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On Mission magazine scores in helping readers share Christ

DULUTH, Ga. (BP)–Like many Christians, Jennifer Gastley was well aware of her responsibility to lead others to Christ. But it wasn’t until she started reading the North American Mission Board’s bimonthly On Mission magazine that she began to discover real opportunities for making that happen.
One article prompted her to commit to leading two people to Christ in 1999. Shortly after that a neighbor couple accepted Christ at a Christmas program. They and about 150 others had received a church newsletter from Gastley advertising the evangelistic program.
Other opportunities also were sparked by the magazine. After being made aware of the importance of forming relationships with lost people, she also went to a movie with a new friend — and in the process found ways of discussing the nature of heaven and hell.
And a new practice of what she calls “name dropping,” slipping mentions of God or Christ in everyday conversations and being open to positive response, has provided ongoing opportunities for witness.
“That has prompted people to come up to me and speak to me about church and about God,” said Gastley, of Duluth, Ga., of her regular references to God in teaching aerobics classes. “It’s amazing. And I would never have done it if it hadn’t been for the magazine.”
That sort of transformed lifestyle is precisely the objective of On Mission, and its growing popularity suggests it is working. NAMB’s new tool for “helping you share Christ in the real world” has seen its requested circulation more than double over the past two months. Individual requested subscriptions grew from 8,000 to 17,000, while bulk mailings jumped from 30,000 to 58,000. Total distribution is now more than 158,000.
“I think what has happened is pastors and gatekeepers who have received the first few issues are saying, ‘This really is for all the congregation, not just missions leaders, staff and those who are tuned in to denominational activity,’” said Nate Adams, vice president of mobilization and mission education for NAMB.
A special form wrapped around the January-February issue of the magazine made it easy for readers to sign up others who might appreciate a free subscription.
Editor Carolyn Curtis also attributed the interest to articles that demonstrate the magazine’s commitment to helping laypeople incorporate a Christian witness into everyday life.
On its cover was a scene from “The Prince of Egypt,” illustrating a package of articles on how that and other movies — such as the one Gastley saw with a friend — can be used as conversation starters for Christian themes.
“We found there was an overwhelmingly positive response to this,” Curtis said. “And I think it was probably because the issue was so well timed. It came out the day the movie arrived in the theaters. People don’t always realize that evangelism can be that relevant and that current, and that’s what we were able to give them.”
Other likely contributors to the circulation jump, she said, were the issue’s readable, contemporary writing and design and a preview of topics to be addressed in future issues.
Curtis, a veteran journalist from Annapolis, Md., who has edited a dozen magazines and authored six books, was consulting editor of On Mission at its debut last June and was named editor in September.
The lay-oriented magazine is currently offered free of charge to anyone who requests it — including lists submitted by churches and bulk mailings. Plans call for an eventual move to a paid subscription basis.
At On Mission’s core is a four-step process of how individuals and churches become “on mission” with God in his mission of reconciling the world to himself. Like Gastley, they become “awakened” to the need for seeing those around them and globally come to faith in Christ. Then they “adjust” their lives so God can use them more effectively for those purposes; “activate” by becoming directly involved in seeing people come to Christ; and “advocate” the on-mission lifestyle for others.
Adams, who developed the original vision for the magazine, said the idea was to help readers connect as a community rather than just receive information. “The real value of a magazine is to make it something that is personal to the reader,” he said.
Readers choose magazines that reflect who they are or who they want to be, Adams said, and thus the magazine targets lay Christians who are, or want to be, someone who is sharing Christ. “We wanted a tool to help them discover their way of sharing Christ,” he said.
In addition to helping Christians find their fit for evangelism right where they live, On Mission articles show readers the possibilities for involvement in short-term or full-time mission work and the work of NAMB’s nearly 5,000 missionaries.
“Pastors have an opportunity now while the magazine is free to see that it gets directly into the hands of members who are either involved in mission work or who have a growing interest in it,” Curtis said. “If pastors are trying to help their members awaken to the on-mission lifestyle, this would be an excellent resource and tool to place in those people’s hands. We have articles that provide not only the theory of being ‘on mission,’ but they give highly specific ideas for carrying it out.”
Further information is available through the magazine’s Internet website, www.onmission.com, or by calling (770) 410-6284.

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  • James Dotson