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National CJ2K media campaign brings unprecedented response

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–A national “Celebrate Jesus 2000” evangelistic advertising campaign Oct. 4-31 resulted in an unprecedented 43,300 calls to national toll-free response numbers as of Nov. 1. About 18,000 had requested a free copy of the “Jesus” video and 203 made immediate professions of faith.
“This campaign allowed Southern Baptists to impact thousands of lives with the gospel,” said John Yarbrough, vice president for evangelization for the North American Mission Board, which sponsored the effort. “Local churches now have the opportunity to follow up many of those who responded. What a tremendous partnership of technology linked with the personal care and touch of a local church.”
The campaign included two television commercials on four national cable networks and the full set of six Celebrate Jesus 2000 radio commercials produced by NAMB.
At a cost of approximately $500,000, this was the first national campaign ever sponsored by the agency to include a response mechanism for viewers — NAMB’s Evangelism Response Center. Through the system, calls are routed to volunteer “telephone encouragers” who log on in their own homes to receive calls from respondents.
In this case, the early commercials included a toll-free number for viewers to call to speak with someone directly about a personal relationship with Christ. Beginning Oct. 13, an alternate number was used allowing viewers to receive a free copy of the “Jesus” video.
Toby Frost, manager of event evangelism for NAMB and chairman of the NAMB’s Celebrate Jesus 2000 task force, said telephone encouragers were excited about the opportunities confronting them as individuals literally called into their homes wanting to know more about a relationship with Jesus Christ.
“One of our telephone encouragers said this is like fishing in a fish hatchery,” Frost said. “In a fish hatchery, the fish are just fighting to get at the food. These are the people that are calling us.”
Joy Neal, a decision counseling associate for NAMB’s direct evangelism team, said, “Our encouragers expressed a sense of God’s using them and felt that they were really able to talk with people. Many of them were able to lead people to the Lord. And approximately 11 percent of the people who talked with an encourager made a salvation decision.”
Frost said the campaign actually revealed a need for more volunteer telephone encouragers to handle the volume in future responses. It was overwhelming volume, in fact, that prompted the switch from offering individuals a chance to speak with someone about Christ to the automated system offering the “Jesus” video.
“Even though we’ve trained more than 350 telephone encouragers, we were struck with the need of how many more hundreds and hundreds we need to train,” Frost said.
Neal said that while many callers will receive later follow-up, the immediate response appeared to be limited only by the number of encouragers available.
“The percentage of salvation decisions seemed to be tied to the number of people who could talk to an encourager,” she said. “If they don’t talk to someone, they can have an opportunity to hear a recorded presentation and may indeed come to faith in Christ through listening to it. Unless they leave their name and address for follow-up by a local church, however, we have no way of knowing what decision they made.”
Neal said she is continuing to schedule training sessions for telephone encouragers. She suggested individuals interested in committing to regular participation as a telephone encourager talk with their pastor about organizing a training session in their church or Baptist association.
More than 1,000 “significant conversations” were recorded by encouragers, including salvation decisions, rededications, assurances of salvation and requests for prayer.
About 3,000 total telephone contacts made through the October media campaign are being forwarded to specially trained churches in the same area as the callers, said Darel Robertson, another NAMB decision counseling associate. In cases where a church participating in the response center is not available, contacts are forwarded to local associations and state conventions.
Those who requested the “Jesus” video also will receive follow-up, Frost said.
While the campaign is the only national advertising purchase planned by the North American Mission Board in association with Celebrate Jesus 2000, many state conventions, associations and churches already are capitalizing on the awareness the October advertising developed.
The most immediate efforts include a statewide campaign on cable television in Montana, a billboard campaign in Kentucky and a Crossover Macon campaign associated with the Georgia Baptist Convention annual meeting. As of Nov. 9, the total number of calls had grown to 46,775, and the number of first-time salvation decisions had reached 230.
Churches also are being encouraged to use a wide variety of materials during the final year of the Celebrate Jesus 2000 effort, which has a goal of sharing the gospel with and praying for every person in the United States and Canada by the end of next year.
(For information on training opportunities for telephone encouragers, Neal may be contacted at (817) 570-1409. Churches interested in participating in the follow-up network may contact Robertson at (817) 570-1411. Celebrate Jesus 2000 promotional materials are available by calling 1-800-448-8032.)

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  • James Dotson