Welcome to the online home of Tim Challies, blogger, author, and book reviewer.

Tim Challies

Challies on FacebookChallies on Twitter

Sponsored

December 04, 2013

HOW TO SHARE THE GOSPEL ON YOUR WEBSITE

Hello again from your friends at Church Plant Media. We’re here with a few more ideas for your church website content. With Advent upon us and Christmas quickly approaching, we wanted to encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ to share the gospel online. As we all know, this is the time of year when people are the most likely to attend your church service and visit your church website.

In his book, Gospel Deeps: Reveling in the Excellencies of Jesus, Pastor Jared Wilson writes, “The gospel’s content—Jesus’s sinless life, sacrificial death, and bodily resurrection—is deep and multifaceted… Or we may say that the gospel is a diamond—it is… one precious jewel with many different facets, each with a brilliance and vision of its own.” With this in mind, we acknowledge that there are as many different ways to share the gospel as there are facets on a diamond. But even the beauty of a diamond can be conveyed with simplicity.

Although we thank God for all of the church websites that clearly articulate the good news about Jesus, we are also very aware that not every church takes the opportunity to tell it often and tell it well. Sadly, many churches preach about the law (God’s commands) as if that were the gospel (God’s gift). Many other churches don’t even mention the law when presenting their version of the gospel. We want to advocate for a proper use of both law AND gospel when telling the old, old story of Jesus and his love.

In order to share the gospel on your church website, you first need to understand what the gospel IS NOT before you can rightly share what the gospel IS. To understand the difference, we recommend listening to the helpful sermon What Is The Gospel? from our friend, Dr. Voddie Baucham. You can also view the transcript and read along while you listen. To save you some time, here are all of his main points:

  • Romans 9:30-33 is about a difference between works and gospel.
  • #1: The gospel is not just how we get saved or a plan of salvation.
  • #2: The gospel is not the commandments to love God and people.
  • #3: The gospel is not the teachings of Jesus found in the Gospels.
  • Romans 1:16-17 is the thesis statement for the book of Romans.
  • #1: The gospel is news and we cannot live out front page news.
  • #2: The gospel is God-centered and it is not man-centered.
  • #3: The gospel is Christ-centered and is not just theological.
  • #4: The gospel is cross-centered and is not about your worth.
  • #5: The gospel is grace-centered and is not a result of works.
  • #6: The gospel is eschatological and is not psychological.
  • You look at everything though the prism of the gospel.

Dr. Baucham summed up his message with this exhortation:

We can remember that… can’t we? It’s news. It’s God-centered. It’s Christ-centered. It’s cross-centered. It’s grace-centered. It’s eschatological. We can remember that. What is the gospel? It is an announcement of what God has done in Christ through the cross by grace to give eternal hope to those who have faith in him. That’ll do in a pinch.

This is the kind of gospel that churches need to be sharing on their websites. A gospel that explains both the problem (how we broke God’s law) and the solution (how Jesus paid our fine). The father of the Reformation, Dr. Martin Luther once said, “The first duty of the gospel preacher is to declare God’s Law and show the nature of sin. Why? Because it will act as a schoolmaster and bring him to everlasting life which is in Jesus Christ.” Three centuries later, Charles Spurgeon the “Prince of Preachers” taught his congregation a similar truth:

I do not believe that any man can preach the gospel who does not preach the law. The law is the needle, and you cannot draw the silken thread of the gospel through a man’s heart unless you first send the needle of the law to make way for it. If men do not understand the law, they will not feel that they are sinners. And if they are not consciously sinners, they will never value the sin offering. There is no healing a man till the law has wounded him, no making him alive till the law has slain him.

We urge you dear brothers and sisters in Christ, please share both the law AND the gospel. Don’t mix them up and don’t preach one without the other. Both are needed. Think about them like the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, in the same manner that Goldilocks considered the Bears’ food and furniture: the first was “too hot” and “too hard” (the law by itself), the second was “too cold” and “too soft” (the gospel by itself), and the third was “just right” (the law and gospel together).

Here are 2 creative videos that share the law/gospel in less than 5 minutes.

We hope these ideas help you proclaim the glorious gospel on your website.

Your friends @ Church Plant Media | (800) 409-6631 x 1

Church Plant Media

November 27, 2013

HOW TO KEEP CHURCH WEBSITE CONTENT FRESH

Greetings from your good friends at Church Plant Media. We’re back with more thoughts about church website content. For this installment we will be answering one of the questions that Brett shared via a comment on our introductory post. He asked the following:

What’s the best way to keep site content up-to-date and fresh with limited time, resources, and staff/volunteers?

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day in the USA and many families are getting ready for their big meal. Sometimes it can be a difficult challenge to keep all of the food fresh, heated, and ready for all extended family to eat at the same time. Just as you never want your Thanksgiving turkey to get cold, it is never a good idea to let your church website get cold without fresh content. We understand this may be easier said then done sometimes, but we want to encourage you that you may be sitting on content you have not even thought about.

We like to call these the ABCs of fresh content:

  1. Ask – and you shall receive some help
  2. Batch – and your burden will be light
  3. Catch – and it will not go to waste

1. ASK

Ask and you shall receive some help. Jesus said it best, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8, ESV) Ask God first and then ask others. If you do not tell people about the need, no one may volunteer. But if you ask, your volunteers may surprise you.

It is wise to ask those who serve on Sunday mornings to take a few extra steps and help with the website. If people help with your audio ministry, those same volunteers should know how to record the sermon. Once the audio is recorded, it is only a few small steps to get the sermon posted online. You may also have a blogger in your midst who is waiting for you to ask them to do testimonial interviews for a church blog.

2. BATCH

Batch and your burden will be light. If your volunteers are tapped but you still need fresh content, try to think about ways that you can kill two birds with one stone. If you prepare a bulletin every week, the content from that bulletin will make a great blog post to remind people of upcoming events, people to pray for, and any number of things that you communicate in print each week. Plus the reminder couldn’t hurt.

It would also be helpful to do a weekly recap of your worship set or liturgy. Even if your church has bulletins, many people misplace them (or place them in the circular file when they get home). Once your song leader knows what songs will be sung and what prayers will be prayed, they can take one more step and draft a blog post with your order of worship, linking to songs online to encourage singing after the service.

3. CATCH

Catch and it will not go to waste. This is another way to keep content fresh without creating something from nothing. Every preaching pastor spends at least 15 hours each week to prepare their sermon and it would be a shame for any of it to go to waste. When the sermon is preached not everything fits into the time allotted. We suggest that pastors do what they can to catch those “sermon crumbs” and post them to a blog.

Although the following verse is a little out of context, we can still learn from it. A Canaanite woman responded to Jesus by saying “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” (Matthew 15:27, ESV) Why not take a minute on Sunday afternoon or evening to catch those crumbs? They don’t need to be new ideas. Even these “crumbs” can be used by the Lord to feed a hungry soul.

We hope these ABCs will help your content to stay fresh and ready to serve.

Your friends @ Church Plant Media | (800) 409-6631 x 1

Church Plant Media

November 06, 2013

Whosoever Will May Read Your Content

Hello again from your good friends over at Church Plant Media. We’re here again with another installment of church webology. This time around we will be answering two of the commenters who posted questions to us via our introductory post in September. Dan Alger commented, asking the following:

Do you think it is best to have a website that contains LOTS of information (long history of the church, long doctrinal statements, blogs, resources, worship explanations, etc. etc. etc.) so that people who tend to be “researchers” can get all the information they need to make decisions about your church, or is it better to be thorough, but simple to make the site more accessible to those who do not want to sort through a ton of details? Or perhaps some hybrid of the two is best? I’ve seen websites that pursue each of these philosophies and I’m not sure which practice is most effective.

Then Denise W. commented after Dan, asking the following:

Thanks for letting us ask questions! Should a church’s web site be primarily visitors (believing or unbelieving) who may be interested in visiting the church? Or should it primarily be a place to put information that will benefit the members of that church?

Dan & Denise: The answers to your questions are: yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes! As mentioned in our last post, we encourage people to consider that a church website = an online building. If you seek to serve both believers and unbelievers along with researchers and casual visitors in your brick-and-mortar meeting space, then you should seek to serve them all with your website.

Another way to think about this is to ask the question, “who is the target audience of the gospel message?” The Apostle Paul provides us with a helpful answer, “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them… I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings” (1 Corinthians 9:19, 22-23, ESV). With a church website we should endeavor to serve all types of people by all means of content, in order that Jesus might save some with the gospel.

This may seem like a daunting task, but as the old saying goes, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” So let’s take a few small bites together to better understand how to focus your website content strategy.

The acronym D.R.O.I.D. may come in very handy.

  1. Disclose – who, what, when, where, why
  2. Retrieve – get them in and out quickly
  3. Organize – find it in 3 clicks or less
  4. Increase – from simple to complex
  5. Disciple – shepherd the flock of Jesus

1. DISCLOSE

Who, what, where, when, and why are the questions you need to answer up front. If this information is not presented clearly, you might as well pack your bags and go home alone, because your visitors may never find you. Serve people by answering these five questions that every visitor needs to know: Who are you? What do you believe? What can I expect? When and where do you meet? Why should I come? This is your baseline.

October 23, 2013

A Church Website = An Online Building

Greetings from your friends at Church Plant Media! We are back with another response to the questions posted to Tim’s blog in September. Joanna commented, asking us the following:

My question is how do you graciously but persuasively make a case to church leadership that a reasonable quality website is really important? Our website has out of date info, mismatching colors and the design looks like it came out of the late 90’s/early 2000’s. I’m concerned that it is alienating people, especially young adults newly arrived in the area to attend college, who are googling to find a church in the area. I don’t want to give the impression that the website is a magic bullet to anything but I do need to work out how to appropriately explain the impact of website quality on people trying to find a church to people who are less embedded in the digital world.

Joanna: This is a great question that we get asked from time to time. We all hope that people will be looking for a church where the gospel is preached every week, regardless of what the church website looks like. However the unfortunate reality is that many people still do “judge a book by its cover” before they decide to open the pages to see what’s inside. For most churches, their website is the “functional” front door before people step foot through the “literal” front door. This reality can be hard to understand if church members live most of their life unplugged. “Out of sight, out of mind” is the hurdle that you have to overcome.

You can overcome this communication barrier by using word pictures that the unplugged church member can understand. A helpful illustration that we have encouraged people to use is to compare the church website to the building where your congregation meets. Explain that most people will visit the church online before they visit the church offline. So if your church invests money into maintaining or improving the look and feel of your brick-and-mortar meeting space, they need to understand that an unkept, outdated website is similar to chipping paint, crumbling concrete, stained carpet, and a leaking roof on your physical building.

To put this illustration into practice, we can think about different parts of the church building and how they compare to the church website. If we can help you understand the website in the context of an online church building, you can help your unplugged members do the same.

These 5 items are important when considering a church building.

  1. Cornerstone – it determines the position of the building
  2. Foundation – it needs to be big enough for the building
  3. Floorplan – it maps out every room within the building
  4. Exterior – it is the outer expression of the building
  5. Entrance – it is the first impression of the building

1. Cornerstone

The cornerstone determines the position of the building. Its location is mission critical because every part of the foundation is positioned in reference to the cornerstone. The cornerstone of every church website should be the gospel of Jesus. When you clearly articulate your belief in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus as the sinless substitute for sinners like us, you are positioning the cornerstone of your online ministry presence. If your website does not share the gospel, then that is where we suggest you start. When you get the gospel right, everything else will be able to line up accordingly.

October 09, 2013

Counting the Cost of a Church Website

Hello again from Church Plant Media! In our Web Stuff Wednesdays Introduction we asked you, the readers of Challies Dot Com, to comment on that post with your church website questions. Carl asked the following:

If I understand correctly, there are two kinds of web sites: sites you build and host yourself and sites that are built and hosted by a company (which is what I think Church Plant Media does). Can you talk about the advantages and disadvantages of each kind? Why would it be best to use a solution like yours?

Carl: In one sense, you are correct. All church websites must be designed, coded, configured, and then hosted someplace on a server. If your church has a pastor or members who are tech-savvy, then you may be able to do all of the website building and hosting in-house. Or you may choose to outsource some or all of the website development depending on your level of expertise. But just like any in-house building project, you usually “get what you pay for” from whomever is involved.

To help you understand the advantages and disadvantages, let’s “build” on this analogy. If your church building has a leaky roof, in order to get it fixed you could go all old-school and start the project by smelting and crafting your own hammer and saw. Then you could cut down your own lumber and tar your own roofing tiles from scratch. Then you could climb up to the roof yourself and rebuild that leaking section up to code on your own. In this scenario if you do not have the skills of a blacksmith, lumberjack, carpenter, and roofer, then you’ll probably need to buy the tools and materials or hire the manpower to get the job done right. Or you might have a volunteer in the church who will work for free and you hope he can fix a roof as well as he says he can. But only time will tell if the roof starts to leak again.

September 25, 2013

Introduction to Church Plant Media

Hello readers of Challies Dot Com! Tim mentioned the following in a recent post: “For the time being I have begun a partnership with my friends at Church Plant Media, so you will be seeing their ads and getting to know them better.” Over the past few years you may have seen our Monthly Desktop Wallpaper Giveaways or our link at the bottom of Grace Fellowship Church where Tim is a pastor. Either way, we are thankful for this opportunity to connect with you.

Earlier this year we spent some time with Tim at The Gospel Coalition National Conference (TGC13) in Orlando. After talking, laughing, eating, and praying together with Tim, we grew in our friendship and appreciation for how much he loves Jesus and the gospel. Tim is the real deal and we are grateful to be partnering with him. While we were together at TGC13, Tim shared a few thoughts about Church Plant Media that we recorded on video. If you are interested in what he had to say, we’ve posted the video at this link: churchplantmedia.com/challies. Enjoy!

After 15 years of building websites for churches, we have learned a few things about the web and our hope is to serve you with what we have learned. Every other week for the next few months at least, we will be bringing you several “Web Stuff Wednesdays” posts. In that time we hope to answer a few of your church website questions. But in order to do so, we need your help. We would love to hear what challenges you are facing with your church website and what hurdles you would like to overcome. Or maybe you are a seminary student that the Lord has called to plant a church and you are not sure where to start.

To help us serve you, please post in the comments with your questions about websites for church and mission. We will glean from your questions and come back with our first answer in a few weeks. Thanks in advance for your help! If you can’t wait that long, feel free to give us a call at (800) 409-6631 x 1.

Your friends @ Church Plant Media

Church Plant Media

September 05, 2013

Sponsored Post
Are we sure that the God we serve is the God described in Scripture? Is rethinking Him biblically really necessary? How do we do it? How would it affect our views of Christ, the gospel, holiness, worship, evangelism, service, and revival?

Behold Your God: Rethinking God Biblically, led by Dr. John Snyder, is a 12-week multimedia study that focuses on God’s self-revelation in the Bible, helping the believer to apply the descriptions of God to all of life.

Click to watch the trailer

Behold Your GodThe Behold Your God study is centered around a twelve-week workbook and is designed to be used in conjunction with the 13 DVD lessons. Each week the student will work through the workbook (five days per week) in preparation for watching the DVD. Behold Your God can be used as an individual, family, group, or church-wide study.

Each week’s DVD is made up of three segments. The historical introduction is a short biographical sketch of the life of a significant figure from Christian history whose ministry illustrates the truths that you have been studying that week. These were all filmed on location in Wales, England, Scotland, and North America. They include A. W. Tozer (Chicago, IL), Timothy Dwight (Yale University), George Muller (Bristol, England), Samuel Rutherford (Anwoth, Scotland), George Whitefield (Newburyport, MA), Robert Murray M’Cheyne (Dundee, Scotland), Charles Spurgeon (London, England), Daniel Rowland (Llangeitho, Wales), Amy Carmichael (Keswick, England), Charles Finney (Anytown, USA) D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (London, England), and Jonathan Edwards (New Haven, CT).

Behold Your God
After the introduction, a sermon from Dr. Snyder reinforces what you have been studying in the Bible that week. Finally, you will be able to listen to highlights from interviews with contemporary ministers whose lives and labors reflect these same truths. These include Paul Washer, Richard Owen Roberts, Jordan Thomas, Anthony Mathenia, Dr. Eifion Evans, Andrew Davies, and Conrad Mbewe. Comments from men whose gospel labors range from Peru, Ethiopia, Virginia, and Memphis to New Zealand, England, Wales, Ireland, and Zambia help to show that these are eternal truths about an eternal God who is not altered by any temporal or geographical context. 

Behold Your God
Many in our day are tired and disillusioned because they have consistently hoped in the next new idea. It is just this kind of day that makes Christians stop running on their religious hamster-wheels and ask “Why are we doing these programs?” and “Why doesn’t God ever really seem to show up and effectively work in our churches?” Hard questions often lead to right answers. This study is written with the conviction that our fundamental need in Western Christianity is to repent of our low and unworthy views of God, to return to the biblical descriptions of the true God, and to risk it all in order to live upon Who He is. Nothing in this study is new truth. The devotions and exercises in the workbook, and the intros, sermons, and interviews in the videos are meant only to help the reader to take the biblical descriptions of God seriously and to see how they form the foundation of Christian living.

The entire first week of the Behold Your God study is available to view and download for free at beholdyourgod.org. For a much broader introduction to the study, download and read the Introduction to the Workbook here

You can connect with Behold Your God on Facebook and Twitter to keep track of special pricing and other offers. 

July 18, 2013

Sponsored Post
Reformed Baptist Seminary is a church-based ministerial academy that provides a full theological curriculum as either a Master of Divinity or Bachelor of Divinity degree. It also offers streamlined 32 and 24-credit degrees, diplomas, and certificate programs. Our entire program can be completed via online learning as well as through our modular format live classes.

Here is an excerpt from a recent lecture Dr. Tom Ascol delivered as a part of our Pastoral Theology class:

As a means of saying thank you to the churches and individuals who have supported us, and to be a blessing to the kingdom at large, we have made this entire pastoral theology course available free online. Simply click here to access these videos.

We are excited about our upcoming class on the Doctrine of the Church which will be taught by Greg Nichols. Please click the banner if you would like to consider attending as either a student or an auditor:


The following links will help you learn more about enrolling in one of our degree programs and assist you if you would like to receive updates about module class offerings, seminary news, and free resources:

February 22, 2013

Sponsored Post

100 Percent Online Degree
We live in a digital world where online resources are endless. Whether we want the latest news, immediate commentary, unique humor, shopping, our favorite television shows, or a million other things, the Internet provides a one-stop shop.

Unfortunately, superb online Christian college or seminary education is not as easy to find.

For over 40 years, Criswell College has provided Christ-centered education to pastors, deacons, missionaries, professors, seminary presidents, entrepreneurs, artists, school teachers, stay-at-home moms, and everyone in between! We thrive on developing Christian leaders for all walks of life, and we want to provide you with even easier access to our outstanding curriculum.

Allow us to introduce to you our new fully online Master of Arts in Christian Studies! This 36-hour degree is designed for:

  • Pastors and deacons desiring to strengthen their foundation for ministry
  • Christians in the secular workplace looking to build evangelistic skills
  • Students who want to pursue further biblical education
  • Anyone else seeking a deeper understanding of God’s Word!

Our courses will prepare you for the Great Commission work to which you have been called, will encourage your academic and spiritual growth, and will treat Scripture with the highest regard as you learn more about God’s Word. Join us in God’s mission!

To view a detailed degree plan and to apply, click HERE.

January 04, 2013

Sponsored Post

2013 Truth and Life Conference: The Word of God

The theme of the 2013 Truth & Life Conference at The Master’s College is The Word of God. The conference explores the authority and sufficiency of the inerrant Word of God. Participants will learn more about how God’s Word guides and transforms the individual believer as well as the Church, for His glory. If you are in the Southern California area, we invite you to join us January 16-18 to hear from our president, Dr. John MacArthur and noted speakers Dr. Mark Dever and Dr. Sinclair Ferguson. Please join us via live streaming video at www.truthandlife.org.

For more than fifteen years, The Master’s College has welcomed alumni and guests from around the world to join our students, faculty, and staff on our campus for a time of strategic renewal and reflection from the Word of God at the Truth & Life Conference. This unique, three-day event brings in many of the most acclaimed preachers and teachers who hold high the exposition of the Scripture to encourage and challenge those in attendance to a deeper level of Christ-likeness.

Past conference themes have included Holiness; Proclaiming Christ: The True Gospel; and The Love of God with expositors such as Kevin DeYoung, Ligon Duncan, R. C. Sproul, D.A. Carson, Irwin Lutzer, Al Mohler, and Voddie Baucham. This year’s outstanding conference program reconfirms our commitment to proclaim biblical truth, which impacts all areas of life.

For detailed conference information, please visit our website at www.truthandlife.org or you can find us through the College’s website at www.masters.edu.

Truth and Life

Pages