8 Lessons from My Secret

September 6, 2006 by

An Internet confessional booth?

That’s what LifeChurch.tv has provided web surfers with their Internet site MySecret.tv–an online drop box of sorts where people can anonymously post their secret sins.

Right out of the gate, LifeChurch provided the site with all the proper elements to start a marketing virus that most of us, in church marketing circles, still drool at–providing church members with yard signs, bumper stickers and easy-to-use online links, graphics and videos.

The frenzy has been incredible. It’s stirred discussions–online and off. Incited some criticism. Generated tons of media attention. And in the process, a bunch–I mean, a bunch–of people have actually gone online and come clean–anonymously, of course–to the deepest, darkest, hidden sins in their lives.

They’ve gotten some things off their chest

And I have something to get off my chest as well–a confession if you will: I live and work about four miles from LifeChurch’s main campus in Edmond, Okla. I’ve watched the whole frenzy surrounding the church and web site with great interest, concern, excitement, maybe a little envy, and more concern.

It’s given me–as the “marketing” director of my church–an opportunity to reflect and evaluate how I, we, us, should approach this technology known as the Internet and use it in a manner worthy of the Gospel.

Here are some of my thoughts as I’ve watched MySecret and LifeChurch from just around the corner:

1. The Internet can be an incredibly powerful tool for ministry–in the same realm as say, TV, then before it, radio, then way back to that thing called the printing press.

Churches like LifeChurch.tv, Granger Community Church, and FellowshipChurch.com have demonstrated the power of the Internet as a tool for ministry in the 21st century. They’ve integrated Internet technology into the DNA of how they “do” church. In fact, a couple of them even have spin-off companies or ministries to distribute the technology and techniques they’ve created to other churches.

2. We must continually test and refine the Internet’s use in ministry by biblical principles.

As with any tool–whether it’s a printed tract, or using Hollywood movies as sermon illustrations, or [insert anything that’s never been done or used before in church here]–it must be wielded and used appropriately and biblically.

All tools must be filtered, tested, refined through biblical principles. The question must continually be asked: “Does this violate or impede upon a clear Scriptural mandate or principle?” “Are we crossing a line and going too far in using this tool?”

And on the flip side, “Have we gone far enough?”

3. Churches using the Internet, like this, are risk-taking pioneers.

LifeChurch and others are currently blazing a trail for those of us back in the well-groomed and comfortable fields of ministry and church life. For good and bad, they are often going where no local church has gone before.

Frankly, I admire that kind of gusto.

As with the raw pathways cut by American frontier trailblazers, we have the luxury of following behind them, and having seen their “successful” trails as well as the mistakes and failures of expeditions that crashed and burned before us–we can learn from, refine and polish them for great effectiveness and biblical faithfulness.

And throw out what didn’t work or discard that which went too far.

4. Mistakes will happen.

Pioneering risk takers will make mistakes. Sometimes they’ll even be wrong. Dead wrong. They may go too far, cross the line and wind up in a grey area some might call “heresy” (whether it is or not).

But they’ll also discover new ways of reaching people in our culture without sacrificing biblical integrity or witness.

5. It might get messy.

Stepping out into the unknown will usually get messy, dirty and perhaps even ugly. Those on the forefront of cutting-edge ministry have gotten and will, perhaps, always get mud on their face. And some of their tactics and techniques could backfire–embarrassing them and tarnishing their reputations and witness in their communities. [See No. 3, or peruse some of the confessions made on MySecret.]

6. There’s a price to pay.

Take a bold step out and try something new and with it often comes an avalanche of criticism. Risk takers in ministry have to defend themselves from people outside the Christian camp and inside the camp as well. People will get outright offended, angry and rude. They may even call you names for doing something new.

I’m thankful for those with more courage than me to brave the looming barrage of bile and rudeness as well as the godly and accurate critiques, the questions and accountability of doing something new for Jesus and his kingdom.

I just hope the price will never be the infinitely valuable Gospel.

The flip side is that there’s a price to pay for not being bold. Too many of our churches are paying that price.

7. The world (and the media) may show up on your front doorstep.

By my count, they’ve garnered the front page of the state’s largest newspaper (on the biggest day of a newspaper’s week–Sunday), generated numerous television news reports on it (in Oklahoma as well as in Arizona, the site of one of their campuses), been the headline of blog posts and subject line of a countless amount of emails, and perhaps been the topic of hundreds or thousands of conversations around the water cooler, mailbox and dinner table.

At last report LifeChurch had 150,000 hits to the MySecret.tv site and more than 1,500 “confessions.” And that was before the New York Times story.

Lesson learned: Be bold, try something new, see it take off like a bottle rocket and you’d better be prepared to confront the tidal wave of the “who, what, when, where, how,” and most importantly, “why” questions that will come your way.

8. Sin is still sensational.

The media loves sensation. And sin–in particular, sex, lust, adultery (check the “confessions” out to see for yourself)–still sell like funnel cakes at a state fair. Just ask Granger about the attention mylamesexlife.com received.

Sin and sex gets people’s attention.

I confess … it got mine.

One Final Thought
In the end, I think I, we, us have to also remember that this Internet thing, well, it’s just a tool. It’s one of those instruments in our toolkit that we can use to help accomplish our mission.

But it has to remain just a tool. It can’t ever get in front of, or replace, the main thing–Jesus. Anything that takes away from him, or garners more attention than his message is just another golden calf.

Tools have to be used in a way that help the message reach the hearts and minds of those we seek to save.

That goes for marketing in general as well. In the divine order, the message has to come before the marketing. Marketing is the slave of the message. It is subject ultimately, as we are, to the client.

If the message is the box, marketing is the method of distribution. Marketing is the truck, train, or plane by which that box is delivered. The contents in the box must always stay the same, but the way that box is distributed can change, right?

From spoken word and story, to the mass printed page, to a talking box with antennae, then glass screen of color images, to an interactive, worldwide, 24/7, electronically-transmitted medium that includes all the above in unison … Jesus and his life-changing, life-transforming message has remained the same over 2,000 years … the old, old story, the ancient faith passed down from generation to generation, the genuine article.

Post By:

Cory Miller

Cory Miller served as a church communications director in Oklahoma City and launched Church Communications Pro to share his experiences in church communications and marketing. Today he runs the WordPress theme service iThemes.
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12 Responses to “8 Lessons from My Secret”

  • Mike Goodwin
    September 6, 2006

    Great thoughts. My church’s website is still in its infancy, but things like this inspire me to dream big. However, I especially appreciate your point that Christ must be the center of everything. Our desire for technology, trendiness, coolness, etc. can often lead us away from biblical principles and the life-changing power of faith in Christ, which has changed people long before the Internet was even thought of. Let’s never forget that Jesus didn’t need a website or promotional campaign to draw thousands.

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  • C. Michael Pilato
    September 6, 2006

    Hrm. I’m trying really hard to find value in a site like MySecret.tv. Sure, nice buzz for the hosting organization. But what beyond that?
    I’d be interested in knowing what percentage of the site’s visitors actually contribute content. Is this really about people making confessions — attempting to offload weighty feelings of guilt for their spiritual health’s sake — or is it just a cheap marketing tactic that plays to a world hooked on reality TV shows by providing, free of charge, hours and hours of delightful dirty-little-secrets reading?
    Not all means can be justified by some professed-yet-undemonstrated end.

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  • NonProphet
    September 6, 2006

    Isn’t this just a ripoff of one of the top ranking blogs on the net > postsecret.com?… I’m not sure how you call taking someone else’s idea ‘innovative’.

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  • The Aesthetic Elevator
    September 7, 2006

    “Confess your sins one to another . . . ”
    This is something the church hasn’t done all that well at in my growing up years, but over the last decade seems to have come to better understand.
    I know anonymity has it’s perks, but finding someone you have a relationship deep enough with to share these things face-to-face seems to me a better idea.

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  • Cory Miller
    September 7, 2006

    NonProphet — ripoff is a strong word. I’d say more like they used an idea that caught on elsewhere. Maybe even “inspiration.” I don’t see anything necessarily wrong with taking concepts and ideas and using them in your context. Is anything truly original?
    But on the other side, Aesthetic, has a good point. In the post, I didn’t go into the actual concept of using a web site for anonymous confessions directly. The one thing I’ll say is that Craig [LifeChurch pastor] was quoted as saying that the site is supposed to be “step 1” not just confess anonymous and leave it there.
    Check out the Mysecret.tv site right now — Craig’s got a great 3.5 minute video there to help clarify the site’s purpose and presents the gospel. Kudos, brother Craig! Kudos!

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  • The Fuse
    September 7, 2006

    The pastor who started mysecret.tv, Craig Groeschel, has written a book called “Confessions of a Pastor” http://www.amazon.com/Confessions-Pastor-Adventures-Dropping-Getting/dp/1590527208/ref=sr_11_1/103-4766638-8699063?ie=UTF8
    Interesting that he would choose to be publicly open and forthright about his own sins and struggles without the veil of anonymity offered through mysecret.tv.

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  • Delores Williams
    September 8, 2006

    I think it is a novel idea. The Internet is not just a tool, but a lifestyle for most Americans. If you do not have a Website then quite frankly most people will not give you a second thought. I won’t.
    People that are having a hard time accepting that the Internet is valuable are just stuck in tradition.
    The secrets Website is great. Yes, there can be issues like if people admitted to crimes, but then all the Anonymous groups have a protection, so why should people have to tell who they are online.
    Sin is only a thief if it is kept secret. That is when it will take you by the neck and choke you. Many people do not have relationships where they feel comfortable enough to share what is going on in their life. That is one of the sad realities of busyness today.
    So, if a person wants to get something off their chest then go for it.
    Another thought is why do people care who is confessing. That is the Hollywood mentality. Everyone wants to know what is going on in someone else’s life. The world does not have a right to know all about you, so why would you want to know about them.
    Let them repent. If they go to Jesus then cool. If it leads them to a search for God, then great. If it leads people to follow a person then that is another issue. An issue which does not appear to be here.
    Kudos to a church willing to look for ways to help a generation that no longer cares about potluck Sundays.

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  • ErikEast
    September 11, 2006

    innovative, creative, & ballsy; our area museum has a space for ”dirty little secrets” shared anonymously; if this new venue helps ppl to be more honest, humble, human & therefore more genuinely spiritual, G-d bless it for the season it will bear fruit beyond a new passing fad; then we will cyberly need to repent corporately for making the new thing the popular thing; ie, the only cool thing!kiss ur cross, and get a mouthful of splinters!

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  • RC of strangeculture
    September 11, 2006

    Interesting thoughts and lessons learned…thanks for digesting it in this thoughtful way.
    –RC of strangeculture.blogspot.com

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  • Carri
    January 11, 2007

    Where did you find this guestbook by the way??? I’d like to have one like this on one of my sites!!!

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  • Sarah
    February 28, 2007

    I really liked what you had to say and all the points you brought up.
    It’s good to be reminded that our focus and our goals should line up with what Christ commissioned us (his church) to do.

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  • mdalton
    May 29, 2007

    “Internet thing, well, it’s just a tool. It’s one of those instruments in our toolkit that we can use to help accomplish our mission.”
    Maybe the Internet is more than just a tool in the 2nd Chapter of Acts when the holy spirit fell in that upper room they began to speak in unknown tongues but yet the people understood in there own language maybe the internet is that language we need to learn to speak…

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