A Theology for Online Creators

==Level of Certainty: Low certainty it applies to others, mid certainty of personal application. Level of Effort: Couple of conversations and revisions.==

💭 How do I faithfully represent Jesus in creating culture?

These ideas are in their early stages. I’d love to hear your thoughts!


Introduction: My journey

When I started working on the Bible Study Kit I quickly found myself thinking about monetization. How can I get compensated for my efforts? My instinct was to go with Patreon and implement some incentives for different tiers of support.

Only when receiving some feedback for the kit I was encouraged to drop the “bells and whistles” of tiers, reflect God’s grace by giving freely without obligation and give a chance for people to support who want to (see: Financial Policy).

#1: Rejecting the pull of the world

I have been met with great generosity and am amazed to receive something in return for my efforts. Still, I find myself constantly getting pulled towards the vortex of self-promotion and making money off your audience. Sure, there are healthy ways of doing it – however, in me I recognised what the Bible would call greed.

There are a lot of great and ethical ideas out there on how to grow your audience. However, the first step for me is to acknowledge that I have been shaped by the current way of sharing stuff online. And that that’s not necessarily the way of the cross.

I think the first step for the Christian online creator is to reject the world's pull towards money and influence.

It is easy to stop seeing people as Image Bearers and start seeing them as walking money bags.

Transclude of Rom-12#2

It might not apply for everyone but for me reading about how much people make from passive income, how their audiences grew like crazy and how I can copy that gets me into an exploitative mindset.

#2: What is God’s standard?

While working on rejecting the tendencies to exploit for my own gain that are so common in many resources for online creators, I need to transform my mind towards God’s standard.

Two currencies: Attention and Money

For now, it seems to me like there are two currencies in which online creators are payed by their audience: Their attention (direct time) and their money (indirect time). What is our responsibility towards these?

a) Attention

Honour the attention of your audience

Giving attention is giving authority. So much of online creation resources are about getting the attention of your audience and maintaining it. 8 tells us what to fix our minds on, as creators are we putting such things out?

Two principles to take away here:

  • Share signal, not noise
  • Share goodness, not drama

Be willing to give up your platform

When our audience exceeds our character, we are in trouble. When God gives us platform, we must always be willing to walk away from it.

b) Money

For I heed no riches; nor man’s empty praise

Competition as cooperation

You work for the good of society

Both Paul and the trappist monk saw a need in the community and filled it. They didn’t work to make money.

Financial models in the early church

The following section is inspired by Paying the bills - Chris J Wilson.

  • Shared purse: The community of believers described in Acts sold all their possessions, lived together and helped each other out.
  • Tentmaking: The Apostle Paul worked as a tentmaker to support himself, his community and be a witness (34). He emphasises generosity and working for the economic benefit of the whole community.
    • Trappist monks in Belgium and central Europe brewed beer, to feed the community rather than to make money.
  • Patrons: In the Renaissance wealthy business owners would fund the church, sometimes for their own glory sometimes out of devotion.
  • Donations

Principles of Trappist monks

According to Wikipedia these criteria applied to Trappist monks:

  • The beer must be brewed within the walls of a Trappist monastery, either by the monks themselves or under their supervision.
  • The brewery must be of secondary importance within the monastery and it should witness to the business practices proper to a monastic way of life.
  • The brewery is not intended to be a profit-making venture. The income covers the living expenses of the monks and the maintenance of the buildings and grounds. Whatever remains is donated to charity for social work and to help persons in need.

These principles can be adapted for an online creator. (I’ll need to think more about how)

What do we demand money for?

This is the trickiest question for now. We are called to reflect God’s generosity. At the same time money is not the problem, the love of it is (10). Workers should be compensated, Scripture tells us to not “muzzle the ox” (18).

Online creation lies at the intersection of multiple domains: Arts & Entertainment, Communication, Economic and Science & Technology. How can we integrate God’s design for these in what we put out?

#3: Practical application

Different levels of getting paid as a online creator

  1. Github: Sharing work for free and making it easy to be re-used
  2. Patreon and similar tools: Giving people the chance to give while all content is free
  3. Paywalling content (Patreon with tiers, Skillshare, Medium, paid newsletter): Making some content cost
  4. Frugly products

There are also different grades of asking for attention: “Lead magnets”, so exchanging content against your email address. Placing advertising on a blog.

So far I am rolling with the first and second level of this. I think those two are theologically sounds: providing value freely and giving the chance to give freely.

Is it okay to charge for teaching of Scripture?

My question is when it comes to the third level: Especially when it comes to teaching on the Bible, should you demand money for it? A lot of Christian authors don’t seem to mind. But is that right?

While I’m thinking about this, I’d love to hear your thoughts!