By Bob Gerow
More than 60 years ago, an enthusiast young believer transformed an every-day routine into a powerful way to preach the gospel.
Reading a daily newspaper was the ordinary routine. The transforming idea was to place a gospel message in that newspaper as a paid advertisement. Spiros Zodhiates was the enthusiastic young believer; and even he could not have foreseen the effectiveness of the idea.
Within a few short years of that insight, Spiros Zodhiates would become the general secretary of a fledgling mission, American Committee for the Evangelization of the Greeks. Under his leadership for the next six decades, AMG International would grow into a worldwide ministry and place gospel ads in many countries.
The concept is simple: For the price of a paid ad, the publisher prints the message, distributes it widely, and effectively “guarantees” it will be read. In much of the world, many individuals read every copy of the newspaper. Sometimes the readers include one who finds the Good News on an old paper that was used to wrap groceries!
The workers could not keep up with the requests for New Testaments, gospel study lessons, and information about the Good News.
AMG’s strategies have ranged from placing gospel ads directly, to encouraging others and helping underwrite their efforts to develop and place gospel ads.
As an example, gospel ads have appeared in Turkish newspapers for the last 15 years, principally in Turkey’s largest and most popular newspaper. It has definitely been the most effective means available in finding those who are interested in the gospel.
Last year, the paper decided to double its advertising fees, but only for us! The $2,000 that has supported this ministry every month would now only go half as far as before. But even with ads in less prominent newspapers, 9,000 people responded, and 10% of them asked to enroll in a Bible correspondence course! A gospel worker in Turkey reports: “We see God break through in exciting ways to advance the gospel. How encouraging to know that the battle belongs to the Lord.”
In India, where AMG has had a newspaper evangelism ministry for more than 30 years, gospel ads have generated so large a response that it almost overwhelmed the workers. Just one ad, costing about $200, was distributed to over two million readers! The workers could not keep up with the requests for New Testaments, gospel study lessons, and information about the. Good News. They had to stop placing the gospel ads just to catch up!
Even with challenges, God is indeed “breaking through in exciting ways.”
Selma lives in southern Turkey. When her daughter contacted our co-workers and received a New Testament, she showed it to Selma, and they both started to read it. Later, a believer from the local fellowship visited with them and shared the gospel. Selma and her daughter were so ready that they both gave their lives to Christ. Since then, they have both grown tremendously in Christ.
Last month, AMC helped place gospel ads in 17 countries around our world.
Newspapers, and the gospel ads they carry, often lead the way into communities, hearts, and minds, where a gospel worker would be unwelcome. By addressing the spiritual needs in the heart that only Christ can relieve through grace, the reader’s interest is stirred.
Newspaper evangelism has proven to be so effective as a means of witnessing that, as God provides, AMG is planning ways to expand the number of ads placed, and the number of countries we reach. Our experience has demonstrated very clearly that investment in newspaper evangelism will bear a rich spiritual return for years to come.
“This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”
“Newspaper Evangelism”. By Bob Gerow.