Friday Five Interview: Jon Acuff

Jon Acuff is the founder of one of the most widely read Christian blogs, Stuff Christians Like. He’s also the author of the book, Stuff Christians Like and a new book, Quitter. His writing and work has been featured by CNN and other media outlets. He’s been interviewed on national and international radio and TV. He’s a sought-after conference speaker and now works with the Dave Ramsey team.

Today he was kind enough to stop by for today’s Friday Five.

You talk in your new book, Quitter, about fulfilling God-implanted dreams. Did you ever think you’d be in a place where you are now, fulfilling your dreams as a writer and communicator and author?

Absolutely not. In fact, when I began blogging at my first blog, Prodigal John, I had like 50 people reading it. I talk in Quitter, that I didn’t write on a whiteboard somewhere: “Nashville” and then “popular blogger” and “4,000 people showing up.” I just didn’t.

I tried a bunch of stuff that didn’t work. I had like 50 dumb URLS registered. But now that God has given me some success, for me it’s about being obedient and stepping into the moment and the platform and representing Him well.

One of the powerful things about the digital revolution is that it empowers voices to emerge that might not have been heard before. I think of guys like you and like Tim Challies, for instance, who have been begun their careers and ministries online.

We are living in an age with the best possible tools available. We have more access to more talent than at any time in history. It’s remarkable. I’m wondering how I would have been discovered before? Would I print out a newsletter or pamphlet and hand it out door-to-door?

The famous “bloggers” of another generation were writing in their notebook diaries at night, nobody discovering them. The bands discovered on YouTube were playing in garages with no exposure. The talented, but overlooked broadcaster was making tapes and sending them to stations. Today, with minimal skill you can set up a podcast and if you are good, you’ll be discovered.

The downside of this, some say, is that there is no filter or that the previous filters, such as media organizations, publishers, networks are not there as much anymore.

You’re right that the filters are changing, though many of the structures are still in place and you will try to get exposure through more popular networks. It’s just that they are changing form.

But the reader is largely his own filter now. And so is time. I mean blogging is hard work. It’s a full-time job in many respects. And good content is the filter. With so many options out there, there is increasing pressure to make sure you’re content is good, relevant, and done well.

I also think, through social networking, friends are the filter. For instance, if you like an article it’s easier now to share it on Twitter or Facebook. We tend to trust those we follow.

I want to talk about Quitter. You’re goal seems to be to help people follow their dreams, but in a responsible way.

Yes. Sometimes we Christians go to a camp or conference and get fired up as if the dream, God’s will, for everyone is to sell all of their stuff and move to Guam as a missionary. Now that may be the dream of some, but not for everyone.

God gives everyone different callings. And I don’t think the Bible supports irresponsibility—ignoring faithfulness to pursue a passion. For instance, wrecking a marriage, making financially destructive choices, is no way to pursue your dream. Trusting God doesn’t mean being foolish.

In other words, you can be part of the change in the world, you can pursue your calling and you can support your family, be responsible, care for those you are supposed to care for. That is the theme of Quitter, in many ways.

Do you think the American Idol culture has created a sense of getting everything we want now?

Absolutely, we want everything now. One piece of advice I give folks about pursuing dreams is to give yourself the gift of patience. Don’t be a slave to comparison, stats, etc. That’s one thing God has taught me. I used to constantly compare myself to other bloggers and sweat the stats.

This is one of the misconceptions about blogging. It’s very easy to get started. That’s one nice feature of this digital age. But to keep it going takes hard, hard work. Lots of writing and rewriting. Discipline, scheduling. It’s like running a newspaper. Day 1 is easy. Day 100 is hard. Day 1000 is hard.

The fulfillment of a dream comes after hard work, persistence, and a time of waiting, trusting and humility. Look at Paul. He was met by Jesus and dramatically converted on the road to Damascus. Immediately he had a burning passion to preach the gospel to the world, but for many years he toiled in obscurity. I mean he made tents for a living. Jesus spent 30 years in obscurity before his ministry began.

We have to give our talents time to be honed, crafted, time to mature. And then when we are ready and we get our “big break” so to speak, we step into the moment and make the most of what God does through us.

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8 Comments

  1. handicandi says:

    Jon, Im always a fan of your advice. I started my own blog 3 days ago after months of prayer and finding an outlet to fulfill what God wanted me to to: share my story. I try not to look at stats. I don't know if my content so far is even any good, but people are reading it. I plan to get my hands on a copy of Quitter as soon as I can.

  2. Trev Hamm says:

    Thanks for telling your story Jon! I think your statement is so key: "The fulfillment of a dream comes after hard work, persistence, and a time of waiting, trusting and humility." Consistency is so important.

  3. The Joseph Craven says:

    I just finished reading Quitter. Jon does a great job of not just motivating you to work hard on the Dream Job, but keep that motivation to work hard on the Day Job as well. My productivity skyrocketed while reading it. Practical, great encouragement, and it doesn't hurt that it's humorous as well.

  4. moonchild11 says:

    I started blogging because of Jon Acuff. Certainly an inspiration!

  5. lookmom says:

    Great interview but I would have loved the story about the 4,000 readers showing up. I am new to SCL and unfamiliar with Jon's story. Is there a link you could suggest?

    • Daniel_Darling says:

      Hey great question. You might search his blog: jonacuff.com. Or even connect with him by email or Twitter to ask him. I know I've heard him tell it before.

  6. sethcaddell says:

    I decided late last year to actually posting on my blog several times a week instead of just whenever I felt like it, and I know I've grown a ton and really gotten much better. I'd love to end up writing full-time but I love what Jon said about responsibility. I can't just up and leave everything to sit at home and write. I have to be responsible with what God has put me in charge of. Great interview with a great guy.