The Winsome Website
Your ministry’s website is just one form of communication among many, but an especially strategic one in today’s connected world.
What should you include on your site? We propose that the answer touches the heart of ministry itself.
If the cosmic impact of Jesus’ death and resurrection was nothing short of revolutionary – what Tolkien called a “eucatastrophe” (a sudden happy turn in a story) – then fleshing out the implications of that in your ministry should be central. Jesus himself described it as an “all things new” process, now begun in his triumph over sin and death (Isa. 43:19, Rev. 21:5).
As a result, broken people being transformed by the gospel of grace have a new capacity to become “wounded healers” (as Henri Nouwen used the phrase). They begin to exhibit the fragrance and aroma of Christ himself, who brought strength out of weakness (sufferings), and life out of death (2 Cor. 2:15; 5:17- 21).
Though we can spend a lifetime plumbing the depths of this (and should!), we see the results of this “Gospel-centeredness” flowing out into life in 2 significant ways especially:
- “We love, because he first loved us (1 Jn. 4:19).” As the gospel grips us, we start to see our inherent selfishness overturned, and “no longer live for ourselves, but for him who died for us…” (2 Cor. 5:15) We’re personally and corporately being drawn to practical acts of mercy and love, as Christ’s ambassadors.
- These changes are also moving from heart to tongue. Notice how Col. 4 describes the quality of our communication, especially as we learn to “walk wisely onward outsiders.” It should be “winsome (or gracious), seasoned with salt.” (4:6)
In the Colossians verse above, notice how a unique communicative character is being described: “winsome” communication literally means “attractive or appealing in character.” We know too that salt was a primary preservative in the ancient world, used to keep meat from rotting.
So what does winsome, salted conversation look like? It’s beautiful communication that preserves the world and keeps it from rotting.
As you’re thinking about content for your site, we’d like to suggest that that’s a perfect overarching goal! Winsome communication should be an intrinsic part of your true mission and ministry brand.
We’ll suggest some specifics about a winsome website in a moment. First, we need to address why this is so critical.
Avoiding the Ocean of Outrage
Living in today’s media-saturated world is challenging sometimes; it can feel like we’re swimming in an ocean of outrage. As believers, it’s tempting to join in and trumpet our truth, “broadcasting” our conversations (both in-person and on social media) in the style, rhetoric, and tone that we see displayed nightly on the major news channels.
To make things even harder, the world increasingly justifies such malice in the public square. This vitriol and demonization of “the other” is always cloaked in “righteousness” of some form, which is why it can seem so right. (Not to mention that outrage sells).
But when such communications convey an “our cause is truth” sentiment, many Christians think they have a moral imperative to join in and set everyone straight. (If you’re drawn to this, two resources that may help are: A Gentle Answer by Scott Sauls, and Winsome Persuasion… Christian Influence in a Post-Christian World by Muehlhoff, Langer, and Schultze.)
What’s the inevitable outcome? Winsomeness and grace end up taking a back seat to moral condemnation. You essentially become the morality police. When this happens, you lose the impact of love (by which our primary witness is seen – Jn. 13:35) and self-righteousness replaces the power and centrality of the gospel (Rom. 1:16, 10:3,4; 1 Cor. 2:2, Gal. 3:1-6).
I mention this because if morality and law are what you allow to grip your heart, it will undoubtedly seep into your site content as well. “Amazing Grace” (for all of us as lawbreakers) won’t be your song, nor will the truth of “weakness evangelism” (seeing yourself as the “chief of sinners” as Paul did, in order to exalt Christ).
Further, this will convey a false picture of God, who does not delight in the death of the wicked nor desires that any should perish (2 Pet. 3:9). Rather, it is those who refuse him who essentially condemn themselves (Jn. 3:18).
The Winsome WebSite
How important then that we share the true essence of Christ’s ministry with the world! That’s our goal: we want a winsome website that rises to a beautiful, hopeful expression of the work of Christ, winsomely sharing his gracious call with the world. Gospel means “good news,” after all – Christ has won the victory.
Here are 3 practical ways you can do this:
- Clarify what the Gospel really is.
This is most important, since we’re prone (as mentioned) to confuse morality (what we do) with Christ alone, who rescues us. Redeemer Church in NYC puts it like this on their site: “The good news is that we are so lost and broken that we cannot find God or fix ourselves, so God has come to find and save us.” Christ is our true righteousness on our first day and our last (1 Cor. 1:30), and is the only One who frees us from having to prove ourselves. A winsome website clarifies this good news.
- Highlight the gracious work of God in people’s lives.
One of the best ways to do this is to ask them to tell their stories of brokenness and redemption. Recording them on video is particularly powerful. Some churches have done this in regard to conversion (as Redeemer does), having a page on their site where visitors can see firsthand how Christ works in the details of people’s lives – people just like them. A winsome website is personal.
- Highlight common questions about (or struggles with) Christianity.
This also makes for an appealing and helpful page on your site, especially for inquiring skeptics. If you’re not sure what questions people are asking, do some research! It’s not hard to find out what people outside the church are thinking if we simply ask them. A winsome website shows you’re listening to real people.
The truth is, we all struggle with faith at times, and so to admit this can be a great relief for someone who thinks they’re a “special case” and beyond hope. Most importantly, this highlights the faithfulness of Christ, who has promised to finish the work in us that he has started. (Phil. 1:6).
What a great opportunity we have to use our websites in a way that is both winsome and refreshing – salt and light for the world!
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