The Feedback Machine

Within the next month my hope and prayer is to finish my new book, The Call to Wonder. When I have finished it will go through an editorial process such that six or more months later people will actually be able to buy the book. There may be at that time some reviews. I may receive some emails from readers. The whole process, from when work began on the book to getting a response will be more than a year.

Within the next week my hope and my prayer is to write my monthly column for Tabletalk magazine. It too will go through an editorial process, and this time, within a few months it will be in readers’ hands. Then too I might receive some emails from readers. The whole process from when the work began to getting a response will be a few months.

Within the next hour my hope and my prayer is to write another Kingdom Note, to be sent out via the internet to supporters of Highlands Ministries and other interested parties. It will go through an editorial process, and within hours will be in readers’ hands. Then I might receive some comments, and perhaps a few “likes.” The whole process from when the work began to getting a response will be a few hours.

All of which ought to tell us something. I suspect there might be a sliding scale, an inverse ration between how quickly we get to press, how quickly we get response, and the amount of impact we have. Blogs or Facebook posts change our moments, while books can change our lives. I suspect magazine articles are somewhere in between.

This doesn’t mean, of course, that all our energy ought to be devoted to writing, and reading books. It might mean, however, that our priorities are slightly askew. It might mean that the surreal world of the internet has at the same time distorted our vision and exaggerated its power. It may mean that our big reach means we are having small talk. I read recently (at blogger, author and pastor Tim Challie’s widely read blog) that the typical post on the internet has a shelf life of 2.8 hours before it is likely to be drowned out by all the internet noise (that is, when everyone else’s 2.8 hours begin). A monthly magazine, at least one with daily Bible studies, has a shelf life of roughly a month. A book has a shelf life measured in years.

All of us want to make a difference for the kingdom. And all of us, not just pastors of churches, are tempted to measure that difference by counting noses. The ease of such accounting is likewise in inverse proportion to its usefulness. We should not be counting noses, but courting hearts. We should be hoping and praying that God would use us to change fewer lives more, rather than more lives hardly at all. That, it seems to me, comes not with blogs, not even with books, but with shepherding the flock, whether in the church, or in the home.