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Mass media, direct mail integral to saturation evangelism strategy

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–Southern Baptists have grown accustomed to reaching thousands with the gospel each year through pre-convention Crossover block parties, door-to-door witnessing and other evangelistic initiatives.
This year, thanks to an unprecedented use of mass media, they plan to reach more than a million.
A new series of print and broadcast advertisements centered on the Celebrate Jesus 2000 evangelistic initiative will saturate the Salt Lake City area with gospel messages in Jesus Christ’s own words before and during the June 9-11 annual meeting. And in a separate initiative more closely linked with Crossover efforts, a combination of Baptist Sunday School Board and North American Mission Board evangelistic publications will be mailed to each of the nearly 400,000 households in the region.
“For the first time really (at an SBC annual meeting) we have put forth a very strong effort to truly saturate the community with media,” said Ron Lawson, director of the NAMB media strategy team. He said direct mail has been used extensively before but not coupled with the saturation print and broadcast advertising, which is calculated to reach each person in the target audience more than eight times.
The direct-mail campaign will include about 140,000 copies of “Home Life’s Today,” a family magazine of the Baptist Sunday School Board intended as an outreach publication for local churches. Included will be a special insert with additional evangelistic material and a response form.
The remaining 250,000 homes will get a full-color evangelistic publication from NAMB telling the stories of prominent Christians in the Utah area.
Both publications will invite residents to call a special telephone number (1-800-JESUS-2000) to request a free copy of the “Jesus” film on videotape. The videos of the film — produced by Campus Crusade for Christ and a tremendously effective evangelistic tool worldwide –will be hand-delivered, opening doors for follow-up by local Christians.
The materials will be mailed prior to the series of Crossover Salt Lake City events planned for June 5-12.
The Celebrate Jesus 2000 advertisements actually represent the premiere release of a NAMB package that eventually will be broadcast throughout the United States. The ads will be sponsored by Southern Baptist and other evangelical churches and denominational groups. The interdenominational Celebrate Jesus 2000 initiative has a goal of sharing the gospel with everyone in the United States by the end of the year 2000.
“We will premiere the Celebrate Jesus 2000 television, radio and print materials in Salt Lake City, and Southern Baptists will be able to see them in the media while they are there,” Lawson said.
Plans call for the print ads, billboards and broadcast spots to be distributed to Southern Baptists at a nominal cost to cover duplication, Lawson said.
“Our strategy for developing the Celebrate Jesus 2000 spots is primarily to partner with state conventions, associations and churches who will implement those spots locally or in their states,” Lawson said. “We will do a national media buy, but it will not be adequate. The North American Mission Board will need to partner with others to get the saturation we would want nationally.”
The concept for the ads developed from research in which NAMB found those most likely to respond fell into two main groups: “cultural Christians” who have never made a commitment to Christ and those who often seek God through an inclusive New Age-style spirituality.
“One of the things we learned through the research is many of those people will listen to really only one messenger about Christianity today, and that messenger is Billy Graham. … The only other thing they will listen to and have respect for are the words of Christ,” Lawson said.
With that in mind, NAMB decided to present contemporary images of the problems of life, with the answers at the end taken directly from Christ’s words in Scripture.
One of the spots, for example, portrays a man caught up in the rat race of life, with problems at work and at home. “Come unto me all ye who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” a voice-over says as Christ’s image fills the screen.
“The bottom line is that they are the words of Christ,” Lawson said, “and at the end we say “Jesus: the way, the truth and the life. And the answer for today.” Listeners will then be invited to call the same 1-800-JESUS-2000 number for a free “Jesus” video
Response from both the advertising and direct-mail pieces will be studied in order to optimize the effectiveness of future large-scale media campaigns, Lawson said.
Mass media strategies are integral to North American Mission Board initiatives such as Strategic Focus Cities, in which resources and volunteers will be focused on saturating with the gospel one metropolitan area at a time over an extended period.

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  • James Dotson