Surprised By a Website by R.D. McClenagan

The Front Door

Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover—and sometimes you can judge a church by its website.

The church website is the front door of your church for most people in your city. It’s where they’ll encounter you long before they enter your hallowed fellowship hall (or gym, bar, school, theater, yoga studio, coffee shop . . . ).

Church websites have come a long way, and I am thankful for this. We’ve mostly moved on from stock images of steeples and disturbingly happy people (who don’t even go to your church) looking off into sunsets covering every other page of a website, to unique and creative websites that reflect the culture and priorities of the church.

But as I have looked around hundreds of evangelical churches’ websites, I notice something that is routinely and sadly missing.

What’s Missing

Rarely do skeptics have their questions honestly asked and humbly answered on a church’s website.

I don’t mean questions like this:

Q: What type of attire may I wear to church?

A: You may wear whatever you feel comfortable in, but most people will be in blue jeans.

1998 called and wants its question back. I have heard dozens of questions from skeptical people over the years, but I have never had anyone ask if they can wear blue jeans to church. Somewhere they may be asking it—but that’s not at the heart of what most people want to know about what your church, or Christianity, is all about.

What is missing is a place that says to the skeptical person: You really are welcomed at this church. We welcome your questions, your doubts, your concerns about Christianity. We want to publicly acknowledge those questions on our website and do our best to provide answers to those questions.

Virtually all churches have an FAQ page and a “What We Believe” page somewhere on their website. The FAQ is usually filled with questions about worship style, times of service, and parking. The What We Believe section is about the doctrinal and theological positions that the church holds.

FAQ and What We Believe pages are helpful and necessary, but they are no longer sufficient as the only place for questions and theological content on your website.

Skeptics Welcome

Create a page on your website dedicated to skeptics and to validating their questions and concerns. Make it easily accessible. Spotlight it on your homepage. Provide written, audio, and video content on this page to help both skeptics and Christians engage with the deepest issues confronting Christianity at the moment:

  • How can you say Jesus is the only way to God?
  • Why should I trust an ancient book like the Bible?
  • What does God have to do with my sexuality?

These are the types questions that people are actually asking. Include the types of questions specific to people in your city. Provide humble and clear answers with links to sermons and book resources that can provide further illumination.

The Goal

A church website might not be your first pick for a way for a local congregation to serve the body of Christ. But for churches to more effectively engage their cities with the gospel and promote the good of their neighbors, they know what their skeptical friends actually care about, and then show that they care about those things deeply as well.

Of course, it doesn’t stop there. It’s no good if your website engages skeptics, but your congregants don’t. But as a tool, a website that tells everyone that skeptical people are welcome at your church will slowly, but surely create a church culture that welcomes and loves skeptical people as well. It will be a continual reminder to the body of Christ that we don’t ultimately exist for ourselves, but for glory of God and the good of our neighbors.

Image sourced from Flickr and used under a Creative Commons license.