Thanks to my friend Dominic Rodger who serves as my ‘webmaster’, I have had a personal website since 13 October 2011 entitled Experimenting with Church Matters. As I said in the first paragraph:
According to The Oxford Compact English Dictionary, an experiment is ‘a course of action tentatively adopted without being sure of the outcome’. This sums up my foray today into the world of blogging. I have no idea where this exercise in reflective writing will lead. But in the words of W.G. Gilbert, ‘faint heart never won fair lady’. We get nowhere in life without attempting to push out the boat.
I confess that I am very proud of the way in which the website has developed. It contains not only all my weekly blogs, but also sermons I have preached, articles I have written, and also many of the books and booklets I have written – and much else besides.
In my judgment, Dominic has done a great job in creating the website. It is a wonderful resource. What a difference it could have made to my ministry as a pastor if I had had access to such a site!
True my website is not full of pictures and diagrams and all the gizmos which characterise many church websites today. That is not Dominic’s fault – it is mine. Not surprisingly at my stage in life, I am technologically limited. However, if I may say so, there is substance to my website even if it lacks the fancy packaging.
BUT – and it is a big BUT – websites have their limitations. There are times when a church noticeboard communicates far more effectively to non-churchgoers than does the website. I discovered this with vengeance this summer. The first Sunday when Caroline and I were on holiday in Canada, we decided to go to church. With the help of our Canadian daughter-in-law, we found the time of the morning service and then checked out the times of the bus and the ‘skytrain’ (a fully automated rapid transit system). We had it all carefully worked out, but when we arrived we discovered that the church had decided to radically remodel their premises and move elsewhere in the intervening period – but it failed to communicate this fact on their church notice board. Instead, on their one small noticeboard there was a website. No doubt for those with wi-fi this may have been adequate, but it wasn’t for us. We had no wi-fi – the only wifi to which we had access was at the home of our son and family. We felt well and truly let-down by the church. We had made a great effort to come in from the suburbs, but now we had no idea where the church was worshipping – ironically it was only 10 minutes’ walk away, but we were not to know.
However, put aside our particular predicament. What, I wondered, was this demolition site saying to passers-by? It could well have appeared that yet another church had bitten the dust. If only, somewhere on the site, there could have been a notice saying that the church was well and truly alive and would be back soon with premises fit for the 21st century. That would have made many a casual passer-by think.
Later, I did look up the church’s website. To my surprise it appeared to me to be amazingly inward looking – its focus was on what the church had to offer on Christian discipleship, and appeared to have nothing to say about the Good News of Jesus, the crucified and risen Lord. Was I right to be surprised? It seemed to me that the church was focussed on transfer growth, rather than on conversion growth.
Websites have their limitations – but so too do church noticeboards. Ultimately what really counts is personal communication, with Christians sharing their faith in the first place with friends, neighbours, colleagues – but also ready to chat to a stranger at a bus-stop.