Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Of Websurfers and Creeds

Despite the gaggle of issues that causes disagreement in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, I think it's probably perhaps somewhat relatively maybe safe to delicately assert that most of us agree that a congregation's website is an evangelistic tool. I don't know if anyone has done research on this, but I would be very surprised if the majority of IP addresses that look up a church's domain name could be traced to computers owned by members. For the most part, I would presume that your average viewer is either someone interested in attending your church or someone who recently has attended. But, in either case, he or she is someone looking for a bit more information about all y'alls.

So if this is the case...if, in fact, a congregation's website is an evangelistic tool, then it really ought to be used as one, in particular with regard to the evangel part of the word. If a congregation's website exists for the purpose of bringing people into the actual, physical congregation where the Word is preached and the Sacraments are administered, then the website ought to do the one thing that has actually accomplished that goal long before websites were even invented-that one thing being proclaiming the Gospel.

Now, to be fair, almost every church website that I've ever come across does, in fact, have a section dedicated to proclaiming the Gospel, or at least to proclaiming what whoever wrote the content of the website thinks the Gospel is. It's often found in the What We Believe section.  But, as I've come to notice while doing much ecclesiastical web surfing lately, the What We Believe section of many websites is often better hidden than the Easter Eggs on a DVD.

Creedal statements declaring who God is, what He has done for us and how He works among us in His Church are generally there. Links informing people of what we confess concerning God's reconciling of the world to Himself in Jesus Christ are often present.  But they are frequently buried underneath the mountain of shell-casings that were shed when the writers of the website blasted off a thousand rounds of ammo telling people how they can get involved in their congregation.  And once you finally discover them after clicking Spiritual Journeys then Faith Walk then Holy Experiences then Moments of Reflection then Other then Miscellaneous Information, you come to discover that the What We Believe section often feels like a last minute tag on.  It reads as though we wrote it with no energy or pride.  It's brief and lifeless, effectively giving people the impression that we're just fulfilling a requirement here and that we fully expect them to be far more interested in knowing how to get their kids involved in the 'Lil Praizers Youth Group than knowing how salvation works.

And, from the young to the old, from the unbeliever to the retired pastor who spent 168 faithful years in the ministry, all those looking for a congregation to call their own deserves better than this.  When the devil breathes on their throats every day of their lives, seeking to devour them in the jaws of unbelief and despair, they deserve to know exactly what we teach that can seal shut the mouth of the beast forever.  When the world is daily telling them that eternal life must be achieved through the works of their hands, they shouldn't have to work their hands to the bone by navigating our web content for an hour before we finally tell them what it means to be justified by grace through faith.  When their sinful flesh is pulling them a thousand steps backward every time they try to take a single step forward on their faith walk, they deserve to have us proclaim to them that the Church isn't just the Rec Center with pictures of Jesus on the walls, that Christ didn't die on the cross and rise from the grave to gather His people around casseroles and puppet shows, but that Christ will always breath faith into them through the Word and Sacraments given within our walls, that He will forever pick them up and place them right where they should be, right beside Him, through the forgiveness that He gives at our precise geographical location every single time we meet.  Those searching for a church to call their own deserve to know, and deserve to know immediately, that if they want to find Heaven on Earth, they can find it by sticking our address in Mapquest and hitting enter.

Or, to summarize the entire contents of this post a bit more precisely:

Look at our websites.  Is it easier for people to find our mission statement than our creed?  If the answer is yes, fail.  Let's try again.

My name is Pastor Hans Fiene.  Thanks for reading.

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