Doubting Thomas at Work on the 2011 Budget

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Most of the apostles have the same title. Saint John. Saint Matthew. Saint Peter.

But Thomas had a special title: Doubting Thomas. It’s not really fair to him. The guy did a lot of other stuff, you know? He was a twin. He almost certainly went out with the first 70 evangelists in Luke 10. He followed Jesus to Bethany planning to die with him there. He confessed his ignorance to Jesus, asking “How can we follow you if we don’t know where you are going?” It’s a good question.

Thomas wanted answers. If he worked in our office, he would be the guy looking over statistics. He would compare costs and benefits. He would want to know the grand total of what we are budgeting for in 2011—author payments, editor payments, hosting fees, development fees, photography, strategy, SEO, SEM, SMO, and on and on. Excellence isn’t cheap. Thomas knows this. But he also wants to be a good steward. After he adds up the costs, he would consider what benefits we hope to achieve—traffic, engagement, referrals, subscribers, members.

Of course, Thomas would concede that our real goal is the transformation of our readers. really is about encouraging people to serve God in their daily work. Thomas knows that, but he wants to measure things to reassure himself that we’re headed in the right direction. If people subscribe, we can assume they are getting a message of encouragement delivered to them regularly. If people refer to one of our articles from blogs or Twitter or Facebook, we assume they find the article to be valuable.

Thomas likes to measure things. He’s learned that hope is fragile. He’s learned that talk is cheap.

When the disciples tell him, “We have seen the Lord!” Thomas knows better than to believe them. Everyone wants Jesus to come back from the dead. Thomas wants it too. But wanting something doesn’t make it true.

No. Thomas wanted to measure the holes in the hands of Jesus. He wanted to put his hand in the side of Jesus and measure what the soldier’s spear had done.

And I’m right there with him. In fact, I can get a little mad at God sometimes about this. Thomas’ doubt seems like a prayer to me. He said, “Unless I see the nail marks in the hands of Jesus and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

But then God answered the prayer of Doubting Thomas.

I want God to answer my doubts too. I don’t think I’m the only person who wants this. I spend every day measuring analytics, talking with people on the phone, trying to produce evidence of relationships that exist in the ether. It’s a constant struggle. There is a lot of doubt for those of us trying to make this new media work.

But at the end of the day, we can almost measure online relationships. If what we do here is part of the church, the body of Christ, then we can almost measure the body of Christ online. I can see how many of you will read this article next week. I can touch the number of each reader’s IP address on my screen. I can print your comments. I can forward your emails.

And I am so grateful for your engagement here.

But still I doubt. Thomas touched Jesus himself. I don’t get to do that. Jesus doesn’t email me. He doesn’t leave comments on our site. He is not a member here. He is not my friend on Facebook.

When I talk to Gordon Atkinson on the phone, I ask him, “How is the new editorial workflow going? Can we make improvements?” And Gordon talks back. It’s a dialog.

Everything here at is carefully designed to allow room for dialog. We are not the New York Times. We are not a collection of sermons for people sitting passively in the pews. We expect engagement. We expect dialog.

At night, when I pray, I carry that expectation with me.

I ask God, “What do you think of the new site? What do you think of the new editorial workflow Gordon came up with? What do you think of the article I wrote today?”

I want to hear words of affirmation. I want to know that God linked to us from Twitter. I want Jesus to print out Susan DeMickele’s article on ambition and stick it on his fridge with a magnet.

I want God to talk back. I want God to be someone I can touch. I want God to be something I can measure.

But he’s not.

Photograph Trekabout Photowalk 275 by Tim Miller, used with permission.