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Should Your Church Have a Web Site?
by Jim L. Wilson
"My boyfriend has been pressuring me. Lately, its been harder to say
no, but last night I made the decision to wait until I'm married. Your
Bible studies have helped me a lot. Thanks." This fourteen-year-old girl
did not fill out a card during a worship service or at the end of a "True
Love Waits" rally. She sent me an email message from our church's web site.
Without the reach of the Internet, our church could never have ministered
to this girl who lives a thousand miles away, nor could we have touched
the people who've contacted us from Australia, the United Kingdom and other
places around the globe.
The Internet is a powerful tool that churches use to expand their ministry,
proclaim the gospel, advertise their church, and touch people. You do not
have to be a computer programer or spend a lot of money to have your own
presence on the World Wide Web. It is easier and more affordable than you
A Web Site is Affordable and Easy to Create
Our Church, First Baptist Church of Alameda , is in the middle of Albuquerque's
high tech community. We wanted to establish a presence on the World Wide
Web to promote our ministries but didn't have a lot of money to spend.
We visited GOSHEN, Christian Internet
Resources and sent an email message to several organizations that offered
free web space to churches. After corresponding with several webmasters,
we selected Gentle Ministries as our
Rod, the webmaster of Gentle Ministries, not only provided free space
to us, but taught us to do things we could not do ourselves. Initially,
he helped us fix some broken links, add wallpaper and music, and register
our domain with the Internic. Now we can do all those things ourselves,
but in the beginning, it was nice to have some help.
Brent Smith, Pastor of Hardin
Baptist Church in Hardin, Montana picked up HTML (hyper text markup
language) programming skills quickly while developing his church's web
site. Brent believes anyone can develop a simple web site: "There are many
web-authoring tools available, if you want to spend the money, but anyone
with a word processor can author a web page."
Specialized software is available to create more elaborate sites. Roger
Williams is the youth pastor of Sequoia
Heights Baptist Church of Manteca, California. He used Microsoft's
Frontpage 98 and spent around 64 hours to post 83 pages. After the first
128 days of the web site's existence, it recorded 12,000 hits.
A Web Site will Promote your Church and Proclaim the Gospel
Pastor David Cranford sees the cyber-ministry of Tioga
First Baptist Church of Tioga, Louisiana, as a promotional vehicle.
"I see our web site as primarily a publicity tool much like a yellow page
or newspaper ad." David regularly receives email from surfers visiting
his site wanting more information about his church's ministries.
Web sites will bring people to your church. Dr. Jerry Watts decided
to create a web site for his church, Bay
Vista Baptist Church in Biloxi, Mississippi because he believed the
new people moving into the Biloxi-Gulfport area would search the Internet
to find a church. He was right. "We have added several members and have
had many guests come to our church because of our web site."
Like Dr. Watts, Joe Ansley, webmaster of Shadowbrook
Baptist Church of Suwanee, Georgia designed his site with the new resident
in mind. Though evangelism is not the main focus of the site, it does attract
people to the church. "I know of at least one family that found us on the
Internet and later joined our Church."
Some people use the Internet to "narrow their search" for a church.
Mark & Ann were exasperated in their search for a church, that is before
Ann found East Tulsa Christian Church
on the Internet. Now they are regular attenders and are growing under Pastor
Terry Bell's ministry.
Raymond and April turned to the Internet to find a church that could
meet their needs. They were not ordinary church shoppers. Since April is
hearing-impaired, they needed a church with an interpreter. Before they
ran across Oakland Woods Baptist Church's
web site, they were having to drive 35 - 40 minutes to go to church. Though
Oakland Woods Church was only 200 yards from their home, they did not know
it offered interpretation for the hearing-impaired until they logged onto
Libby wasn't looking for a church at all when she stumbled across the
Fellowship Church's website. She was just surfing the net, and because
she liked the creativity of the site, she left a note in their guestbook.
The webmaster replied to her message with Harriett's email address. Harriett
is a member of their church who was a student in Leeds, U.K., Libby's hometown.
After exchanging several messages with her church contact, Libby agreed
to meet Hariett face to face. Little did Libby know that she was about
to meet someone else--Jesus Christ. The evening of their first day together,
Harriet led Libby to pray the sinner's prayer.
Webmasters use different themes to proclaim the gospel. Some sites use
a "How to become a Christian
approach" Other sites are more creative. Jeri
Kolman uses her love for roses as an evangelistic tool I put a page
up that asks the question: "How can something as ugly as a caterpillar
become a beautiful butterfly?" to illustrate the change Christ brings in
Salvation. Henk Frijters warns surfers before entering his site: "If
you cannot handle extremely graphic depictions of love, Leave Now!"
His site is not pornographic. It shows a graphic of Jesus on the cross
and explains the gospel.
A Web Site Will Extend your Ministry
Dale Robbins, pastor of the Christian
Life Center of Grass Valley, California says: "You have to realize
that a site on the web is literally reaching the world, not just a local
Some churches use their web site to provide surfers with ministry resources.
The Community Baptist Church of Manhattan Beach,
California posts their Pastor's sermons on their web site. The
First Baptist Church of Shreveport, Louisiana provides its visitors
with "Light Readings." This page is a collection of poems, prayers and
essays of interest to Christians and seekers. Other churches include audio
or video copies of their worship services to minister to their world wide
In the beginning, our church's web site was no more than a computerized
business card, or at best, an electronic brochure. We developed the site
for our community, not the world. Then, one day it dawned on me that our
web site was not reaching its potential.
I began posting some of my published articles, but wanted to do more.
For years, I'd written a weekly devotional that corresponded with my sermon
topic and printed it on the back of our bulletin. We decided to place the
weekly devotional on our homepage and set up a mail server to send the
FreshStart devotional to subscribers by email. We posted a subscription
page and offered to email the devotional to subscribers at no cost.
Some people prefer to bookmark the page and read the devotional online,
but the majority of the people allow us to email it to them.
According to a recent survey, 77% of our subscribers send the devotionals
to others. Fifty-five percent regularly distribute it. They average sending
it to 5.5 people. Though we have less than 150 people attend our worship
services on Sunday morning, this ministry expands our reach to more than
two thousand people each week from Alaska to the Sudan--literally around
We hear from people on a weekly basis who are helped by this ministry.
Most of the email is positive, however, occasionally it gets negative and
provides me with helpful feedback. One lady fired some cyber-anger at me
because I mentioned abortion in a Mother's Day devotional. Upon further
reflection, I see that Mother's Day was not the best day for that subject.
Perhaps it intensified guilt in some who have enough guilt to deal with
on their own.
Most of the time, Internet Ministry is to nameless, faceless people.
But sometimes it gets personal. Dr. Kevin Payne, Pastor of Salem
Avenue Baptist Church got a plea for help from a college professor
who had a friend contemplating suicide. He quickly responded, knowing the
urgency of the request. A few days later, he heard that the suicide intervention
I got a similar request a few months ago. One of the FreshStart subscribers
asked that I write a devotional on suicide because one of her friends was
contemplating ending her life. Though it was painful, I wrote about my
feelings when a church member I counseled killed himself. (Because of the
personal nature of the subject, I did not publish this devotional in the
church bulletin.) The next week, the lady that requested the devotional
wrote back. "Since you were so honest with us, I need to be honest with
you. It was not a friend who was contemplating suicide, it was me."
She explained her feelings of hopelessness to me, but promised me that
she would not harm herself. After reading her message, I was glad that
God allowed us to expand our local ministry to the world.
Other churches embrace the world with their prayer ministry. Bob Strotman,
webmaster of Harmony
Grove United Methodist Church sees a prayer ministry as a central part
of his site. "We want to use our website as a part of our outreach program
so we added a prayer page for people around the world to use."
Pat regularly utilizes the prayer ministry of Bear
Creek Baptist Church of Houston, Texas. When she makes a request, she
knows it will go straight to the Church's Intercessory Prayer Room that
is staffed by volunteers on Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30
p.m. She prefers using the Internet to access the church's prayer room
because, "It allows me to make a prayer request in privacy and without
Last year, Pat needed the Lord's wisdom as she was seeking a new job.
The prayer ministry gave her confidence as she interviewed with a company
near her home. As a result, she accepted an offer and began a new job.
The headlines are filled with shocking stories of how Satan is using
the Internet to promote pornography, gambling, and materialism. Can Christian
churches allow Satan to rule over this new technology, or does your church
have a responsibility to proclaim the gospel to the whole world--even the
Yes, Satan is active in Cyberspace wanting to harm and prey on the unsuspecting.
Is God leading your church to have a presence on the Internet so you can
minister to and pray with them?
This article first appeared in GROWING CHURCHES Magazine Summer '99