This year, we started using Google ads at our sites to a greater extend [See, for example, the right-hand margin of this page]. As you might imagine, this has led some Christians to question the wisdom of doing so. After all, Google's ads are matched to keywords and terms found at the page on which they are placed. This often leads to the display of ads for sites and products that promote the opposite of what we stand for.
That said, we have received surprisingly few negative remarks. Most people understand the reason why we carry those ads. Google's ads provide just a little bit of extra income. Right now, that goes toward paying off a huge loan for our new computer system (which replaced the one that crashed last month) and for the repair and upgrade of another system used by our guests for study & discipleship training.
Whenever we do receive questions or comments about the advertisements shown on Apologetics Index and Religion News Blog, we respond with the following message, slightly edited from an earlier reply:
Thank you for your concern.
Please allow us to share the reason why we carry Google's ads in the first place. Our only regular income comes from Janet's work (32 hours/week). I have been declared officially handicapped due to Chronic Fatigue and Immune Deficiency Syndrome (CFIDS). Hence we live on one income, which is just enough to take care of our regular, normal living expenses.
However, largely as a result of expenses associated with our online and offline ministry, we often have a negative bank balance. In other words, our normal budget does not at all allow for the expenses incurred by our online and offline ministry. We do receive some donations, but typically such gifts cover only a tiny fraction of our needs and expenses. The same is true for the commissions we receive from referrals to Amazon.com. (At one time we were able to use these commissions to purchase up-to-date research material, but in recent years we have had to use the money for other ministry-related expenses instead).
I should mention that we do not mind living this way, because we feel personally called to live by faith in this regard.
Google's ads provide just a little bit of extra income. Right now, that goes toward paying off a huge loan for our new computer system (which replaced the one that crashed last September), and for the repair and upgrade of another system used by our guests for study & discipleship training. (At the present rate, it will take us about 5 years to pay off the loan...)
We are, of course, aware of the fact that Google's ads often refer to sites that we would consider to be inappropriate at best. However, our thinking on this is as follows:
Apologetics Index itself provides links to sites Christians would consider inappropriate. Our collections of research resources include links to articles, sites and other research resources that advocate a variety of perspectives. Thus we have links to the Church of Scientology, Islamic sites, articles written by witches, sites operated by such heresy merchants as the Trinity Broadcasting Network and so on. Likewise, Religion News Blog includes news items from sources and perspectives that we do not necessarily agree with [Details].
The feedback we receive shows the fact that we include such material actually encourages many people who would normally not use a Christian site, to re-visit and use Apologetics Index and Religion News Blog. As best as we can determine, well over 60% of our guests come from a non-Christian background. We often hear from Muslims, witches and other Pagans, as well as from adherents of a wide variety of religions and movements - including such 'Christian' excesses as Benny Hinn worshippers and Rick Joyner fans. As a result, AI and RNB are among just a handful of Christian apologetics & countercult sites that do not primarily 'preach to the choir.' We sow - and reap(!) - in fresh fields :) (An example: our log files show that a high percentage of people who visit the Apologetics Index entry on Witchcraft arrive via links found at sites operated by witches and other pagans).
That said, in between the 'inappropriate' Google ads we regularly see Christian ads. For example, Google ads alongside our entries on Mormonism and The Book of Mormon often includes links to irr.org - and from feedback received we know people do visit that site. Frankly, we hope that more and more Christians ministries will sign up with Google's AdWords program. You'll find your links posted at websites where they normally would not show up.
Janet and I view our place on the Internet much the same way we view our presence in Amsterdam. We operate our online ministry the same way we work offline. That is, we're steadfast in what we believe and stand for, and we take every freedom afforded to us to proclaim the Gospel, teaching, preaching, encouraging, rebuking and correcting in season and out of season. At the same time, we believe in - and support - the freedom of people to make their own choices. We're opionated, but we are also tolerant toward people whose lifestyle and religious beliefs we do not necessarily agree with. Most people do not mind that we also make sure they understand our tolerance should not be interpreted as approval. As a result, we come in places most Christians would shy away from, and get to minister the Gospel of Jesus Christ to people who are used to receiving condemnation rather than love from Christians.
By the way, note that the Google ads people see differ from country to country.
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