By Pastor-Missionary David Cox
I would like to just put out there my own experiences about promoting a local church and church growth. I am not trying to sell you any plan or advertising thing where you pay money for it, just reasoning some with you so that you consider what God has said about promoting the church.
I am a Fundamental Baptist Missionary serving our Lord in Mexico City Mexico. I have been working here since 1986, and I have a local church, and we go out every Saturday giving out literature and witnessing in the street.
What we are supposed to be doing.
Mark 16:15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
We begin with our task as given by God to the local church. We have a commission, or an authorized order from God to carry the gospel to everybody. If we, as a church of Jesus Christ, are not actively engaged in doing this, we fail before God. We are disapproved.
It is amazing to me how many preachers I meet that preach the Word of God very well, but they totally miss what this means for them personally and as a local church. They sweep their obligation to witness “under the rug” saying that well that means the entire church universal, and while they are not doing it, others are doing it. Consider a family of 5 kids, and mom tells them all to clean their rooms. One kid doesn’t and his defense is that the other four are doing it, so he doesn’t have to do it. That doesn’t shake at all. Because others are evangelizing, that is no excuse for you not to do it.
I am not going to get into a whole lot of modern commercial advertising methods. I just don’t believe in them. Yes, you rent a billboard near your church and put up a cute or interesting sign advertising your church, and probably it will get 2 or 3 families every two or three or 5 months. Okay. But that is not where I want to discuss.
(Before I pass over this, let me just point out that for most churches under 500 members, even a new family every month is a tremendous growth rate for them. Don’t throw dirt at that! Take it! If it works, do it!)
But there are principles here that work. So let’s examine them. My preferred method of promoting my church is for our people to invite other people to come worship with them, and also to be saved. Unsaved people usually don’t want to go to church because they are at war with God. Their most important need is to settle the war before they “go to church”. The plan of salvation is the greatest element or method for getting people into your church. EVERY SINGLE PERSON that accepts the Lord needs a good church to attend, and there is not a better place to go that with the same people that presented you the gospel when you accepted the gospel.
Modern Advertising Principles
Okay, so this is how modern advertising works. You want to sell soap. So you make a pretty package, you get a pretty girl to present it, and you make a TV ad. That ad goes on TV. (Today that is a losing proposition because less and less people are watching TV, and watch youtube instead. But none-the-less…) Okay, how many people see the ad, and how many people pick up that brand of soap the next time they are in the grocery store? Think about it. Probably out of 50,000 people saw the ad in 1 showing one time on TV, and only 5 picked up a bar of that brand. Of the 5, maybe 2 will use it every week. The ad runs 50 times in a 2 month period, and so in an ad campaign that shows 50x and hits a maybe audience of 2.5 million viewers, they pick up 100 new people who try the soap brand and stick with it, and maybe 250-100=150 that tried it, and they didn’t commit to always buying that brand, but later may come back and change to that brand.
And these numbers are actually very good in the eyes of the business. They constantly run ads every month, and in different cities, and they build up their business. Now they put the ad on the Super Bowl 3 times, and there is seen by 12 million each time, or a total of 36 million viewers, and they pick up 1440 new customers. But instead of the ad that they were showing, put a really sexy girl on there, with a rough and tough man that is very dirty, and he uses that bar of soap, and his sexy wife says, “This really works on my dirty man.” It appeals to the men, it appeals to the wives watching with their husband. So instead of 1440 new customers, maybe they pick up 3000 or 3,500 new customers. And there goes the resources of their business chasing these thousands of new customers. This is business and it works.
My point here is to set out eyes on how this works. Note that this soap company is showing the ad to around 36 million people or viewers and out of that only a couple of thousand are going to be new customers, and probably double or triple that amount will even try the soap brand, but that is what they are content with to promote their business.
The Parable of Sower
Matt 13:3 And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; 4 And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: 5 Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: 6 And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. 7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: 8 But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. 9 Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.
Okay, all of this is actually a biblical principle of life. We need to understand and accept that. Even Christ in the parable of the Sower exactly presents the spread of the gospel, evangelism, in the same terms. The Sower went forth to sow. Unlike modern farming, the sower in this parable was not thinking 1 seed, 1 plant, 100-fold reaping.
Not everybody is going to accept your plan of salvation
It is frustrating to give the gospel to people to have them throw the tract down or throw it in your face and walk off, especially if you take the time to explain it even partially. Very frustrating. But consider, we are accepting the principle of the sower. We need to give out a thousand tracts before 1 person accepts the Lord and comes to our church, is baptized and becomes a faithful member. That is the fact of the matter.
I once got on JW.org, the official website of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and there I stumbled across a page for their Kingdom Hall leaders. It said (and I paraphrase because I don’t have the original anymore), “We have done extensive studies, and a JW needs to present our truth to about 1350 people in order to get 1 person to attend one of our services.” I don’t remember exactly the number but it was very, very high. I compared that with our giving out tracts, and while we don’t have a “good number” either, I would say we get 1 visitor that sticks with us for every 2000 to 5000 tracts we give out. We gave out 50,000 tracts last year and our church grew about 5 families, or around 12 people. This is better this year though. In presenting the plan of salvation door-to-door, I think we were closer to 1 visit (not remaining necessarily) for every 50-70 times I actually got through the entire plan of salvation.
Note: I don’t consider a person that accepts the Lord verbally with me as being saved. I learned a long time ago, people lie, and so many people are just nice, and they will listen to you, and they agree with you and the JW that comes after you just to get rid of you. The mark of a real decision is that they actually change their life, seek out their brethren to love them and socialize with them (1John 3:14 We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.), and become productive members of a local church with good doctrine.
Another interesting thing I read when in college was an excerpt about one of the great industrialists of the last century. I don’t remember if it was Henry Ford, or Carnegie, but somebody asked him how he got the Midas’ touch, everything he does turns to gold. The guy rebuked the reporter for saying that. “You don’t know what you are saying. Stop talking like a fool.” The reporter wanted an explanation. He said, “Look, I learned at the very beginning of my business career that out of everything I try, I will fail 99 times out of 100 attempts. So if this is a hard and fast rule, I have to fail 99 times to get something good that works and makes me wealthy. Every failure is a victory. I am counting down past the 99 to get to that 1 that is going to make me a lot of money.” He mentioned that after he had tried 1000s of business enterprises, he eventually started making money off of every 1 in 50 and then 1 in 20.
My point in all of this is to communicate to you the great need for sticking to witnessing and ignoring or passing over all the failed attempts, or attempts that come up with apparently no fruit. Those cases have to pass before you get to the one that will be a D.L. Moody, a Spurgeon, or some pastor or missionary in the end, and you are the person that leads that person to the Lord.
Coming up with a Working Plan
We need to not get the least bit discouraged when we sowing thousands of seeds and see nothing. Okay. I hope you got that. But we also need to consider some other things.
Note: Please note that we are working the Lord’s fields, and the bottom line is, we don’t always see the results of our labors until we get to heaven. I am extremely confident that of all the tracts and personal one-on-one presents of the gospel I have given people in my life, there are many that eventually accepted the Lord, but never made contact back with me. I believe this because a few I have come across and they were saved, and they did n0t know how to get back in touch with me, or simply it never occurred to them.
Lest I am lax in my presentation of these principles, let me take up another issue here. We do not look at the failures as anything to get discouraged in, but we do examine what we are doing constantly. I have personally written about 10 salvation or evangelism tracts to use in our tract ministry.
At first, I printed up on my printer a single tract in black and white, and I took it to a photocopy place and had them photocopy a thousand or more. At a photocopy price of .001 dollars per copy (2 sides), that is very economical. We went that route. Even if I could print them up for that price on my printer, the wear and tear and printer replacement is a consideration. People do take these tracts. We have people that were members in our church, and for whatever reason are now attending other churches, and they come back to visit with my wife and I, and we have them for a meal, and they tell me that they photocopy the tracts and use them like that. A pastor of a church not too far from us (about 40 minutes) also does that. So that works.
But I noticed that there is a great difference between a four-color tract and a photocopy black and white tract. Sometimes people throw down the tracts even after taking it. People also totally reject the tract and won’t even touch it.
Wayside soil People
The Parable speaks of the seed falling by the wayside, and we have people that refuse to physically touch the paper. These people are loyal Jehovah’s Witnesses and some Catholics usually. While these are not the usual treatment we get, but there are people like this. There is a very BIG difference in different neighborhoods. In a staunch Catholic area, many people will refuse the tracts. Equally in an area with a lot of JWs. Count these people as water under the bridge, part of the 99 failures out of every 100 attempts.
I tried to make a different variety of tracts because we go through a large street market (about 2 miles long with 2-4 aisles) and we give to the customers browsing as well as to the people selling.
- You can see some pictures of this street market here, but this post is better and has more pictures. The pink tarps are the street market.
In passing out tracts every month or 2 weeks in this street market, I noticed very quickly that the people selling refused to take the tracts. I asked why, and the answer was, “I already read that one.” Ok. So we changed our methodology, and I made 10 tract titles instead of 1. These people who sell do read the tracts. They are bored, and while they are selling, they don’t read the tract. But they have stretches of an hour or more with no people buying, and they will read it. They pass the tract among the other sellers to their sides. Great opportunity, but once they read one tract, they need a different one. The problem with these people is that the local government closes the street and allows them to sell in the street Saturday and Sunday. So it is extremely difficult for them to come except on Wednesday nights, and we have had a number of them come on Wednesdays. But they won’t come on Sundays. We have had very limited success with coming on Sunday 6:00 PM service, because they close down at 6:00 PM. It takes them an hour to get everything packed and back home, so they have to close an hour early. A few times they have done this, but regularly no.
Some more notes on changing methodology
These are some of our salvation tracts. Dead men walking I give out around Halloween. People like to take that in September and October. Notice the first tract, The Salvation of your Soul, and the Watch out tract. We have a family of 6 that now work the street market giving out tracts every week. They gave me feedback that nobody wanted to take the Watch out! tract. The Salvation of your soul one also is hard to give away. Since sometime in 2018 we now have changed from giving out 1 single title each week, changing the title each week to now I print up all of these titles and mix and match them so that if somebody already has received one tract, the sower in question can give a different tract title.
In Mexico a few years ago, they started “El Buen Fin” or the Good End. It is Mexico’s attempt to make something like the weekend after Thanksgiving in the US. Stores put high discounts on items and it marks the beginning of the end of year sales for Christmas. So I titled the tract the same, and we gave it out in November and December this year.
What I noticed in my own giving out of tracts is that kids will always take that tract except if their parents prohibit them from doing so. But a Mexican kid will always take anything that looks like “a gift”. I mean, even kids that are too little to read. They want the tract with the present on it. But the Word of God gets into their home, and maybe an adult will eventually read it. While I had planned to stop printing them in January of 2019 until October of 2019, I decided against that and it is a regular in our tract packets.
Another thing that I would like to point out is the salvation tract salv36. What we have found out about this tract with the picture of the baby on the front is that this probably our best-received tract. When I offer a tract to somebody in the street, and they automatically say no, that is usually the end of it. But if I flash the front of it to them, most will take it. This works basically with this tract and not the rest. Why? People like the picture of a cute baby, and most of the time, women will take it even if they don’t take any literature in the street from people. Women fall in love with this baby on first sight. If most women take it, there are still a few who won’t take it. But if a woman has a baby with her, almost always she will take the tract.
Another interesting point is the tract on Salvation, Salvation01. It is a very good picture of a person helping up another person who is black with sin and corruption. But our people gave me feedback that the public doesn’t like receiving that tract. They see the front and they sometimes take it and sometimes they just say no. Much more than with other tracts.
As a result of that, I decided to make a new version of Salvation01 tract and put a different image on the front. The color images is what helps the people to receive the tract to see what it is about.
But the new tract has a different image, and it is being received very well now. While the new tract has more color, it doesn’t have the dead man looking hand on it, and that is what I think was putting off people.
So this element (the more gruesome picture) of the tract was what was causing people to not accept the tract so readily. Even though we are not discouraged by people not accepting our Lord or tracts explaining how to accept our Lord, we need to be careful we are not tripping our own selves up by how we are doing our evangelism.
Another one which hardly anybody wants to receive is Salvation40. To me, this tract image and title portray exactly the problem so many people have today, and they don’t realize this or do anything about this. But the person in hell is a really, really hard sell to an unsaved person. Only people ALREADY UNDER A LOT OF CONVICTION will probably take the tract. I have stopped printing this tract altogether. We don’t give it out either. I have to think up and find another image for it before we start printing it and giving it out.