Episode 511

Things That Every Church Needs On Their Website & Amazing Grace

Dec 28, 2023

According to Lifeway Research, the majority of people moving to a new town utilized in-person visits to churches (69%) and recommendations from family, friends, neighbors, and/or colleagues. And, Amazing Grace was first sung in 1773 on New Year’s Day at Lord Dartmouth’s Great Hall in Olney, England. John Newton wrote it to accompany his New Year’s sermon from 1 Chronicles 17, encouraging worshipers to remember the Lord’s “past mercies and future hopes,” the Museum of the Bible records in an online exhibit.

Transcript

According to Lifeway Research, the majority of people moving to a new town utilized in-person visits to churches (69%) and recommendations from family, friends, neighbors, and/or colleagues.

While less common, movers also use church websites (40%), social media sites (32%), online search tools (30%), and phone book or local advertisements (12%) in their search.

Chuck Lawless offers these eight things he thinks every church needs on their website to help communicate who they are as a church:

 A doctrinal statement. A website that includes no doctrinal statement still speaks by its silence—saying at best that nobody was thinking about theology when they put the site together.

 A church history. The history need not be a long account, but I would want to know how and when the church started. I would also want to know how many pastors the church has had, especially if every recent pastorate didn’t last long. Consecutive short pastorates usually tell us something about the church.

 Congregational pictures. I want to “see” the church before going there. Done well, pictures show potential guests the demographics of the church. Just be sure to indicate in some way that the pictures are not just stock pictures; they’re pictures of current members.

 Conversion stories. Few churches include this suggestion, but I’d want to know that God is transforming lives through the church. Brief (2-3 minutes), well-done, recorded testimonies from church members under a heading of something like, “Stories of God’s Life-changing Power at _______ Church,” will unquestionably grab my attention.

 Missions stories. Again, I realize a professor of evangelism and missions who also works for a missions agency would want this inclusion. Nevertheless, the Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20) is not optional for any church—and accounts of the church’s work to reach the nations would help me better understand the church’s focus. Here’s another case, too, where recorded testimonies would be good.

 Service recordings. I’m not alone in wanting to know the music and preaching styles of a church I might attend. Both really do matter. Poor worship music and/or problematic preaching would be at least a “caution flag” to me. Recordings cannot adequately take us into the service itself, but they can give us some sense of the church.

 Pastor and family story. Even in a church with a plurality of elders, someone is usually the lead person. Knowing who that person is, what his story is, and what his vision for the church is would help me make a decision about attending. It would also give me the opportunity to pray for that pastor, whether or not I visit the church.

 Online giving options. Having these options available tells me something about the church’s willingness to use technology as they do the Great Commission.
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Amazing Grace was first sung in 1773 on New Year’s Day at Lord Dartmouth’s Great Hall in Olney, England. John Newton wrote it to accompany his New Year’s sermon from 1 Chronicles 17, encouraging worshipers to remember the Lord’s “past mercies and future hopes,” the Museum of the Bible records in an online exhibit.

Joshua Waggener, a Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary professor of church music and worship, both say the song’s pentatonic or five-note scale common to traditional spirituals is part of its appeal. The lyrics resonate with many, with certain verses omitted at will.

The song took decades to reach its current form. It is unknown which music accompanied its first rendition. It was first published in Olney Hymns in 1779 under the title, “Faith’s Review and Expectation,” among a collection of 348 hymns written by Newton and poet William Cowper. As was custom, none of the hymns included musical scores.

American Baptist song leader William Walker was the first to pair it with the tune of “New Britain,” which is the melody for the song today.
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