Harvest Time Tabernacle – Fort Smith, AK

* UPDATE – 09-Dec-02 * The site critiqued in this post has made some dramatic improvements. While the techniques discussed here are still valid, the example offered is no longer relevant. Please make a note to read the post entitled “Harvest Time Tabernacle Revisited” after reading this post.

* * *

Kensington, Maryland, not only infamous for banning Santa Claus, but a near-tragic train derailment today (09-Dec-02 … and also now the sniper thing). In fact, I live just a few miles away from where it all happened. Close enough that my house was once considered part of Kensington. Gerrymandering aside, my family is still protected by a heavy engine and ladder company which fortunately is located less than a mile from the crash-site. Moreover, the incident occurred near an industrial part, which mean volunteers with ladders, ropes and heavy equipment on the scene in an instant.

Not that anyone wanted this, but if you’re going to tip over, mid-Montgomery County is the place to do it. With a population of over 850,000, it is able to support several well equipped rescue companies, many of which were on the scene within minutes. I also have the honor of knowing some of the brave and capable men and women working for both the Fire and Police Departments. The unfortunate victims were in good hands.

Interestingly enough, you would think sucha huge area could host a mega-church or two. And while there are a couple two and/or three thousand person churches here, you would think such an overgrown metropolis so near Washington D.C. would have enough of a population to support one on every corner. Instead, we have a lot of little churches with congregations in the quarter to half-thousand range (that’s 250 to 500 for you victims of an outcome-based education system). Much of it has to do with the transient nature of the residents.

So what’s your point Dean ?-! – Glad you Asked !~)

Recently my attention was directed to a church web site located in Fort Smith Arkansas, who’s population is a mere 1/10th to Montgomery County’s (that’s about 85k for those of you who haven’t enjoyed the intellectual benefits of home schooling). Which means any church in that town with a 2k+ population has got to have something compelling to write home about. If that is the case, then it should be reflected in compelling content of the church’s website. Take for example the Harvest Time Tabernacle in Fort Smith Arkansas.

This church hosts a congregation of about 3,000 which means you can probably expect 2,000 there every Sunday. That’s a big church folks – at least for this big city guy used to churches 1/10th the size. Which means you might expect BIG CONTENT on their web site. On the contrary. While I do give them credit for offering detail about their Sunday School Curriculum there isn’t much else there online. I’ll bet you dollars to donuts, this lack of text does not accurately reflect the flurry of activities that probably go on at such a large church in such a small town.

Yes, there are some technical issues here, the biggest two being a pair of pictures on the front page that come in at around a bandwidth gagging 40kb. That and white text on the sandpaper background can get lost in a hurry. But I digress, because the singular issue I’d heal on this site first is content.

Churches of all sizes make this mistake. They don’t quite understand that the internet is no longer just a place for a pretty online brochure. As I’ve said before you need to determine your target audiences and shoot for them, all the while conveying your church’s personality and purpose in a two dimensional format. As the population continues to become more internet savvy, they are going to depend on their surfing to help them determine if a particular church is their cup of tea.

A church the size of Harvest Time Tabernacle simply needs more compelling conent. Anything less is hiding one’s light under a basket.

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Truth Laid Bear Hacked ?

It would appear that the The Truth Laid Bear, a site kind to us with several links and the purveyor of the Blogosphere Ecosystem has been hacked.
Either that or he’s gone prophetic and very Jakob Nielsen on us with a front page that dated
July 28, 2014.
NewsFlashToDean – it’s NOT A HACK – but rather a clever use of Bear’s site to talk about the present in past tense. Kudos – both on the cleverness of your blog and for freaking me out !-)
Update Bear writes back to read to the bottom – of course, being sleep deprived from launching blogs4God … well it wasn’t until I went back to TruthaidBear if I could figure out what type of hack/exploit was used – then and only then did I see the link at the bottom … DUH ! Being an MovableType user low on Java, I had an immediate sense of panic … my bad!

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blogs4God is open for business

Dean Peters
blogs4God.com announces their “Definitive List of Christian Blogs”
Washington, DC-MD-VA-WV – When Australian author Martin Roth added a small list of weblog-based web sites to his article “Blogging for the Lord” in April of 2002, little did he know that he was planting a mustard seed that would soon branch into a 200+ link forest by June the same year. Nor did he realize the work that it would spawn in the form of dozens of daily emails and site submissions. Enter the geek, Dean Peters.
When Mr. Peters, a computer programmer and technical author visited Martin’s site in mid-May, he immediately realized the need to automate the list and offered to help Mr. Roth maintain the list. By June, not only was Mr. Roth ready to accept the help, he graciously handed the list over to Mr. Peters.
On July 29, 2002, with the help of notable “bloggers” Bene Diction, Rachel Cunliffe and Joshua Claybourn, blogs4God.com will open its doors as the “Definitive Portal for Christian Blogs.” The site will offer a variety of user-friendly features such as moderated categories, reviews and ratings, a site-wide search engine and a daily blog on the front page.
As Mr. Peters likes to put it “there is no need for Christian bloggers to hide their light under a basket as long as blogs4God is around.”
You can visit the site, and even post comments at: http://www.blogs4god.com
Mr. Peters is a computer programmer who likes to share 20 years experience and Master’s degree in Computer Science on his blog HealYourChurchWebSite.com and was recently a contributing author to Vincent Flanders’ best seller “Son of Web Pages That Suck.”

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New Slogan Entry

Last Sunday, The Shifted Librarian quoted Frank McPherson’s thought on relevance of the internet in church selection. Attached to this blog is a comment offerd by Eliot Landrum in which he says nice things about HealYourChurchWebSite.com.

In his comment, he says of this site that it is “… constantly challenging churches to have a better web presence.” Not only a nice thing to say, but pithy enough to become one of my rotatoe-slogans you read atop the page. Hit refresh a few times if you don’t get it !-)

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PHPHelp with CGI Enviroment

<php > is not my native language. I speak is as about as fluently as I speak German or Spanish – two languages I studied, and can read, but heaven help you if I need to speak it. Mostly its a vocabulary thing. Not speaking in these various tongues, I tend to forget the vocabulary and syntax.

So to with <php >

Which is why I was so glad to find the following page to remind me on how to Access the CGI Enviroment variables … appropriately names Basics of Accessing the CGI Enviroment.

Actually the entire site is a pretty good resource if you ask me – though if you must ask in a language other than English, make sure you speak slowly and clearly.

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GospelCom.Net Responds to my Open Letter

In response to my Open Letter to Christian Media Outlets of July 24, 2002, I received the following response (note, the hyperlinks within the article are mine):

Date: 7/25/2002
From: JR Whitby
To: Dean Peters
Subject: BG [gospelcom.net #53868]
Thanks for taking the time to write to us about the Bible Gateway. Dean, With the hundreds of messages we receive for the Bible Gateway each week, it’s nice to get encouraging messages about cool feature requests like this once in a while. ;-)The Bible Gateway does not currently offer the type of interface you’re suggesting, but it is something we’ve been researching for a while. We have been involved with a couple of the initial meetings for the Open Scriptural Information Standard (OSIS) [http://www.bibletechnologies.net/], and are continuing to follow the development of the schema [http://www.bibletechnologies.net/schemadoc.cfm]. We are honored to be working with organizations such as ABS and IBS that are helping lead the way for these standards. This type of work is consistent with the philosophy that’s driven the open source projects we’ve published in the past [http://oss.gospelcom.net/].

Providing an XML interface is in our plans for the future, and is something we want to provide. We are working to make this type of syndication easier for site owners like yourself, while ensuring we meet the requirements and copyrights of the versions that have been provided to us from the various publishers. As resources become available, we will continue our development along these lines.

Thanks again for the suggestions!


J.R. Whitby
Vice President, Gospel Communications International
Director, www.gospelcom.net
The most popular Christian site on the Internet

Well, it’s not the answer I wanted, but it sure was the nicest response I could have hoped for. And while I’m glad to see XML in discussion, I’m hoping they’ll realize that XML-based API need not be contingent on the rendering of their systems in XML. In other words, I’m hoping they shoot for an API in the short term, while working on documenting Christendom in XML in the long term.

Still, a very nice response from a good ways up the food chain.
Believe me, it IS appreciated!

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Webmaster Excellence Award


That was my reaction when I recieved the following e-mail last night:

Congratulations. You have been selected to be the first recipient of the Claybourn ‘Webmaster Excellence Award.’ It promotes and recognizes web sites that are original, well designed and full of content. The program looks for sites with a new concept and different approach. Recipients provide positive information and/or valuable resources to the Internet Community. For more information on the award, click here: http://www.joshclaybourn.com/award.html

Continue reading

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Evil Animated Gif Background

UPDATE – 04feb04 – The site originally reviewed (see Wayback Machine Archive) has since been healed. Good work!

Though I now attend a Baptist church, I grew up in the Greek Orthodox faith. I would like to go back some day, but not until Hellenic Americans and Greeky Greeks both realize that the issue isn’t about culture, it is about Christianity! Sound, scripturally based Christianity. Until said time, this second-generation American, sola-scriptura/sola-gracia type of guy is forced to wander in the wilderness.

Why do I long to go back? Beauty, honor, reverence. More than once I’ve wanted to ‘heal’ one of my beloved teenagers at Redland as they yack away during the reading of Scripture or the distribution of Communion. Not at a Greek Orthodox Church. As an alterboy from ages 8 to 14, I know just how Divine the Liturgy is. I still have the urge to stand when the Bible is opened for a reading. I long for the days when dreary ‘contemporary’ chapels will include icons, murals and other great works of art – as opposed to felt praise banners and plexiglass pulpits.

This is why it is so unfathomable to me to find anyone out of the Eastern Orthodox church present such a garrish representation of Orthodox Church and Bible Study Links (note, updated to reflect archive). This is something I might expect from … welll … a Baptist !-)

My personal feelings about faith aside, there are some serious technical issues about this site that need to be addressed – and healed. First and foremost, the evil animated .gif backround image. DON’T DO THAT! It is bad enough that the dark background hides most of the dark blue text, or that there are so many fonts and colors that it is difficult to figure out which is what, but please don’t irritate my eyes with blinking/flashing lites.

Other issues this site needs to address are the use of Java Applets for rollover buttons. A technology that is not only on the outs browser-wise, but is being denied by a variety of corporate firewalls. And once again, we find an image (of an Orthdox Cross) which is over 10kb in size. Once again, using the <img> tag to resize the image does not change the physical size of the image. And wait, is that Jesus Junk I spot in the form of an e-mail animated gif at the bottom of the page? ARRRGGG!

This web servant needs to ditch the 1997, Heaven’s Gate look and strip out all the gizmos, flashing gifs, etc and then find a sane color scheme and re-render the site so that it is readable. Once that is done, the person in charge might want to reconsider links such as “What the Bible Says About Worshiping With Non-Orthodox” and Are Orthodox Christians Saved? in light of Scripture such as Galatians 3:28-29 and/or Romans 10:9 & 10.

BTW, I have indeed found one or two Greek Orthodox churches that have their act theological together, unforunately the closest one is about 200 miles away from my home in Rockville, MD!

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IBM on Ease of Use

K.I.S.S. = a popular acronym for Keep It Simple Stupid. Or to paraphrase David WinerGet Outta Your User’s Way! A concept that is all but lost with many church and para-church web designers. I have a juicy example uf one coming up later today.

But like all good students, a bit of research first: IBM/Ease of Use/Design.
A series of resources for conveying your come compelling content without the collusion of spinning animated gifs, flashing backgrounds, gawdy colors and of course, my least favorite church web site design concept – Jesus Junk! More on that last item sometime next month.

Credit EastNode for the link.

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