Reaching hearts with the right words

Provided by the Good News Web Designers Association

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Saint Paul knew that he had to meet people where they were at in order to reach them with the Gospel. He said:

Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23 NIV)

If we want to be effective in changing lives and bringing people into an ever-deepening conversion through our websites, we must understand and reach out to our visitors at the level of understanding they have, no matter where they are on their spiritual journey, especially if they are in need of a beginner's conversion. We want to be inviting and welcoming. We do not want to push anyone away by using the wrong words or conveying the wrong attitude, even when our intentions are good and our theology is accurate.

The checklists on this page are the results of research on and ministry to the unchurched and inactive church members.

WHAT TO AVOID:

  • being rejecting, condemning, unforgiving, or scolding
  • conveying that "my church" is exclusive
  • making the visitor feel guilty or shamed
  • negativity
  • legalism and (for Catholics) pre-Vatican Council II rigidity
  • a non-loving attitude
  • a condescending attitude
  • being afraid to address tough issues that doubters raise
  • seeming unfriendly & unapproachable
  • being politically correct
  • putting church politics above pastoral concern
  • sounding hypocritical or contradictory
  • coming across as perfect and faultless, holier-than-thou

WHAT TO DO ~
HELP YOUR VISITORS:

  • become aware of Christ already at work within them
  • realize that the Church is not a building nor a large organization, because "WE are the Church" - and this includes your visitor
  • recognize that they were made in the image of God - help them to see the good within themselves
  • get personally in touch with the God who is already present and truly cares
  • move from the Good Friday experience in their lives (taking blame without forgiveness, feeling punished) to an Easter resurrection (discovering they are forgiven and that God is offering them a new life without the guilt)
  • build their self-esteem and sense of worth
  • feel safe (no one can walk the Christian walk, which includes turning the other cheek, while feeling endangered and alone)

WORDS TO AVOID
when trying to invite people to conversion:

Don't address your website visitor as
• a Christmas & Easter Christian
• fallen away
• a former church-goer
• having lapsed faith
• an alienated Christian
• unspiritual
• inactive
• bound for hell
unbeliever

Don't use church jargon, because it makes you sound exclusive, standoffish, or judgmental, or may have implications you do not intend, like
• born again
• infallible
• spiritual warfare
• covered by the blood of Christ
• saved/unsaved
• thee, thou, saith the Lord
(unless you are quoting someone of olden days who actually used this archaic language)
• damnation
• believers, righteous, saints, etc.

WHAT'S GOOD TO USE
when trying to invite people to conversion:

Do address what your website visitors are feeling, so they know you understand them, using words like
• been away
• drifting away
• hurt by the Church
• confused

• angry at God
• angry at the hypocrites
• seeking

 

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