based in San Diego, gospelthread's mission is to rekindle the church's love for the gospel in the bible.

The toothbrush test

Another Commentary?

Part 5

Gospelthread is a digital media platform for distributing a gospel-centered bible commentary that is concise, curated and crowdsourced.

Let’s be honest. This is the internet. You’re reading these pixels on a screen of some sort, and in a digital environment, there are always plenty of other pixels jockeying for your attention. Today, we’re diving into one of the key differences between gospelthread and a traditional bible commentary—a feature that we think will make our platform especially useful to modern believers, but which is also driven by necessity.

Do this for us: read all the way to the end. We’ll explain why when you get there.

When we say “a new kind of commentary,” we mean several things, one of which is that gospelthread will, Lord willing, become the first complete, digital-first bible commentary in history. We may eventually publish printed resources, but that would come later and be secondary to the mission of completing the digital database that will be free for anyone to access.

If you’ve ever picked up a commentary, well, you probably put it down quickly. They’re heavy (and they go “thump”). But you must have noticed the way most commentaries work verse-by-verse through the bible, often spending hundreds of words parsing a particular turn of phrase. Traditional printed commentaries are anything but concise—and that seems good and right.

But gospelthread will be concise.

We’re talking 400 to 600 words per piece. We refer to it as the toothbrush test: Can someone read this in roughly the time it takes to brush your teeth?

The practical reason for this is because online content receives less time from its readers than printed content. And because so many other things are calling your name on a smartphone or computer. Or, as Time Magazine helpfully informed us last year, because “you now have a shorter attention span than a goldfish.”

You might be wondering how a commentary can be sufficiently thorough at less than 600 words. We hear you. But our objective is not to publish the definitive word on every passage of the bible. We are simply after the gospel turn, the sweet spot where the grace of Jesus shines through. If we can consistently deliver that in few enough pixels that our readers connect with the gospel on their lunch break or waiting for the train, then gospelthread will have been a resounding success.

Of all people, pastors are already keenly aware of the constraints of time. Like it or not, gone are the glory days of the two-hour sermon. The world moves fast, and if you want to reach people you have to run alongside them. If pastors don’t limit their gospel presentation to 35 minutes or less, they know, they will start losing people. Think of our dedication to concise writing as the online equivalent of that sort of message discipline.

So far, we have had no problem getting to the gospel in fewer than 600 words. Check out Tom’s posts from Numbers 5 and Matthew 13, or Sam’s take on Genesis 39, as examples of how 400 to 600 words play out. We’ve made a study of it, and we think you’ll agree that it’s the ideal quantity of words.

Ultimately, the gospel is not something that requires thousands of words to get across, and we all know that intuitively. The gospel itself is concise. A river doesn’t have to be wide to run deep and strong.

Well, here we are: The End. You made it, and if you had been timing yourself, you’d probably find it’s been three to four minutes. That was 600 words; now you get the idea.


Pray with us

  • That God will bless our commitment to brevity by teaching us how best to serve our contributors as they attempt to meet our standards.
  • That Tom and the editorial team will grow in their ability to edit sermon notes and other submissions to fit the constraints we’ve set for ourselves.
  • That none of our editorial requirements would hinder our relationships with or place undue stress on our contributors.

More fully converted

Profitable, but not for profit