Engaging Culture

E-Salvation? Can it Happen in the Media?

A few months ago, I wrote about how direct response expert Mary Hutchinson had a sad experience writing to a few dozen broadcast ministries and asking for information about salvation.  As I reported here, the responses were pretty lame.  Well, now, Mary’s taken the next step.  Here’s what she told me:

Every day, more of our media viewers or listeners are opting to go on church and ministry websites to give, ask for prayer, order products.  I wanted to know how well ministries – in general—are doing in using the web and email to do “one on one” ministry with people seeking a relationship with God.

Once again, I selected a few dozen broadcast ministries, some small, some large, some evangelical,  some Charismatic.  I spent no more than five minutes on each site with the goal of either finding the Bible based answer I sought easily or a place to ask the question directly.

When I did ask the question, I was sure to give my name and address so that if they chose to followup by mail, they could.

Here is what happened:

75% of the ministries had nothing on their landing page about salvation.

In the timeline, I was only able to find a salvation message anywhere on the ministry website 37.5% of the time.

This ranged from a button that took me to a well done video or a written message that was easy to find and well written.  All of the rest  in my test sample, I asked my question, either as a comment or prayer request (depending on the options.)

Within 24 hours, 14% of the ministries had a pastor from the organization try and make direct contact with me via email.  The common element of those in the 14% group were broadcast ministries that were growing out of fast expanding mega-churches.  Clearly, these folks valued the response and were quick to respond.

Sadly, two months later, I have not heard from more than 65% of the ones that I asked the question of…not one word.  Salt in the wound:  30% simply put me on their mailing list.

It was also interesting to note that a few of the ministries that are of an older generation responded with well written books on the subject.

Here is the bottom line:  We as a Church who uses television and web as ministry need to understand that a one way communication is often used by the Holy Spirit to quicken someone toward a relationship with God.

But they need the next step too!  They need to know what to do with their new found faith and there is no one they trust more than the minister that was just touching their heart through television.

I am well aware of the shear volume of letters, emails, and prayer requests that are generated by a media ministry.  But each one of those represents a soul, a real person with real hurts, needs and desires.  If we ignore their efforts to reach out to us, sadly, they will stop doing it.

(Note: If you would like to know if your ministry was included in either test, and how your organization responded, email me at mary@getinspireddirect.com.  I will not make public the names of any organization that did badly, only privately to help correct any issues.)

Mary Hutchinson

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  1. Well Mary… I’ve heard it said often. “Souls don’t sell” I suppose the question is, are the ministries selling or reaching…?

  2. Honestly, why put the information up? If someone is honestly seeking, and willing to make what should be such a huge decision, shouldn’t they be seeking it out in a true community, and not online? I don’t want a world full of online, media converted “disciples”. I want people living in real community with other believers at a local church.

  3. That would be an ideal sitaution but life isn’t always “ideal.” So we assume a lost person will always know someone to ask?  There’s a lot of lonely people out there John.  I can’t imagine not making it available in any way possible.  In fact, taking your advice, we should stop printing books, brochures, or other information about salvation as well. 

  4. John, you ask an interesting question, but I think the answer goes to the way the web in general has changed our lives. THe immediacy we seek in a fastfood society is available through the web, and I think it’s reasonable to hope that ministries that operate in this realm will make the best usage possible of all tools at hand. While I don’t think anyone will be saved by Clicking Here, I think puting that most basic part of the equation in plain sight for easy initial access seems a good idea.

  5. My conclusion has long been that many church and ministry websites are simply storefronts. 

    That is they are designed to get you to buy something.  Oh, there is the cursury “what we believe”, or vistion statement as such, buried in there somewhere.  But, notice how the store and donate sections are usually front page.

  6. I think church websites should have an obvious call-to-action button, as we web designers call it, called “Salvation Here,” and when someone clicks it, it will then launch a streaming video of a pastor giving a direct ‘alter call’ while lookin straight at the camera. After the alter call, the pastor should just give a simple invite to the church.

    As a website designer, for corporate/movies/clubs/restaraunts/botiques, it is my ginormous pet peeve when a website does not make it’s contact number or email button easily accessible.

    Talk about dropping the ball…

  7. Thanks for posting this data from a friend. I guess the one thing I suggest is that you document those ministries doing (in your opinion) a good job so others needing remedial help have a model for change. It is always easier to identify a problem than offer a constructive solution. Years of consulting with various ministries helped me to “curb the enthusiasm”. This was interesting.

  8. A few good ones on the web: Bill Winston, Joyce Meyer, John Hagee and Ken Copeland. They are worth studying and learning from.

  9. I really appreciate the research oriented method that Mary used to evaluate these different ministry websites.  The percentages give a reality check and the whole experiment tests  “appearance” vs. “substance”!  Integrity demands that we ask the hard questions: are we (really) about the Father’s business? This is a great reminder that it is all too easy to think the job is done…when the only thing done is the website.

    Kudos to those parts of the body that gave this “seeker” the information on how to get saved.


  10. We are on the doorstep of a re-design of our young church’s website and this post couldn’t have come at a better time. It is terrifying that someone would come across our web presence and have no idea how to take fundamental steps of faith in Jesus.

  11. Yes I agree we don’t need people being just online disciples but,
    If you respond to someone online and encourage them to belong to real community. Isn’t that our goal. But up the information is the first step and then drawing them into real community is the next step.

  12. I read this article several years ago and realized that even though I am an evangelist, I did not have any clear presentation of the Gospel on my website. I promptly recorded a video on “How to be Saved” and put it on my site. Now, a few years later, almost 70,000 people have watched the video! http://www.kingministries.com/salvation.html

    If someone contacts us asking for information about salvation, we send them a book, either by e-mail or snail mail.

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