithful.

    • Alise Wright

      I’m not so much trying to screw the stats. I want to publish, so they matter in some respects, whether I want them to or not. But I don’t want them to define ME. That’s when I know I’m messed up.

      And yes, the lists can definitely screw with our brains. The other day I started to fill out forms to be included at a blog aggregator for faith blogs, thinking it would get me some more hits, but then realized, nope. That was not where I was supposed to be. Just because I technically fit the category doesn’t mean that’s where I should focus my energy. Deleting those forms was hard, but not as hard as it would have been a year ago. Baby steps, I guess.

  • pastordt

    You make me laugh in such good ways. That last line had me shaking over here. This is lovely and thoughtful and kind and true. All of it, even that wonderful last line. Thanks, friend.

    • Alise Wright

      Ha! I will unabashedly admit that if I was on the list, I would be happy dancing around. Hell, I was stoked to find out that my blog was even considered FOR the list. So I’m not about to begrudge those who have made it. This is hard work and that deserves recognition. But yeah. No sense in waiting to be an influence until we hit the big time, whatever that means.

      Thank you for being such an awesome encouragement. You’re all kinds of awesome!

  • Jessica

    Yesterday I was all “Lists are for suckers”. Today I “made” a list and, I’m not going to lie – felt damned good.

    We all deserve that round of applause, big or small.

    • Alise Wright

      It feels good to be recognized. I think it’s fine to acknowledge that. It’s not good to wrap up all of our value and worth in it. That’s always the challenge.

      • Jessica


  • Lisa Colón DeLay

    I was surprised by some on the list, b/c there are several I enjoy and I’d like to read so much, but they hardly ever post…so it’s strange to me that they’d make it. I don’t get it.

    Also, I worked through my [blog list] rejection today…well sort of. Once I stopped checking my stats so much some of that inner nonsense left the building.

    Yet, I came to the notion that ‘popular’ is not the same as “good” or even influential. sometimes, it’s just “chance” or SEO sweet spot, or something….something dumb.

    I’m not sure I’m good or influential…and of course I’m not popular—um. at all….but I do think if I was popular I’d succumb to a sort of pressure that would be frustrating. (Mainly my own, but also from the idea that when you make such a list, more people visit, and the expectations and disappointments get greater too, usually.) The temptation to just be more “infamous” (as a last resort?) takes down too many of us bloggers, too, I fear.)

    I too enjoyed our night out. You warned us that you were loud, and you were, and it was nice (and not loud like I braced for–ha. I sat next to you, so you’re vetted on that one.) I looked forward to it, the candor, humor and laughter, and the Alise I enjoy online.

    No matter what list you make, I hope you continue to write. Alise…write!

  • RawFaith

    Heck, Jesus only had 12 guys following him, and they were kind of dicey at best. Then He lost one of those. I’m thinkin’ his blog wouldn’t have started out with a big following. I’m always amazed when I look at those lists how clueless they are when they put them together. There are a bizillion voices out there right now. But you’re very right that it’s not about how many read the blog that makes it really sucessful, it’s that it speaks truth and touches the people who do read it. I’ve done big whop de do media things seen by millions of people but I’m pretty sure that a lot of what I do one on one with people these days is way more important in God’s eyes. Your blog is always at the top few of the blogs I read because I love your heart and I’m encouraged by what you write. You so totally rock that way.

  • Miles O’Neal

    “If you write, you can influence.” Yes! If you care, if you write, if you talk, if you hug, if you buy someone a meal or give them a cup of water, you can influence. Would it be awesome to be Known, to directly influence millions, sure. Of course, then one better have the grace to deal with the worship… and the attacks. 8^O

    “The lack of female and non-white blogs matters…” I have to admit I don’t run across too many non-white bloggers, though there are a couple I read. But is there really a dearth of female bloggers? It hit me recently that of the 22 blogs I keep open in browser tabs (not counting mine), 20 are by women, and of the other few I read occasionally, over half are women. All of you get shared on Facebook from time to time. If you count people who treat facebook as a blog, add 4 or 5 guys to that mix; the women still come out on top. I recognize that’s just me, but it made me wonder.

    Another wonderful post. Thank you for just being yourself and sharing with the rest of us. You have influence beyond what you recognize. Whether you make that list or not (and I certainly hope you do) you bless a lot of us, just by your beautiful expressions of your existence.

    • Alise Wright

      FTR, it’s not that there is a lack of female or non-white bloggers, but rather that they don’t tend to end up on these lists. Because they tend to have a kind of cyclical thing (you have good stats so you make the list, so you get better stats, so you keep making the list), it’s important to examine why. Are the metrics skewed toward white men? Are women afraid to share their writing? Are we just ignoring the blogs of people of color (I know I read like 3 blogs by people of color and I read a lot of blogs)? Why are women like Sarah Bessey & Ann Voskamp not considered church blogs and therefore not even put in the running even though they are HIGHLY influential bloggers?

      These are some of the questions that lists bring up and I think they are worth examination.

      All that said, thank you for your kind words & faithful reading. I really, really appreciate it!

  • Grace at {Gabbing with Grace}

    great post. love it! =)