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is the church relevant

Is the Church Relevant?

Our faith is under fire like never before. In our postmodern world, in a spirit of neo-orthodoxy, we must intentionally display a clear message. With every institution under scrutiny, a popular question today is, “Is the church relevant?”

The answer lies in how you define “relevant.” In our secular age, we have seen many words “reinvented” to display a totally different meaning to fit culture and convenience. Looking at the church it may not be an obvious choice for trailblazing, but it is the life of Christ in the church that will shape our lives.

The church was not meant to compete with the world, but to rescue people from it. This idea of a “tailored-made church” drives a lot of churchgoers today. People often know what they want but don’t know what they truly need. The church should be creative but not at the expense of replacing the message. Marketing and gimmicks draw in people, but what will cause them to stay in the church? Entertainment may draw curiosity and interest, but in honoring the Holy Spirit and preaching the Word of Life, lives are transformed.

What is the Church?

Traditionalism is on the rise with a lot of young churchgoers today. History and formality give a sense of stability and trust, but is the message pointing to a living Christ? The original purpose the church is defined as “called out ones to Christ.” The name clearly shows us that the greatest purpose in the church is to help cultivate a relationship with God and share it with a lost world. The church is defined in 1 Timothy 3:15: “…which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” If we use it for any other purpose it can become obsolete and irrelevant. The church is the revelation of Jesus on the earth. It is a place where imperfect people gather around a perfect Christ.

Understood in this way, the relevancy of the church is timeless.

The book of Acts shows us the New Testament church in Acts 2:41-47. We see the example, attitude, and mission of the church. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had a need. Every day they continued to meet in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

The new testament church is more than an organization it is a living organism. It is alive and delicate. If only thought of as a business, then the work will crystallize and the glory of God departs. People are the most precious part of Gods church; this is why our message and approach must care for their souls. As we cherish God’s house as a house of prayer and honor His presence, miracles happen.

The church is a work of God, not a work of men.

Three Types of Church-Goers

In this impressionist age, we have a unique opportunity as the church to speak into lives with meaning and purpose. Jesus was the master example of this. He lived the same way He died—with His arms wide open. As the church, we must seek to understand rather than to be understood. Reliability and relevance are seen in genuine care and in a non-judgmental approach. We see this in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. The apostle Paul writes “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.”  We are the hands and feet of Christ ministering patiently through the many layers of the human soul. The church is a place of compassion, empathy and transformation.

The multiple impressions and decisions made as a guest walk through our doors are staggering. The genuine and transparent interest and love portrayed speaks volumes. Learning their story and helping them connect to Christ’s life is the privilege of our mission. Their perception and concepts are dissolved as authentic love and truth are shown; they sense they are welcome and accepted. They are loved in their place like family. Our relevant and personal message speaks to their heart and answers questions maybe they didn’t even know they had. This divine initiation causes new thoughts and interests to emerge. As growth begins, they progressively discover their eternal purpose and value. We must resist the tendency to be like “the world”; to woo the lost through our doors. People are looking for more than entertainment or to be amazed by some show—they are looking for real life, love and answers. The impact of a meaningful encounter with God is revolutionary. Let’s invite, love and mentor those that are willing.

The Consumer

There is no perfect church. Often people hunt to find the best fit. Choosing a church like we would be choosing a car, based on preferences and how we feel when we are there is subjective and often misleading. Eventually, people get offended and migrate from place to place. If we take and consume things based on our wants and needs only, then we are stunting our potential growth. Growing in the church happens as we are submitted to the teachings and grow in obedience. This takes time and consistency to learn to bloom where we are planted.

Today, a popular concept prevails that Robert Bellah calls “expressive individualism — the belief that identity comes through self-expression, through discovering one’s most authentic desires and being free to be one’s authentic self. This powerful belief has weakened all institutions in society.” This sounds good at first, but—in the absolute sense—it is flawed thinking. If it is all about what I need, think and want, we are just consumers; we take what we need without regard to the needs of others.

The Hitchhiker

We can also be “hitchhikers”, selective and noncommittal, always moving around without real roots anywhere. The church is meant to be a generous lifeline that connects us to the life of Jesus.

Spiritual hitchhikers are like nomads, migrating from place to place without roots. It is easy to have this happen when we are not accountable. The average Christian has three different churches that they “dip into” for their spiritual walk. Thank God for technology and resources but who is personally speaking into our lives? Who is correcting us? What do we do when we hear a hard saying? How we answer these questions determines whether we are hitchhikers or not.

Will we “hit the road” or settle in and seek the Lord?

The Contributor

Everything in my life is affected by my walk of faith, family, career, and relationships can be rooted in me or in someone that is eternal. As we build our relationship with Jesus Christ we sense Him actively increasing in our everyday lives. His scarlet thread of redemption is through the center of life. We can be a monument of culture or trophies of God’s grace, both pointing to a very different entity. Culture is fickle, but God’s grace is never changing, it is the same yesterday today and forever.

The Problem

When we bend to culture and move away from reliance on the Holy Spirit, we lose something—our impact and witness. In today’s post-modernistic world, we see humanism which deifies man and underestimates God. Coupled with relativism which declares a personal interpretation to justify a lifestyle. This in turn births secularism, redefining terms to usurp absolutes and promote tolerance. How has this impacted the Church? The Emerging Church is born and an ecumenical gospel—without the cross and sound Bible doctrine—is preached. Through this progression, the unbeliever is desensitized to the things of God or in most cases doesn’t learn a clear picture of who God is and ultimately doesn’t see their need for Him.

Guarding the church against worldly ideologies is important in preserving the future of the church. One popular foundation is liberalism; me at the center. This system of thinking impacts churches were my rights and liberties dominate the understanding of privilege and responsibility. We are not to hide from the world, secure in our four walls, but our message and heart of love must be clear and powerful as we go forth into the world.

Here are some recognizable systems of thinking:

  • The end and means focus on securing happiness.
  • Egoism exalts the body over the soul.
  • Liberalism exalts the temporal value system over the spiritual unseen reality.
  • Hedonism promotes subjective belief that the goal is fitting the Bible into your life rather than surrendering to the Bible.
  • Pop-culture rallies herd mentality, this mocks the outspoken convictions and quiets the person, so they “don’t rock the boat.”
  • Personal expression rules over proven principals at the expense of logic.
  • Secularism redefines terms for tolerance and dismisses absolutes.

In contrast, the message of Jesus is life-giving. This message is one of a personal cross, where Christ at the center of my life, as in Colossians 2:13-15.

  • Sacrificing self-preference produces contentment.
  • We are not our own, we live for another who is infinitely greater.
  • Ultimately standing before a Jesus defines our decisions in time.
  • Christ is at the center of our priorities not sacrificing the eternal on the altar of the immediate.
  • Speaking the Truth in love without legalism.
  • No overestimation of self-importance, we are not the ultimate issue.
  • Hold-fast the Word of Life, our eternal purpose—we are God’s billboard.

Our Mission

You are important in the Kingdom of God. Your portion is part of every joint that supplies a healthy spiritual body in Ephesians 4:16. The church is a hospital, not a country club. It is designed to be a mission center for mobilizing the believer to be trained and sent out to serve, love and heal. Kindness is a powerful weapon that helps open the heart of the recipient and is a “tangible” demonstration of the love of Christ.

Our world is lost. Jesus is the Light that shines to those who sit in darkness in Luke 1:79. In the gospels, we see in Matthew 5:13-14, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its savor, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they set it on a lampstand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.”

People are drawn to the light and life of Jesus. Religion kills and complicates the pure simple message of Jesus. Jesus is the beginning, middle, and end of our faith—this is the glorious gospel. A dear pastor shared with me words I will always remember: “Our message of Jesus is our ultimate method.”

Preaching the heart of Jesus as an open hand and not a clenched fist, will draw all men. (John 12:32)

Our mission affords us to be gatherers and educators of Jesus. Complications and pain arise as we make our mission about ourselves. We must not gather around personalities or a “celebrity Christianity” but around an old rugged cross where we die and Christ reigns. The psalmist in 115:1, “Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.”

The mission of Christ is powerful. The first letter in mission could stand for “momentum”—the inertia of an object that is catching speed as it moves. As the object moves, the velocity increases determining its ultimate distance. In missions, it is all about being moved in the Spirit. As we discover the “go” in the gospel, momentum begins to happen. Step by step, word by word, God gives the increase. Here is where the mission of the church is found in scripture: Joshua 1:3-6, Deuteronomy 28:13, Matthew 28:19-20, Luke 19:10, John 7:38 Acts 4:12. Here are the nuts and bolts of our mission:

  • PREACH a clear message of salvation.
  • TEACH to equip ministers of life in marriage, family, and neighborhoods.
  • REACH hands to the needy.
  • SERVE our communities by being the hands and feet of Christ.
  • CULTIVATE discipleship, mentorship and accountability in our walk of faith.
  • SHARE our faith, going into all the world.

We are on this earth not to be like the world but represent the kingdom of God. One day soon we will stand before Him. Are you prepared? We are either impacting the world or we are being impacted by the world. To be in the world not of the world is our mission.

How do you see the church? Is it your lifeline? or is it something we could be critical of and have a “take it or leave it” attitude. The church is a gift and a secret in today’s cynical world. “Where two or more are gathered I am in your midst” in Matthew 18:20. We must all realize that the church is full of imperfect people gathering around a perfect Christ. Celebrate the life of Christ, celebrate other believers and be part of a church community where you grow and make an impact for eternity.


www.jasonfmoore.com

 

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digital evangelism

Digital Evangelism: Tips for Extending Your Church’s Digital Outreach

If you’re a church pastor, chances are you use a computer on a daily basis. There’s also a 39% chance you access the Internet with that computer. (After all, how else would you be reading this?)

But you’re not the only one that needs a digital presence; your church needs a solid digital presence in this modern world too. Your church needs to do more than reach people by announcing church events, listing prayer requests and providing an online worship experience.

These days you must also consider appealing to the younger generation within your congregation. But you need to balance any shifts in culture against the older generation who may be comfortable with the way things are.

And then there’s the youth ministry.

Juggling all this sounds simple, right?

Well, maybe not.

It’s not as easy as opening a bunch of social media accounts. Fruit from this effort takes both prayer and meticulous planning; kinda like your last road trip!

The strategies you use in your digital outreach program are as important as plugging in proper coordinates before you begin any road trip. It may feel daunting at first (and maybe a little technical too) but I assure you; it’s much easier than it looks. Mostly.

Am I prophesin’ or prophe-lyin’? You be the judge. A few tips to get you on your way:

Decide What You Want Out of Your Digital Evangelism

Everything has a purpose (in theory). A church that decides to dive into the Internet and establish a digital presence is trying to solve a problem. Are you trying to broaden communication with your existing congregation? Are you trying to extend your church’s reach to the wider community, e.g. millennials?

A well-defined purpose will help anchor you when you run into hurdles later on, reminding you about why you started. It also helps to actually write those goals down. Your digital strategy bears as much importance as other kinds of business at your church and writing your purpose down helps to cement the commitment you are making.

In other words, before you engage in any church web design, stand up a single social media channel or contact a Christian web hosting service, make sure you have a solid reason to start.

Remember, not every church requires a digital presence. If your church is a small church in a small community, it might not be a priority to have strong digital presence just yet. Maybe using a Facebook Page would be enough?

On the other hand, a larger church (or one that is rapidly growing) will benefit immensely from having an online presence. For the moment, let’s assume this means you..

Pick Your Web Channels Carefully

There’s a lot more to your church’s Internet marketing than just setting up a Facebook channel and letting the office manager give it a go. You need to have a clear idea what kind of audience you’re dealing with and what kind of engagement they would prefer from their church.

For most of us, social media has become a major part of our lives (a blessing and a curse!) So, at first blush, it might seem like a good idea to have an account for your church on all the major social media platforms. (Yes, even Instagram.)

However, this can be counter-productive in the long run. For starters, you might not have the bandwidth or manpower to manage all of those accounts effectively.

Second, your congregation might not even want to engage with their church on social media. They might simply prefer regular emails through the church email service, or even a blog they can read from time to time.

Survey Your Flock

There’s no magic bullet here; you’ll have to conduct a survey of your congregation to figure out what usage demographic makes up the majority. Are they a Facebook crowd or a Pinterest crowd? Are they willing to share their email addresses with their church? What age demographic are you targeting? If you’re targeting millennials in the wider community, you’ll need to understand what kind of digital outreach they engage with most.

Your Spiritual Cornerstone is Jesus. Your Digital Cornerstone is Your Website.

When laying your digital evangelism foundation, the best place to start is a simple website. Unlike using a Facebook Page or some other social media channel, this is actually Internet real estate you control. The best church websites are not an intrusion but an extension of what’s already on the ground.

From your church website, you can post sermon transcripts, a church calendar and run a regular blog where you post spiritually-edifying Christian material. For the camera-brave, you may also test the YouTube waters by posting videos of your sermons and impromptu lessons on hot topics in today’s culture.

If the response is good, you can advance your marketing blitz from there and create accounts on social media channels relevant to your audience (and—now that you’ve surveyed them—you know what those channels will be.)

Have Growth Goals

How do you know if your church’s digital outreach efforts are successful? Is the number of visitors to your website growing? Are you gaining followers and seeing more engagement on your social media accounts? You need to set clear goals to know where your strategy is working and where it needs improvement.

Don’t worry about getting great results at first. There’s no need to set lofty goals in the beginning. If you’re new to cyberspace, I recommend you just start small by looking at the engagement you get on social media and the visits you get to your website, and then set greater goals as you develop your voice and content.

Oh.. about that content..

Content Jesus is King

It doesn’t matter whether you are a church or a corporation, content is still king (lowercase “k”). This is as true for a church’s digital evangelism as it is for anyone else.

As you begin developing and posting your content, you’ll notice some content will do far better than other content. You’ll see some social media posts get more engagement; more likes, comments, and attention. Maybe you’ll notice you have certain blog articles accounting for a majority of your traffic.

This is the content you should study closely. You may want to regularly rinse and repeat this type of content to strike a chord with your audience.

Remember, different people are looking for different things in their church, especially when they’re considering the prospect of joining a new church.

Promoting Your Content

When it comes to SEO for churches, it helps to categorize your content. (SEO stands for search engine optimization, which is a practice of positioning content to show up in search results.)

Categorizing your content will give you a better idea about your audience’s interests: church matters, Scripture teaching, youth ministry, general announcements, spiritual advice, etc. Clear categories will give you insight into what is working and what isn’t.

Tip: Once you’ve developed a reliable cheat sheet of content topics, you’ll find it much easier to generate well-performing content on a regular basis.

Deliberately Delegate Digital Evangelism Duties

While it may be tempting to give away the keys to the Kingdom and have everyone on your staff submit articles, you may want to reconsider. What you’ll likely end up with is a mess: Lots of different writing styles, conflicting answers to audience questions, and a badly coordinated digital marketing campaign.

Recommendation: Have a single point person (or a small team of people) managing your digital outreach. Meet with them and tell them and document your expectations (remember those goals you settled at the beginning of this article?)

Since you have your digital outreach strategy documented already (ehem), provide it to your team for their feedback.

With planning and prayer, your entire online presence will be consistent and your work in advancing the Gospel beyond the digital divide will bear Kingdom fruit.

Go forth and conquer.

In support of your efforts,

matt signature

Matthew

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persecuted church

How God Protects His People

An Encounter with ISIS: How God Protected Us

The warning came exactly one week before we were scheduled to leave. It was a text message from Pastor Ronald, our representative in the Philippines. Puzzled by why he would text me since our correspondence was always via email, I opened my message box on my cell phone. What I read shocked me.

Rick,
ISIS has kidnapped Pastor Danial of the church in the tribal area of Maasim, the church your team is scheduled to visit next week. We are trying to find him but until we do, we have to assume ISIS now knows about your team and your plans. You may want to postpone your trip.

Ronald

For almost six months my team of five had been planning to fly to the Philippines to minister in the poor areas of Davao and the jungles of Mindanao. It was a trip I had taken every summer for seven straight years without a single problem although the State Department routinely warns American citizens not to go to this area. But now the danger was real and directed at my team.

I texted Ronald telling him to keep me posted then contacted my team. I knew Bonnie and I would go anyway, not because we were foolhardy, but because we knew God wanted us there. But I had to give each member of my team the opportunity to make a choice.

By that evening, the other three members let me know they were going too. I was proud of my team and the willingness of all of us to put our faith on the line. We were not going to let ISIS stop us from serving the Lord. The rest of the week I followed Ronald’s texts as if they were reports from a war zone which–in many ways–they were.  The reports confirmed our decision and demonstrated the power of God. It was a tense week as we counted down the time to departure and monitored Ronald’s bulletins.

Six days before we were to leave, Ronald reported that Pastor Danial had been released but was still somewhere in the jungle. We were to learn later the miraculous means of his deliverance but for the moment we were concerned about his whereabouts.

Five days: Ronald reported that Pastor Danial was still missing but he and several pastors were planning to drive to the area at midnight to evacuate his family and look for him. My team prayed for the mission.

Four days: Ronald reported the mission was a success. They found Pastor Danial and drove him and his family back to his church to hide them.

Three days: Ronald reported that ISIS had Pastor Danial’s cell phone containing contact information for all of us and notes about our visit. He warned us that ISIS Commander Tokboy had called him several times demanding Pastor Danial be returned or he would hunt us down and in typical ISIS fashion, behead us all. My team talked it over and prayed. We decided to stick by our initial decision. We were going.

Over the next two days we packed, prayed and prepared ourselves. Ronald continued to report daily threats. Knowing that the family had left everything behind we raised funds to help them when we arrived.

After 22 hours in the air and sitting in airports, we arrived in Davao at 6:30 am. Ronald was at the airport to pick us up. It was hot and humid. We were tired. The jeep was small and cramped, but instead of going to our hotel we had Ronald take us to the church so we could meet Pastor Danial and his family.

When we arrived, Pastor Danial, his wife and eight children were sitting in a line on a bench under a canopy.  Pastor Danial stood and smiled. He was short and had a weathered look about him. I was surprised at how thin he was. He didn’t look like someone who had just bested ISIS alone. Of course, I knew he hadn’t been alone.

I walked up and hugged him. “I’m so glad you and your family are safe.”

He smiled. After introductions, my team sat down to hear Pastor Danial’s story.

+ + +

He was alone in his church when two men with rifles walked in.  They told him if he came with them they wouldn’t hurt him but Pastor Danial had heard enough stories to know that wasn’t true. Yet, he had no choice but to obey.

They drove him on a rut-filled dirt road deep into the jungle. He didn’t ask questions and neither of the men volunteered anything. He didn’t know if these were the New People’s Army or Islamic terrorists.

They stopped at a small clearing and then walked further into the jungle to a small camp. As soon as they arrived he saw the black ISIS flag on a pole. Islamic terrorist. They escorted him over to a hole about nine feet deep and a dozen feet across. Once on the edge they took his phone and pushed him in. He landed on his feet in the soft mud at the bottom. He knew his fate. He’d heard about these holes. No one came out of one alive.

He prayed and waited. He spent several days in the hole. Cold and coated with mud he got very little sleep. Occasionally, someone would drop down a little food and some water. Late on what seemed to be day three, four men, three with rifles and one with a handgun, circled the hole. The one with the pistol identified himself as ISIS Commander Tokboy. From Pastor Danial’s vantage point in the hole it was hard to make out his features but his voice was deep and laced with contempt.

“Are you the one that has been passing out bibles in this area?” Commander Tokboy asked.

Pastor Danial nodded.

“Then you are guilty of counter-Islamic activity. You must die.”

The Commander raised his pistol.

Pastor Danial closed his eyes and prayed for God to save him. At that moment a phone rang. He opened his eyes in time to see the Commander back away holding a cell phone. He couldn’t make out what was being said but it was clearly an argument and the Commander seemed upset.

After a short time, the argument stopped and Commander Tokboy appeared. He glared down at Pastor Danial. “You must have important friends. I’ve been told not to execute you. I’ll let you go but you will stop handing out Bibles. If you report this to the police or military I will kill you and your entire family.”

Pastor Danial only nodded as he looked down at the ground. He didn’t dare smile for fear the commander would change his mind and shoot. But he knew who the important friend was and he silently praised God.

+ + +

When he finished we all were quiet for a moment. It was so surreal, like something out of a movie. Eventually, Bonnie stood up and walked over to hug his wife. It seemed like the best time to give him the money we raised at the last minute to help his family. Both he and his wife began to cry.

Later that day, Ronald pulled me aside and said that Commander Tokboy continues to text him multiple times during the day demanding the return of Pastor Danial and threatening to find all of us and chop our heads off.  I told him that though I was concerned I felt safe as long as we stay in or near Davao.

That’s far from the end of this story. It turns out we had nothing to fear but Commander Tokboy did.

Our original plan had been to spend a couple of days with Pastor Danial at his church and host a pastor’s conference. That, of course, had to be scrapped. In it’s place, Ronald found a small hotel on the Philippine Sea with a meeting room not far from our base in Davao. We decided to bring the pastors up from Maasim and have the conference at the hotel.

The pastors agreed. In fact, they were excited to leave the area. Even though they hadn’t been passing out Bibles and had not been harassed by ISIS they were understandably nervous.

The conference ran smoothly and the way it ended was nothing short of a miracle. It was clear to me that the pastors were unsure about returning home. So, I asked them to gather in the middle of the room. My team surrounded them and started at just a few minutes after 5 pm to pray that God would keep them safe.

At the end of the prayer they went to their rooms to pack so they could return first thing in the morning. Ronald took my team back to the hotel.  We had settled in our rooms when the phone rang at a little past 9 pm. It was Ronald.

“Rick, I have great news. The pastors are in their rooms singing praises to God. They just got word that at 5 pm today the Philippine army raided Commander Tokboy’s camp. The commander was wounded in a shoot out and captured.”

And that is how God protects His people.


Richard Spillman is a retired Computer Scientist who typically writes Christian non-fiction (The Passion of Job and Do What Jesus Did, both available on Amazon) as well as a Christian blog (https://spillmanrichard.com). His latest passion, however, is Christian fiction. His first novel, The Awakened, is waiting for a publisher to pick it up. He is represented by Jim Hart of Hartline Literary Agency. The story asks the question: “What if Lazarus didn’t die a second time?” He was led to write it after avoiding being kidnapped by ISIS in the Philippines and then receiving death threats (to behead him in standard ISIS fashion) during the rest of his missionary service there. Besides the blog he is active on Twitter (https://twitter.com/awakenedtrilogy) and Instagram (http://ink361.com/app/users/ig-3176880720/spillmanrichard/photos) where you can see pictures from his missionary travels around the world.

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email marketing is better than using the pony express

3 Key Benchmarks in Church Email Marketing

Every year, an email newsletter company named Constant Contact, gathers together statistics from over 200 million emails sent through their system and posts the data in their knowledgebase. The resulting chart of averages offers a benchmark for how your email outreach efforts are performing when compared to other competitors and partners in your niche.

The list ranges across 35 different industry categories, from accountants to animal services, from restaurants and bars to real estate. Here I’ve selected the following industries for a relatable comparison to the church-going audience.

  • Health & Social Services (ex. hospital, elder care, adoption services)
  • Civic/Social Memberships (ex. associations, chambers, clubs)
  • Religious Organizations

In this discussion, we’re primarily going to focus on unsubscribe rates, click-through rates (CTR) and open rates. Bounce rates are included in the chart, but simply offer an idea on how many of your emails are actually getting through. Bounce rates can be affected by company firewalls, incorrect email addresses, people moving to other jobs, etc., so we’re not going to dwell on them here.

Here are the statistics on those three categories and an additional three, for comparison.

Three Examples of Email Performance for Social Do-Gooders

Health & Social Services (ex. hospital, elder care, adoption services)
Open Rate: 19.86% | Bounce: 9.66% | CTR: 9.08% | Unsubscribe: 0.19%

Civic/Social Memberships (ex. associations, chambers, clubs)
Open Rate: 21.68% | Bounce: 11.01% | CTR: 8.07% | Unsubscribe: 0.08%

Religious Organizations
Open Rate: 25.50% | Bounce: 7.00% | CTR: 7.75% | Unsubscribe: 0.08%

For Comparison, A Few Alternative Examples

Consultant, Training (ex. marketing, management)
Open Rate: 16.28% | Bounce: 9.67% | CTR: 7.50% | Unsubscribe: 0.12%

Marketing, Advertising, PR
Open Rate: 10.63% | Bounce: 7.59% | CTR: 5.62% | Unsubscribe: 0.09%

Technology (ex. web developer)
Open Rate: 11.85% | Bounce: 11.27% | CTR: 6.02% | Unsubscribe: 0.16%

Metric #3. How Often Are They Leaving Your List? (a.k.a. Unsubscribes)

Interesting to note: Out of all 35 industry categories, religious organizations and civil/social membership groups had the lowest unsubscribe rates (0.08% for both), bested only by the publishing industry at 0.06%.

So, does this mean the greater the social mission, the greater loyalty you’ll enjoy from your list? Maybe there is guilt associated with unsubscribing from your church’s newsletter. Like somehow you’re turning your back on God, right?

Are the text-addicted (authors, publishers, book promoters, voracious readers and whomever else may fall into Contact’s “Publishing” category) even able to unsubscribe? Are there compulsive tendencies at play here? Do logophiles hoard electronic newsletters like they do books? Hmm..

Metric #2. Do You Compel Them to Read More? (a.k.a. Click-Through Rates)

Publishing also led the pack with click-through rate (CTR) over 13% (only three industries achieved double-digit CTR).

With the lowest contestant (beauty salons, tanning salons and barbers) pitching a dismal 4.18% CTR and publishing leading with 13%, all three of our altruistic subjects fell somewhere in the middle of the bell curve. Religious organizations ranked lowest of our three focus groups at 7.75%. This means for every 100 people who actually opened the email, only about eight of them were actually caught by the headlines and hook paragraphs you used.

Wait.. “Hook” Paragraphs?

And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.
(Matthew 4:19)

Now, let’s face it. Oftentimes, enewsletter owners don’t even use hook paragraphs (a brief introduction to the article that compels people to click through and read more.) They often fall back to the old way of stuffing all their content into the newsletter like they used to do when they printed, sealed, stamped and sent.

This misses one of the big advantages of enewsletters: bringing your audience to you. If hook paragraphs are not being used, this could certainly kill your click-through rate. You might have a higher read rate, but alas, you’ll never know because there is currently no way to track if they read your whole email or if their mail client simply showed them a preview as they were hitting the delete key.

Metric #1. Do They Pretend Not to See You? (a.k.a. Open Rates)

Constant Contact breaks out open rates into three subcategories: mobile, desktop and tablet. For the sake of this discussion, let’s just focus on the overall open rate. (In case you’re wondering, tablets are the least-popular platform by far, with desktop and mobile being fairly balanced and the most widely-used.)

Religious organizations are the champions of the open rate, capturing a stunning 25.50%. Brilliant. I would say this probably points to the hearts of the subscriber-base. If they are plugged into your church enough to have joined your mailing list, they’re invested—for the moment. Their commitment to you may wane or build, but it depends upon your engagement efforts and certainly, the Holy Spirit.

Again, keep in mind “open rate” does not mean “read rate”, so if your open rate seems high but your click-through rate is low, there may be room for improvement. You may want to study how to write better headlines for your articles.

You may also consider segmenting your email list according to your click-through activity. Look for trends in interest. If you put out an article on Christian apologetics and an article on the history of the Protestant Reformation, look to see which article received the highest CTR. If apologetic teaching received the most clicks, you know you may want to produce more teaching and analysis on defending the faith.

Building Your Email List (a.k.a. Your Call to Arms)

In your digital evangelism efforts, building up your followers (in both quantity and in spiritual maturity) and communicating to your followers is the life’s blood of your outreach efforts. Being able to communicate to paid staff, your army of volunteers, and your congregation at a moment’s notice is only the starting point. Whether you’re educating for truth, entertaining for fun, promoting the next fundraiser or sending an emergency broadcast to your community, arming your organization with the knowledge and tools to push news and updates into inboxes is a powerful way to get the Word out.

Aweber logoDon’t have a good email marketing system? You’re not currently collecting email addresses from your website, you say? We recommend Aweber for its reporting and the ability to automatically send out weekly newsletters based upon your blog posts. Let us know if you need help getting set up or if you have questions about the service.

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References

Constant Contact. Average Industry Rates. Retrieved from
https://knowledgebase.constantcontact.com/articles/KnowledgeBase/5409-average-industry-rates


About the Author

A recovering marketing professional, Matthew Schoenherr has been moved from building his own kingdom to advancing thee Kingdom. Matthew provides digital evangelism training and solutions to Christian churches and faith-based non-profits. He may be reached through the Levaire website.

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millennial evangelism

The Case for Millennial Evangelism

Recently, I stumbled upon a Facebook post by an organization named echurch. They were marketing an ebook called “The Ultimate Guide for Reaching Millennials.” Of course, they were giving the ebook away in exchange for your contact details (known as a tripwire in digital marketing vernacular) whereby echurch invited you to receive a demo of their mobile tithing platform with the hopes of getting your business.

While the guide itself was ‘fine’—which is somewhere between ‘meh’ and ‘holy cats, that was brilliant’—it was, by no means, ‘ultimate’. Though 26 pages in length, there was only about 15 pages of content, once you got past the front and back covers, the author bio, table of contents, a big call-to-action and several half-filled pages. A little slow to start, I was pleased when they eventually pointed to some hard research around declining millennial church attendance and giving.

All in all, I was smarter about the millennial generation than when I started.

But this post isn’t about how well the echurch ebook did or didn’t do its job.

Marketing Myopia in the Church

This post is about the myopic reaction by Christians to an ebook intended to better equip the Church in evangelizing the millennial generation.

The post was initially promoted on Facebook, and after about a week of hanging out there, negative comments began to filter in. Unfortunately, instead of holding a dialog with the dissenting opinion-holders, echurch simply hid the post from their feed. Too bad, as I think they have a strong case and really could have used the opportunity to engage their audience.

Let’s dive into some of the comments. (Typos have been allowed to remain.)

Facebook Folly Follows

millennial church marketing

I guess this would include millennials?

Romans 1:16-17 ~ For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”

This comment seems to miss the mark. The guide discusses how to reach millennials. Reaching people is the step before growing people in boldness and faith.

I haven’t read this book, but Hasn’t God already written a book with the answer to reaching all of mankind?

Waitwaitwait.. so you’re chiming in on something you haven’t even investigated? Awesome.

Actually, I think the Word is more about Jesus and our identity in Him than a playbook for reaching all mankind. If it was an answer to reaching all mankind, no one would ever reject the Gospel, and yet we know many do. In fact, the Pharisees and Sadducees knew the Old Testament by heart. They should have been better positioned than anyone to recognize the Messiah. Yet, the Messiah of prophesy actually stood before them in the flesh—teaching and working miracles before their very eyes—and they nailed Him to a Roman cross.

If the word of God don’t reach millennials we in big trouble yaw. Just preach the word. It’s irrefutable, it’s infallible and its inerrant.

Here someone spoke up. Tom P said, “Correct, but they need to hear it first…

Right?

Try this simple experiment. From the comfort of your home office, play an audio recording of someone reading the Bible. Leave your office and close the door behind you. Let this symbolize the Church.

Now, invite a bunch of people over but never invite them into your office where the Bible audio is playing. Instead, have a party, with food and drinks and games and much socializing. Listen to music. Watch a movie. The rest of your home represents the world.

At the end of the evening, after everyone goes home, how many decisions for Christ happened while the Word was playing away in your office? What? None, you say? But the Word was preached the entire time!

There seems to be a notion that the Word of God is enough to bring people to conviction, confession and conversion. I wish that was the case. I do. But if that were the case, there would be no reason to separate the sheep from the goats in Matthew 25:31-46. There would be no need for the judgement. People would simply be exposed to the Word, turn from their wicked ways, and fall in love with Jesus. Evangelism could be effected by piping the Word through loud speakers atop a van rolling down the street and all within earshot would be saved.

When they (people of any age) encounter Jesus, God, Holy Spirit they will want more of Him. If the Holy Spirit is not in that church, and the Church not built under His direction it’s all man’s efforts and will come to nought. Psalm 127:1

For the record, Psalm 127:1 (KJV) says “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.”

Unless I’m missing the intention behind this comment (possible), the author is indicating once people get a taste of God, they will want more. If that was the case, what about Matthew 27:21-24, where Jesus clearly tells us not everyone who says, “Lord, Lord” will enter the Kingdom? This should terrify us, right? That means there are church-going Christians who won’t see Heaven. Look up Jesus’ words to the Laodicean church in Revelation 3:14-22 and tell me those people didn’t think they were in good standing. Then recognize the seven churches described in Revelation also reflect the ages the Church will pass through prior to the end of days. The Laodicean church is in full operation today.

Reaching this demographic is easy … just give them everything they want and allow them to take no responsibility whatsoever… problem solved.

Man, I don’t think Jesus talks about us this way. If we don’t see it in Him, we’re not to see it in us.

Sounds interesting but why do they require so much personal information to get the Ebook?

Because they’re looking for the lowest conversion rate possible? Just guessing. Yes, this is a marketing mistake on their part. As was pulling this thread from their feed.

Why are millennials any different from any of the rest of mankind? We all have sinned and fallen short of the mark, and are in need of a saviour. The message has not changed, nor has God’s grace and mercy which we all are in desperate need of. The message is timeless, and sufficient.

Another comment that misses the point of the ebook being how to reach the millennial “nation”. Jesus said “go forth and make disciples of all nations,” not “build big buildings and worry about how to keep the lights on.”

Though the ebook doesn’t mention a single line of Scripture (which should be odd to us coming from an organization calling themselves “echurch” but we can recognize PushPay is secular first), the Gospel message isn’t in doubt here.

It’s our ability to deliver the Gospel message that is being assisted.

So I guess this will change with every generation? This communicates that God needs help.

Well, brother, God isn’t up there ordaining everything that happens. He did tell us to go forth and subdue the earth. We are given a sword and a shield for a reason. Jesus did tell us to go forth and make disciples of all nations, not quietly sit at home and count ourselves saved. What did Jesus do? What did He raise His apostles to do? Then I guess that’s probably what we’re called to do too, right?

No, God doesn’t need our help; we need His.

The only thing is the blood of Jesus. Anything else is Bogas!

Not sure I even need to grace this one with a response. Same misplaced defensive posture as the others.

Jesus makes them “tick”.

Once they know Him, yes. Before then, we call those folks “lost”.

This is needed.

Finally, someone gets it.

To Evangelize Who We Can, We Do What We Can

As you can tell by my commentary, by the time I read to the end of this thread, I was appalled. I asked a pastor friend of mine if his church ever did any marketing to their local community.

He said, “Oh yes. You have to.”

Just as I suspected.

Then he pointed out, “Even Jesus was heralded by John the Baptist.”

Do you get that?

Jesus had a PR guy that set the stage for His ministry. His name was John.

So if you think the Word of God will convert everyone it reaches, then you haven’t read your Bible. Israel even had God living among them and they still turned to idols. Over and over and over. Are you kidding?

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:22 “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” I think his example to us is to do what we can to reach those we can.

I challenge us to recognize the difference between delivering the Good News and receiving the Good News. The intention to reach the millennial generation is a good one.

Just as Paul spoke Greek to Greeks and Hebrew to Jews, so too must we learn our audience and do our part to connect them with the Gospel. It is by the blood of the Lamb ~and~ the word of our testimony.

Yes, all fruit comes through the Holy Spirit, but it is we—made in His image—who have been commanded to go forth and work the fields.

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christian web hosting

What is Web Hosting?

Web hosting explained

Whether you are a church or faith-based organization, for your website to be seen on the Internet, it must be hosted on a secure server with a reliable connection to the Internet; this is web hosting.

Web hosting is the Internet service that allows you to make your website accessible via the World Wide Web. Web hosting companies provide the hosting environment, which includes the servers, routers, switches, backup power generators, secure and climate-controlled facilities, Internet connectivity through multiple carriers and support necessary to present a website to the world. There is a wide range of pricing for web hosting services, starting from free up to thousands monthly.

With so many options to consider, choosing a web host for your church isn’t always an easy task. The most important factor in selecting a church-friendly web host is ensuring they provide everything you need.

What hosting plan do I need?

Before choosing your web hosting package, identify your needs. As with all hosting plans, there will be some features you need and some you don’t. Make sure you focus on the essentials required to launch your website. You may want all the nice extras but will you use them?

It’s also a good idea to try and pick a host that will allow you to expand and increase your plan as your website grows. If you want to start selling online, upgrading to a larger e-commerce hosting plan is easier and quicker to implement than transferring to a new host.

What types of web hosting plans are there?

Web hosting plans range from free personal homepage hosting to packages that support large global corporate websites.

As an example, Levaire offers the following hosting packages for churches: Exodus, Church and Revelation. These hosting packages increase in size and scope as you move from the smallest (Exodus) to the largest (Revelation). Packages will vary from web host to web host, so knowing your needs (disk space, bandwidth, etc) in advance will help the host-shopping process tremendously.

Finally, many hosts can tailor their hosting plans to you, so don’t be afraid to ask!

Benefits to hosting with Levaire

  • Host your web site with your chosen domain name to help establish a recognizable identity for your organization.
  • Our powerful online control panel makes it easy to administer your web hosting account.
  • 24/7/365 website monitoring ensures peace of mind. Your website is up when your personnel need it and your customers expect it.
  • Let us create your full-featured, easy-to-update website, based on the powerful WordPress content management systems.
  • SEO-targeted keywords and customer-focused content helps your website generate qualified traffic.
  • Order with confidence knowing that web hosting reliability is assured, backed by an unconditional 30-day money-back guarantee.

christian websitesQuestions? Call (517) 394-3000 or email us »

P.S. – Don’t even have a website? Need to start over anyways? Simply select a Carpenter’s Path website and take your focus off the nuts and bolts of website ownership. Place your attention where it belongs: on reaching people with the Gospel message. See demo site »

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