Skip to main content

Mailer Madness

In a previous post, I challenged the use of mass mailings because of the negative impressions they leave with many people. I also noted that we could easily be confused with Jehovah's Witnesses. Little did I know that I would find such strong proof that this is the case.

The evangelistic series I was a part of used the slogan, "What's Next?" which played on the fact that this was the 100 year anniversary of the SF earthquake. We sent out copies of The Great Controversy to virtually everyone in SF as well as pamphlets advertising the series.

I came across this blog which features a group of people blogging about everyday life in San Francisco. Interestingly, someone actually posted about receiving our pamphlet in the mail and was obviously not impressed. The comments were also less than gracious. Just a sampling of what was written:

"Glad you told me what it was, I assumed it was the new Watchtower."

"wow, maybe it's a citywide sweep! should get an '06 award for "best regional exploitation of history and fear by a fundie group", then..."

"I got one in the mail, and thought "Great! This will tell me how to prepare for the earthquake/tsumami/swarm of locusts that try to kill me in the near future. I put it on my counter (this was, of course, after watching the Discovery Channel special "America's Tsumami - Are we next?") When I came home later, it was gone. My boyfriend said "I threw out that cult thing, guess you won't get saved." Silly me."

"Just a note, this booklet actually comes from the Seventh Day Adventist Church. After going to (from the back page) you can find a link to and eventually another link to the maker of the booklet, the Seventh Day Adventist Church. I wonder why they hide themselves so well? if it is really the truth they have, they would not have to hide themselves. comments?"

I'm not suggesting that this would be the majority position. I think most people threw it in the trash without even thinking twice. However, I think that we need to consider not only how many people we baptize through a series, but how many people we completely turn off through our methodology. In our case, we probably turned off a lot more people than we reached.


j said…

thats crazy!
erica said…
damn... thats serious...
Anybody else wonder why the Tsunami in the picture looks like it about to tackled by Laird Hamilton?
spo said…
I just read the post by Violet you talked about. I am embarassed to be a member of a church that is perceived in such horrible a fashion. I know that the Bible says we will be persecuted for Jesus' sake, but being persecuted for the sake of bad marketing is not biblical and I protest the tainting of my image at the hands of the SF SDA church evangelism people that came up with that flyer.
If I got that flyer in the mail, I would agree with the SFers.
Ryan Bell said…
Wow! Once again, you're (we're) preaching to the choir. I wish some of those who teach evangelism would read this blog and the comments. Clearly it wasn't an isolated case seeing how several of the commenters also received the same brochure and felt exactly the same way. I think it IS a majority position.
Anonymous said…
Solid work, Trevan.

That mailer and GC send was tacky, full of wacky fear mongering, and a waste of thousands of dollars. For what? Much more bad press than good, and barely any success. I was there for the baptisms of the first night and that was one of the weirdest things I've ever seen in a church. The three folks barely had any idea of what they were doing and what they were joining.

I've worked in four evangelistic series - WA, MI, and Philippines - and it's clear to me that most of these campaigns are based on a fifty-year-old sense of what attracts attention.

BTW, do I remember you right Trevan, did that SF series cost the conference over a hundred thousand dollars?
trevan said…
"Project Steps to Christ" had a big advertisement in a recent issue of the Review trying to get people to do mass book mailings. They advertised the project they did in SF and shared that it cost over $250,000. In addition, we had to rent the YMCA, chairs, sound equipment, etc. Also, the Bible Workers needed to be paid, housing provided for everyone, and money given to eat. So, overall I would say the total cost hit close to $400,000.
Gordon said…
Trevan, I can see that the evangelism experience had a big impact - on you - and that is worth something. It is true that the approach you experienced is pretty archaic, certainly not the best way to reach SF. I wonder what would be a good way. One of the reasons I never was much of an evangelist is because I think I see too many grey areas - to be a good evangelist (in the old traditional sense) everything needs to be pretty black and white. Anyway don't lose heart - Jesus reigns and wants us to connect with people - somehow - maybe you can help us find the way.

kumardixit said…
This is such a sad story. Why doesn't anybody get it in Silver Spring? Here is some great counsel from Ellen White, "The people of every country have their own peculiar, distinctive characteristics, and it is necessary that men should be wise in order that they may know how to adapt themselves to the peculiar ideas of the people, and so introduce the truth that may do them good. They must be able to understand and meet their wants." (Testimonies to Ministers, p.213).

It is obvious that the designers of this terrible campaign didn't bother to consider their audience.
Courtney said…
This makes me sad for our church. We could reach so many more people with a positive message, embraceing them and meeting meeting them where they are in life rather than preaching dooms day.
Anonymous said…
I must have been a talkative little boy because I remember my mother saying to me, "Don't tell all you know." Unfortunately, it seems that a large number of sincere Christians (including Adventists) never got this advice. They jump to the conclusion that if they blast out the message without any regard for translation or communication strategy it will somehow convey the gospel to the world. I once had a friend in college who asked me to drive him into downtown Riverside. He leaned out the window and yelled, "Jesus is coming!" and felt that would somehow get people to think seriously about the gospel. Of course none of this results in anything but confusion or even revulsion on the part of the intended audience. It creates blockages that keeps people from hearing the gospel instead of actually conveying it.

Many Christians, whenever the motivation to engage in evangelism comes along, immediately turn to propaganda techniques (radio, TV, print materials) instead of real ministry ("Christ's method"). It is a self-centered urge that thinks nothing of the other person (the intended receiver of the witness) and only of what I want to say, what I want them to hear. It is inherently unChristlike. And people who trot out the "foolishness of preaching" text from Paul to justify this kind of propaganda are simply misusing the Scriptures. The gospel is authentic only when it is conveyed with the compassion of Christ; when the words appear after deeds of unselfish caring and when they are carefully crafted to be heard and understood based on extensive, careful listening. The people who distribute all of this Christian propaganda are doing the work of the Devil, not the work of Jesus.

Popular posts from this blog

Life of a Pastor

It was shaping up to be a long, draining Sabbath an Adventist pastor experiences quite often. I got up around 7am and didn't finish the day until 10pm (I did get a chance to sneak a nap in so that helped). Although too long, it provided a lot of thought-provoking experiences that made it manageable. The week turned out to be filled with good news. On Monday, a member had a baby so that was exciting. Another member had back surgery on Tuesday that went well. Wednesday, one of our members' sons was had a very rare and serious surgery. It literally took all day but by late afternoon we got the great news that everything had gone well. So, we were coming to church in a celebrative mood. Then, before Sabbath School started, a mother and daughter-in-law were crying and hugging each other because another daughter-in-law was given bad news about her cancer. The doctors have told her she has two months to live. This actual is quite typical in church. You have people coming full of prais

Four Reasons We Vaccinated Our Kids Against COVID-19

At the first chance possible we took Luke (10) and Zeke (7) to get vaccinated against COVID-19. There are four reasons we made this choice that I hope might encourage other parents to do the same.  First, we trust the science and data that has undeniably shown that vaccinations work. They reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19 and even if you have a breakthrough case, the chance of hospitalization or even death are drastically reduced. You can see the overwhelming data from California here:  Without question, we have trusted our doctors and the regular immunization schedule for school. We get a flu shot every year. We give our kids Tylenol or Ibuprofen when they're sick. They’ve taken antibiotics as prescribed. We aren’t going to stop trusting our doctors now.  Second, we’re doing it to protect their grandparents and other adults with risk factors. While the risk of serious complications for them is quite low, it is high for t

The Advent Struggle

I've been trying to write this for literally a month but haven't been able to. Not sure why but it just hasn't flowed. So, here's the attempt: On a regular basis, I hear from or about friends who have stopped going to church. There are numerous reasons why they are leaving but one common thread seems to be a feeling that church has become meaningless. They've felt this for a long time but kept going because they hoped it would get better or just because they'd feel guilty if they didn't. But, they aren't going to play the game anymore. The young adult exodus out of the church isn't news to really anyone but there's something important that I think will make this crisis be more severe. When you examine recent Adventist history, there have been several crises of faith including EGW and Inspiration, Desmond Ford, and Creation/Science (to a small degree). What are the characteristics of all of them? 1. They are based on a doctrinal position and are v