FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–More than 1,600 people have indicated online that they prayed to receive Christ for salvation after watching a three-minute video of evangelist Ronnie Hill’s testimony, which starts by recounting his birth to a 17-year-old rape victim who decided against abortion.
Since January, Hill and others have been directing people to www.threeminutestory.com where they can watch his three-minute testimony and then register to win a new car or truck in a Dec. 12 drawing. The winner will choose between a Dodge Ram, a Jeep Wrangler or a Chrysler 300.
At the end of October, nearly 28,000 visits to the website had been logged and more than 6,300 people had registered to win the vehicle, Hill told Baptist Press.
In addition to those numbers, countless other individuals have prayed to receive Christ after watching a DVD of Hill’s three-minute testimony at county fairs, festivals, parks, ball games, block parties and other places where churches have sought to spread the Gospel in partnership with Hill’s ministry.
“The Baptist Convention of New Mexico used it at the New Mexico State Fair,” Hill said. “They set up two DVD players with just my testimony playing, and people could come and sign up if they just listened to my story for a couple of minutes. They had 433 saved just at the state fair in New Mexico.”
During the testimony, Hill emphasizes that God changed his life and gave him peace and purpose, and he offers hope to others who need to realize their sin, turn from it and ask Jesus into their lives.
First Baptist Church in Cumming, Ga., set up a face painting booth at their county fair and also showed the DVD, Hill said. Church members also distributed small cards directing people to the website in hopes that those who didn’t watch the DVD or wanted more information would follow the URL. More than 55 churches have partnered with Hill in similar fashion.
A western wear store in Weatherford, Texas, even invited Hill to show his testimony DVD and register people for the drawing at a grand opening event that featured a festival-type atmosphere. Hill took along three friends, and in one day they witnessed to 215 people and saw 88 individuals pray to receive Christ.
“You give people a reason to listen to you,” Hill said of the drawing. “They see all these preachers on TV all the time, always asking them for money. So when we come at it where I’m giving them an opportunity to win something, then the tables are turned and they’re kind of caught off guard by that.
“We’re not charging them any money for the sign-up, it’s free,” he said. “Their guard is let down then, and they’re not thinking we’re just some con artist trying to get something from them.”
Hill said he has received a considerable amount of criticism from people who don’t think his approach is exactly biblical, but he has an answer.
“My whole point is that I don’t care why they come, why they listen, just so they hear the Gospel,” he told BP. “People came to Jesus in the New Testament for the wrong reasons all the time. They came to be healed. They came for free food. They came to be entertained. They wanted to see Jesus perform miracles. Even though they came for all the wrong reasons, He still loved them and still told them the truth.”
Offering people a chance to win a vehicle if they’ll listen to a Gospel presentation is similar to churches that construct appealing buildings in order to get people inside the doors to hear the same message, Hill said.
Emerson Wiles, pastor of Waikoloa Baptist Church in Hawaii, told Baptist Press that Hill has a powerful testimony because of the circumstances of his birth, and he said the website has proven to be a useful witnessing tool. His church has incorporated the drawing into their Tuesday night visitation program.
“We go door-to-door and we ask people if they’d like to win a car,” Wiles said. “If they say, ‘Of course,’ we explain it to them. If they have time, we give them a three-minute testimony. If they don’t have time, we give them a card telling about the website.”
Wiles also has a street ministry each Friday night during which he interacts with tourists and tries to start conversations about Jesus. One particular 18-year-old man stopped to talk with Wiles for 40 minutes but didn’t pray to receive Christ, Wiles said. He took a card with the Web address, and when he returned home to Nevada he gave his life to Christ after watching the three-minute testimony online.
Also in Hawaii, Hill said an ice cream truck driver distributed cards to people along his route as he sold treats. The evangelist received news that a man had come to Christ just by purchasing ice cream and then following the offer on the card to watch the video to register to win an automobile.
“Ronnie has been thinking outside the box for years,” Wiles said. “I don’t think there’s a bad way to witness. Ronnie looks for ways just to reach people. He’s done a great job with this, and I hate to see this end. I’m having so much fun with it, I hate for December to come because it’s really been a good opportunity to engage people and offer them something.
“They think the good thing about it is a car, but once they listen to Ronnie’s testimony, they get something a whole lot better than a car,” he said.
If people who receive Christ online also request a contact, an e-mail is sent to the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board for follow-up. And if Hill knows of a pastor in close proximity to a person who has committed his life to Christ, he forwards that information to the pastor such as Wiles so that a local church can make contact.
As for what to do after the drawing in December, Hill said he is considering another drawing for next year. But funds might be the deciding factor.
“We are a nonprofit ministry that has stepped out on faith to give this vehicle away,” Hill said. “The total cost for this project is estimated to be around $37,000. As of right now we need $3,910 more.”
Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.