Thursday, March 24, 2011

Playing the Numbers Game, but Claiming Victory beyond Statistics

A website’s success can be measured by a variety of statistics, including:
  • Total Hits: How many times did someone, anyone at all, visit your website?
  • Unique Visitors: Were most of those hits from your Aunt Sally, who is totally endeared by your website, or did a large number of people from across the globe visit your site?
  • Page Views: Did the visitors look at one webpage only, or did they explore several pages of your website?
  • Feedback: How many clicked “Like” on Facebook, or left a comment on a blog?
  • Search Engine Rank: Is your organization’s site at the top of the list when people search for related services, or does it go unnoticed?
  • Friends/Connections Count: How many Facebook friends, or LinkedIn connections, do you have?
By many measures, prolifers are losing the numbers game. Consider the following statistics, gathered recently from

OrganizationRankLinks In
(Lower is Better)(Higher is Better)
Planned Parenthood6,709th2,833
Life Site News15,340th1,770
Albert Mohler25,560th1027
Athanatos Christian Ministries82,152nd21
Priests for Life119,313th926
Abortion Facts119,977th291
Americans United for Life236,501st165
American Life League241,689th561
National Right to Life443,593rd18

Of the sites compared above, all but Planned Parenthood are pro-life, and yet Planned Parenthood ranks so much higher that it holds pace against the combined efforts of its pro-life alternatives. According to, about 0.006% of internet users on a given day visit Planned Parenthood site, a traffic volume that the combined efforts of the pro-life sites listed above would fail to match were it not for Albert Mohler’s pro-life blog.

The Rev. R. Albert Mohler’s site attracts 0.002% of the internet’s daily users, or one-third Planned Parenthood’s traffic volume. As the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, which is the flagship institution of the Southern Baptist Convention—America’s largest Protestant church body—Mohler understandably attracts visitors.

Perhaps more surprising, Athanatos Christian Ministries, coordinated primarily by a single individual, Anthony Horvath, attracts a greater share of internet traffic than several larger pro-life establishments. Horvath’s strategic implementation of social media apparently has worked.

So, what next? Perhaps a call to action is in order. Prolifers, get blogging! Launch a Facebook page! Advertise your website!

On second thought, perhaps our attention should look beyond the scoreboard of the numbers game and consider a more fundamental, even if less measurable, marker of success. To understand the difference, a brief theology lesson may help. Christianity at times suffers a schism between the Theology of Glory and the Theology of the Cross:
  • Theology of Glory: Theologians of glory triumph by the same standards that mark worldly victories. They think a successful ministry will have numerical growth, financial stability, and other positive indicators recognized in the world of business. Theologians of glory expect to be blessed on this earth with health, wealth, status, or other characteristics of a prosperous and fulfilling life. When such blessings are lacking, they conclude that their faith is not strong enough or their prayers are not earnest enough.
  • Theology of the Cross: Theologians of the cross recognize that God Himself was most victorious when most vulnerable and, indeed, when most defeated—dead on the cross of Calvary. Although God at times blesses His people with material abundance, He also works mysteriously through suffering, poverty, and other humbling circumstances. A ministry that is struggling is not necessarily worse off than a ministry that is prospering by worldly standards. Hidden in the womb of a first-century Galilean virgin was the very Son of God, hidden in the tragedy of Good Friday was the triumph of Easter Sunday, hidden in the waters of Holy Baptism is the life-giving Spirit of adoption into Christ’s Kingdom, hidden in the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper is the life-giving Body and Blood of Christ Himself.
Would it be desirable that pro-life social media developers find a way to out-compete Planned Parenthood’s website? Certainly. But would that suffice for victory? Is it even a necessary component of victory?

Under the theology of the cross, pro-life advocates claim victory each time they “salt” their conversations with encouraging words to a struggling mother, or sacrifice their daily schedules to share a woman’s burden when she fears she can’t go on with her pregnancy, or model by example what it means to be a supportive husband. Here is a vision for pro-life ministry under the theology of the cross:
The goal is not so much to beat Planned Parenthood’s website at the numbers game, but rather to reach people—one interpersonal relationship at a time—so effectively that no matter how many Planned Parenthood billboards, Facebook pages, or tax-payer funded media campaigns reach a mass audience, that audience will already feel so well supported by life-affirming family and friends as to render abortion unthinkable.
Can social media be an effective component in building that life-affirming community of support, a component that supplements rather than displaces face-to-face relationships? Yes. With that in mind, soup up your website, get blogging, post a compassionate Facebook status update, and prepare to tweet for life!

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