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Is everything ultimately quantifiable? 

Much as I hate to admit it, there is a little part of me that fears this question will someday become a statement of fact. Everything will be reduced to numbers, formulas, neurons, and reactions. 

Until then, we at the Reformed Journal — both writers and readers, I presume — hang on to ineffable beauty and irresistible grace.

The Reformed Journal is not driven by numbers. It wouldn’t surprise me if in 2024 some new site filled with AI-generated “Christian” content could start up and soon outstrip the Reformed Journal. That’s okay. We occupy an odd space that we sardonically call “middlebrow” — neither highbrow-academic nor lowbrow-popular. We were once compared to a 1970s American Motors advertising campaign that claimed “We’re Not for Everyone. We risk turning some people off.” Who remembers American Motors? Look where it got them!

Yet we do pay attention to numbers, even if we aren’t trying to go viral with everything we put out. It’s like my experience as a pastor. I was never part of the “church-growth” crowd. We didn’t count noses every Sunday. But any good pastor has to watch for trends and larger shifts.

One of the reasons that we don’t pay that much attention to our numbers is because we aren’t competing with anyone. This isn’t European football where the lowest rated blogger is relegated. (Frankly, we don’t analyze our numbers that closely. We have no idea who our lowest rated blogger is. And we don’t want to know.) Each of our regular writers has a niche — their own voice, their own audience. We know and are pleased that when each byline appears, some of you perk up, and a few of you wince. In looking at this year’s numbers, we are not saying “And the winner is…!”

Still, at the end of the year, here are some numbers. 

First, we celebrate that in 2023 we went over one million page views for the entire Reformed Journal — blogs, essays, poetry, reviews. Taylor Swift has 279 million Instagram followers. So we still have room for growth. But for us, a million views makes us feel joyful and gratified. Thank you!

The most read blog of 2023 was “CRC Synod 2023: A Message from an LGBTQ Member” by Ryan Struyk. Allison Vander Broek had great responses to “Shiny Happy People, The Secret of Hillsong, and Evangelicalism Exposed,” as well as “Raising Kids Duggar Style.” Nicholas Wolterstorff’s “You Have Heard It Said…” and Jim Bratt’s ”Devil, Demon, or Antichrist?” also had strong numbers.

We can’t fully explain the numbers of two of our most popular blogs of the year. Not that they weren’t good, of course. We believe that both “An Unsung Hero of World War II” by Rebecca Koerselman and “Now and Then (and the One to Come)” by Scott Hoezee were picked up and shared by other sites (truly, going viral). We were never able to discover where or who. Even more peculiar, they occurred on back-to-back days — November 13 and 14. Did the interweb clicker go haywire for a couple days? Or maybe, it was just a coincidence that these two popular posts happened consecutively? 

The biggest numbers of the year were turned in by Keith Mannes’ essay “Jesus Unlimited: Why I Transitioned my Ordination out of the Christian Reformed Church.” It had over 52,000 views. “How the Church Growth Movement has De-Churched Christians” by Jon Austin and “Denominational Idolatry” by Christy Berghoef were other essays that did really well.

You, as readers, seemed to have an almost insatiable appetite for posts that took to task the Christian Reformed Synod of 2023. No doubt, the tone, the process, and the outcome of Synod were disappointing to many. That said, on occasion we found it necessary to ration the anger and criticism aimed at the CRC Synod. We told more than a couple writers, “This is good stuff. But the Reformed Journal can’t be going after the CRC Synod 24/7.”

In the long and illustrious history of the RJ, we have often played the role of the “loyal opposition.” Some have only seen us as opposition — the critique and the challenge. But observant readers have also seen our commitment to institutions, denominations, and traditions. We hope we’ve continued that role in this recent controversy.

Tim Van Deelen said something similar — and sent us all scurrying for our dictionaries — when he described RJ as both progressive and atavistic (reverting to ancestral and primitive traits). 

John Hwang
1979 – 2023

Finally, we would be remiss if we did not again mark the tragic and unexpected death of our colleague John Hwang. In many ways, it was John’s insights and persistence that got us to where we are. We miss him and we pray for his family.

The year draws to a close. Thank you for reading. Thanks for engaging. Thanks for the encouragement. Thanks for the financial support. Thanks for realizing that the Reformed Journal is about more than numbers.

And by the way, this entire blog was generated by AI. Ha!

Not really. 

See you in 2024.

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Can we look to you for a financial gift before the year ends?

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Especially we encourage you to consider our special But Wait…There’s More! offer. Give $300 by the end of the year and you’ll receive these three books in the course of the next few months.

Thank you very much!

Steve Mathonnet-VanderWell

Steve Mathonnet-VanderWell is a recently retired minister of the Reformed Church in America. He has been the convener of the Reformed Journal’s daily blog since its inception in 2011. He and his wife, Sophie, reside in Des Moines, Iowa.


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