This Saturday, March 14, 2015, will be the 2 year Twitterversary for @BackRowBeliever. Many of you may be relatively new followers, and many of you may have been following from the beginning, but still know very little about how it all began. Let me tell you the story…
In March 2013, I found myself bored. I had been on Twitter for my personal account for about a year and had followed many “Christian Anon” accounts intending to offer humorous observations of Christian life.
I had always considered myself at least “kinda funny”, so I thought I’d try my hand. I started up an account called “Church Media Director”, which was (and still is) my position at my home church. I thought it would be fun to share my P.O.V. from the sound booth. But it didn’t take off right away, so, impatient, I tossed it aside days later.
Still wanting to start an account, I decided I wanted to be a little more generic as to not shackle myself to one branch of the church for comedy. Many Church Anons were Pastor’s, or the wives or children of Pastor’s, but I was none of those things. And some of the most popular ones were crotchety old parishioners, so I didn’t want to try to compete with them.
As I chose the name, started up the account, and began to follow some of my favorite Church Anons, I came across Volunteer Worship Leader (@VoluntrWrshpLdr) say that he would get Church Curmudgeon (@ChrchCurmudgeon), the Grandaddy of Church Anons with tens of thousands of followers, to give a shout out to his 200th follower.
That follower was me. And VWL came through.
Church Curmudgeon simply tweeted, “.@BackRowBaptist You’re in my seat.” And in a matter of hours, my follower count was well into triple digits.
Mind you, I had very little content at this time. So, as the number started piling up, I started spitting out jokes. And I felt I had to keep the jokes flowing in order to keep the followers I had just gained, so that’s what I did.
For the first year, I steadily gained about 1000 followers a month. I made plenty of Church Anon friends and saw many new ones rise, and the majority of them fall. (Church Anon business is tough.)
As January 1st, 2014 approached, I challenged my followers to get me to 10,000 followers before New Year’s Day, and as soon as that happened, I’d briefly reveal my face.
It didn’t look like I was going to make the number, but then numbers started to jump and it hit a couple days before the deadline. That night, I shared a photo, but I built it up for a couple hours, questioning if I should do it or back out. Oddly, in those two hours, I gained almost 300 new followers wanting to see me reveal my face, even though they weren’t already following me.
I eventually did share my picture, for 5 minutes, then deleted it. Those who saw it didn’t really care, but those who missed it did. I must admit, I felt like a celebrity and it was quite an intoxicating feeling.
After that night, things got back to normal for a few months, until around my one year Twitterversary, when I finally made a decision I had been putting off.
I have a really rough testimony. One that I hate sharing, but one I do share, because God commands me to and because I know it’s one that many people need to hear. God had been pulling at my heart that I now had a captive audience of over 12 thousand people and it was time to tear the “Anonymous” wall down and share my story.
So, after much internal struggle and discussions with my wife and friends, I revealed who I was, what I had done, and what God had rescued me from. [To hear my testimony for yourself, click here.]
I expected a massive loss in followers. And while I’m sure there was a fair amount, it wasn’t noticeable. And I gained many new ones at the same time. After the initial shock and awe of the Matt Coker bomb was over, things at @BackRowBaptist got back to normal. Just churchy humor.
But in my DM mailbox (and for a short while, on an Ask.fm account I had), things were different. Suddenly, I was getting dozens of people wanting to talk about their struggles, wanting advice, even for things that I had never dealt with. God had opened an avenue to ministry from this goofy Twitter account.
At this point, for the last couple years, I had been writing for a group blog called Congruent Culture (and later, Comments on Christianity) as both myself and as Back Row Baptist, on serious topics and also writing encouraging devotionals. When that blog eventually closed down, I started forming the idea for Back Row Online.
But it was a strange idea that I was having a hard time meshing. I wanted it to have a humorous branch and a serious branch, but I didn’t want it to feel forced. It took me a long time to figure out a balance, but I think we’re getting it figured out.
Back Row Online, officially known as “The Back Row”, is a place of Humor and Healing for the Saved but Still Human, offering humorous stories and videos, as well as thought-provoking and encouraging devotionals and messages.
It may still sound strange to you, but it doesn’t to me. On my road to recovery, I needed two things: laughter and encouragement. Without both of those things, I would spiral intro self-loathing and depression. With them, they helped me keep my eyes on Jesus, reminded me that I wasn’t worthless or hopeless, and that healing and even redemption was possible, and they kept me smiling.
And I’ve come to find out that this is true for most of us.
When I was first starting up Back Row Online, I decided it was time to make a change to my Twitter account, and replace “Baptist” with “Believer”. This had nothing to do with me no longer being a Baptist or anything like that, it was simply a way to make sure my account felt inclusive to all Christians.
And that brings us to now. Nearly 2 years as @BackRowBeliever and still going strong (16.5K Followers – wow!) and a new ministry that is just now starting to grow.
God has done amazing things already and I am incredibly blessed to be in the position that I am. And I can’t wait to see what God is going to do next.