By Reuben Archer Torrey
ADVERTISING THE MEETINGS
It is of the utmost importance that whatever meetings are held they be properly advertised. Judicious advertising is important for three reasons:
1. BECAUSE IT GETS PEOPLE OUT TO HEAR THE GOSPEL. There is no hope of saving people unless they hear the Gospel, and they will not come and hear it unless they are informed that it is being preached. A mere general notice will not arouse their attention, but wise advertising will. The advertisement that gets a man out to hear the Gospel is just as important in its place as the sermon through which he hears the Gospel. The contempt in which some people hold all advertising is utterly irrational. Experience demonstrates that wise advertising has very much to do with the number of people who are reached and converted by the Gospel. I could tell from personal experience of many remarkable conversions that have resulted from judicious advertising.
2. ADVERTISING IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE IT SETS PEOPLE TO THINKING. It is of the very highest importance to get people to thinking upon the subject of religion. The very simple reason why many people are not converted is because they give the subject of the claims of Christ upon them no attention whatever. It never enters their thoughts from one day's end to another. But a wise advertisement will arrest their attention and set them to thinking. It may bring up memories of childhood. It reminds them that there is a God. It tells them that Jesus saves. Some sentence in the advertisement may follow them for days, and result in their conversion to Christ. Instances could be multiplied of those who have never gone near the meeting advertised, but have been set to thinking and thus have been brought to Christ.
3. IT IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE OF ITS DIRECT CONVERTING POWER. Enough Gospel can be put in a single advertisement to convert anybody who notices it and will believe it. On every invitation card that goes out from the church of which the author is pastor is placed some pointed passage of Scripture, and many are those who have been won to Christ by the power of the truth thus set forth.
II. HOW TO ADVERTISE.
1. IN YOUR ADVERTISEMENTS AIM TO REACH THE NON-CHURCH-GOERS. The church today is ministering largely to those who are already in attendance. A church that is truly Christian has the missionary spirit, and its first aim is to get hold of those who do not go to hear the Gospel. The church-goers will hear the Gospel anyhow, and our chief responsibility in our advertising work is to get the ear of those who are never found in the house of God. Theatres and saloons make every effort to get the attention of those who are not already patrons. These institutions do it in order to get their money and destroy their souls. How much more should the church do it in order to save them. Stores, papers and magazines offer special inducements to those who are not already their patrons; the church of Christ should do the same for a far higher purpose.
2. AIM TO SET PEOPLE TO THINKING. A commonplace advertisement does very little good, but an advertisement so phrased as to awaken the attention of those who see it and set them to thinking, accomplishes great good. Of course one ought not to stoop to anything which is in a true sense undignified, or grossly sensational, to awaken attention; but an advertisement may at the same time have proper dignity, and yet set forth the truth in such a striking way that even the godless cannot help but notice it. For example, a sermon was announced upon "A Converted Infidel's Preaching." This part of the advertisement was in large black letters on a white background. At least one infidel came to find out what this infidel preached about. The converted infidel was Saul of Tarsus. What he preached about is found in Acts 9:20. That verse was the text of the sermon. The infidel mentioned was deeply impressed and went to the inquiry room, and two weeks after looked me up and told me that both he and his wife had accepted Christ. Several years before that a sermon had been preached on "A Bitter and Brilliant Infidel Converted." One of the leading daily papers was deeply interested as to who this converted infidel was, and sent for an outline of the sermon. Of course it was Saul of Tarsus, and the sermon was printed Monday with great letters running clear across the top of the page, "A Bitter and Brilliant Infidel Converted." Another sermon was announced on the subject, "Five Things That No Man Can Do Without." Tickets were scattered all over the city with the announcement of the subject upon them. Even the schools took it up, and the teachers discussed with their scholars what were the five things that no man could do without. The sermon was really a Bible Reading upon such texts as "Without holiness no man can see the Lord," "Without faith it is impossible to please him."
3. IN YOUR ADVERTISEMENTS, MAKE MUCH USE OF THE SCRIPTURE THAT WILL CONVERT. There are many who will read your advertisements who will not go to the church. Put enough Scripture on the advertisement to convert them.
4. ADVERTISEMENTS OF RELIGIOUS SERVICES SHOULD BE WELL PRINTED. They should be printed so they can be readily seen, and so that they will make an impression upon the mind. It is well oftentimes to have them printed in such a way that people will like to keep them as souvenirs, and thus they will go on doing their work for a long time.
5. USE BULLETIN BOARDS. (1) Every church should have one or more large bulletins standing out in front of the church constantly. On these announcements should be made of the services of the church, regular or special, from time to time. Something should always be upon the bulletin. The notice should be constantly changed so that people will be looking for something new. If there is no special service to be announced, a striking text of Scripture can be put upon the bulletin. It is usually desirable to have these bulletins on feet so that you can move them from place to place.
(2) There should also be large bulletins in conspicuous places throughout the city, places where many cars and people pass. The announcements upon these bulletins should be in such large letters that they can be read easily by people in cars or on foot as they go by. One bulletin in a good place is worth ten in poor places. Make a study of locations for your bulletins.
(3) Secure wherever possible the use of the bulletin boards of theaters. There are oftentimes seasons of the year when the theaters are closed, and many theatrical proprietors will be willing to allow you the use of their bulletins, if not free, for a small compensation. Just the class of people you wish to reach will notice advertisements on these bulletins.
6. USE THE PUBLIC BILLBOARDS OF THE CITY. This is a very successful way of advertising. Have your notices larger and more striking than those of others. Do not have too many words upon them, but big letters that can be read a block or more away. A very small body of Christians once used all the bulletin boards of Chicago with enormous notices, stated in a very striking way, about the coming of Christ. There was no notice at first as to where their meetings were to be held. Thousands of people in the city wondered what it all meant, and who put these notices up. The whole city was talking about the meaning of it. Reporters were sent here and there to find out who was back of it. When the meetings were held they were attended by large audiences. Unfortunately they had but very little to give the people when they got there, but as an advertisement it was a notable success. Of course these things cost money, but they usually bring in more than they cost. But cost however much they may, if they win souls for Christ, it pays.
7. A LARGE VAN WITH ADVERTISEMENTS ON ALL SIDES, DRIVEN UP AND DOWN THE THICKLY TRAVELED STREETS, IS A VERY USEFUL AND COMPARATIVELY INEXPENSIVE FORM OF ADVERTISEMENT. In connection with evangelistic meetings recently held in Chicago a van eighteen feet long and ten feet high was covered with black cloth, on which was printed in white letters the announcement of the meetings and speaker. This was driven up and down the main thoroughfares and read by thousands. Many may say that this is undignified, but it serves to fill the church and bring men to Christ. It is better to sacrifice your dignity and fill your pews and save souls, than to keep your dignity and have an empty church and allow men to go down to hell.
8. TRANSPARENCIES ARE VERY USEFUL AND INEXPENSIVE AS A MEANS OF ADVERTISING MEETINGS. A transparency consisting of a wooden frame, say eighteen to twenty-four inches in length, and twelve inches high, with white cloth around the four sides on which are printed in black letters announcements of the meetings, can be made by almost anybody for a little cost. To the wooden bottom of the transparency, tallow candles are secured. When the candles are lighted, and the transparencies carried up and down the street, they will attract more people than the most artistic printed matter. The novelty of the thing is one of the strongest points in its favor. As many as possible of these transparencies should be sent out every evening. Sometimes it is well to organize the whole crowd of transparency bearers into a procession and send them through the more thickly populated part of the city. They may be laughed at, or even stoned, but what matters that if people are brought out to hear the Gospel and saved? I know personally of three conversions in two days from the transparencies that were carried up and down the streets of Chicago.
9. Cards twelve by eighteen inches printed so that they can be read from the street are very useful, not only for special meetings, but to announce the regular services of the church or mission, and all kinds of special services. These should be handed around among the members of the church, or mission workers and their friends, to hang up in their windows. A man who placed one of these cards in his window sat behind the curtain of another window and watched results. It seemed as though almost every one who went by, men, women and children of all classes, stopped to read the sign through. Good is often accomplished by placing a pointed text in the window where people will read it. Many have been blessed by these texts. People are very ready to co-operate in this kind of work. A single church found several hundred persons in its membership who were willing to put these cards in their windows. When a large number of cards are noticed on different streets, they at once awaken comment on the part of the passers-by. They wonder what is going on, and go to the church to find out. Still larger cards, or better still, bulletins that are inexpensive, can be furnished to such members of the church as have stores. These bulletins can be placed out in front of the stores. They can be even used to advantage in private houses, where the houses stand in conspicuous places.
10. BANNERS ACROSS THE STREET ATTRACT ATTENTION. These, however, are very expensive, and should not be used unless it is in a place where very many people pass.
11. ELEVATED CARS AND SURFACE CARS CAN BE USED TO ADVANTAGE FOR ADVERTISING PURPOSES. We all know how many people read the advertisements that are seen in the elevated and other cars. This form of advertising, however, is very expensive, and if the city has been well placarded is unnecessary. If the great billboards are used all over the city it is doubtful if anyone will see the advertisement elsewhere that does not see it on the billboards.
12. SMALL INVITATION CARDS SHOULD BE USED WITHOUT STINT. These should be handed out on the street corners, should be carried into houses, saloons, hotels, stores. It is well for the pastor on prayer-meeting night to have a supply of these tickets present, and before the meeting closes have them handed out to each individual, urging them to take them and give them out. The same method can be employed in other meetings. Very frequently when Mr. Moody was not getting the attendance at his services that he desired, he would have a large supply of tickets at one service, and have them distributed among the people to give out, and at the very next service, there would be a large increase in attendance.
13. IT IS WELL SOMETIMES TO TICKET A MEETING, AND ALLOW NO ONE TO ENTER BEFORE A CERTAIN TIME WITHOUT A TICKET. This puts a premium on admission to the services, and people believe that it is something worth going to. Of course these tickets should be free, but people should be obliged to take some trouble to get them, to send a stamped envelope or call at a certain place to get them. If you do ticket a meeting, be sure to keep faith with the people. Never say no one will be admitted up to a certain hour without a ticket, and then let people in whether they have a ticket or not. The people who have taken the trouble to get a ticket will justly feel that they have been outraged.
14. NO OTHER FORM OF ADVERTISING IS AS GOOD AS PERSONAL INVITATION. Whatever else is done to advertise the meetings, be sure to get individuals to talk about the meetings to individuals, and to urgently invite them to come. There should be a systematic canvass of the entire neighborhood where meetings are held. The names and addresses of all non-church goers should be secured. Notices should be sent again and again to these non-church goers. They should be followed up by letters and postals. These things cost money, but these are the methods that are used by successful business houses in building up their business, and the church of Christ can afford to be no less active and earnest than a business house.
15. NEVER FORGET THE PAPERS IN YOUR ADVERTISING. (1) First of all MAKE AS MUCH USE AS POSSIBLE OF THE NEWS COLUMNS OF THE PAPER. Most newspapers are willing to assist to the utmost of their ability in pushing the work of any church that shows it is alive and aggressive. If notices and descriptions of meetings, and outlines of sermons, and other interesting matter is sent to them, they will publish it. They will often send reporters to the meeting if there is anything worth reporting. It is not fair to leave it to the papers to find out what is going on when it is more our interest than theirs that is in hand. If you are not satisfied with the reporting of the newspapers by their own people, usually you can report the meeting yourself and they will accept your report if it is readable. Of course, if the newspapers get the idea that a man is trying to advertise himself, they will despise and ignore him, as they ought to, but if it is a legitimate making public of the work that he is at, the papers appreciate it. Many ministers and churches complain of not getting satisfactory reports from the newspapers, but they are more to blame than the newspapers. They think that the newspapers ought to know that they are alive and important, but newspaper men are very busy men and cannot be expected to know everything. They abuse the newspapers and then wonder why the newspapers do not support them.
(2) MAKE USE OF THE ADVERTISING COLUMNS OF THE NEWSPAPER. This should not be done too generously, as it is not necessary, but an attractive advertisement should now and then be put in the amusement column. I say in the amusement column, for that is the column read by people looking for some place to go, by travelers and commercial men, by the very class which the church wishes to reach, and oftentimes fails to reach. A very large church that we know, whose audience used to fill only one floor, advertised a special evening service with a special subject, in the amusement column of the paper. The following Sunday evening the church was filled upstairs and down. There were perhaps 800 or 1,000 extra people present. The church kept up this special advertising for only a week or two, but the church has kept full from that day to this, though more than five years have passed.
16. IN YOUR ADVERTISING NEVER FORGET GOD. All your advertising will come to absolutely nothing unless God blesses it. His guidance should be sought as to how to advertise, and His blessing upon the advertisements that are sent out. A minister of the Gospel who found it difficult to get men to go out with the transparencies finally decided to carry them himself. As he went down one of the leading streets of the neighborhood, he did not enjoy the work, but he prayed that God would bless the transparency to the conversion of some one. The next night a man came to another member of the church and told him how he had been brought out to church by seeing the transparency at a certain point, and how he had been converted. This other member called the minister who had carried the transparency, and introduced him. The minister questioned him, and found out that it was undoubtedly by his transparency this young man had been attracted as he stood upon the steps of a hotel. Thus he found that his prayer was answered. A few evenings after another young man told his story, and he had evidently been converted by means of the same transparency as it was carried back up another street. God is willing to bless everything we do, our advertising as well as our preaching, if we do it to His honor and under His guidance, and we should look to Him to thus definitely bless it.