Sociologists maintain that you can learn a lot about looking in people’s medicine cabinets. In the same vein, I believe a narthex tells a lot about a congregation. When I visit a congregation, I notice so many things:
- What pamphlets are on display?
- Is there a crucifix on the wall?
- Is it airy and modern, or traditional and formal?
- Are the people friendly? Do they say hello?
This sort of information tells me about what I might expect from the church that day, so I enjoy perusing a narthex. But what I love is when a narthex shows me what that congregation believes.
Way Before People Enter Your Building, They Encounter You Online
People looking for an LCMS congregation often find you by searching—either with Google or with a directory like the LCMS’s Church Locator. This already tells people a lot: your pastor’s name, your address, your size, and if you have a website where they can find out more about you.
You’d like to think that if there is no website listed, people would pick up the phone and call, but most people just don’t do that. They look for the next church with a website that will tell them what to expect on Sunday morning.
Does Your Church Website Confess Your Faith?
It would be exasperating to go to a restaurant’s website and not be able to find out what food they serve. Even if it expounded about their great patio and Trivia Night Tuesday, we’d still want to know if they are serving gourmet vegan or Tex-Mex.
People use your website not only to locate you but also to learn what they’ll find when they show up at your church.
Do they find the Gospel?
The Gospel Is Core to Who We Are
As Lutherans, we have an incredible treasure. Our theology proclaims grace at every turn, and this should be emphasized on our websites. There are several ways where we differ from other denominations, and those differences almost always deal with how the Gospel shapes who we are and what we do.
Here are some of those key differences:
Law and Gospel
Lutherans divide the Bible into two parts: Law and Gospel. The Law is anything the Bible tells us we should be doing. The Gospel tells us what Jesus did for us in our place: dying to save us from our sin and rising from the grave to give us everlasting life. If we believe that, we are saved. And that saving faith doesn’t even come from our will; it’s a gift of the Holy Spirit.
The Law tells us why we need Jesus—it’s not a list of things we need to accomplish in order to be saved. Jesus did that for us. When people come to our services, they should first and foremost hear this. Your homepage, About Us page, Services page, and blog posts can proclaim that to those looking for comfort.
The Means of Grace
We believe, teach, and confess that the Holy Spirit gives us the forgiveness of sins and strengthens our faith through the Word and the Sacraments. The Holy Spirit works through the preaching of the Word to strengthen our faith and give us forgiveness of sins. He also promises to sustain us through our Baptism and through Holy Communion. These aren’t mere symbols for us. We believe that the body and blood of Christ are truly present in, with, and under the bread and the wine. We receive Christ when we receive the Sacrament.
Not only that, but the Holy Spirit also works through the Means of Grace to unite us together into the Body of Christ, to build one another up, and support one another in our faith.
This is worth sharing with those who are trying to find out about our congregation.
The Divine Service
As Lutherans, we understand worship differently. When we attend church, it isn’t something we do for God; instead, it’s where we go to receive the gifts He has for us. We describe each of our services as “the Divine Service” (DS 1, DS2, etc.), but this phrase comes from the German word Gottesdienst, “God serves us.” We receive His love, His forgiveness, and His teaching in church, and then we go out to share that with the world.
On October 31, 1517, an insignificant theology professor and monk at an insignificant university in an insignificant German town posted on a church door ninety-five theses related to Catholic Church teaching. These theses were about Catholic doctrines, and he invited anyone to debate him on those issues. From there, the Reformation was born.
That monk was Martin Luther. Luther stood up against the behemoth of the Catholic Church and proclaimed that we are saved by grace through faith, not by works—this was an idea largely obscured at that time. Luther then gave the German people a good and true translation of the Bible in their own language so that they might come closer to God and know His will.
That’s our heritage. We are the church that claims this as our direct lineage. We can write about how important this is to who we are as a congregation, as a church body, and why that is important to each and every one of us individually. This belongs in our About pages and in our blog posts. We should shout this from the electronic mountaintops!
Are We Talking Features or Benefits? A Key Principle for Each Page
Every page is an opportunity to share Christ’s role in your congregation, even pages that don’t seem like it. You simply need to look for opportunities.
Content writing talks about features vs. benefits. A feature tells what you have. A benefit explains why the feature is important.
Midweek Bible studies
Our Midweek Bible studies give us the opportunity to study God’s Word together and grow deeper in our knowledge of God’s love for us.
Jesus Christ gave us His body and blood for the forgiveness of sins in, with, and under the bread and the wine at Communion. We gather around this precious gift as often as possible.
Jesus tells us that when we give food to those in need, we are feeding Him (Matthew 25:40). Because Christ died on the cross for our sins and provides us with our daily bread, we want to share His love with others. Our Food Pantry is one way we do this.
Applying this principle to every page means that you’re sharing not only that you have something going on but also why it matters—in the end, the reason why you do anything in your congregation is to strengthen one another in Christ. Highlighting these reasons on your website points back to Jesus and His love in an incredible way.
Have You Answered “So What?”
Take any feature description: your job isn’t done if you can look at it and still ask “so what?” Answering “so what?” will flesh out the benefits of that feature.
“Youth Group meets at 4 p.m. on Sunday.” (feature)
“They meet twice a month for activities.” (feature)
Our youth group meets at 4 p.m. on even Sundays. It is a great opportunity for kids to get together and grow in their Christian faith (benefit) through
- studying the Word together with Pastor (feature);
- doing fun activities (feature); and
- developing service projects (feature) that share God’s love with the congregation and our community (benefit).
Shine Forth with What You Have
By being clear about what matters most—Christ crucified for our sins—anyone looking to be reassured will find comfort in your worship, your preaching, and in the fellowship of believers in your congregation. Maybe they’ll find comfort from your website too.
What are some ways that you use your website to share the Gospel?
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