Strategic Digital Outreach

The Internet and the Conversion of College Students to Atheism

Very interesting finding in a a nationwide study of atheism among college students:

When our participants were asked to cite key influences in their conversion to atheism — people, books, seminars, etc. — we expected to hear frequent references to the names of the “New Atheists.” We did not. Not once. Instead, we heard vague references to videos they had watched on YouTube or website forums.

Read an article about the study here.

Posted in ideas/concepts on 06/08/13 at 02:30 PM
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Crisis Relief For Haiti

My friend Dave Dias recently filmed this commercial for mPower Giving, relating how we can use our mobile phones to contribute to crisis relief for Haiti in the wake of this week’s disastrous earthquake.

Posted in miscellaneous on 01/15/10 at 12:39 AM
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Sharing God’s Message Intimately - Online and On Phone

One of my virtual friends, Dave Hackett, recently led a conference call on “Sharing God’s Message Intimately - Online and On Phone.”

During the call, Dave informed participants about the growing influence and practice of digital evangelism and newly emerging issues of online/on-phone evangelism, and also allowed time for questions and answers.

The presentation used an audio conference call and an online presentation which were accessed simultaneously. 

Voice Conference Call
The audio call is available for playback by calling 641-715-3443 and entering Access Code 258593#.

Presentation Site
To view the PowerPoint that Dave presented during the call, please have this Google Doc up on your screen while you listen to the presentation:
http://docs.google.com/Presentation?id=d3wbggh_3c7z694d8

Posted in events on 07/07/09 at 09:14 AM
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Water From A Website

Sample Church Website From Train-eeMike Boyink is doing a great thing this week!

Mike runs a website called Train-ee which helps people learn how to use Expression Engine, a great content management system for websites. Mike has just finished a series of articles entitled Building A Church Website. In the process of writing that series, Mike actually created a sample church website.

That could have been the end of the project. But Mike had a better idea. And so he is auctioning off the sample church website at eBay. You can see the sample church website here. The auction will also include a year of hosting, some training/customization from Mike, a year’s subscription to a donor management software package, and more.

Proceeds from the auction will be donated to charity:water, a non-profit organization bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations. In addition, proceeds from the sale of Mike’s books and screencasts during the auction will also be donated to charity:water. Finally, Mike has provided a PayPal donation link so that even if you’re not interested in the church website or Mike’s training materials, you can still donate to this great cause.

The auction will begin on Wednesday, April 29 at 1:00 p.m. ET. Full details about the auction and a video from Mike are available here on the Train-ee website.

I would strongly encourage you to visit Mike’s site, watch his video (I learned some things I didn’t know about water!), and consider what you might be able to do to help him support a great cause.

Posted in strategies for churches on 04/27/09 at 09:05 AM
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Kent Shaffer on SEO for Churches

Kent ShafferKent Shaffer has posted a helpful video on the Church Relevance blog today about search engine optimization for church websites. What I liked most about his comments was the lack of focus on optimizing for “church” and the city you live in (which is as far as most church website seo goes these days). Instead, he focuses on optimizing (and by implication writing content for) the terms people are actually searching on in your geographic area.

The vast majority of unbelievers today are not searching on “church” at Google. They aren’t interested in us. But strategically including content on our websites which corresponds to the felt needs of unbelievers in our area and then optimizing for related search terms is an effective form of outreach today.

I encourage you to visit the Church relevance blog today to hear what Kent has to say on this important topic.

Posted in strategies for churches on 04/21/09 at 08:47 AM
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Twitter For Churches

Do you know about Twitter? I would assume that anyone reading this blog already knows about it, but just in case, here’s a good definition from Wikipedia:

Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that allows its users to send and read other users’ updates (otherwise known as tweets), which are text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length.

I just finished reading a new e-book from Anthony Coppedge called The Reason Your Church Must Twitter. With a subtitle of “Making Your Ministry Contagious,” it’s a short, fascinating read.

The Reason Your Church Must TwitterWithin it’s 63 pages, Anthony gives a concise rationale for the church’s use of Twitter. There is no wasted space here — it took me about an hour to read the book and all of the information is valuable.

How A Church Can Use Twitter Effectively
Anthony advocates using Twitter to remind church members of events, drive traffic to the church website, effectively target segments of the congregation (and not send irrelevant information to other segments), pass along urgent prayer requests, keep church members informed of last-minute changes, reinforcing aspects of weekly messages, etc.

I’ve been using Twitter for awhile now (and I must admit that I’m fairly sporadic in my tweets — I still find myself not thinking about it much while I’m in the midst of a project), and have thought about how the church could use its functionality, but Anthony has “taken it to the next level.” His e-book includes a number of great ideas for how the regular use of Twitter could improve a church’s communication with and among its members.

A Personal Reaction — Your Mileage May Vary
He also points out how Twitter can be used as a means of conversation between church leadership and the congregation, especially in large churches where the pastoral staff can be isolated from church members in many ways. On a personal level, I have to admit that I’m of two minds on this. I hesitate to even mention this because I don’t want to distract from recommending Anthony’s book in any way, but in the end, I did want to relate how I responded to the e-book while I was reading it. In the end, that Anthony’s e-book made me think about these things is a testament to its value.

While I recognize that Twitter (like blogging) can “put a face” on a distant church leader for church members (and that can be helpful in some ways), I struggle with the idea of using the technology to improve the symptoms of a flawed paradigm of church life (I don’t think the New Testament ever contemplates a hierarchical church structure in which leaders can become isolated from those they lead) without addressing the cause itself (I believe that hierarchy defeats community and that we must address the issue if we are ever to reach the world for Christ). I recognize, however, that my view of traditional church paradigms is definitely a minority-view. At the same time, I believe Twitter (like blogging) can definitely become a tool to minimize the isolation of leadership, which would be a very good thing.

Very Helpful — How To Use Twitter
One of the most helpful parts of the e-book for me was the compilation of chapters (4-6) which outlined how to use Twitter. Since I haven’t used it as much as I would like, I learned a few new things which had been a bit confusing to me in the past:

  1. How to establish settings for using @ replies
  2. How to send a direct message to someone
  3. How to retweet
  4. Ways to manage multiple Twitter accounts

Software And Services To Help You Use Twitter
I also was happy to see the listing in Chapter 7 of software and services which make using Twitter easier. From applications which help you manage Twitter feeds, to desktop Twitter clients, to mobile apps, to services which help you share photos with your friends on Twitter — there are a lot of helpful suggestions all in one place. That alone was worth the price of the e-book (more on that in a moment).

Chapter Listing
Here is a complete list of chapters in the book:

Chapter 1 - Twitter as a Megaphone
Chapter 2 - Twitter as a Conversation
Chapter 3 - Twitter for Pastors
Chapter 4 - Setting Up Twitter in 1 Minute or Less
Chapter 5 - How to Tweet
Chapter 6 - To Follow and Be Followed
Chapter 7 - Making Twitter Even Easier
Chapter 8 - Churches Using Twitter
Chapter 9 - Unexpected Bonuses
Chapter 10 - Deciding on a Twitter Strategy

A Great Price!
I must say that I was honestly surprised by the price of the e-book. As a digital media strategist in my day job and in my ministry, I do purchase internet marketing e-books from time to time. When I clicked through from the Twitter for Churches home page, I was honestly expecting a price like $19.95, $29.95, $49.95 — those are the sorts of prices I usually see when considering an e-book. Anthony’s book sells for $5.00. Believe me, it’s a great value!

Buy The E-Book Now — You Won’t Be Sorry!
In conclusion, let me just say that I believe Anthony’s new e-book is a no-brainer purchase for churches and ministries. If you purchase it, you definitely will not be sorry!

Posted in strategies for churches on 01/17/09 at 12:49 PM
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Tim Tebow, John 3:16, and the Local Church

Interesting article in the Christianity Today liveblog — The Tebow Bump. In the article, Ted Olsen points out that at the recent BCS championship college football game, Florida quarterback and the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow changed the scripture reference on his eye black from Philippians 4:13 to John 3:16.

The result? According to the Christianity Today article, John 3:16 became the hottest search on Google. Interesting.

What’s more interesting to me, though, is the generally mediocre (at least from an internet evangelism perspective) results that are displayed when one searches on “John 3:16” at Google.

In the natural Google listings, here are the first 10 results:

  • BibleGateway.com passage lookup (New International Version)
  • BibleGateway.com passage lookup (King James Version)
  • Wikipedia article on John 3:16
  • Blue Letter Bible passage lookup
  • A Flash animation
  • An AllAboutGod article on John 3:16
  • The home page of John 3:16 Mission
  • Passage lookup on the website of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops
  • An article on fanhouse.com about Tim Tebow’s use of the verse on his eye black

Here are the paid listings:

  • “Win a free iPhone easily” from prizecarnival.com
  • An invitation to bid on John 3:16 at eBay.com (interestingly, the second line in the ad reads “Shop Victoriously”!)
  • “John 3:16 at Amazon”

If local churches were already bidding on John 3:16 for local pay-per-click listings (so that their ad was only displayed to people living in their local geographic area), how many people would have been taken from watching the BCS championship game, to searching on Google for “John 3:16”, to clicking on a paid ad from a church in their local area and visiting a page on the church’s website especially designed to intrigue website visitors enough for them to consider joining the church for one of their local gatherings?

What an opportunity that has been missed by local churches across the world!

Obviously, local churches could not be expected to know that Tim Tebow would be displaying John 3:16 on his eye black (since apparently he has displayed Philippians 4:13 in the same location before — I’ve never been a big college football fan, so I may be mistaken). But if they were already bidding on that phrase (which should probably be a natural target for pay-per-click bidding by churches), they would have already been prepared. But since the overwhelming majority of churches have probably never even considered pay-per-click advertising, the opportunity was probably lost forever.

Posted in strategies for churches on 01/09/09 at 01:27 PM
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Church Website Defaced

Here’s a short article from a Serbian media company’s website regarding the defacement of a church website.

Thanks to @Serbia for the tip.

Posted in on 11/24/08 at 08:36 AM
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Facebook Phishing Scam

Cynthia Ware has a very valuable post today regarding a Facebook Phishing Scam which is effecting pastors.

Posted in ideas/concepts on 10/03/08 at 02:12 PM
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It’s A Sad Day For Christendom In The Online Arena

Gospel Communications International is shutting down its webhosting services. The Gospel.com Alliance includes more than 300 members.

Here’s a story about the decision from the Muskegon Chronicle (Gospel Communications International is based in Muskegon, Michigan).

Let’s pray for the employees and the ministries who will be affected.

Posted in websites on 09/19/08 at 08:33 AM
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Sometimes The Simplest Things

For more information, visit www.gowestafrica.org.

Thanks to the Facebook For Pastors Facebook Group for the heads up!

Posted in strategies for missionaries on 09/07/08 at 05:34 PM
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A Congregational Twitter Stream?

If you look in the right-hand sidebar, you’ll see a new section called “Quick Thoughts.” Let me quickly tell you the main points of how I’m doing this and then strategize for a moment about how something similar might be useful for churches.

I’m a member of a few different social websites (I’ve linked to my profiles in case you’re interested):

  • LinkedIn (I use it 3-4 times a week)
  • Facebook (I use it every day, usually multiple times)
  • Plaxo Pulse (I don’t use it very much - someone invited me, so I signed up)
  • Plurk (I just signed up a couple of days ago - I’ve heard good things about it)

Of course, there are many other social networks. I also have a Twitter account (until recently, I hardly ever used it).

 

Most of these social networks have a way you can update your status frequently throughout a day. Some use this feature, some don’t. The people who use it most effectively are not talking about what they ate for breakfast, but are sharing quick links, thoughts, etc. At the moment, I’m probably a little bit too much on the side of “what I ate for breakfast!”

The problem I’ve had in the past with using these status updates is that if I’m a member of five different services (and could be a member of many, many more), how am I going to update my status on all of them? I could end up doing nothing but updating my status!

Enter ping.fm — it’s a service in beta which allows you to create one status update that then gets pushed out to all of your social networks. Plus, they have a feature which allows me to use GoogleTalk to send their automatic service an update and that update then gets pushed out to all of my networks. Since I do all of my email in gmail now, it’s very convenient for me to just click on the pingdotfm chat partner (as I said, it’s actually an automated service) and write out a quick couple of lines for my status, hit the enter button, and know that all of my social networks will soon (some in a matter of seconds) have my updated status.

The final piece of the puzzle is that Expression Engine (the content management system I use) has a plugin that allows me to display my Twitter status updates in the sidebar — that’s what you’re seeing in the “Quick Thoughts” section (since I was experimenting initially, you’ll see a duplicate entry or two — the duplicate entries should go away in the next few days as I add more updates).

As I was telling a friend about what I had set up, I started thinking about how a church could use this. If the majority of a church’s members had Twitter accounts, their updates could be combined into a “congregational Twitter theme” which would allow everyone to stay on top of what other members were up to. I have a feeling this would provide an enhancement to face-to-face community and bring people in a congregation closer together.

Does anyone know of any churches doing something similar to this? Just curious.

Posted in strategies for churches on 08/25/08 at 12:50 AM
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His Hands Media

A few days ago, I came across the website of His Hands Media. Here is how they describe themselves:

His Hands Media uses digital technology to present stories that inspire people to invest and participate in God’s important work in the community and around the world. We specialize in video production and website design that extends the reach of Christian organizations and ministries allowing them to raise the funds necessary that will bring aid and hope to people in need, through the message of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

I was especially intrigued by a video they have optimized of a trip to Ghana by volunteers from Opportunity International. The video is located here. As the folks from His Hands Media point out, the quality of the video is surprisingly good seeing that it was filmed with the inexpensive Flip Ultra video camera.

What would it be like if our short-term missions teams brought several of these Flip Ultra cameras to capture video of their activities? Depending on the availability of internet access, the teams would be able to quickly upload video of the mission which could then be shared with friends and supporters back home.

 

Posted in websites on 08/20/08 at 12:58 AM
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ChurchTechToday from Lauren Hunter

ChurchTechTodayI ran across a new blog a few days ago - ChurchTechToday, written by Lauren Hunter, a public relations consultant who “(assists) church technology providers in communicating their desires to help churches do ministry better through internet-related technological advancements, whether it’s through using church management software, online newsletters, or cutting-edge social communities to spread the Gospel.”

Launched in mid-July, Lauren’s blog has touched on internet evangelism, the iPod Bible, the “Death of Print,” and technology for church bookstores.

I would encourage you to visit Lauren’s blog and “give it a whirl!”

Posted in websites on 08/15/08 at 08:44 AM
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Tim Bednar’s Ashford WordPress Theme For Churches

Ashford WordPress Theme

If you look in the sidebar under the heading “We Recommend,” you’ll find a link to Turtle Interactive. Turtle Interactive is the design boutique of Tim Bednar.

What can I tell you about Tim? Tim pastored a multi-ethnic, inner city church for nearly 10 years, and so he has a good idea of what makes a church “tick,” so to speak. He’s also a brilliant designer and web developer who develops strategic social websites and applications to facilitate online community. He’s been around the web, and specifically around the portion of the web populated by churches and parachurch ministries, for a long time. That’s why we recommend him so highly.

If you’re a church or ministry in need of a new website, you now have a chance to learn from one of the best!

Tim has recently started a new project called the Ashford WordPress Theme.  This new project was born out of Tim’s recent work with WordPress on Greg Boyd’s new site (worth a look just in itself at www.gregboyd.org). In working with WordPress on this project, Tim realized that “most WordPress themes are not really created for normal people who are responsible for building and maintaining web sites. Most of the time, free WordPress themes offer killer screen shots but are a pain to use.”

The Ashford WordPress Theme is for building simple web sites. Tim’s philosophy is to build a theme which focuses on giving “in place tips on how to build and maintain the site.” He is about to release v0.1.2, and is looking for a few ministries who would be willing to test the Ashford theme and give him feedback on the project. Once this test phase is up and running, Tim will be developing additional subthemes, configurations, page templates and widgets.

To apply to be a test ministry, you can fill out the online application.

Posted in strategies for churches on 07/24/08 at 11:17 PM
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Billy Graham Speaks On Technology

I was recently told about a website called TED. Here is what the site says about the organization:

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. Since then its scope has become ever broader. The annual conference now brings together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes).

If you look at the site, you will find speeches by Al Gore, Freeman Dyson, Jane Goodall, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, Bono, Bill Clinton, and many other “heavy hitters.” The person who told me about the website was pointing out (rightfully so, I imagine) that the membership of TED probably did not include many believers. So when I visited the site, I was surprised to find that the featured speaker on the front page of the site was none other than Billy Graham.

Here’s what TED has to say about his speech:

Speaking at TED in 1998, Rev. Billy Graham marvels at technology’s power to improve lives and change the world—but says the end of evil, suffering and death will come only after the world accepts Christ. A legendary talk from TED’s archives.

And here is Dr. Graham’s speech:

Posted in ideas/concepts on 07/16/08 at 08:22 PM
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MinistryPool

In May of 2007, James Cooper launched a new website called MinistryPool. James’ original idea (still a good one!) was to build a repository of top quality, easy to remember, domain names for use in ministry and Church marketing projects. The twist is that when one ministry or church is finished using the domain name for its project, the domain goes back into the “pool” so that other ministries or churches can use it.

James sent me an email this morning to let me know that he has expanded the concept of MinistryPool. From James’ “relaunch post”:

ministrypool will now bring together the best of online resources and other stuff for Churches. You’ll find reviews and rating of resources in a wide range of categories that can help your Church or ministry get the best out of the web.

After a brief review, I can say that James has gathered together a great set of resources that will be helpful to any church or ministry looking to improve their digital outreach.

Posted in websites on 07/09/08 at 12:10 PM
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Some Good Advice From Matt Cutts

Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s web spam team, was recently interviewed by Jefferson Graham of USA Today regarding solid search engine optimization (SEO) principles.

The article, while fairly basic, provides a good start. If churches and ministries just followed these simple principles, I believe they would see some good improvement in their search engine rankings. In the ecommerce world, I like to say that the buying cycle begins at Google (because that’s where people search for your products). The same can increasingly be said in the Christian world - the “searching for a community of believers” cycle begins at Google.

Matt Cutts’ blog is also a valuable resource.

Posted in on 06/23/08 at 12:25 PM
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Upcoming Book on Internet Evangelism

Sally Stuart, a well-known authority on Christian writing (she has compiled the Christian Writers’ Market Guide for the last 23 years), recently posted a letter from Craig von Buseck (Director of Ministries at the Christian Broadcasting Network) about his upcoming book tentatively titled “NetCasters: Harnessing the Internet to Make Fishers of Men.”

Craig is looking for stories of those who have come to Christ through the internet. If you know of such a story, Craig would welcome your input .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Posted in miscellaneous on 06/06/08 at 08:39 AM
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An Intriguing Use of Text Messaging

Dr. Jay Herndon is the Secretary-Treasurer for the Northern California and Nevada district of our denomination (the Assemblies of God). He is also an old, old friend from elementary school, Little League baseball, junior high, and college!

Jay recently sent an email to a mailing list for the ministers of our district and mentioned an intriguing use of text messaging the denomination is planning on using:

I’ve talked to our District Youth Director about using text response in a slightly different way: When there is an appeal for a call to ministry at Youth Convention and other youth events the kids flood the altars, and there are so many that it is impossible to get their name and address. I’m concerned that we haven’t been able to follow up with these kids. And so I have asked him if we can set up a text number, and ask the kids to text us their name and email. We are not using this to avoid the altar call, but to get the information that we need in a way they are accustomed to give it.

Interesting! What other innovative uses for text messaging are being used by the church today? Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments to this article.

Posted in ideas/concepts on 04/05/08 at 12:46 AM
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An Exciting Project From Mike Boyink!

Train-ee.comI just received an email from Mike Boyink asking me to help get the word out about a new project he’s starting through his Train-ee website.

Before I tell you about the project, though, let me give a quick word of explanation about Train-ee.com.

I’ve been using content management systems from EllisLab for about three and a half years. I first used pMachine and then switched to ExpressionEngine when it was launched. I’ve never been sorry. I now use or have implemented ExpressionEngine on 13 different websites.

Guess where I found out about EllisLab? That’s right — Mike Boyink has been a champion of EllisLab products for over four years, and he was the one who first turned me on to the joys of using EllisLab products.

In January of this year, Mike launched a new site — Train-ee.com — where he shares his wisdom and experience “to help web professionals get up to speed on ExpressionEngine® as quickly as possible.” Through Train-ee, Mike provides online and in-person training, ebooks, and screencasts, all designed to help you learn the best content management system around in a minimum of time and with a minimum of pain! Mike is considered one of the experts in the ExpressionEngine support forums, and his combination of knowledge, wisdom, internet strategy experience, and extensive experience with ExpressionEngine means there is no one better to help you learn to use this great CMS.

Now, on to Mike’s newest project. One of Mike’s first projects for the Train-ee website was a series on “Building an ExpressionEngine Site - Small Business.” The series was very well-received in the ExpressionEngine community. And now, he will soon begin another “how to Build an ExpressionEngine Site” series, this time building a church website.  At the end of the series when the site is complete it will be auctioned off on eBay, with proceeds going to a TBD charity. You can learn more here:

A New Blog, A New Series

If you have been looking for a content management series for a new church website or to start redevelopment on an old church website, I am confident that this series will prove extremely valuable to you. Mike is the developer of the Manna? church website and is very experienced in working with churches to effectively use their websites. I would strongly encourage you to visit the Train-ee website and start following Mike’s new series!

Posted in strategies for churches on 03/22/08 at 02:50 PM
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2 John 12

I was reading this article on Think Christian last week, and was particularly struck by the comments, especially Jason Wells’ reference to 2 John 12. I often talk about the need for face-to-face community and about how internet evangelism still needs the foundation of a physical gathering in a local area. But I had never considered the relevance of 2 John 12 to the discussion (probably because it would largely seem like an obscure verse without much relevance to anything — shame on me for thinking like that!).

Here’s what 2 John 12 says:

Having many things to write to you, I do not want to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, that your joy may be made full.

The clear implication is that there is something incomplete about communication only through paper and ink — face-to-face communication is necessary for our joy to be made full.

The Greek word which is translated “be made full” in this verse means “to bring something to completion, to finish something already begun.” The verse suggests that face-to-face communication is necessary for believers’ joy to be brought to completion.

If writing letters with paper and ink could not make the believers’ joy full or complete in John’s day, can email make our joy full or complete? Can discussion forums make our joy full or complete? Can online video chat make our joy full or complete? Is there something incomplete about digital communication?

Posted in ideas/concepts on 02/17/08 at 10:52 AM
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ChurchSMO

Here’s another blog I came across on Thursday:

ChurchSMO

Here is what the author, Aaron Marshall, writes about himself and his recently-launched blog:

My name is Aaron Marshall, I work for DBS>Interactive, a large web development company in Louisville, Kentucky, as the Director of Sales and Marketing. Being involved in projects from beginning to end gives me copious amounts of opportunity to see web strategies successfully executed. I read between 10-20 RSS feeds a day, regularly finding gold-mines of useful services that could be applied to church and ministry.

I especially like Aaron’s use of videos throughout his articles. It lends a personal touch which is quite engaging.

Posted in websites on 02/16/08 at 10:09 AM
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Church Website Help

Here’s a blog that’s been around for awhile but is new to me:

Church Website Help

Mickey Mellen, webmaster at Mt. Bethel United Methodist Church, has been writing the blog since September of 2005 (gee, where have I been to only have noticed it yesterday?).

The article entitled Church Websites Around Atlanta Are Pretty Bad caught my eye immediately since I used to work a bit on a website for a church in the Atlanta area (not on Mickey’s list thankfully!

). The article talks about some of the common mistakes churches make and it also brought the issue of proper canonicalization for search engine optimization purposes back into the forefront of my mind (the issue wasn’t entirely new to me, but I had never given it much thought until yesterday when I carefully read what Mickey had to say on the subject). It made me start testing a lot of my sites! Thankfully, most of them add the “www” in automatically, but the website of my last remaining “design client” (as vs. “strategy client”) does not pass the test, so I’ll need to work on that a bit.

All in all, it looks like there is a wealth of content to explore on Mickey’s blog and I encourage you to add it to your list of RSS feeds so you can read him on a regular basis.

Posted in websites on 02/15/08 at 09:41 AM
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Good Resource For Search Engine Optimization

Churches, ministries, and missionaries should all be aware of solid search engine optimization principles and implement them faithfully on their websites. Here is a great resource to help you do just that:

Mihai’s SEO Cheat Sheet

from Mihai Gheza.

Posted in ideas/concepts on 02/10/08 at 02:22 PM
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Irene’s Journey Of Faith

Irene's Journey of FaithWhen I started Strategic Digital Outreach in the Fall of 2004, I would never have imagined that we would be involved in publishing a book. But here we are, three-and-a-half years later, and we have recently helped our friend and advisor Dave Dias publish his first book, Irene’s Journey Of Faith.

Readers of this blog may remember an earlier post in which we shared about the disease Irene Dias has contracted.

Here is the description of the book we are using on Amazon and other websites:

The inspiring story of Irene and Dave Dias and their courageous battle against a rare, incurable and terminal disease, Primary Amyloidosis. Although the suffering they face is severe, this is not a story of despair, but of an incredible faith and even more of an incredible God who sustains His followers with lavish grace, extravagant kindness, and unrelenting love. Compiled from selected blog entries at IreneDias.com, this devotional recounts the story of the initial diagnosis of the disease, Irene’s long hospitalization, the eventual stem cell transplant, Irene’s release from the hospital, and Irene and Dave’s ongoing challenges and victories.

If the challenges you face are frightening ....
If your circumstances seem hopeless ....
If your life is falling apart and you don’t know where to turn ....

Irene’s Journey of Faith will encourage you and strengthen your faith in the God who promises to uphold you no matter how difficult and painful your life’s journey may seem.

I would strongly encourage the readers of this blog to visit Irene and Dave’s website, IreneDias.com (this link will take you to a page from which you can either purchase the book or proceed to the blog to read its entries).

Posted in miscellaneous on 02/09/08 at 04:37 PM
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A Tale Of Two Golf Clubs

GolfTony Whittaker of the Web Evangelism Guide and Internet Evangelism Day has written a brilliant parable called A Tale of Two Golf Clubs. See if you can figure out what the meaning of the parable is!

By the way, this year’s Internet Evangelism Day is scheduled for April 27. That’s only 78 days away. Have you started to prepare?

Posted in ideas/concepts on 02/09/08 at 04:17 PM
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Church Websites I Like, Part 9

The Rock at Iowa State University
Ames, Iowa
http://www.rockisu.com

The Rock at Iowa State University in Ames, IowaThis church has boldly made their home page an aggregation of their church members’ blogs. They call their aggregation “Planet Rock” — if you click on that item in the navigation menu, you’ll find that they are currently aggregating the blogs of 50 different church members. Refreshing! The sense I get from this is that the church is a group of people rather than an organization.

Beyond aggregating blogs, the site makes good use of a couple of Web 2.0 technologies — MySpace and Flickr.

Another great thing about this site is that it is standards-compliant (valid XHTML 1.0 Strict and valid CSS). Standards compliance is an aspect of website development that is not talked about much among church and ministry designers, but I believe it has vast implications for the spread of the gospel.

Contact: Matt Heerema

Posted in websites on 01/16/08 at 10:00 AM
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Church Websites I Like, Part 8

Seed Church
Bothell, Washington
http://www.dyingtolive.org

Seed Church in Bothell, WashingtonI think this website excels in its writing. The first time I visited it, this is what the home page said:

It is time for you to lose control.

“Unless a seed falls to the ground and dies, it remains by itself… alone. But if it dies, it produces many others and yields a rich harvest. Anyone who loves his life, loses it. But anyone who despises his life in this world, will keep it all the way until eternity.”

2000 years ago, Jesus said these words. Then, he embodied them. He was God, yet He lived his short life, not to propel himself to greatness, but to serve others. He gave his life to save ours.

The secret of true living is found in a paradox. If you choose to hold on to the control of your life, to find purpose in yourself and your own interests, your choice guarantees you will lose your life when you die. If you choose to give up control of your life now to God, to find purpose in God and in His interests, your choice guarantees you will keep your life after death.

Seed Church invites you to lose control.

I like that because I feel it appeals to the inner desires of many (if not all) unbelievers — to live for something beyond oneself — and because it does so in a fashion which is very atypical of a church website. Today’s tendency among top-notch designers is to concentrate on graphic appearance (which is important because people make a decision about a website almost immediately), but well-written content is usually an afterthought. Often, a church will just republish something that was originally written for a brochure targeted, it seems, at believers moving into an area or looking for a new church rather than at unbelievers in a local area.

By the way, check out the domain name they chose. Very intriguing!

Contacts: Unknown

Posted in websites on 01/15/08 at 10:00 AM
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Church Websites I Like, Part 7

The City Church
Seattle, Washington
http://www.thecity.org

The City Church in Seattle, WashingtonI like this site for a number of reasons — 1) the design is excellent (not a surprise given the involvement of Jesse Bennett-Chamberlain, one of the premier designers on the web today); 2) the navigation system is particularly well-thought-out; 3) the site features a voluminous amount of content; and, 4) it uses my favorite content management system (Expression Engine). The proper use of a content management system can help enhance the flow of information and eliminate bottlenecks in publishing information to the church’s website (which is a huge challenge for most Christian organizations).

Unfortunately, while the site is well-designed, it definitely presents an institution rather than a community of people, which again, is one of my pet peeves about church websites today.

Contacts: Jesse Bennett-Chamberlain and Sean Sperte

Posted in websites on 01/14/08 at 10:00 AM
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Church Websites I Like, Part 6

Southside Church
Chilliwack, British Columbia
http://www.southsidelife.com

Southside Church in Chilliwack, British ColumbiaI like this site because it gives a great deal of prominence to the stories of its members. The front page has a dominant feature about the life story of one of its members, and every page on the site has a prominent feature at the top of the right-hand sidebar which points to the story of one of its members. In all, there appear to be 14 stories (I might wish for more, but this is a good start). The stories are also used on LoveChilliwack.com, designed by the same firm (Stir Communications Group) which had a part in developing SouthSideLife.com and also ChilliwackLife.com (which is a community portal with a subtle strategy, I believe, of bringing unbelievers into relationship with local churches).

Contacts: If I’m not mistaken, Stir Communications Group is behind much of the work here (and also behind KamloopsLife.com which is similar to LoveChilliwack.com).

Posted in websites on 01/13/08 at 10:00 AM
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Church Websites I Like, Part 5

National Community Church
Washington, D.C.
http://www.theaterchurch.com

National Community Church in Washington, D.C.I like this site because they tend to make good use of Web 2.0 technologies — podcasts, videocasts, blogs, mobile version, etc. I have a love-hate relationship with churches making their sermons available via their websites (because I think it can discourage people from joining the physical gatherings), but Mark Batterson (the pastor of this church) is a great apologist for the effectiveness of podcasting. He routinely stretches my thinking about podcasting and videocasting. Here is an example from his blog — an article in which he compares podcasting to the field preaching of Wesley. I respect Mark so much that when pastors and church leaders ask me about podcasting their sermons, I give them my opinion, but then I invariably tell them to go check out Mark’s articles on podcasting for the other side of the coin.

In some ways, the National Community Church website tends to present the church as an institution rather than people, which is one of my pet peeves The easiest way to see how a church thinks of itself — as an institution or as people — is to take a look at the “About Us” or “Who We Are” menu on their website. Churches that think of themselves as an institution tend to populate their “About Us” menus with items like “Core Values,” “Leadership Team,” “Mission,” “Vision,” “How To Give,” etc. That’s the language of an institution, not of a community, and I believe it turns off unbelievers. On the other hand, National Community Church gives a lot of prominence on their website to their small groups, which I applaud (because it suggests that the church is people).

Overall, I like the National Community Church site because of its modern design and willingness to employ Web 2.0 technologies.

Contacts: David Russell is the church’s digital pastor, and Mark Batterson is the senior pastor.

Posted in websites on 01/12/08 at 10:00 AM
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Church Websites I Like, Part 4

University Christian Fellowship
Syracuse, New York
http://www.ucf.org

University Christian Fellowship in Syracuse, New YorkThis appears to be a fairly run-of-the-mill church website until you read these two pages:

Questions We Get Asked About Our Church Service, and Our Snappy Answers
UCF Order of Worship

The humor is priceless! The only thing I wish is that they would give those two pages more prominence (if you start from the home page, they are a bit hard to find).

Contact: Unknown

Posted in websites on 01/11/08 at 10:00 AM
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Church Websites I Like, Part 3

Manna?
Holland, Michigan
http://www.mannais.org

Manna? in Holland, MichiganI like this site because it’s really just a community blog. Anyone in the congregation (or outside the congregation) can post to the website. The lack of traditional trappings combined with the simplicity of the site and its group nature make me feel like this church is authentic.

I especially like the Manna FAQ section, in particular the answer to “So who preaches and are there sermon series or points or whatever?” Beautiful. A close second is the answer that mentions snake-handling, although the lack of that time-honored tradition would probably keep me from being a part of Manna? if I lived in Holland, Michigan (Gee, if Mike Boyink can suggest I get a tattoo, I ought to be able to get away with suggesting Mike start handling snakes! How about it Mike?).

All kidding aside, take a look also at this article about the Manna? website which touches on the power of the Manna? website concept.

The Manna? site also uses my favorite content management system, ExpressionEngine.

Contact: Mike Boyink is the designer/developer.

Posted in websites on 01/10/08 at 10:00 AM
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Church Websites I Like, Part 2

Jacob’s Well
Kansas City, Missouri
http://www.jacobswellchurch.org

Jacob's Well Church in Kansas City, MissouriThis is by far my favorite church website. The “Community” section is brilliant. Through the use of biographies (it appears that most of the people in the congregation have contributed at least a short bio) and photos, it presents people rather than an organization. Through its use of blogs and discussion forums, it presents the authentic voice of the congregation (not just its leaders) to unbelievers in the Kansas City area.

The one thing I don’t like about this site is that these elements which are so strategic to reaching unbelievers are actually in a password-protected area. When the site was first launched, I registered and was given a username and password which is still functional. I have no contact with the church at all, so I assume they allow anyone to register (and probably use that information to police the forums and other places where users can contribute), but I would like to see the information in the Community section presented publicly, without any need for prior registration and login. They could still require registration and login for a user to contribute (or edit previous contributions), but presenting the information publicly would, in effect, open the authenticity of the congregation for everyone to see, whether believer or unbeliever.

Contact: Scott Raymond () is the designer/developer

Posted in websites on 01/09/08 at 10:00 AM
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Church Websites I Like, Part 1

I was asked yesterday by a reader of this blog for a list of church websites I like. I responded to the email, but thought it would make a good subject for a series of articles, so here goes.

To be honest, because I have some fairly strong opinions on these issues, there are not a lot of church websites I like. But in this series, I’m going to mention a few that I admire, along with the reasons for my admiration and any further information I might have. I may not like everything about these sites (and I’ll tried to point out what I don’t like), but there are aspects which are encouraging to me. Where I list contacts, some are people I know (almost always virtually), but some I have never met.

Feel free to suggest other church websites you like in the comments section, but if we can, let’s try to point to church websites who are effectively using the web in terms of their strategy not just websites that look good (which is not bad in itself, but good-looking websites without an effective online strategy are irrelevant, in my opinion).

Church of the Resurrection
Leawood, Kansas
http://www.cor.org

The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, KansasThe main reason I like this site is because it features “normal” people. If you visit the Resurrection Stories section of the site, you’ll find brief testimonies of normal people from within the congregation. One of the strategies I advocate for church websites is to include an extensive set of life stories of believers in the congregation. These are then used to promote the church to various segments of society. While I am not a big fan of religious testimonies on church websites (which the stories on this site resemble to some extent) — largely because the vast majority of unbelievers won’t initially care about religious testimonies — I do applaud the prominence this church gives to the “normal” people in its congregation. In an earlier version of the site, the photos of the people and their stories were prominently featured on the front page, and I would like to see them go back to that, but in general, the fact that they feature people from within the congregation means I don’t get the sense that this is primarily an institution — instead, it’s a group of people.

Contacts: the folks who write the Appian Way blog - Clif Guy, Brian Slezak, Chuck Russell, and Leo Johns.

Posted in websites on 01/08/08 at 09:50 AM
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Internet Evangelism Video Series, Part 15

This is the fifteenth session in our multi-part series on internet evangelism.

In this session, we discuss the next part of 1 Peter 3:15 — “always (be) ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you,” emphasizing the need for internet evangelists to have a good knowledge of the truth.

I’m going to take a bit of a hiatus in the video series after this session and try to come back to it early next year.

Posted in ideas/concepts on 12/30/07 at 06:50 PM
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Internet Evangelism Video Series, Part 14

Here is the fourteenth session in our multi-part series on internet evangelism.

In this session, we begin to look at how the internet evangelist can prepare himself or herself for the task to which God has called them.

Posted in ideas/concepts on 12/30/07 at 06:39 PM
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Internet Evangelism Video Series, Part 13

Here is the thirteenth session in our multi-part series on internet evangelism.

In this session, we flesh out some examples of how the principles we’ve been discussing could be relevant to internet evangelism.

Posted in ideas/concepts on 12/30/07 at 06:19 PM
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Internet Evangelism Video Series, Part 12

This is the twelfth session in our multi-part series on internet evangelism.

In this session, we talk about some of the implications of the principles we’ve been discussing, specifically as they relate to internet evangelism.

Posted in ideas/concepts on 12/30/07 at 05:54 PM
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Internet Evangelism Video Series, Part 11

Here is the eleventh session in our multi-part series on internet evangelism.

After studying five different passages of Scripture (John 17:20-23, Luke 10:1-9, Acts 2:42-47, 1 Thessalonians 1-2, and 1 John 4:12-14) and finding that each supports our contention that an authentic demonstration of Christian community is the foundation of all effective outreach, we expand on that principle a bit and talk about a concept known as oikos evangelism and about how people typically come to Christ.

Posted in ideas/concepts on 12/30/07 at 05:34 PM
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Internet Evangelism Video Series, Part 10

Here is the tenth session in our multi-part series on internet evangelism.

In this session, we examine another passage which demonstrates the need for Christian community as a foundation for outreach — 1 John 4:12-14.

Posted in ideas/concepts on 12/30/07 at 05:12 PM
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Internet Evangelism Video Series, Part 9

Here is the ninth session in our multi-part video series on internet evangelism.

In this session, we look at another passage which demonstrates the need for Christian community as a foundation for outreach — 1 Thessalonians 1-2.

Posted in miscellaneous on 12/30/07 at 04:54 PM
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Internet Evangelism Video Series, Part 8

This is the eighth session in our multi-part video series on internet evangelism.

In this session, we look at Acts 2:42-47, another passage which demonstrates the need for Christian community as a foundation for effective outreach.

Posted in ideas/concepts on 12/29/07 at 10:08 PM
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Internet Evangelism Video Series, Part 7

This is the seventh session in our multi-part video series on internet evangelism.

In this session, we look at another passage which demonstrates the need for Christian community as a foundation for effective outreach — Luke 10:1-9.

Posted in ideas/concepts on 12/29/07 at 09:32 PM
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Internet Evangelism Video Series, Part 6

Here is the sixth session in our multi-part video series on internet evangelism.

In this session, we examine an important biblical principle of evangelism and begin a section of our series in which we will see how that biblical principle can and should be applied to internet evangelism. John 17:20-23 is the first passage we explore to learn more about this biblical principle.

Posted in ideas/concepts on 12/29/07 at 09:10 PM
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Internet Evangelism Video Series, Part 5

Here is the fifth session in our multi-part video series on internet evangelism.

In this session, we address a common fear that can become a barrier to the effective use of the internet by the church. We then share several simple ways in which you can become involved in internet evangelism.

Here are some links to resources referenced in this video presentation:

Posted in ideas/concepts on 12/29/07 at 03:25 PM
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Internet Evangelism Video Series, Part 4

Here is the fourth session in our multi-part video series on internet evangelism.

In this session, we share several examples of how the church has used technology throughout history and encourage the church today to make similar use of the internet to declare the gospel throughout the world.

Posted in ideas/concepts on 12/29/07 at 03:14 PM
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Internet Evangelism Video Series, Part 3

Here is the third session in our multi-part video series on internet evangelism.

In this session, we examine the way in which first century Christian missionaries used the “agora” or the marketplace (the place where people gathered to buy and sell, exchange philosophies and ideas, interact socially, and obtain information) to declare the gospel. We also contend that the internet is the “agora” of today and that the church should be active in that marketplace, strategically using it to further God’s kingdom around the world.

Posted in ideas/concepts on 12/29/07 at 02:29 PM
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Internet Evangelism Video Series, Part 2

Here is the second session in our multi-part video series on internet evangelism.

In this session, we briefly compare the circumstances which God had orchestrated in the first century to circumstances and events which we believe He is orchestrating today. This pattern presents a question for the church of the 21st century — will we take advantage of the circumstances and events which God is orchestrating to further God’s kingdom?

Posted in ideas/concepts on 12/25/07 at 03:02 PM
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Internet Evangelism Video Series, Part 1

In the past, I’ve experimented a bit with video blogging on another blog I run (which is fairly dormant to be honest) — ProdigalGod.com. I have long wanted to create a series of videos on internet evangelism, and this post represents my first attempt at completing that project.

This is largely an experiment for me, and I recognize that the videos are not perfect. The video quality itself is better on this site than the quality of the videos on ProdigalGod.com because I used a Sony camcorder to create these videos (while the videos on ProdigalGod.com were created with a simple webcam — at least until I redo them with the camcorder). My “on-camera presence,” however, is just as “clunky” as it is on the ProdigalGod.com videos! And I know that the setup I have in my living room (it’s obvious my wife loves me a lot to put up with pushing the furniture around to make room for the v-screen and pvc pipe stand I’m using!) needs some work - the lighting especially.

Hopefully, these will improve over time. If you have any suggestions for better video blogging, please don’t hesitate to contact me — I would be more than happy to hear any feedback you might have!

I used software called Vlog It! to create the videos, and the videos are in Flash Video format and as such, require that you have the Flash Player installed.

This first session gives a little bit of background on me (primarily because I may upload these to GodTube and/or YouTube in the future so not everyone who sees them will know who I am) and also addresses ways in which God orchestrated circumstances and events in the first century to facilitate the spread of the gospel. I am purposefully keeping the sessions short so that they can be easily digested.

Posted in ideas/concepts on 12/25/07 at 02:45 PM
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Listmania! on Amazon

I was looking for a book on Amazon today and noticed several Listmania! lists devoted to the church’s use of technology:

Church and Technology Books, by Tim Fisher
Audio Recording Picks, by Devin B. Hedge
Preaching in a Postmodern Media Culture, by Carsten R. Jensen
Life Online, by D.J. Chuang

If you know of any other Listmania! lists or individual books devoted to the church’s use of technology, feel free to mention them in comments to this post.

Posted in miscellaneous on 12/23/07 at 02:27 PM
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ChristianVolunteering.org

Evan Donovan of TechMission.org wrote me a few days ago to tell me about a new site they have launched, ChristianVolunteering.org. Here’s what Evan had to say about the site:

ChristianVolunteering.org is a free directory with over 2,000 volunteer opportunities in ministries serving the “poor.”  The site’s partners include the Salvation Army, GospelCom (BibleGateway.com), World Vision, the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions and over 1,000 ministries serving under-resourced communities.  In addition to volunteer opportunities for individuals, you can also search the site for opportunities that might be appropriate for church small groups and for short-term missions trips.  If you just type your postal code, you can get a listing of the volunteer opportunities in your region.

A second site, UrbanMinistry.org, is designed to equip people to serve the “poor.” Here is how the site describes itself:

(A) destination site for the urban ministry and Christian community development community: a website designed to connect individuals and Christian ministries, empowering them to bring social justice in Jesus’ name. On UrbanMinistry.org, you can meet others interested in urban ministry, start a blog, and share resources that have been helpful to you in the Urban Ministry wiki. You can also browse through an extensive library of sermons and lectures, recommended books, MP3 podcasts, justice-related videos, Christian workshops and presentations, and more.

Both of these sites are well worth bookmarking and visiting often. Thanks to Evan for telling me about them!

Posted in websites on 12/04/07 at 09:59 AM
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Conquering Nonprofit Chaos

My friend Bradley Burck just launched a website for his new book — Conquering Nonprofit Chaos.

Bradley is a fundraising and marketing consultant who works with non-profits and Christian ministries to help them craft strategic development and marketing plans. His firm, Burck Communications, also provides design, copywriting and print services as well as training for non-profit boards and staffs.

When you have a chance, check out their new website. There is a lot of content which will prove helpful to churches and ministries.

Posted in websites on 10/26/07 at 10:45 AM
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Roman Catholic Communities Using the Web to Attract New Priests and Nuns

Here is an interesting article about how Roman Catholic communities are using Facebook, blogs, websites, MySpace, YouTube, podcasts, etc. to attract young people who are potentially interested in becoming priests or nuns.

I found the conclusion to the article particularly interesting:

As always, personal contact — particularly with an admired religious role model at school or church — seems to be the clincher. “The Internet is a helpful resource, but it just doesn’t replace the one-on-one, face-to-face interaction,” Alvarez said.

So along with her Facebook presence, Sister Tracey has started a monthly coffeehouse night with local bands and an open-poetry mike at her community’s bookstore in Sweetwater.

“As great as technology is, there’s still this thirst for human connection,” she said. “It’s not about having the best Web site; it’s about what that Web site can facilitate.”

Posted in on 10/02/07 at 12:51 PM
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EE2007

Here is what appears to be a new blog on internet evangelism (at least the first and only post is about internet evangelism), written by someone named Bob Fox. Does anyone know anything about this blog?

Posted in websites on 10/02/07 at 08:21 AM
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The Persecuted Church and the Internet

Dan Lee of BlogMinistry has begun “a series of posts dedicated to particular countries looking at their access to the Internet and the persecuted church.” Quite an interesting series.

So far, Dan has posted three articles:

Persecuted Church and the Internet: North Korea
Persecuted Church and the Internet: The Maldives
Persecuted Church and the Internet: India

I haven’t seen anything like this in the Christian blogosphere before - it’s a great series so far, and I look forward to reading additional entries. Thanks Dan!

Posted in on 10/01/07 at 12:19 PM
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Chat With the President of Gospel Communications

On November 14, we have a chance to chat directly with J.R. Whitby, President of Gospel Communications, about their vision for media evangelism. The 30-minute phone call will include a discussion of Gospel Communications’ upcoming ministry plans and the chance to ask questions.

J.R. will talk about what God has put on his heart for Gospel Communications: a new direction for our film outreach, the latest news from our internet ministries, innovative new giving tools, and more.

For more information regarding the call, including how to sign up, visit the September 28 issue of the Gospel Communications Communique.

Posted in events on 10/01/07 at 08:14 AM
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10 Ways To Effectively Use A Church Website

Dean Peters has posted a great list of ways to use a church website to make it more effective. From the introduction to his article:

A problem I find with many church websites is vision, that those responsible for delivering the goods don’t really see their site as much more than an online color brochure. As a result, more often than not, very little staff and/or funds are allocated to the church’s web presence past the server, the domain name and perhaps a content management service.

In no particular order, I’d like to offer 10 real-world examples you can expand your church and/or charity’s impact by expanding your vision past mere ‘brochureware.’

His second point (“Convert Seekers”) made me think about an aspect of church websites that I have generally resisted in the past and gave me a good reason to consider changing the way I think about that aspect (I’m purposely not telling you what that aspect is to make you go read the article!).

Here’s a link to the article.

By the way, the article appears on a great new site called digital.leadnet.org, a collaborative blog about technology in the church from Leadership Network.

Posted in strategies for churches on 09/30/07 at 11:35 AM
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LiveMocha

LiveMocha is a website which is in beta and might prove helpful for missionaries trying to learn a new language.

From their front page:

The social way to learn a language.

Community. Livemocha is the first-of-its-kind online language-learning community.

Lessons. Fun and interactive lessons that move at the right pace for you.

Motivation. Track your progress and reach your goals with Livemocha tools.

The site currently offers courses in German, English, Spanish, French, Hindi, and Chinese.

Thanks to 901am for the heads-up!

Posted in strategies for missionaries on 09/24/07 at 06:41 PM
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Weird! Has This Ever Happened To You?

As I was checking my email today, I was confused by a few emails that looked like this:

email

I couldn’t remember ever hearing of a blog or website called BlogInterviewer, but it looked like the type of email you receive when you have subscribed to a blog post’s comments (often after or as a result of adding a comment). With a bit of a bad feeling, I visited the blog in question.

BlogInterviewer is an interesting site. With a tagline of “A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Web’s Best Bloggers,” BlogInterviewer presents interviews with a variety of bloggers. They describe themselves this way on their About Us page:

BlogInterviewer.com is a website devoted to discovering the most interesting bloggers on the Internet and their reasons for sharing their thoughts with the world. You as a user have the opportunity to vote for your favorites and bury the blogs you don’t like.

The post I visited (referenced by the emails I was receiving) is here. You’ll notice that there are currently three comments, but when I visited there were seven. The strange part was that three of those seven comments appeared to have been made by me. Here are the comments that were purportedly from me:

Blog Interviewer Comment

Blog Interviewer Comment

Blog Interviewer Comment

My name in the second and third comment was linked to this blog. Obviously, the person who submitted the comments used my email address (that’s why I started receiving emails about additional comments).  But I didn’t submit any of those three comments.

It disturbs me that someone would be using my name, my blog, and my email address falsely in comments made on another blog. But what concerns me even more is the confrontational and condescending attitude I perceive in the last comment. The attitude reflected in that comment does not reflect my personality (at least I don’t think it does!). And I feel it reflects badly on the Christian faith. I wonder what the motivation of the person submitting the comments was. Was it to put the Christian faith in a bad light or was there some other reason?

I quickly left a comment saying that I was not the author of those comments and asking the blog owner to remove them. I also sent an email to the blog owner bringing the problem to their attention. I was happy to receive an email very soon after from Mike Thomas of BlogInterviewer.com saying he had removed the offending comments. I was especially gratified by the speed with which the issue was addressed by Mike. Kudos and thanks to him!

Now a question for the readers of this blog: has anything like this ever happened to you? How did you respond?

Posted in miscellaneous on 07/26/07 at 10:41 PM
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A Fascinating Church Home Page

manna?, a church in Holland Michigan, is experiencing a fascinating scenario on the home page of their website. The manna? website is set up differently than most church websites. Here’s a hint of the difference (from the bottom of their home page):

Hey - we don’t hold much on formality at manna?- if you want to contribute something to this weblog there’s no committee to work with. Just register (or log in if you already have) and use the Control Panel to speak your piece.

Did you catch that? Anyone can post a story to the front page of their website.

You might think that’s a recipe for danger, but a person does have to register as a member on the site before they can post, so the church does have some control over what stays on the website (although I believe they moderate after the posts are made rather than before). Although you might think it is dangerous, take a look at this article which was posted to the front page of the site recently (I’m linking to the permanent link of the article because it will eventually fall off the home page as new articles are added). Also take a look at the comments. Fascinating.

A person who has never attended manna? posts to the front page of the site telling them they are planning on attending a service. People from the congregation respond and ask the “newcomers” to introduce themselves. The newcomers are invited to join the congregation for a meal before they ever attend a meeting.

How do you think those people will feel when they show up at their first meeting of the congregation? Will they feel like they already know some of those who are part of the church? Will they feel welcomed?

In my opinion, the potential “danger” is far outweighed by the potential benefit.

What do you think?

Posted in strategies for churches on 07/23/07 at 11:31 AM
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Web Two Point What?

Bill Seaver of the MicroExplosion Blog posted recently about a free ebook he wrote called Web Two Point What? A Pastor’s Guide to New Media. It’s being made available via download at the Do More Ministry Blog

Posted in strategies for churches on 07/21/07 at 12:07 PM
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Mike Boyink’s Take on Namby-Pamby Church Websites

Mike is blogging about this conversation at GodBit in his post Fear Behind Namby-Pamby Church Websites. It’s a fascinating discussion, and I firmly believe that Mike is landing on the right side of the discussion.

Posted in strategies for churches on 07/21/07 at 11:33 AM
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Pray for Irene Dias

imageDave Dias is a great friend and advisor to Strategic Digital Outreach (you can read more about Dave on our About page). Recently, Dave’s wife Irene was diagnosed with a rare, life-threatening disease known as Amyloidosis. Without treatment, average life expectancy would be 18 months. With treatment, six years. For more information, visit IreneDias.com.

If you have a moment, I know that Irene and Dave would greatly appreciate your prayers.

Posted in miscellaneous on 06/04/07 at 08:10 AM
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MissionEquip.com

Mission:EquipA couple of months ago, in this article, I mentioned that I had stopped designing and coding websites for churches and ministries in favor of consulting regarding web strategy issues and also in favor of some personal projects.

One of the websites I was thinking of when I mentioned “personal projects” was actually a team effort by some friends of mine and myself. And today, I’m happy and excited to announce the launch of MissionEquip.com, a virtual toolkit of services to assist in preparation for missions trips, both short-term and long-term. The site is divided into four main sections: Prepare, Go, Connect, and Share.

Prepare
This section of the site includes links to various resources which we feel will be helpful to long-term missionaries and short-term mission team members as they prepare to travel overseas. From travel documents to overseas medical insurance to information on vaccines, we’re compiling a growing list of valuable tools to help overseas workers plan ahead for their travel needs.

Go
Through links to a trip planning module, a helpful travel checklist, a printable emergency contact card and more, we are striving to equip the worldwide missions community with the tools they need to travel safely and effectively.

Connect
Once long-term missionaries and short-term mission team members have reached their field of service, how can they keep in touch with their family, friends, church, and supporters? This section of our site aims to provide links to several communications resources which will serve to improve contacts between overseas workers and their support structure back home.

Share
Easily my favorite part of the site (and the section which ignited my passion to help with the project), this area of the site consists of 228 country-specific blogs and 228 country-specific wikis. The idea is that long-term missionaries, short-term mission team members, missions pastors, missions agencies, and those with a heart for missions can all gather in a common place to tell and hear the stories of God’s work among the nations. Our hope is that as missionaries and short-term team members tell their stories and those with a heart for missions hear those stories, an excitement for God’s work will build in all our hearts.

Also, through telling their stories in our Share section, missionaries can broaden their exposure and: a) widen the extent of their personal contacts; b) solicit prayer support; and, c) raise funds (through the automatic inclusion of their online donation link in the footer of all articles they submit).

We also have the ability to aggregate stories from existing missionary blogs (with permission of course!) to broaden an individual missionary’s exposure within the worldwide missions community.

A Request
We would invite you to review the Mission:Equip website and tell us what you think. We are definitely open to suggestions regarding any part of the site. If you notice problems, please don’t hesitate to let us know. If you have suggestions for additional resources, we would love to hear about them. If you have a heart for missions, register as a member and begin participating in this fledgling community of like-minded believers. It’s an exciting day for us, and we would love to have you share in our excitement!

Also, if you like what you see, why not tell your friends?

Posted in websites on 05/02/07 at 09:09 AM
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April 29 Is The Day!

Internet Evangelism Day, that is.

Internet Evangelism DayThe third annual Internet Evangelism Day will take place this year on April 29. This is a great opportunity for your church or ministry to highlight the potential for the use of the internet in the completion of the Great Commission. The Internet Evangelism Day website is a vast compilation of resources to help you do just that. I would strongly encourage all churches, ministries, and individuals to visit the site and give consideration to how you can promote the this worldwide annual focus day.

Here is a press release from the Internet Evangelism Day team which will give you more information:

“We’d love to use the Web for outreach, but we don’t know how,” is a frequently heard sentiment. Internet Evangelism Day answers this need, by offering churches and other groups the means to create a web awareness focus spot in their activities on (or near) Sunday, April 29. By using free downloads from the Internet Evangelism Day website — PowerPoint, video clips, music, drama scripts or handouts — churches can demonstrate to their members the huge potential of the Web for evangelism.

The website also carries a wide range of pages explaining how best to build church websites, write blogs, create video clips, and interact in many other ways with the worldwide web community, to share the gospel.

Churches who have used these materials are excited. “People were challenged and inspired! As a result, we will review our church website, add evangelistic signature blocks to emails, and learn how to use bulletin boards and chat rooms for evangelism,” said a church in Australia.

“I want to thank you for the free resources you have provided through your website. This is a huge help for small churches such as ours,” claimed a church leader in California.

One surprising aspect that the IE Day team emphasizes: web evangelism is for anyone, not just the technically gifted. “There are many ways to share your faith online, without any technical background at all,” says IE Day Coordinator Tony Whittaker.

The Internet Evangelism Day website is at InternetEvangelismDay.com.

And you can listen to a 3-minute MP3 audio introduction to IE Day at InternetEvangelismDay.com/audio.

Posted in events on 04/07/07 at 09:05 AM
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New E-Book on Youth Ministry

How To Build A Lasting Student MinistryMy friend Scott Aughtmon is the pastor of Pathway Church in Palo Alto, California. At one time in his life, though, he was an internet entrepreneur and marketer. One of his best products was a series of recommendations from a group of well-known internet marketers, all compiled into one e-book.

When Scott first told me about that e-book as we visited at a local Starbucks, he also told me that he had a vision to do something similar, but this time gathering the advice of well-known youth pastors.

It was exciting then, to receive an email from Scott about a month ago telling me that he had released the e-book, entitled How To Build A Lasting Student Ministry. Although I’m not involved in youth ministry myself, I purchased the e-book and have read through it, albeit somewhat quickly.

One of my favorite chapters is by one of my favorite people, Chuckk Gerwig, the Pastor to Senior High Students and their Families at Santa Cruz Bible Church (in fact, Scott and I were trying to remember if I actually introduced Chuckk and Scott to each other virtually).

There are three basic reasons I want to highlight Scott’s e-book on this blog:

1) If you are in youth ministry (or contemplating entering youth ministry), it makes for a good read. You can purchase the e-book here for $12.97 and receive your copy almost instantly.

2) If you are a Christian website owner looking for affiliate products to sell (and if you are, you probably realize that there is a dearth of appropriate affiliate products for Christian websites), Scott is offering a very generous revenue split for those who wish to promote his e-book. I personally am not taking advantage of this offer because I know that the proceeds from the sale of the e-book go to support Scott’s family which ultimately helps the work of church planting in Palo Alto (Pathway is a relatively new work, a little over two years old). Palo Alto is in a strategic part of California near Stanford University and the heart of the venture capital community serving the entire San Francisco Bay Area and beyond, so I believe strongly in the value of what Scott and his family are doing (and by the way, Scott probably wouldn’t tell you this, but the standard of living is not cheap — church planting in this area of the world can be very difficult because of economic considerations, so I believe efforts such as this deserve our support).

3) It’s a very intriguing method of training for ministry. While a common strategy among internet entrepreneurs, e-books and autoresponders are not used much in Christian internet circles.

I’d encourage you to check out the website for Scott’s new e-book and consider purchasing it, both to learn from prominent youth leaders and also to support the work of God in Palo Alto, California.

Posted in product reviews on 04/01/07 at 10:17 PM
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My Virtual Friend Rich Tatum

I’ve known Rich Tatum for several years. I first met him when he was the webmaster for the Assemblies of God National Headquarters and I was participating in an email list for Assemblies of God ministers in Northern California and Nevada. Somewhere along the line (I’m not exactly sure of the timing), I started doing some freelance web design for the Northern California and Nevada District of the Assemblies of God, and that gave us some more common ground to talk about. At some point, he left the Assemblies of God headquarters to start working for Christianity Today. We’re both sometimes participants in an AG mailing list or two. Over the years, we’ve kept in touch directly from time to time, usually talking about web design, working for Christian organizations, some theology, etc. We’ve never met face-to-face, so we’re virtual friends.

Four months ago, Rich was laid off from his job at Christianity Today. Since then, he’s been looking for a full-time gig while also doing some freelance web development. Rich is a gifted communicator, writer, teacher, trainer, and strategist with a great amount of insight into today’s technology. If you’re looking for someone with these skills, I would encourage you to take a look at Rich’s resume as well as his LinkedIn profile. If you’re not currently looking for someone with these skills, why not pass Rich’s information on to those you think might be looking for someone like Rich?

Also, for a fascinating read, take a look at The Sharpe Logs, transcripts of Rich’s IM and email conversations with Kathi Sharpe, an ex-Wiccan now converted to Christ, over a year-long period. A great example of how the internet can be used to influence a person’s initial decision for Christ and to disciple or mentor a newly-converted Christian.

Posted in miscellaneous on 04/01/07 at 08:00 PM
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More On Flawed Follow-Up or Flawed Evangelism

I was wandering around the Gospelcon Blog (the home of Gospel Communications’ annual internet ministry conference) this evening and was pleasantly surprised to see my name and this website mentioned in this article. The folks at Gospelcon were responding to the article just before this one, entitled Flawed Follow-Up or a Flawed Philosophy of Evangelism.

While I was flattered by the mention, I felt that they had misconstrued what I was trying to say, so I left a comment to attempt to clarify my thinking. If you’re interested, why not visit the article and add your thoughts there (or here if you prefer). While you’re over there, the Gospelcon Blog is well worth reading, so why not spend some time perusing their articles?

Posted in ideas/concepts on 03/30/07 at 08:22 PM
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Flawed Follow-Up or a Flawed Philosophy of Evangelism?

The following was something I wrote to an internet evangelism mailing list in which I participate, in response to some comments made on the list regarding this article by Dr. Stephanie Bennett.

In many ways, I live in a digital realm. My day job is completely concerned with the web and ways it can be used for business. The overwhelming focus of my ministry is in finding ways to use the internet and other digital means to spread the gospel. I am “in the digital realm” in some form at least 10-12 hours per day Monday through Friday (somewhat less on the weekends), whether that means actually “surfing the web” or spending long hours formulating strategies for the use of digital means to further either God’s purposes or the corporation’s business.

I have spent years on the web, developing virtual relationships with many people. Some I have gone on to meet face-to-face, but many of these relationships remain completely virtual.

And yet, Stephanie’s article rings very true to me. While I might not go quite as far as she seems to (in almost seeming to say that we should abandon the internet for face-to-face relationships only), I do believe strongly that those of us involved in internet evangelism in the West have, in many cases, devalued face-to-face relationships and neglected (or even abandoned) the local aspect of Christian community.

Perhaps my thinking is colored by the couple of years I lived in West Africa earlier in my life (where face-to-face community among the brethren is part of the essence of the Christian life and where the depth of community experienced by believers has reached a level which is generally unknown in the Western church, at least that part of the Western church I can observe), but I do believe we in the West are much too quick to assume that virtual community is just as ideal as face-to-face community.

I do believe in using digital means for kingdom purposes, but I think that whenever possible, the goal of our digital efforts should be to use digital means to facilitate face-to-face relationships between believers and unbelievers and to introduce unbelievers to local Christian community. Those things then can become the foundation of effective outreach.

It is my strong conviction that the unbeliever must be immersed into Christian community prior to conversion in order for the unbeliever to understand that God loves him/her and to understand the purpose of Jesus’ mission on earth (that’s the point, I think, of Jesus’ statements in John 17:21-23). I don’t think that such immersion into Christian community is possible in the worldwide digital realm to the same extent that it is in the local physical realm.

Most internet evangelism efforts seem to focus on local Christian community only as a means for follow-up. Actually, that’s not true only in internet evangelism circles, but in crusade evangelism, television evangelism, etc. I believe that the failure to understand the need for immersion into Christian community prior to conversion causes serious problems with the effectiveness of our follow-up.

In the denomination I’m part of, there were more than 4 million converts in the 1990s, and yet Sunday morning attendance increased less than 240,000 during that time. 94% of new converts can’t be found. They may be in other churches, they may have become part of house churches which are more difficult to quantify, etc. But I suspect that the vast majority simply are not leading what we would think of as a life of discipleship, most likely because they were never converted in the first place (if they don’t know that God loves them and don’t understand Jesus’ mission on earth, things which Jesus suggests are understood through immersion into Christian community prior to conversion, how can they be truly converted?).

Church strategists tend to point to insufficient or flawed follow-up, but I tend to think that our basic philosophy of evangelism is flawed. If our approach was to encourage unbelievers to be immersed into Christian community prior to conversion, we would find that our “follow-up” would be much more effective.

I fear that internet evangelism falls into this trap more than most forms of evangelism. The ease with which we can “share the gospel” online can actually short-circuit the God-ordained process by which unbelievers are brought to faith. If someone comes to a website and reads a gospel message and responds by “praying the sinner’s prayer,” but never truly understood the love of God nor the mission of Jesus (because they had not been immersed into Christian community prior to conversion), do we not run the risk of that person thinking, “Oh I tried the Christian way and it didn’t work for me” (it didn’t work because they were never truly converted)?

Does that mean we shouldn’t use the internet for kingdom purposes? Of course not. But I think our strategy is, in many cases, flawed. Our goal with the internet and other digital means should not be primarily to gain new converts, but to facilitate the introduction of unbelievers into local Christian communities, which are the most effective context for outreach.

Posted in strategies for churches on 02/18/07 at 11:45 PM
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Change Is In The Air

I put some time in this weekend to sprucing up this blog a bit. Things were getting a bit stale, and I've been toying with some changes for awhile, so the three-day weekend seemed like a good time to do some housekeeping. Here are some of the changes which I've made:

  1. A New Logo. I've long been dissatisfied with the masthead I was using on the site (for those who don't remember, it was simply the words "Strategic Digital Outreach" and the tagline "Telling the old, old story via modern-day wineskins" sitting on top of part of a map of the world. Recently, while looking for some world maps at a stock photography site, I came across some globes that had been transformed into cube shapes. I was fairly enamored of these cubes and thought they would lend themselves to a good logo treatment, so a few days ago, I started playing around and it wasn't long before I came up with the simple logo you now see in the masthead.
  2. A New Sidebar Design. The new logo sparked some ideas for a cleaner sidebar, primarily through repeating the cube motif in the various sidebar headings. I also have wanted to bring the feed icon up higher in the sidebar and give it more prominence.
  3. LinkedIn. In keeping with a desire to concentrate more on consulting than actual nuts-and-bolts design work (more on that in a moment), I decided to beef up my LinkedIn profile (largely following the encouragement of Guy Kawasaki in his blog article LinkedIn Profile Extreme Makeover) and add a link to that profile in the sidebar. While I've greatly improved the content in my profile, the largest deficiency is definitely the relative lack of connections! So if you are a LinkedIn member and you would like to connect, please feel free to send me an invitation!
  4. I feel a little bit like Bob Dole. On May 15, 1996, at the outset of his presidential campaign, Bob Dole announced his retirement from the U.S. Senate with these words, "So today I announce that I will forego the privileges not only of the office of the majority leader but of the United States Senate itself, from which I resign effective on or before June 11th. And I will then stand before you without office or authority, a private citizen, a Kansan, an American, just a man."

    I still remember listening to that stunning announcement and thinking what a huge risk he was taking in giving up the power and trappings of his position for an uncertain fate at the hands of the American voters. I feel a little bit like him.

    I've said on more than one occasion (both publicly on this blog and in private conversations with friends) that I feel my strengths lie more in the area of web strategy than in actual design and coding of websites. And yet I have continued to some extent to do just that — design and code websites for churches and ministries. Several weeks ago, however, I decided to take a risk and stop coding and designing so that I could give myself entirely to consulting with churches and ministries regarding online strategy (internet marketing, usability, writing, etc.) as well as to some personal publishing projects of my own.

    The risk in that is that the coding and design of websites was helping pay my family's bills. Now, "I stand before you" as a simple strategist and not a designer/coder. And I'm not sure that online strategy consulting (especially to churches and ministries) will be able to help pay the bills.

    Several weeks ago, some readers may have noticed that I added a section to the sidebar of this blog entitled "We Recommend." In that section, I have listed (currently) six web development firms who I recommend that churches and ministries consider contracting with to develop new or improve existing websites. All of these firms are owned by Christians and all are excellent designers and coders. If you need web development, I would strongly encourage you to contact one or more of these companies.

  5. New Projects. For as long as I can remember, the "Projects" section of the sidebar on this site has included only one website — ChristianCruz.com, a local portal for believers living in Santa Cruz County. With this "mini-relaunch" of the Strategic Digital Outreach website, I have added two additional websites — ProdigalGod.com (definitely a work in progress) and ChristianScreenSavers.com.
  6. Valid XHTML 1.0 Strict and Valid CSS. When I first began this blog, I set up the content management system and page layouts very quickly. I always meant to work on the code so that it would validate, but I never seemed to get around to it. But this weekend, I decided that I would bring the site up to standards compliance (especially since I talk about the importance of standards compliance on this site from time to time), and I'm happy to report that I've been able to do so.
If you see any problems with the changes I've made, please don't hesitate to contact me. I would be very happy to hear your suggestions!
Posted in websites on 02/18/07 at 10:25 PM
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Church Site Design Checklist

I have not been posting a lot over the past couple of months. One resource which I should have mentioned earlier is the new Church Site Design Checklist from the Internet Evangelism Day website.

Your church website has enormous potential as part of your outreach strategy to reach into your community. However, not all churches understand how to design a site that will do this effectively. This self-assessment questionnaire can help you assess your site, and find new ideas or areas that could perhaps be modified.

When I first learned about the checklist, I worked through the questions with a particular church website in mind — a website I had developed a couple of years ago which was not as outreach-oriented as I would have liked to see it. I was pleased to see that the checklist seemed to rate the website just about where I would put it on a scale between being not outreach-oriented at all and being very outreach-oriented. Obviously, my opinion is not the final word on whether or not a church website is effective in terms of outreach to unbelievers, but it was good to see that the checklist seems like it will be helpful to churches.

Posted in strategies for churches on 02/11/07 at 10:06 PM
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Mobile Phone Use In Developing Countries

This article on mobile phone use in developing countries came out a few days ago. Among its assertions:

  • 22 percent of Vietnamese own a mobile phone.
  • In the Philippines, more than 4 million people use their cell phones to conduct online transactions.
  • Afghanistan has 20,000 fixed-line phones and 2 million cell-phone subscribers!
  • According to the UN International Telecommunication Union, cell phone subscriptions in the developing world rose to 1.4 billion at the end of 2005 (compared to 800,000 in countries with “advanced” economies).

Today, mobile phones are the primary form of telecommunication in most emerging economies, fulfilling much the same role as fixed-line phone networks did in facilitating growth in the United States and Europe after World War II.

This represents a vast opportunity for using digital means to spread the gospel in the developing world. The challenge, as with any digital means of outreach, is finding ways to use mobile technology as a way of intriguing the unbeliever enough to want to be immersed in Christian community, where a full presentation of the gospel can be made.

More Information:
Web Evangelism Guide: Mobile Phones and the Internet — Using cellphones for online evangelism
White African: Mobile Phones as Platform in Africa
White African: A Web Technology Idea For Africa

 

Posted in ideas/concepts on 02/06/07 at 11:27 PM
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LinkedCampus

LinkedCampus helps campus-focused businesses connect with their most valuable customers by harnessing the power of text messaging. We offer a web-based marketing tool that allows organizations to reach college students like never before. Gone are the days of ineffective email and flyers posted on bulletin boards; LinkedCampus allows local businesses the ability to impact college communities instantly and effectively. http://www.linkedcampus.com/

Hmmmm .... I wonder if there is an application for churches in college towns. If user permissions are respected, I would think this could be a good avenue for churches to get the word out about the life of their community.

Posted in ideas/concepts on 02/05/07 at 02:35 PM
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The Blogging Church

The Blogging ChurchI received my copy of The Blogging Church a couple of days ago.

I’ve been following the progress of the book for months now ever since it was announced on author Brian Bailey’s blog, Leave It Behind. And so it was exciting to finally receive an email from Amazon telling me the book was on its way to my home! But alas, I’m in the midst of a big project and didn’t have time until this evening to give it more than a cursory look.

After it had sat on my desk for a couple of days, I finally picked it up this evening to read a bit and was immediately intrigued by a couple of statements from the Foreword, written by Ed Young, Senior Pastor of Fellowship Church:

I have a daughter in college, and she uses technology in a whole new way. There’s a generation coming that spends a huge part of their lives online. A creative church, a spiritually mature church, is one that is comfortable with uncomfortableness. You wouldn’t be reading this book if you weren’t willing to do a lot of different things, to get outside of the box, in order to reach those who don’t know Jesus Christ. The church has to be willing to change, go into new places, and be uncomfortable, or we will no longer matter to the people who matter so much to God.

and ....

Is blogging about you, or is it about others? When a blog is all about us, we turn inward and get dragged into endless debate that doesn’t amount to anything. We stare at our navels and sing Kumbaya while the rest of the world goes to Hell. When a blog is about others, we swallow our egos and put all of our energy into getting people connected to Christ and His bride, the local church.

There’s so much there that resonates with my thinking. Much of the church today, I think, is uncomfortable with the online world because of a lack of experience, because of the lack of control, because of the unknown. But if we are committed to seeing today’s world reached for Christ, we have to go to where the people of today’s world are, in fact, comfortable, even if it’s uncomfortable for us.

And we need to be making our online efforts about them rather than about us. One small part of Ed Young’s comments which, I think, have great significance is that he sees blogs as a way of connecting people not only to Christ, but to the local church. This resonates with me as well because of my conviction that online ministry should not be primarily about seeking conversions, but rather seeking to introduce people to the local church where they can view the love of God in action (cf. John 17:21-23) which will ultimately lead to conversion in many cases.

Am I willing to go where I am uncomfortable (or get behind those who do if they are better prepared to go where I am uncomfortable)? Are my online efforts for my own satisfaction or to reach those who do not yet know Christ?

Posted in product reviews on 01/29/07 at 09:56 PM
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IFoundGeorgetown

Blake Atwood recently wrote an interesting article for BetaChurch.org about a new website he launched a few days ago. It’s a city portal designed to allow the church to, in Blake’s words, “enter into the conversation of the city around it.”

I’d encourage you to not only read the entire article but to also visit IFoundGeorgetown to get a flavor of Blake’s new project.

Posted in strategies for churches on 12/23/06 at 01:12 PM
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Local Christian Portals - Help With White Paper

As some of you may know, I maintain a local Christian portal website called ChristianCruz which is designed to be an online resource for believers living in Santa Cruz County, California.

When I began the site in 2000, my intention was actually to use it as a vehicle to build a local web design service for churches, ministries, and Christian business folks (I had read somewhere that starting a community portal was an effective way to build a web design service). Before long, however, the Lord changed the direction of the site through a series of what I believe were divinely-appointed connections. Within the space of a week, I came into contact with several people involved in community-wide, cross-church and cross-denominational efforts to reach our county for Christ. Through these connections, I came to believe that there was a greater purpose for ChristianCruz (to play at least a small part in encouraging Christian community across denominational and individual church lines, community which would become the foundation for local outreach efforts).

Because of the way the site was started (sort of haphazardly, without a focused vision), I have never formalized any "reason for being" for the site, although I have certainly thought about it a great deal. Over the past couple of years, I have thought a lot about the need to write a white paper to document what I believe are important reasons for this effort, not only for ChristianCruz.com, but also to support a vision I have had to help other local areas begin similar sites.

I have finally been able to come up with a basic, yet rough, outline of what the white paper would say. I'd like to include that outline here and solicit feedback from the readers of this blog (positive feedback, negative feedback, accusations of mental problems, spelling corrections, suggestions for further resources to study, etc., etc. — all types of feedback will be welcome).

With that as an introduction, here is the very rough outline:

  1. An authentic demonstration of Christian community is the foundation of all effective outreach.
  2. In John 17:21-23, Jesus said that if His disciples were one and perfected in unity, then the world would know that the Father loves them and that the Father sent Jesus (I believe that also includes an understanding of WHY Jesus was sent to earth).
  3. The converse is true – if Jesus’ disciples are not one and not perfected in unity (I would add “in a local area”), OR if it is not evident to the community in a local area that Jesus’ disciples are one and perfected in unity, then the world will not know that the Father loves them and that the Father sent Jesus (along with the reason for His being sent).
  4. If a person does not know that the Father loves him/her and that the Father sent Jesus (along with the reason for His being sent), they will not be converted to Christ.
  5. MAIN POINT: If unbelievers in a local area do not SEE (whether it exists or not) a vivid, ongoing demonstration of authentic Christian community (across denominational and individual church lines), that local area will not be reached for Christ.
    • Robert Banks illustrations regarding going down to the harbor and the first century house being open to the street – the life of the church lived out in full view of the unbelieving community (this is a note to myself that will remind myself of supporting material)
  6. With the current state of the church — being expressed in multiple individual churches and denominations (as vs. the city wide church of the first century), it is vitally important that the authentic demonstration of Christian community across denominational and individual church lines be PUBLICIZED to the unbelieving community.
    • Another note to self – check Francis Shaeffer, book on Christian media, and book on City Reaching for supporting material
  7. The role of Christian media in publicizing authentic Christian community across denominational and individual church lines is important – without such publicity, any demonstration of authentic Christian community within a single congregation risks being superceded in the unbelievers’ minds by the apparent division between individual churches and denominations which may appear to exist on a broader scale (but still in the local area).
    • a city set on a hill cannot be hidden
    • let your light so shine before men (so shine = in such a way)
  8. Local Christian media is uniquely positioned to publicize ongoing demonstrations of authentic Christian community across denominational and individual church lines
    • It can report on multi-church projects
    • it can publish the collective voice of the evangelical church in a local area
  9. Online media (website) is the most cost-effective approach for local Christians to demonstrate their authentic community
    • citizen journalism
    • blogging technology cuts costs
Posted in ideas/concepts on 11/30/06 at 11:19 AM
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Looking For Missions-Related Panoramic Photos

A few friends of mine and I are working on a missions-related website. We’d like to find several panoramic (i.e., stitched together) photos that would be missions-related (show the faces of people of the world or be of fairly recognizable city scenes). Size requirements - we would have to be able to comfortably resize them to 1600 pixels wide by 185 pixels high. “Comfortably” means they would have to start out at least this size or larger and when resized, they would still have to present a reasonable view. For example, I can find appropriate images that are larger than 1600 pixels wide, but because they aren’t panoramic, when I resize them to 1600 pixels wide by 185 pixels high, we end up with a person’s nose on one end of the image and basically nothing recognizable for the rest of the image to the right.

Anyone know of a good, inexpensive source of such images? I’ve tried istockphoto and bigstockphoto (two of my favorite sources for inexpensive stock photography), but haven’t had much luck yet.

Any help readers of this site could lend would be greatly appreciated!

Posted in ideas/concepts on 11/22/06 at 11:20 AM
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What A Content Management System Won’t Do

I just noticed that it’s been a month since I last posted to the blog. It seems like it’s only been a few days. That’s probably because I’ve been very busy with a couple of other major projects and also because I’ve been spending a lot of time in the back end system of the blog battling trackback spam. I think I have that sorted out, at least for the moment!

In the meantime, I found this article on Gadgetopia to be very relevant for churches. The article talks about what a content management system won’t do.

The trend we’ve seen over the past couple of years in which churches have moved to sophisticated content management systems to manage their websites is a very good and important trend as it addresses one of the major flaws in most church websites - the ability to easily add up-to-date content while minimizing bottlenecks in the flow of information.

However the article at Gadgetopia correctly cautions us that the use of a content management system does not mean that our content will be written, formatted, edited, organized, or approved for us. Churches still need talented copywriters to create effective websites.

Posted in strategies for churches on 10/27/06 at 12:29 PM
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Churches, Pay-Per-Click, and Tracking Response

For churches that do some form of pay-per-click advertising (on Google or Yahoo, for example), I wonder if you have some mechanism of tracking response in terms of people who attend one or more services as a result of seeing one of your PPC ads.

If you currently are engaged in a pay-per-click program, I would be very interested in knowing if you have devised a method to track response. Feel free to use comments to respond.

Posted in strategies for churches on 09/27/06 at 03:24 PM
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The Digital Sanctuary

Cynthia Ware left a comment for my recent post about Marqui, and as I normally do when someone new (to me) comments, I went to visit her blog — The Digital Sanctuary. It looks like a great resource to add to the growing list of bloggers who discuss how the church can effectively use technology to reach the world.

From her introductory post in July:

Welcome to the online intersection of technology and the Church.  This site is designed to embrace, explore, evaluate and enhance the vehicle of technology as it is used by the Church to deliver information, connect individuals and revolutionize the way we interact with our world.

I’d encourage you to visit her blog and spend some time reading her articles. Her educational and vocational background would seem to give her a unique perspective on technology issues facing the church and how the church can embrace technology for good.

Posted in websites on 09/24/06 at 08:13 AM
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Free Web Marketing Solution From Marqui For One Non-Profit

Churches and ministries might be interested in an announcement from Marqui today about their intention to give away a free web marketing solution to one non-profit organization. The Marqui press release can be found here.

Applications are being accepted through October 15 at this page.

Marqui has "developed the first Web-based suite that simplifies and automates a broad range of marketing communications activities, including e-mail campaigns, Web content management and blogging." They are perhaps best known for their controversial "Pay Bloggers" initiative in which they paid approximately twenty bloggers $800 per month to write about the company.

Posted in ideas/concepts on 09/20/06 at 09:50 PM
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Question For Christian Bloggers

I have a question for Christian bloggers.

Are there any Christian sites you routinely ping when you post to your blog? I know about the traditional sites bloggers might ping (the sites listed at http://pingomatic.com/, for example). But are there any similar sites which accept pings from bloggers which are specifically Christian in nature?

Does such a thing even exist? Thanks for any help you can offer - I really appreciate it!

Posted in ideas/concepts on 09/19/06 at 06:07 PM
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Question For Church Webmasters

I have a question for church webmasters.

Does your church website have a private area just for members, and if so, what do you do when someone stops attending your church? Do you revoke their access? Do you let them continue to access the private areas of the site? Does it depend on their reasons for no longer attending (I can imagine that if a person moves out of the area, it might be treated differently than if someone left the church because of a moral failure, an intense disagreement with leadership, etc.).

Please leave your answers in the comments section. I’m very interested in learning about the different approaches to this issue.

Posted in strategies for churches on 09/19/06 at 12:35 PM
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MicroExplosion

I came across a very interesting blog a couple of days ago: MicroExplosion. Written by Bill Seaver, a Christian internet marketing strategist, MicroExplosion “seeks to extend an organization’s message and meaning using the new media (web 2.0) technologies, ideas and strategies from a Christian perspective. Specifically, MicroExplosion focuses on the awareness, explanation and application of this technology for churches, ministries and Christian businesses. Generally, MicroExplosion should be helpful for anyone interested in the application of web 2.0 technology.”

His article on The Six Categories of Web 2.0 was especially interesting.

Posted in ideas/concepts on 08/22/06 at 06:05 PM
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Should We Include A Gospel Presentation On Our Website?

Think Christian, which is well worth adding to your list of regular blogs to read, is talking about whether or not a Christian blog should have a gospel presentation.

So I’m curious what you think about this. Does your blog have a Gospel presentation, and why or why not? Does it seem strange to you that a Christian blog wouldn’t have a link to a Gospel presentation? And lastly, can you suggest any online Gospel presentations that might serve as a good model for such a thing?

Not surprisingly, most of those who have commented are in favor of including a gospel presentation. Perhaps just as not surprising (is that good grammar? — it doesn’t sound right), I’m going to suggest a different perspective.

That perspective will no doubt be unpopular with many believers, but I am convinced that it at least deserves consideration.

I am an advocate for internet evangelism (both through this blog and through my involvement with a few organizations related to internet evangelism). At the same time, I believe strongly that an ongoing demonstration of authentic Christian community is the foundation of all effective outreach.

I have come to this conclusion through contemplating John 17:21-23 where Jesus says that if we are one, then the world will know that the Father loves them and that the Father sent Jesus (which I take to include an understanding of why He sent His Son).

I believe the converse is true: if we are not one (seen by the unbeliever in the ongoing demonstration of authentic Christian community in a local area), then the world will not know that the Father loves them and they will not know that the Father sent Jesus. If they don’t know those two things, how can they be saved?

I believe what is missing from most internet evangelism approaches is just that - a demonstration of authentic Christian community. Further, I don’t believe online outreach can provide that demonstration, at least not in full measure. Digital efforts can be supplemental, but nothing can replace the face-to-face community inherent in the church.

With that as background, it seems to me that most online gospel presentations have conversion as their goal. That is not my goal in my internet evangelism efforts. Instead, my primary objective is to intrigue an unbeliever enough (primarily through the stories of real people in our congregations) that they will want to join us in face-to-face community. They will be evangelized in the midst of that community. Obviously, there are exceptions to this approach — primarily in creative access nations, but I trust my general perspective is clear.

If my primary objective in internet evangelism efforts is to intrigue the unbeliever enough to want to meet believers in face-to-face community, will an online gospel presentation accomplish that? Probably not. In fact, in some cases, it may discourage that.

So my preferred approach is to not include a gospel presentation but to instead focus on the stories of real people (not religious testimonies, but broader life stories which demonstrate how a person’s relationship with Christ touches every facet of their lives) and strongly encourage face-to-face contact between unbelievers who read a church or ministry website and those real people who have been profiled.

Thoughts?

Posted in strategies for churches on 08/21/06 at 06:10 PM
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Godcasting Article

When Mark Batterson (the pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC) talks about podcasting, he never fails to stretch my mind and make me think in new ways.

If you’ve read what I’ve had to say about podcasting before, you know that in the past, I have had some reservations about how podcasting is typically used by churches (because I believe that everything we do in the digital realm should be actively encouraging face-to-face community and podcasting sermons may not, it has seemed to me, facilitate that process). But everytime I read an article by Mark, he tweaks my thinking a little bit more.

Leadership Journal recently published an article, written by Mark, called Godcasting. In the article, one paragraph in particular struck me:

How many people last month visited National Community Church? 12,771. I couldn’t see them. I didn’t shake any of their hands. Truth be told, they didn’t really visit us. National Community Church visited them.

That resonated with me so much, I believe, because it brought to mind one of my favorite passages of Scripture regarding evangelism — Luke 14:16-23:

And the master said to the slave, “Go out into the highways and along the hdeges, and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled. (verse 23)”

I like that because it shifts the emphasis from how many of us seem to think evangelism should be done (bring people to church) to a more natural, more authentic approach (go live your lives among the people).

Mark’s thoughts about podcasting mirror that philosophy in many ways. First it was his comparison of podcasting to the field preaching of Wesley. Now he makes me think about one of my favorite passages in relation to podcasting.

I would encourage you to read Mark’s article in its entirety. No matter what your opinion about podcasting, he will make you think!

Posted in on 08/17/06 at 02:22 PM
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Faces Sell

An article in the current issue of BtoB Magazine called Let’s face it - faces sell caught my eye this morning. Here’s an excerpt:

They are visual magnets that readers, visitors and viewers simply can’t resist because people are enormously curious about their fellow human beings. Faces have a place in b-to-b advertising, despite its reputation for being cold and clinical. In fact, a human presence in b-to-b ads may be even more critical than in consumer advertising because of the more clinical nature of the product or service being promoted. Networking equipment, servers and software certainly lack the visual sizzle of fashion, travel or automobiles.

This brings to mind a simple tip for church webmasters that while mentioned quite a bit in the Christian website blogosphere, nevertheless bears repeating. Make sure your website is primarily about people rather than organizations, buildings, programs, ministries, etc. The church is people. One of the best ways to get a good start on ensuring that this is conveyed to your website visitors is to liberally use photos of people (photos that show people’s faces!) throughout your site.

A side note: one additional thing to ask yourself in this regard is what does your church website convey if the most prominent photo on your website is of your pastor?

What are other ways that we can help our church websites to reflect the principle that the church is people rathan than an organization, a building, a set of programs, etc.?

Posted in strategies for churches on 08/16/06 at 01:30 PM
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Internet Evangelism in Japan

Don Wright of Reaching Japanese for Christ has an interesting article on Japanese Web Evangelism

The emphasis on personal relationship in this excerpt:

Few Japanese are likely to know an evangelical personally. Since most conversions result from personal relationship, this means that few will hear the Gospel from a person they know.

was especially interesting.

Posted in strategies for missionaries on 07/30/06 at 03:47 PM
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Internet: Mission and Ministry - Online Mission Possibilities

That’s the title of a seminar taking place on Wednesday, August 2 at Whitley College in Melbourne, Australia. The seminar will be conducted by Darren Rowse. Some may know Darren because of his well-known business blogs, ProBlogger.net, Digital Photography Blog, and Camera Phone Zone. What some might not realize is that Darren is also a Baptist minister and on the leadership team of Living Room, an emerging missional community in the north of Melbourne.

If you’re in the Melbourne area, I would strongly encourage you to make time to attend the seminar. Registration is required and closes on Thursday, July 27, so you will need to hurry.

If you’re not in the Melbourne area, check out Darren’s post about the seminar in which he asks for some feedback on online Christian resources. Why not stop by and leave a comment to help him out?

Posted in events on 07/24/06 at 07:11 PM
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Cell Phones and Africa

Here is a set of good links on cell phone usage in Africa. Lots of implications for how we might use digital technology to reach the African continent.

In War-Torn Congo, Going Wireless To Reach Home
The Amazing Growth of Mobile Tech in Africa
Forget the $100 PC
Phones Teach Written Literacy

I came across all of these links by following one link from Robert Scoble.

Posted in ideas/concepts on 07/17/06 at 04:25 PM
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How To Largely Reverse The Posting of Sensitive Missionary Information

Aaron Brazell wrote a guest article yesterday on Darren Rowse’s ProBlogger website which could prove helpful to church webmasters who inadvertently post information about missionaries in creative access nations.

I’ve had to take similar steps in a couple of situations — one in which I was unfortunately not aware in advance that my client did not want to be identified as a missionary and one in which friends of ours moved to a sensitive area of the world and later found that a church was inadvertently publishing their information.

When this sort of thing happens, panic can set in fairly quickly and knowing how to address it quickly helps a great deal. The moral of the story is that it’s good to have a plan in advance!

Posted in strategies for churches on 07/10/06 at 01:18 PM
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EvangelismForum.com

Mark Bradford has started an online discussion forum to provide a place to converse about evangelism:

EvangelismForum.com

Why not stop by, register, and introduce yourself?

Thanks to Andrew Careaga for the heads-up!

Posted in websites on 07/05/06 at 09:28 PM
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WorldMap

The World Missions Atlas Project has recently relaunched their website, WorldMap.org, and it looks to be a very helpful resource.

From the home page of the website:

Welcome to the World Missions Atlas Project (WorldMAP).  Our mission is comprehensive: To create maps of languages and people groups for each country of the world while linking appropriate missions related data.  The status of each language and people group is evaluated with regards to the JESUS Film and Bible translation as well as their current level of exposure to the gospel message (also known as the “Status of Evangelization”).

Posted in on 07/04/06 at 09:16 PM
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Church Web Site Annoyances

I haven’t been posting much lately primarily because I’ve been working night and day on a new, exciting web project (sorry, can’t tell you about it yet).

In the meantime, I found a nice series of articles by Tim Lehrian entitled “Church Web Site Annoyances”:

Church Web Site Annoyances, Volume 1 Church Web Site Annoyances, Volume 2 Church Web Site Annoyances, Volume 3 Church Web Site Annoyances, Volume 4 Church Web Site Annoyances, Volume 5

I especially liked his comments about using photos of people rather than church buildings.

Posted in ideas/concepts on 07/03/06 at 09:01 PM
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Sacred Ink Featured in Lausanne World Pulse

The current issue of the Lausanne World Pulse, the online voice of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, includes an article about Sacred Ink, one of our partners in the gospel.

Written by Sacred Ink founder, Chuckk Gerwig, the article represents a good description of the way the new website is being used to reach out to the tattoo subculture.

Posted in ideas/concepts on 07/03/06 at 08:51 PM
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More On Proposed Rule Changes

A few weeks ago, I posted a brief mention of an article about how phone and cable companies were backing legislation that would require companies to pay fees to faciliate the faster delivery of their websites and other online services to consumers.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I posted an update which detailed how Sergey Brin of Google was working against the legislation.

Today, I noticed this article which says that an amendment on “Internet Neutrality” was rejected by a Senate subcommittee.

I’m not sure how it will ultimately effect the efforts of the church in cyberspace, but I think this issue continues to merit a watchful eye.

Posted in ideas/concepts on 06/29/06 at 05:53 PM
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Placecasting

Rohit Bhargava recently blogged about Placecasting — “sending a message to bluetooth enabled devices within a specified geographic area.”

Within his article, Rohit mentions two solutions for Placecasting: a commercial application provided by Proximity Media (a subsidiary of Wiremedia) and an open-source application named Consola (by the way, if you visit the Consola website, don’t be fooled by the bars that move back and forth in a semi-circle — contrary to what I originally thought, this is not a loading movie for a Flash website — I must have sat there looking at it for a full minute before it dawned on me that it was just an animated logo!).

From the two solutions’ respective websites:

Proximity Media
Wiremedia’s proximity advertising solution allows for the distribution of rich media content and applications to mobile phones, laptops, and other Bluetooth-enabled handheld devices. Content that is engaging, interactive, and informative. The formula works when these wireless devices are relatively close to virtually any public and private spaces that are equipped with Wiremedia’s Bluetooth MediaServer

Consola
Consola is a ‘Bluetooth Proximity Media Server’ application for Mac OS X ‘Tiger’. It detects all Bluetooth enabled devices in range and sends them data such as text, images, animated gifs, audio, flash, video, java, or vCards.

It’s not clear to me if there is some ability to only send content to devices whose owners have granted permission, but assuming that ability is available, I think this presents quite an interesting opportunity for churches to reach out to those in their local area.

Does anyone know more about this technology? I wonder what the range is (which would obviously govern what you might be able to use it for).

Posted in strategies for churches on 06/08/06 at 12:03 PM
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Update on Proposed Rule Changes To Web

A few weeks ago, I wrote this brief post about how phone and cable companies were backing legislation that would require companies to pay fees to faciliate the faster delivery of their websites and other online services to consumers.

Today, I noticed this snippet buried in an article about an admission by Google co-founder Sergey Brin that Google had compromised its principles in agreeing to accede to Chinese censorship demands:

Brin visited Washington to ask U.S. senators to approve a plan that would prevent telephone and cable companies from collecting premium fees from companies such as Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! for faster delivery of their services. Brin, dressed casually in jeans, sneakers and a black sport jacket, said he wasn’t sure whether he changed any lawmakers’ minds.

Seems like the legislation is not so “unnoticed” any more.

Posted in ideas/concepts on 06/07/06 at 01:25 PM
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