Who Read this Column?


Back before Christmas 2004 I went on strike, weary of shouting type responses to several of my “Tuesday Columns.”   I refused to write again until I heard from the other side—folk who read my posts every week but say little or nothing.  I just grabbed a number out of the air deciding to stay on strike until I heard from a thousand readers—sort of a “pastoral vote”  of sorts.   It took about ten days to get my thousand “thank you’s” so I returned to writing this weekly column.


I didn’t do it as a stunt (though I should have).  A bunch of my readers thought it was a masterminded stunt to make the point that we don’t thank pastors enough. Others of you complimented my “genius method of getting research on the audience.”  Gee, I wish I had been that smart.  I was actually striking exactly for the reasons I said—I was tired of getting hate mail from Christians—mostly Baptists.  OK, once the strike was over I realized that I did indeed gather some significant data on who reads these pages.  Here is what I discovered 


1.       “Thinking Baptists” are my number one readers.  Some of the most virulent emails I get are from Baptists.  However the single largest group saying thanks were also Baptists.  There are simply a lot of Baptists!  There are 34 million of them in the USA—that’s about one out of every six Americans, including Atheists!  All Methodist and Wesleyan groups total only 14 million and Lutherans come in with about 10 million. So, while Baptists may generate the most hate mail they also generate the most like mail!  Many of their emails said things like these:  

·        “I’m a thinking Baptist.”  “I’m a Baptist and I like to think—please keep writing.”

·        “Our [Baptist] Sunday School class uses one of your articles every week as our curriculum—please don’t stop.”

·        “There may be more Baptist haters than others, but there are also more Baptist lovers than any other denomination.  If you figure out how to get rid of Baptist haters tell us who are Baptist and we’d like to follow suit.”


2.      Nazarenes are second.  I was shocked by this.  I thought Nazarenes mostly read Nazarene stuff.  But sure enough—you guys are my number two readers.  I ought to be more careful about what I say about Nazarenes (I should, but I won’t).  After Nazarenes came United Methodists as number three. Next came my own denomination (Wesleyans) then various Reformed denominations (I already know they like to think—it is doing that’s their problem), then came Charismatics, non-denominational folk, Lutherans, Church of God (Anderson), Free Methodists, and after these just about every denomination imaginable.  I knew I had lots of Methodist readers (they respond often) but now I know I have even more Nazarene readers—even though they respond less and lurk more. (Why?)


3.      There are lots of readers from secular campuses.   I knew some of my own students read my columns and students from other Christian colleges and seminaries.  But I had no idea how many Christian professors and students attending secular Universities read it.  I need to be more aware of this secular University audience—the issues you guys face are unique and closer to “survival in a hostile environment” than some of the nit-picky stuff I write for those of us who live in greenhouses.  


4.      Lay folk are more numerous than I thought. I started writing the “Tuesday Column” in 1995—it was only for pastors.  I still write primarily to pastors.  But I’ve got a whale of a lot of lay readers—especially attorneys (why is this?).  And about 10% of my readers are stay-at-home moms but I knew that for they are frequent responders.  I still will write mostly to pastors, but I’m glad to know the laity are watching.


5.      Many reside outside the USA. I’m an American and don’t address worldwide issues much. However I was surprised at how many people responded from other countries. During this 10 day period I had responses from Singapore, Australia, Belgium, Philippines, Czech, Israel,  Japan, Canada Korea,  Finland, South Africa & the United Kingdom.  A few of these were “missionaries” but many were pastors or laity.  I’ll try better to remember these readers in the future.


6.      Most never write at all. Even while I was on strike most never wrote.  We all know that for every person who writes their pastor a thank you note there are ten who felt the same way but said nothing. I could test it during this strike. I got a bit over 1,000 actual emails in ten days.  During that same ten day period there were more than 20,000 hits on the web site.   That’s encouraging to me—a writer isn’t much of a writer if nobody reads what he’s written. So as I go back to work on a “Tuesday Column” each week I’m going to assume that my generalizations from the thousand responders can be applied to the rest of you… so expect me to assume my audience is made up of thinking people who are Baptist-Nazarene-Methodist-Wesleyan-etc. They are mostly pastors but also includes student, professors, and seminarians who are mostly from the USA but also folk from the whole world listening in.


Thanks for all who took the time to write and “vote” back in 2004  I felt greatly appreciated and returned to writing a weekly “Tuesday Column” motivated by appreciative readers.  The bonus for me since is I’m getting less hate mail.   I suppose there are still as many bitter Baptists as ever—but they’re writing me less.  And that saves us both time and emotion!   If you are a thinking reader please offer your disagreement with any column—my job is to provoke thinking.  But if you just want to hate—write your mother in law, not me.  ;-)


 Keith Drury