Heal Your Church WebSite

Teaching, rebuking, correcting & training in righteous web design.

Does bad theology induce bad church website design?

Is it just me, or is there a correlation between flimsy theology and flaky web design?Doh! A site so badly design, you'd think Homer did it!

Seriously, having reviewed hundreds of sites after sifting through thousands since May of 2002, I have to believe there is some linkage between bad theology and worse web designs.

Case in point, “Bible Truths” which among its barrage of kitschy animated gifs and cheesy graphics, this site erroneously preaches:

Fortunately, here’s one case where webmaster Don Martin (no, not THAT Don Martin)  obfuscates the site’s not-so-compelling content by rendering plain text with the same color as the hyperlinks (usually not a good idea, but in this case I’ll make an exception).

Had the latter not be underlined, I may have never come up with 5 things we can learn from this FrontPage induced visual assault:

  1. Just as tricks are for kids, so too are animated gifs are for silly rabbits.
  2. If you have to say “click on the door to enter …” on the graphic link into the website’s site map, then it means the whole point of a picture saying 1000 words is lost here.
  3. Don’t use the evil marquee tag to tell people how to navigate back to the page their currently on. It distracts while potentially causing the user to ‘use your “Back”‘ button at the wrong time.
  4. Why hide the light of your site search engine under a basket? Make it VERy conspicious on EVERY page.
  5. Using images for page, sermon, lesson and other titles instead of text to represent text means said information is hidden from Google and Yahoo.

Of course none of this matters without a theological make-over. But let’s say by some miracle it happens, then I’d also recommend the webmaster consider the following tools to better organize, maintain, and serve up said content:

  • drupal – especially leveraging add-ons for books and lessons
  • moodle – an open source application created to manage coursework
  • mediaWiki – a great tool for enumerating encyclopedic information

So whatta you think? Leave a comment, in love!

UPDATE 10Jul08  – after you’re done here, check out the follow-up article entitled ‘Follow-up: bad church web design inspired by bad theology.’ It might clarify some concerns or questions you have – or it just might make ya all the madder !-)


  1. A person’s artistic skills and their Theology are not related. Your remarks are a little on the dirty side. I’ve really enjoyed your website for the great information on web design, but this article causes me to rethink the wisdom of reading further as it doesn’t reflect the loving nature you have exhibited to this point.

    Peter tells us clearly in Acts 2:38 on the day the New Testament church was established what we must do to be saved.


  2. A little on the dirty side? How so? What obscenities or tawdry verbal imagery have I detailed to endure such (false) accusations?

    Egad, and what of the clear instruction from Paul in Ephesians 2:8? Or even Colossians 3:17 for that matter – as I think the latter verse is far more relevant in terms of the lack of effort in usable web design and its correlation to lazy theology.

    Jiminy Crickets, no one is going to agree with me 100% on anything – but cutting your HTML nose off to spite my theological face is about as wise as labeling the above post as ‘dirty.’ No need to go nuclear when a healthy discussion would have sufficed.

  3. Sorry, I wish the comment box had the body language to show that I wasn’t “going nuclear.” Even though I don’t know him, I was just bummed that you compared the man’s artistic talents to his doctrine.

    The fact that I agree that a water baptism is required was a side note. I agree that we have God’s grace to save us Eph 2:8, but I don’t believe that removes the requirement to be baptised. We see several conversion events in Acts that all mention the act of baptism in connection to them.

  4. Thanks for the clarification Butch, it reminds me to write a post on how others perceive what we’re saying in the electronic medium much differently than in person (oh don’t worry, I have a large enough log in my own eye to make that point quite easily w/out having to pluck the speck out of others !-)

  5. I suspect that it does. What I think will even more effect the nature of the website, is the church’s theology of church. If they tend to think of church as a building they ‘go to’ to attend meetings, that’s what the site will reflect. If they tend to think of church as a 24/7 family, that really wants new people to join that web of relationships, then they are going to have a different flavor of website.



  6. An noted above “bad theology” and “erroneous doctrine” charges can go both ways. I’d expect Don would probably say faith only, hereditary depravity, and the like are error.

    That being said, though, there’s not a lot of defense for the state of the site. It looks like it was hacked together over a weekend with Frontpage a decade ago and not changed since. I think there’s even one of those annoying page transitions somewhere in there. Don’s a preacher in a non-institutional church of Christ; unfortunately, a lot of NI church/individual sites suffer from the same flaws. (TO play devil’s advocate, though, expecting a 60-70 year old guy to master Drupal and port over a few thousand articles for his personal site is probably not a viable solution, either.)

    Kind of like some preachers I know whose Sunday bulletins from last week look like the same as the ones they put together in the 70s…

  7. I have to say, I agree with Butch, I found the tie of bad design and bad theology unfortunate. There are thousands of folks in Churches of Christ, Christian churches, Disciples of Christ and (I believe) Nazarene churches who believe in water baptism for forgiveness and therefore salvation. Many of the early church fathers speak of ‘baptism for forgiveness’. Even the Nicene creed, which most denominations support, says so.

    Now, I won’t defend the site’s bullet point defense of the theology nor necessarily every point so bulleted. That sort of proof texting doesn’t get folks very far in my experience. Feels like getting beat with a “truth” stick.

    Though I do see baptism as necessary for forgiveness, it is not a litmus test for us to see who’s in and who’s out. Unfortunately, many who believe in the necessity of baptism (at one time myself included) use it as such. We then beat people up who do not agree with things like that bullet point list of why it’s necessary. I find the grace of baptism for forgiveness is a beautiful and necessary thing, but I recognize that it is God who saves and he has the prerogative to save with or without baptism.

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