Friday, August 27, 2010

Churches, Pastors, E-mail, and the Great Commission

Now that I have moved to Greenville, begun a job, and gotten my kids into school, one of the remaining big decisions is choosing a church. This is not as easy as it may sound. There are a plethora of Bible-preaching churches here in the Greenville area. I have already visited ten, some of them more than once.

I obtained a list of churches concerning which I had some confidence in their doctrine. They were from a variety of denominations, although most were independent and the majority were Baptist. After whittling the list down due to geography and other factors, there were still more about which I had interest.

Visiting a church by yourself, or with your spouse alone, isn't too bad. But when you have four children to farm out to Sunday School (or whatever childrens' ministries may be planned for that time), it's a bit more complicated. And quite frankly, I don't want to spend all of 2010 visiting more churches and making this decision. So for churches I had not yet visited, I decided to check out their websites for additional information, and after writing a generic letter with several key questions (designed to eliminate churches which were unlike what we are looking for), planned to send it to another ten churches.

That's when the problems began.

Of the ten churches, it appears five do not have websites.

One of the churches with a website had no contact information beyond the church address and phone number and service times.

Another church—and this was annoying—did not contain an e-mail address but instead had a place to type your message and send it on one of the pages. Trouble was, I had to enter a six-character security code to send the message...and it wouldn't let me! So that church hasn't heard from me.

So if you're keeping track, that means I sent three e-mails at approximately 11:00 p.m. yesterday. Here are the results:

One pastor responded about an hour later. He wrote a message of near-sermon length which, indeed, sounded like a sermon transcript on ecclesiology (the study or doctrine of the church). The whole tenor of the response, though both thorough and innocuous, was vaguely disconcerting. Perhaps we will visit this church. Perhaps not.

A second pastor responded the following afternoon. This was the polar opposite of the first response: Curt. He did not answer some of my questions, yet threw in some information I had not asked about. We will not be visiting this church.

The third pastor has not responded yet. [Update: The third pastor gave me a phone call the day after I wrote the original post, answering my questions in a friendly and helpful way. We will likely visit his church.]

So what have I learned from this?

The first thing I learned is that if I ever become a pastor or leader of a church, there will be a website and it will have every possible means of getting in touch with our church. This is not simply a matter of convenience; it is a means of fulfilling the Great Commission. If I am a pastor, and there is someone out there who is actually seeking a church (and especially if they are asking questions relevant to their faith), don't I want to be doing whatever I can to draw them to my church like a magnet draws iron?

The first pastor who responded to me, to his credit, seems to understand this. He wasted no time—writing near midnight—responding and inviting me to his church. The second pastor does not; his response came across as, at best, dutiful; at worst, annoyed that I would bother him.

But apparently at least six other pastors also do not understand this...the ones whom I could not e-mail. Surely we all must recognize by now that so many people who don't care to darken the door of a church will still use e-mail to communicate! The lost can be reached this way—why are pastors and churches not taking advantage?

If you are a pastor (or you have influence on a pastor), I implore you: Get a website and a church e-mail address. Emblazon it upon all your materials, from bulletins to tracts. Let the world know how, even if in the privacy of their own bedroom, they can contact you. And if you have a facebook page, a blog, or a Twitter feed, so much the better. You can still give your address and phone, draw a map, and give the service times, but take advantage of 21st-century technology to reach the world around you.

1 comment:

Tim said...

We know what you are going through. When my job moved us to GA in 2007, we spent three months visiting several churches before God gave us peace about Berean. I remember one church we liked because it was "smaller" but the people stared at us like we were from another planet. Guess they were not used to visitors maybe. Another church had a great Weds night service, but then on our Sunday visit we could not stomach a rocked up version of "How Firm a Foudation". God will show you in due time which church you should join. It does take time though.