I’ve often felt the same thing. But on the other hand, so many people with such diverse knowledge (or lack thereof) of theological teachings, much less familiarity with the particular labels you use for those teachings, could be reading the website, that it almost seems you need to write a book to tell people what your church is. And the moment it is long, people won’t read it.
Perhaps we can crowdsource here a way to helpfully describe (via its website) your church. Anybody have any suggestions?
Putting up the boilerplate is definitely the safe, committee-approved way to do it.
I’d probably write something in summary bullet points, like, “We hold to the historical Christian understanding of the Trinity,” and “We are Calvinist [except for…], but we don’t require you to be.”
I’d include links to definitions of terms like “Trinity” and “Calvinist” for folks who don’t know what those things mean or who want an understanding of what the phrase means to the elders in question. Keep the cover page short and sweet, and put as much detail as you like under the definitions, including possibly book recommendations.
In the past, I’ve always viewed this as a sign that a church is intentionally shallow doctrinally. However, I’m not so sure anymore. It is a good idea for someone considering attending the church to get a decent idea of what the church believes and does, and to have that information given concisely. Otherwise, they’ll just pass on by.
I’m not really sure this is a fair criticism. The same could be said about the Westminster Standards or the 3 Forms of Unity. They don’t necessarily tell you about the church, just what they claim to believe. You don’t really know about a church unless you attend, probably more than a few times. And boilerplate, at least in this context, probably actually means orthodox.
Add a bullet point or two about sexuality. That’s one of my litmus tests when looking for a place to worship on vacation — something that assures me that I won’t get surprised by a woman in the pulpit.
I went to a “PCA” church once on a trip. Everything was weird, from the women opening the doors for me to the old-man boy band preparing for worship, men dressed more casually than the congregation. Then a priestess was seen walking around on the high ground behind the band. I then checked the hymnal to find a familiar name, an old friend who had neutered the PCUSA hymnal. I escaped just as the priestess was coming to the podium. I hadn’t done my due diligence. This was the PCA church of town, the Presbyterian Church (USA) of Atown.
Thank God, an odd, unknown-denomination church was only a block away. There were still old ladies holding the door for me, but the vibe was different, friendlier. And the worship service was merely different than mine, not heretical, and very good enough.
Maybe. However, my dad started long haul trucking about 3-4 years ago, and when he looks for churches to attend while on the road, he’s told me that he will rarely attend an officially Reformed church anymore, despite being as reformed as can be. This is because even when the website seems to say everything you’d want to see, the church itself to often doesn’t hold to their stated positions, and this is obvious on one visit. He’d rather participate in a service he has disagreements with than one that’s liberal or borderline heretical.
I am curious about what kind of names you would think denote a good church.
This is what I mean when I said often you have to attend to get a feel for what the church is about.
None of this, however, takes away from the importance of publically stating a church’s beliefs on the website, but merely to point out that many churches lie on their website about what they actually believe and teach.
For me looking at websites, the litmus test is what they say about the bible and where they say it (as in, how far up the “about us” page). I’d rather go to a church I disagree with where they’re convinced of their position from scripture than one I agree with only by means of tradition/history.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a doctrinal statement that looked like a human being wrote it. They all look like one committee 85 years ago wrote it and everyone has been copying and pasting ever since.
I consider myself pretty well-informed for a layman, but I doubt I’d be able to find any flaws with any Trinitarian church’s doctrinal statement. I’m not even 100% sure I’d be able to spot a Oneness church from the doctrinal statement, though I probably could.
Oh, I did see a Christian university’s doctrinal statement that had some weird wording about the Holy Spirit. I never did figure out what it meant.
The elders/leaders page is where I do most of my learning about a church also, at least from a web page standpoint. And I also plead guilty to judging elder books by their covers, though it is good to remember that man sees the outward form while God sees the heart.