Another year has passed. Most of us are oh so happy to say goodbye to THIS one. An awful year, in many many ways, and we are not out of the woods. Even those who have weathered the storm well have faced hardship, suffering, and loss. Whatever your own situation, please accept my best wishes as we move onward. There is a light ahead and possibly a bright future. Whether you pray, hope, or both, this would be a good time to do so with renewed vigor!
There have been silver linings and good things as well, of course, for many of as individuals, our communities, our country, and our world. There certainly have been me, and I do try to look on the bright side even while I’m torn by the suffering all around us. But it would be wrong, not to mention unhealthy, not to celebrate the bright spots that have sometimes shone through.
For me the blog has been a bright spot. It’s been a really good year for us. Our NINTH!! Wow. We started this thing in April 2012, and have not let up since.
As most of you know, I started it because I wanted to disseminate knowledge of the New Testament and early Christianity from a non-sectarian perspective, informing non-scholars what scholars who have spent their lives studying the earliest Christian literature and history – roughly from the life of Jesus to the Emperor Constantine – have come to learn, and to do so in simple, easy to understand, and interesting terms. That, for almost all of you, is the primary raison d’être of the blog. For me, just as important is that is has been a tool for raising money for charities.
This year witnessed a number of blog milestones. First and most obvious, we have launched a new blog platform. Steven Ray, my dedicated, hardworking, and talented assistant, who designed, implemented, and ran the first platform worked diligently on this new one, for over a year, to make it better in every way. And it is. Many thanks to Steven! We launched it on October 21, and it has been a huge success so far. (BTW: if there are things you think we can do to improve it, PLEASE let me/us know. We keep tinkering with it, adding new things, making it better – but your feedback is the single most important thing for us).
The new site has nice improvements and is designed to add to your experience, to attract new members, and to increase our charitable giving, all with good success.
This past year I continued to post 5-6 times a week – as I have done every week of every year since we started! Them’s a lot of posts. This year we came in at 289 posts (5.5 / week, counting some fantastic guest posts), which – another milestone – took us over 2500 posts for the life of the blog (2511 total, as of today). In addition, the posts received 13,831 comments this year; taking us over 100,000 total (completely count so far 105,007). I read all the comments and try to answer all the questions I receive. The only comments I don’t post are ones that are insensitive to others, generally snarky, or not relevant (including overly-political ones) (even when I completely agree with the politics!). That happens maybe once every month or two, at most.
I will continue posting at this pace, and those of you who like making comments will be able to continue doing so. As you know, we have moved to a membership tier system, so that those who simply want to read what I have to say and are not interested in making or reading comments can be at the Bronze level. Those who want to participate more by making and reading comments and commenting on comments can join one rung up, at the Silver level. For the implementation of the blog in October, we started with a transition period: everyone came in at the Silver level. Not everyone wants that, so when your membership period is up, you can decide whether to stay there or not: the default will be to move down to Bronze; you will be given the chance to whomp it up a notch. Or more! There’s always Gold, with even more perks; and Platinum which is out of this world. If there was anything beyond that I’d have to buy you a flat in Paris.
As a result of the improved quality and our efforts to acquire more members, we are growing faster than we anticipated. Last year at this time we had 8338 members, itself over 20% more than the year before. This year, right now as I type, we are at 12,071 members, nearly 45% more than last year. OK then. We want to keep growing even more and are working on ways to do that.
You can HELP. Do you know anyone who might be interested in the blog? Anyone interested in knowing more about the NT and early Christianity from a non-sectarian, historical point of view? Why not tell them about it?
The result of all this growth is another rather significant milestone. We shattered the record we set last year for our charitable revenues. As you know, every penny from membership fees and donations made on the site go to charity. In 2019 we raised $167,000. I had very much hoped we could reach $200,000 in 2020 (has a nice resonance to it: 200 in 2020). We surpassed it by a wide margin. Altogether we brought in and distributed $232,000. Go figure.
That allowed us to pass the most significant milestone of all. We have now distributed over $1,000,000 to charities ($1,058,000 total) since the beginning of the blog.
A good deal of our recent success is due to the Volunteers who do various tasks for the blog; for several years now we have had John Mueller, who, as you know, runs the Bart Ehrman Podcast, which brings people in to the blog to have a look. This past year, in order to help us expand the things we do, we developed a core of Volunteers who do all sorts of important tasks that are making us better as we grow: those who read and produce the new audio versions of every blog post (available to you if you are at the GOLD level!), Ben Porter, John Paul Middlesworth, and C. W. Weeks; a forum administrator, Robert; a social marketing expert, Doubting Thomas; a business manager, Dave Bohn; and a personal assistant, Diane Pittman. We have also just formed a Technology Advisory Board that we hope will be active in helping us pursue some projects to come.
All in all it has been a very good year for the blog and we’re looking forward to 2021 being an even better one. If there’s anything we can do to improve your experience, let me know. And if you like what you find here, please spread the word!