LeaderU's 10th: A Decade of Growth & Impact

 “Through such a multi-faceted site…LeaderU has helped to give a global impact to my ministry.”

Dr. William Lane Craig

Metadata [MEH-tuh-day-tuh]: noun; information or data about data, hidden within Web pages for gaining ranking in Internet search engines. 

This Special Focus: the hidden story behind this Web site, a source of thousands of quality scholarly and informed resources. Our regular thematic Special Focus features will continue next month as usual.

The Wild, Wild Web

Ten years ago, the Internet—largely a digital domain for geeks and scholars sharing plain, textual documentation—was being revolutionized by the advent of things called "sites" on the emergent World Wide Web. Suddenly, a graphically enhanced, hyperlinked matrix of html-coded pages could launch an organization, a business or even Joe Average into worldwide prominence—or at least potentially so. According to The Economist (June 11, 2005), "A decade ago, the Internet had less than 20 million users. By 1999, when it had reached 150 million users, dotcoms were being formed every day." The sky was the limit and all one had to do to appear online was buy a domain name and serve up whatever site could be cobbled together. It was as if the tell-tale "www" stood for Wild Wild West.

So What? Everybody Has a Web Site, Don't They?

 "The web site...is easily one of the best in the world…. Having a resource like this available around the globe, twenty-four hours a day, has been a huge support for the presentation and defense of the gospel in the last decade."

—Dr. Craig Hazen, apologetics professor, editor, Philosophia Christi

Yet, it soon became quite apparent that simply throwing up a digital shingle and buying server space for a few graphics and paragraghs would not be competitive, whatever the goal. The dotcom bust of 2001 sunk any notion of get-rich (or -famous)-quick magic. Marketplace adaptability and offering what visitors desired were the keys. Search engines, like Yahoo and later Google—the top two, in reverse order—became the electronic info desks for the Web. That's significant since more than 75 percent of Internet users currently get their online information through search engines. Getting a top-page listing at these crossroads directories became the envy of every organization and thus was birthed the still-growing hyper-specialty: Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Firms pay SEO professionals tens of thousands of dollars to get noticed, buying top search terms related to their products and services.

Into this maelstrom stepped Christian Leadership, founding the Telling the Truth Project in partnership with like-minded organizations and launching a suite of its own sites in 1995. The flagship site: Leadership University, also known as LeaderU. As an early arrival, CLM staked out some popular "real estate" on the Web, giving away free, reputable, highly relevant content in a huge marketplace of ideas. Content on topics that people the world over care about: science, religion, the meaning of life, social issues, popular culture, ministry tools and much more—all from a Judeo-Christian worldview. And those people came (from more than 135 nations by 1998), as growth statistics attest (see bar chart, which trend continues). Regarding relevance to peoples' interests, many searches on common terms among LeaderU 's vast array of topics result in top 10 listings within the foremost search engines. A search just days ago on "da vinci code" on #1 search engine Google.com showed a LeaderU Special Focus on the book The Da Vinci Code  in the 5th spot--out of 3.8 millions listings! Test it yourself, on this and other apologetics or scholarly or religious terms (results may vary according to spellings, word order and timing as Web pages jostle for attention). In the words of one CLM Director, "God made us smarter than we really are." Our biggest secrets: serve up highly relevant stuff on important issues and give it away. Thus, we don't talk about what we do online, we do it online. We're not *selling or trying to interest you in a brochure about something.

The Future of Our Web Presence

"LeaderU is vast and very helpful. I've bookmarked a number of its resources, just because I refer inquirers to them so often…"

—J. Budziszewski, author, professor

Growth for sites deemed worthy of  attention is guaranteed as the global population of Internet users increases manifold.  "The survivors [of the 2001 dotcom bust] now operate in a market with close to one billion users worldwide and growing," writes The Economist. Each Web visitor votes with his or her mouse—if sites aren't easily navigable or don't meet needs, they are quickly jettisoned. Again, if sites, blogs and other Net properties are not ranked well in search engines and directories, they likely won't be found. We plan to continue serving up timeless (enduring issues) and timely (currently relevant) resources in new and existing sites to serve our ministry constituents and the general Net public. Since partnerships and strategic alliances between us and authors, related organizations, professors and others launched our sites to relative prominence, we will stick with this strategy for our Telling the Truth Project (TTT) Web outreach. We hope that our Web sites continue to qualify for millions as worthy of visiting again and again. Enjoy them as we highlight a decade of growth  and impact.

LeaderU / Telling the Truth Facts & Statistics

—Byron Barlowe, Webmaster / Editor for LeaderU and Telling the Truth sites

For more about LeaderU and its parent organizations, see About LU.

*We do offer a limited selection of books for sale online in order to enhance research and further education, but this represents only a fraction of our online activity.

New Resources at LeaderU

In the early years of its development, resources were added to LeaderU.com and its sister sites at a rapid pace. This was foundational to building the breadth and depth of what you can now browse. LU-Announce, LeaderU's e-letter, announced the somewhat random addition of new thoughtful resources every few days as they were procured. (Today, LU-Announce publishes new additions every three to four weeks, nearly always ensconced within thematic Special Focus collections.)

In the spirit of those early, less focused days, we present some brand new, miscellaneous additions to the site:

The Morality of Punishment—NEW
Christopher Townsend
A biblical perspective of the moral foundation of punishment is anchored in the principle of retribution and is qualified and nuanced: punishment is deserved in proportion to the seriousness of an offence. Aim: not to inflict suffering on offenders but to reassert the existence of the moral order that governs human life. Punishment should normally aim both at making reparation to victims and at restoring offenders into the community. These priorities highlight shortcomings in our criminal justice system and suggest directions for reform.

Crash Goes The Da Vinci Code—NEW
Dr. Ron Rhodes
Master apologist and recognized author Dr. Ron Rhodes painstakingly deconstructs the major errors of The Da Vinci Code in a question and answer format. The inclusion of direct quotations and page numbers from the novel provide a real aid for those seeking proof and answers. Very comprehensive. (See link for context: http://www.leaderu.com/focus/davincicode.html

Star Culture Wars—NEW
Terry Mattingly
Syndicated columnist Mattingly reveals the irreconcilable religious worldviews of the last Star Wars film, Revenge of the Sith. Part of a pattern of syncretistic incongruence in the film series, it points to a culture of confused spirituality–meets–Hollywood—what author Dick Staub calls a "teachable moment" in our society.

Endorsements & Testimonials

LeaderU and companion sites receive regular feedback from students, educators from junior high to research university  level, pastors, youth workers, apologists, like-minded organizations, skeptics, Christian authors, etc. See what world-class scholars and everyday visitors are saying about our unique mix of resources.

Endorsements & Testimonials for LeaderU
Endorsements of and testimonials about LeaderU (http://www.leaderu.com) by authors, apologists, visitors and partners, including: Dr. William Lane Craig, Dr. Craig Hazen, Sue Bohlin, J. Budziszewski.

Telling the Truth Web Partners Over the Years

 Partnering with CLM was like strapping on booster rockets—not only in terms of our Internet ministry, but in terms of our entire ministry.

Sue Bohlin, Webmaster, writer, Probe Ministries

As Web hosts, CLM contracted with other organizations to provide server space and other services in order to meet the goal of symbiotic growth online. Together, entities ranging from the journal First Things to Texans United for Life shared articles and benfitted from the breadth and depth of the Telling the Truth partnership. Here is a sampling of those organizations (now no longer hosted by CLM):

Probe Ministries—Outside Link
The most prolific and popular of the Telling the Truth partner organizations, Probe resources wonderfully bridge the gap between specialized areas like postmodernism and stem cell research and the understanding of the average layperson or student. Written for Christians, the hundreds of Probe resources (on LeaderU—search on "probe ministries") make good source material even for skeptics.

First Things: A Journal of Religion, Culture, and Public Life—Outside Link
"First Things is published by The Institute on Religion and Public Life, an interreligious, nonpartisan research and education institute whose purpose is to advance a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society." Editor-in-Chief: Richard John Neuhaus. FT is one of the most respected publications of its kind in the world.

Access Research Network (ARN)—Outside Link
"We focus on such controversial topics as genetic engineering, euthanasia, computer technology, environmental issues, creation/evolution, fetal tissue research, AIDS, and so on. Through our publications and product offers, we give you the information you need to orient yourself in today's scientific and technological world and make informed decisions. But science and technology are only half the picture. We put science topics in perspective by looking at related political, ethical and philosophical issues—so you can get a well-rounded understanding of the hot issues." See The ARN Approach: http://arn.org/infopage/approach.htm.

NARTH: National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality—Outside Link
NARTH is "a non-profit, educational organization dedicated to affirming a complementary, male-female model of gender and sexuality. NARTH, founded in 1992, is composed of psychiatrists, psychoanalytically informed psychologists, certified social workers, and other behavioral scientists, as well as laymen in fields such as law, religion, and education." An important counterweight to prevailing views, providing medical, psychological, political, social and ethical resources.

Popular Past Features

Where can Web users find serious, well-written resources, often from a spectrum of viewpoints, on such knotty topics as religious cults, the problem of evil, abortion, Darwinism, epistemology (how we know things), etc.? How can one build a Judeo-Christian worldview on subjects like Lord of the Rings, The Matrix, music and fine arts? Where can you turn when disaster strikes, like the Asian tsunami or 9-11? One good answer: a LeaderU Special Focus. From legal to spiritual issues, science to the arts, these Web collections provide a portal to dive deeper into meaningful thought informed by a biblical worldview. See our Past Features page.

A Good God? The Problem of Evil
Shootings. Natural disasters. "How could a good God allow all this evil and suffering?" That's probably THE number one question on the lips of believers and skeptics alike. Our special focus explores the possibility of real answers (posted 9/30/99).

Lord of the Rings: True Mythology?
Response to the release of the second blockbuster movie rendition of Tolkien's beloved trilogy, The Two Towers, has been fantastic. Is this, the most popular in the UK of all works in England's great literary legacy, based in pagan myth or Christian themes--or both? Dig into the story behind the stories and their master storyteller in our Special Focus. Includes three additional articles since our first feature on Fellowship of the Rings(posted 1/26/03).

The Secularization of Church & State
Daily, it seems, American courts bear the fruit of the separation of church and state doctrine that is now sacrosanct in the public psyche. From the Ten Commandments in public places to the Pledge of Allegiance, we see a constant purging of faith expressions in the public square. But is the idea Constitutional? (posted 9/18/03)

Tsunamis, Suffering & Evil: How Can an All-Powerful, All-Knowing, Good God Allow It?
The colossal destruction of the Asian tsunami disaster raises profound questions about God: how could an all-knowing, all-powerful, loving God allow this? We offer no pat answers, but deep perspective from a Christian worldview (posted 12/30/04).

Science & Religion: Oil & Water? (updated)
We are led to see science and religion as mortal enemies or at least as incompatible means to explain the universe. But is this popular notion just a myth? Get viewpoints from scientists and theologians themselves in our special focus (posted 7/21/04).

LeaderU in Other Languages

The burgeoning Internet populations of Spanish- and Chinese-speaking users now have access to LeaderU resources in their primary language, thanks to several sets of committed volunteer translators.

A few dozen samples of LeaderU in Spanish. Resources in the following categories: Humanities, Social Sciences, Science, Theology, Current Issues, Apologetics, Ministry Tools and Bible Studies.

Online Chinese Christian Resources—Outside Link
Note: currently, all English titles with live links lead to LeaderU.