Money Became My Master. Here’s What I’m Doing About It.

Print Friendly

This has been an extremely hard post to write.  It’s been hard to write because I’ve had to openly admit some things that I don’t want to admit.  I’ve always made it my goal to be as transparent as possible so …

MH4C is changing.  Since you read this blog, you deserve to know about those changes.

Shifting directions on a blog is always hard.  It’s hard because you never know what your readers will think.

But what I’m changing at MH4C is not about pleasing my audience (sorry, savvy marketing advisors).

What I’m changing at MH4C will likely have a negative impact on profits (sorry, bank account).

What I’m changing will allow me to feel as though I’m fulfilling my God given call for this blog.

A little about myself:

I have almost no formal education in anything related to finance.  The only exception is that back in the 9th or 10th grade we played Stock Ticker in one of my classes.  Beyond that, I’m a Bible geek.  All of my higher education (college and 84 hour Master’s degree) was in Biblical studies. 

I have a unique experience, perspective, and gift mix.

For the last five years, I’ve been living in Papua New Guinea working in the midst of people who make less than $1,000 per year.  I believe God wants me to use this blog as leverage to promote a simple, frugal, debt free, and generous lifestyle.

So why am I writing about topics that bore me?

This is hard to put in print because I’m embarrassed to confess this to you.  I believe money has been a catalyst for this blog.  I should probably go one step further and say money has been my master.  There have been occasions when I’ve decided what I should and should not print based on what is more profitable.  I’ve put a lot of effort into learning how to make this blog profitable. 

To make matters worse, this blog is profitable.   

In the end, I believe God is calling me to do something more with MH4C.

There may be a lot of bloggers out there who can properly balance between writing what is profitable and writing what is necessary.  I’m not one of them.  More often than I wish to confess, I’ve written posts to pay the bills. 

Randy Alcorn prophetically said (in Money, Possession, and Eternity):

I believe that most of the financial matters we typically discuss are on the fringes of what’s important.

That’s what I’ve been doing with MH4C.  Talking about finances, but only occasionally addressing what is really important – the spiritual aspects of finances.  The reason is because the fringe topics are more profitable. 

Though these fringe topics are important, I believe that there are others more qualified, more gifted, and more passionate who should be discussing those issues.  Here are 14 other Christian finance bloggers.

Yet, God is calling me to do something different based on my history, experiences, background, and education.

One of my favorite quotes is something Elizabeth O’Connor wrote:

Proportionate to what?
Proportionate to the accumulated wealth of one’s family? Proportionate to one’s income and the demands upon it, which vary from family to family? Proportionate to one’s sense of security and the degree of anxiety with which one lives? Proportionate to the keenness of our awareness of those who suffer? Proportionate to our sense of justice and of God’s ownership of all wealth? Proportionate to our sense of stewardship for those who follow after us? And so on, and so forth.
The answer, of course, is in proportion to all of these things.

I need to be addressing financial issues proportionate to my call, experience, giftedness, and passion.  I feel as though it is time to focus more fully on the blogging ministry.

What spurred on this change?

My wife can attest to the fact that I’ve been considering a change in focus for several months, but it only took two days for it to be clear that the focus of this website needs to change.

This is going to sound silly, but what happened was I came to America.  After two days, I felt convicted that the focus of this blog needed to change.

Americans need to constantly be reminded of the dangers of materialism and wealth.  When I wrote about the most influential voices in Christian finances, I started wondering why I wasn’t a voice that more clearly introduced an alternative form of simple and generous living.  I’ve done it some, but it hasn’t been the focus of everything I’ve written. 

To be honest, I haven’t exactly been happy about the changes.

You see, my dream was that in 8-10 months I would return to North America and live off the income from this and my other blogs.  But this change definitely puts this dream further out of reach.  It hurts.  It really hurts (I literally have a tear running down my cheek right now).  I’ve invested so much of myself into this blog.  I couldn’t even begin to describe what I’ve invested and sacrificed.

But ultimately, when God tells us to give up something for the sake of his kingdom, we must respond – regardless of how we feel.  Since monetizing this site has distracted me from focusing on what I feel called to focus on, I’m going to drop the majority of my money making endeavors on this site.

I feel like God is calling me to forsake that monetization investment and to turn this blog into something that is much more profitable – something that has eternal value.  I’ll seek first the kingdom and patiently await God to work out the details.

I do still hope God opens a door where this can be an active form of ministry and also provide for the needs of my family.  But that’s God’s business, not mine.

So what is MH4C going to become?  What’s going to change?

Today I’ll talk about the advertising changes on the website, and tomorrow I’ll introduce how the content will change.

Advertising changes:

  1. I’ve removed over 95% of the Adsense ads from this website.  Adsense offers the biggest temptation for me to adjust the topics I address so they’ll be more profitable.  I’ve made over $1,000 a month using this ad network, but to do that I have to write articles that advertisers want to pay for (indirectly).  I feel like that means money becomes the motivation to write about certain topics.  Instead, I want to write about what is most important for people to hear.  When I teach Bible classes, I never have to deal with the pressure to teach about classes that are more profitable. (I don’t get kickbacks from companies that make baptisteries when I talk about baptism.)  I will keep some Adsense on older posts that are already in my archive (20-30 posts, I think) because the posts are already there.  I just don’t want it to influence what I write going forward.
  2. No more product reviews in a post.  I have a dedicated page – MH4C $ Tools – where I recommend products I use and love.  That page will stay with affiliate links to the appropriate products.  But I won’t be writing any direct product reviews because, even though those are helpful articles, they are profitable and might be drawing me away from writing about what is most important.
  3. Other ad blocks.  I have a few other ad blocks on this site that will stay.  They will stay for two reasons.  First, I’ve signed a contract agreeing to run the ads on my site.  Second, they don’t impact the types of posts I write.  Since the ads are managed by a third party and are more generic in nature, they aren’t actually impacted by the content.  I will entertain other advertising opportunities on older posts as those articles are already there.
  4. Yes, I will continue to sell my books because I’m proud to promote them, and I think they actually further the simple, frugal, and debt free message I’m trying to share.

I’m not afraid to make a profit on this website.  In fact, I hope God makes that possible.  But, I won’t make a profit in any way that requires me to alter (subtly or not) the content of a post.  However, right now I feel like God is saying, “Craig, I didn’t send you to PNG for five years so you could tell people about how to open an online brokerage account.  I sent you to PNG to transform your view of finances, and I want you to share that message.”

A note to my fellow bloggers:  Writing about these changes has been hard because I know there are many other godly Christian bloggers out there who are using the very monetization methods I’m  walking away from.  Please don’t feel like my personal change is a judgment on any of you.  It is something I’ve felt called to do for some time, but I’ve been afraid to implement.  Through several personal experiences, I feel like this is the right reason for me.  However, just because it is the right reason for me does not mean I think all Christian bloggers need to remove these forms of advertising.  I only wish each of you the best in your efforts.

On Wednesday I’ll tell you a little bit more about where I’m going to focus my blogging efforts in the future.

Comments

  1. says

    Craig, your post humbles me and makes me think.

    I didn’t start my blog as a ministry, and while a few of my posts mention spiritual things it’s not specifically a Christian blog (I guess you could say I’m not a Christian blogger, but I’m a blogger who is a Christian). When you talked about how your posts sometimes were written a certain way to maximize profits, I could identify. In fact, I’ve been contemplating a post promoting a product that I use that I would no doubt make a little money from via Amazon. The main reason I’ve been thinking about it is because I haven’t gotten many affiliate sales this month (I’m still new :) ).

    I know you said that we don’t need to just do what you’re doing, but you made me wonder if I’m seeking God first in my blogging. Even though I don’t write spiritual posts (and sometimes wonder if I should start), I do believe I need to seek Him first in blogging because He is my King.

    Thanks for your humility and transparency. I look forward to seeing the great posts the Lord will inspire you to write!

    Blessings
    -jason

    • says

      Jason,
      If my blog wasn’t a ‘Christian blog’ I wouldn’t feel the same burden regarding the content. I do have another blog, as I think you know, and on that blog I have no issues making a profit. I think what I’m doing there is service oriented, but here I want to be ministry oriented. It hard to put ministry and money first.

      Seeking God first in blogging can be difficult. I pray that God guides you in that pursuit.

  2. says

    “Craig, I didn’t send you to PNG for five years so you could tell people about how to open an online brokerage account. I sent you to PNG to transform your view of finances, and I want you to share that message.” That is a powerful statement and I am looking forward to see where your blog takes you and its readers.

  3. says

    Craig, I’m actually really excited about this. I have to say I looked forward to your spiritual posts much more than anything else. Honestly, that’s the only reason I kept you on my feed reader. I skipped most everything else.

    As a fellow Christian finance blogger, I’m not saying I got it all down perfectly either. I think we’ve had enough conversations that you know I don’t believe that. But I have purposely tried to avoid product reviews, paid posts, and affiliate programs because of how it made me feel, too. I totally identify with you on that. I’ve actually decided to remove all affiliate links from the site*(see note) and I won’t accept paid review posts. So if I do happen to write a product review it will simply be because I think it’s useful.

    Adsense hasn’t had much of an influence on my posts as far as I know. It did get me to learn more about keyword research and to think about my post titles and the phrases I use. But I couldn’t really keep myself motivated to write about the higher paying CPC keywords – again because of the way it made me feel. Those kinds of posts just weren’t going to be that helpful and could easily detract from my message. I think you could have Adsense and not have it influence you too much, but I think your idea to not have it for a while is smart until you feel like you’re back in control.

    I’d also encourage you not to feel like you should never write about strictly financial issues, especially if there’s something you really enjoy or think would be very helpful for your readers. I agree that the spiritual side of it is much more important and much more difficult to put into practice, but we still have to make good decisions when we implement what God is teaching us.

    * (My decision to remove affiliate links was also partly due to a conversation with Dylan from Swan Financial Planning. Because I’m also a “fee-only” financial planner in addition to being a blogger, it’s better to be safe and remove such links so no one can say I’m not truly fee-only. I’m not sure if the same argument could be made for Adsense, but I’ve asked the CFP board for their opinion. Also, be looking for a post soon on my website asking why we don’t have any “fee-only” financial bloggers when all of them say you should only use a fee-only planner.)

    • says

      Paul,

      Thanks for your comment. I know what you mean about writing posts just because they had higher paying keywords. I felt like those posts took away from what I initially sent out to do on my blog.

      I do plan to spend some time writing about specific financial issues, but only if I feel like the topic is really important to Christians. I’m trying to view my blog as a part of a Christian community – a body with different parts. Since I have such a strong background in Biblical studies I think my focus need to be there. Those with stronger backgrounds in finance (like you Mr. CFP) should be helping the rest of us understand those topics.

      I’m interested to see how things develop in the future.

      Thanks for your encouraging comment.

      • says

        Craig, I should add that part of the reason I took a break from writing was because I started finding myself more absorbed in how I could make money from what I was writing rather than how I could help others. So I just want you to know that you are not alone in these temptations.

        I really appreciate your honesty and openness in sharing your struggles, and I’m excited to see where you’ll go from here. Blessings, brother!

        • says

          Paul,
          I like the word ‘absorbed’. I think that is exactly what was happening to me. I’m glad to know that I’m not alone!

  4. Jason says

    Wonderful! The focus you mention is much needed in our culture and I am very excited to see how God uses this site! Thank you for your transparency and integrity! There is much good practical advice on finance available, but often doesn’t get to the true heart issues around money, wealth, debt and materialism. I applaud you!

  5. JMD says

    Craig,

    What refreshing and honest evaluation and communication. I am so pleased to read this and I truly believe that you are not alone in this quest to be free of financial entanglements. As we continue to struggle to sell our home and downsize to an extremely modest livestyle we have sought God and searched our souls as to what we have been doing with our money,time and energies. Trust me, you are not alone in your assessment of where your focus may have been. We are considerably older and finally awake and trying to change.

    You and your dear family will be fine and I believe God will bless you for your faithfulness.

  6. David J says

    As someone who consistently reads your blog, I just wanted to drop you a note that I completely support your shift and praise God for how he is convicting your heart. May God bless your endeavors and your ministry, and I know I will be here happily reading what you have to report.

  7. Devin says

    Do what you need to do. I’ve enjoyed your blog and I think you have always been upfront about where you were coming from. In this economy, making an honest buck helps everyone in a small way. I hate to see you change. I will give you the benefit of the doubt but am concerned for your welfare.

    • says

      Devin,
      As I mentioned I have not problem making money by blogging. My main issue was when I avoided topics that I thought were important to address because I need to find a way to pay the bills. While the economic times may be slow let me assure you that God is currently blessing us above and beyond what we deserve. We are not in any way hurting financially. We already have a very supportive group of churches who support our mission work and beyond that anything I earn doesn’t impact our cost or standard of living in any way.
      Thanks for your concern.

  8. Tract Steagall says

    Extremely proud of you! I can’t imagine the amount of courage that must have taken. Who knows what effect you will have on readers now, but I know it will be Kingdom worthy! Bless you, your family, and your future endeavors.

    • says

      Tract,
      Thank you so much. My ultimate goal is that this blog is a resource to further the work of the Kingdom. I hope that has been happening and will continue to happen in a more direct way.

  9. Jeri says

    Thank you for living the life you write about. I am always amazed at your integrity and the ways you challenge our family to do what is right. Keep up the great work of being a godly husband, daddy to our children, and minister to so many people.

    • says

      Jeri,
      These changes wouldn’t have been possible without your love and support. It seems strange to ‘chat’ with you via the comment section on the blog.

  10. GayleRN says

    I know what content I have been looking for from you. What I would like to see is solid, deep, Biblical teaching about money and finances and its effect on our souls, values, action and our relationship with God. There is more than enough how to out there. I would dearly love to see why to. There has to be more about the subject than what is usually taught in churches which mainly concerns exhorting people to pony up the tithe so we can spend more money. I am more concerned with how my relationship with God should impact my relationship with money. I can supply some questions if you want to supply some answers.

    • says

      Gayle,
      I can’t make any promises, but I think you’ll enjoy the content going forward. The things you mentioned are what I intend to focus on in the future.

  11. says

    First, don’t cry into your keyboard–if you’re looking at making less money, you probably don’t want to have to purchase a new computer. Second, I think you do a lot of discussing the spiritual aspect of finances. How much more do you plan on heading in that direction?

    • says

      Joe,
      Thanks for your concern about my keyboard.

      As to your question regarding the number of ‘spiritual posts’ I don’t really know. The best answer is simply more.

  12. says

    I’ve only found your blog very recently, but have enjoyed it. There is a need for more solid spiritual teaching on finance and I commend you on following what God has intended for you.

    Shaun

  13. Phyllis Kassum says

    Craig I initially started reading your blog when I realized you were a product of ACU. The last 5 months I have skipped reading your blog everyday and even contemplated removing your link from my favorites. Howeve,r I did feel truly convicted to pray about the change that I saw you taking (becoming more obsessed with material things) and to be honest I was truly turned off by all the promoting and attempting to sell the books. I am so glad I did not “delete” your blog. I rejoice that God has touched your heart and brought back “home”. I look forward to continuing to read and grow by reading your teachings. May God bless you richly. P.S. Don’t push the books sales so hard, God will take care of that. In his service, Phyllis

    • says

      Phyllis,
      Thanks for your comment.
      I appreciate your concern so I did want to be sure I clearly share what will and won’t be changing at MH4C. This way you and others won’t feel like I’ve been deceptive with this post.
      My plan going forward is to continue to promote my books. In this post what made me feel like I was missing the mark was that I wrote about less important topics so I could earn an income. That is the error I believe I made.
      I have no problem earning an income from this site. Each of my books will help challenge and change people, so I will happily continue to promote them. I believe each book is a blessing to anyone who buys one.
      I’m sorry that you feel like you feel like I’ve done too much selling of my books. My memory certainly could be wrong, but when I released Transforming Your Financial Diet, I promoted it for 10 days. That is 10 days out of the last six months. Personally, I think that is a reasonable time period for a promotion.
      I say all this because I plan to re-release the book in August, and I will be promoting it. I wanted to offer you fair warning and a clear idea of what the future holds for MH4C.

  14. says

    Craig, I’ve been a long-time follower and, before I became a blogger, I directed people to your website for your easy to understand information. While I can understand your position, feel proud of the work you have done and will do. You have improved the lives of people and their families. Good Luck!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *