Members In Action
If you have Googled “Adventist” or “Ellen White” in the past several years, chances are you’ve noticed websites, articles, blog posts, or discussions that make fervent yet inaccurate statements about the Adventist Church. Much of this content can be downright derogatory—and these “grudge websites” often show up on the top of the first page of search results.
You may have a friend or relative who was curious about Adventism, perhaps even studying the fundamental beliefs until they came across troubling or confusing content on the Internet that caused them to discontinue their study. According to several Adventist evangelists, this phenomenon is not uncommon—and it could be hindering the top-notch evangelistic efforts of every ASI member. We may well have lost many seekers before we even get to meet them.
The Center for Online Evangelism realizes the urgency of this situation, which is responsible for placing stumbling blocks at the feet of countless seekers. So Project Caleb, an initiative of the center, was established to do something about the unfair, inaccurate, inflammatory content marring the Adventist name across the Internet—the online mission field.
The answer lies in a common practice from the business world called Online Reputation Management (ORM). Project Caleb is bringing this practice into the Adventist sphere, where it can do the most good—drowning out inaccurate, unfair, and misleading content by publishing and promoting truthful, inspiring, and helpful content that points upward to our Savior and His soon return.
Most of today’s conversations take place online—on blogs, forums, social media, and more. Using prayerful ORM methods, Project Caleb aims to go where the people are, strategically sharing content that answers common questions, addresses common misconceptions, and tells the story of hope that is the heart of Seventh-day Adventism.
This may sound simple, but significant precautions must be taken. Existing negative websites have to be studied carefully, without adding “hits” to their activity. Attempting to interact directly with these websites is also not recommended, as they are more likely to become provoked and continue their negative content rather than listen to reason. Furthermore, for the new content to rank on page one of search results, it has to be original (not copied from other websites), based on keyword research, and the website it appears on has to be optimized for Google’s algorithms and indexing methods. And this new content has to continue being created regularly, or the search engine visibility plummets.
When ORM is carried out effectively and consistently, however, the negative websites will eventually be pushed down the page of search results and be replaced by the newly-optimized accurate and engaging content.
Project Caleb is launching an Ask-an-Adventist website, crafted to “catch” search engine traffic for common questions about Adventism and lead them toward real answers. Plans are also underway for several other websites, blogs, and social media campaigns with a variety of focuses so as to appeal to the numerous demographics within the online mission field.
In many ways the principles of ORM translate well into our lives as devout Christians. There is much evil in the world, as our enemy is busy—he knows his time is nearly up. It is up to us, as followers of Christ, not to be deterred by the “giants” that stand in our way but to continue forward, in the spirit of Caleb and Joshua. They were not afraid to venture into the Promised Land, staying positive and focused on a God-given goal. It’s time to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21), going where the people are and freely sharing the Good News of the gospel amid a hurting, confused world.