The Magic of Telephone Evangelism

God has placed at your fingertips an instrument that can make you and God's message available to the people of your city twenty-four hours every day.

HAROLD E. METCALF, Ministerial Association Secretary, Southern Union

HERE is startling news! God has placed at your fingertips an instrument that can make you and God's message available to the people of your city twenty-four hours every day. I refer to the telephone.

More than a year ago a Seventh-day Ad­ventist layman visited me in my office in Atlanta to interest me in purchasing a Code-a-phone. Now a Code-a-phone is a telephone answering machine capable of giving as much as a three-minute message and also capable of receiving and record­ing a message from one who calls. This layman suggested that it might be possible to give Bible studies over the telephone. I laughed and asked him, "How could a per­son give a Bible study in three minutes' time and accomplish anything?"

We talked for a while, then I gave up the idea entirely. But the layman returned day after day until I finally began to see a little bit of light in presenting a Bible study in a short period of time over the telephone. So I presented the proposition to him that if his company would lend us the machine, I would put in the telephone line, pay the expenses, and try it out for a period of one month. If it worked, we would buy the machine and would pursue the idea further. Arrangements were made, the telephone line was installed, the ma­chine was delivered to the office, and I re­corded the first message.

Do You Need Advice?

I then asked the layman, "Now that the message is on the machine, how are we go­ing to let people know they can hear this message?" This stumped us both for just a few moments. The layman spoke first. "Put a little ad in the newspaper in the classified section—Do You Need Advice? Dial _________ ." I could see immediately the great potential in his suggestion, so I said, "I will do it." We called a newspaper and put the ad in the personal column of its classified section: "DO YOU NEED AD­VICE? DIAL 288-1666."

About seven-thirty the next morning, while I was looking for the ad in the news­paper in my office, the telephone began to ring. It rang throughout that day, the next day, and so on until a week had passed, during which time 650 people had called and listened to the entire message.

I should tell you that at the end of each Bible message we suggested to the people it would be a good thing for them to have our Bible Guides. We told them if they would like to receive the Guides, free and postage paid, all they needed to do was to give their name and mailing address at the sound of the beep and in a few days they would receive the first in the Guide series.

Of the 650 people who called the first week of operation more than 100 gave their name and mailing address. In just a few weeks our line was so busy all day long that we installed a second telephone and a second answering machine. In another few weeks the two machines were so busy we needed a third, then a fourth. Our four Code-a-phones are now giving our two­-and-a-half-minute message twenty-four hours every day and are receiving names and addresses by the hundreds

We kept the first message on for ten days. We then put on a second message and let it run for a week. We changed the message each week for two or three weeks. Finally, I conceived the idea that it would be much better to give a new message ev­ery day. Why not build a regular calling audience?

For seven days I discussed the inspira­tion of the Bible. Near the end of each message I made this statement: "When you phone tomorrow, I will answer the question (here I gave the topic of the next day's discussion—another phase of the inspiration of the Bible). I did this each day during the week. I tried to form questions that would cause an individual to be curi­ous and call. Even though he may not have agreed with what I had said, he would be curious to know my answer to the ques­tion, and so he would call.

To each general topic we have allowed one week for discussion, dividing the topic into seven parts. Some topics—The State of the Dead, The Sabbath, The Punish­ment of the Wicked, Tithing, The Judg­ment—we have discussed for two, and sometimes three weeks.

A Regular Calling Audience

By giving a new message every day we have developed a regular calling audience.

At the same time, our little ad, which ap­pears in the newspaper every day, contin­ues to get a large number of new callers.

In about eight months 80,000 have called and listened to our daily program in the city of Atlanta. Of that number 11,500 have given their name and mailing ad­dress to receive our free Bible course. You can readily see that this is a way by which the masses can be reached on an individual basis.

By means of the telephone you can talk to thousands of people in a short period of time. When an individual telephones your number to listen to what you have to say, he is more likely to listen and give heed than if you called him. The fact that he has called would indicate some degree of interest or curiosity.

The psychology of an individual is vastly different when he is listening to a tele­phone message than when listening to a radio or television message. When listen­ing to the radio or television he knows thousands of others are listening to the same thing at the same time; but when he calls your number he knows for that mo­ment of time you are talking especially to him. It becomes a personal, private con­versation. The advantage of the telephone message over other means of communica­tion is, if the individual wants to hear the same message again, he can telephone again. If it has been a real inspiration to him, he can telephone his neighbors and his friends and invite them to call any time during the twenty-four-hour period, and hear the identical message he heard; whereas the message given on the radio or television is not heard again. Then, too, after the telephone message the individual has the opportunity not only to give his name and address to receive the free ma­terial he is offered but to make comments about the message.

Individual Free Expression

These comments may be favorable or they may be very unfavorable. At least the individual is free to express himself. He may even ask questions and request you to call to help him with certain problems he is having.

There are thousands of people every­where who want advice. You and I have the best advice that anyone can give. Peo­ple may not attend religious services; they may not tune in to a religious broadcast or telecast, but they will listen to a Bible message given over the telephone.

Favorable, Unfavorable, Indifferent

The reactions to telephone evangelism are quite varied. Some react favorably, others unfavorably, and many remain in­different. You can see readily why this is so. We advertise, "Do You Need Advice?" The individual who calls may have in mind financial, social, or marital advice. Religious advice and instruction may be farthest from his thinking; therefore, find­ing the advice to be religious, he reacts un­favorably. Yet, by the same token, many individuals who call desiring other kinds of advice are greatly blessed and refreshed by the religious message given. They can let us know how they think and feel. Of course, those who appreciate the talk given will call again and again, particu­larly when questions are proposed that arouse in them a desire to know the Bible answer.

One man who telephoned for several days finally gave his name and address. We started sending our Bible lessons, and he started returning the test sheets to our of­fice. He reached the Sabbath question! When he did, he came face to face with a decision he must make. He wrote us that while it had been a shocking experience to find he was keeping the wrong day, yet after going over our lessons several times and comparing them with what the Bible says, he found that we were right. So he quit his job on Sabbath and started look­ing for another one. Immediately upon re­ceipt of this comment, I called the pastor of one of our Atlanta churches, gave him the man's name and address and the back­ground of his experience. The pastor called on him that very afternoon. He re­ported that he found a very good interest and would start studies with him immedi­ately.

I was in my office one evening recently when the telephone rang again. I an­swered, and the party on the other end of the line asked whether this was an office.

"It is," I replied.

"Are you Mr. Metcalf?" a lady asked.

"I am," I said.

"I listen to you every day over the tele­phone," she told me, "and your program has done a whole lot for me already.

"I work in an office in the city of At­lanta. At break time all of the girls in the office get on the telephone, and we dial your number. After we have listened to your message we discuss what you have said. Your messages have meant a lot to me and the girls in my office."

As I talked further with this young woman I found that she had not given us her name and address the first few times she called, but the question at the end of the message had kept her calling day after day until finally one day she gave her name and address and we sent the Bible lessons to her.

"Those Bible lessons have really en­riched my life," she said. "They have taught me a lot of things that I didn't know before. In fact, the subject of the millennium was never clear in my mind, but it is now. I have been making Xerox copies of your lessons and sending them to some relatives and friends."

This women didn't realize she could have asked these individuals whether they would like to receive the Bible course, and could have sent their names to us if they desired them, and we would have been happy to mail the Bible course to them also.

Now she turned to another matter. "Mr. Metcalf, the other day I noticed again the ad in the newspaper. In fact, it is there every day, and as I looked at it, I felt impressed to call and ask whether there wasn't something I could do to help pay for some of the advertising. The program has been such a blessing in my life, I am wondering whether I could pay for a month's advertising."

I told her the cost for one of the ads for one month was approximately $30. A few days later I received a check from her for $35 and also three names and addresses to whom she asked us to send the Bible course. Two of the individuals were minis­ters of another denomination. She wrote, "I am sure these ministers will be happy to receive your Bible lessons."

She then added, "Please rush my next set of lessons. My vacation comes next week, and mother and I are going away for a whole week and just study the Bible and my lessons."

Another of God's Ways

This story is typical of what is happen­ing in hundreds of homes all over the At­lanta area as a result of our telephone evangelism program. We believe this is an­other way God has of reaching the masses and finishing His work as individuals lay hold of God's truth for these last days.

There are several machines that can be used in this telephone evangelism program. There is the Code-a-phone 770. We have five of these in our office at the present time. Four of them are used on telephone lines. Our fifth machine is used as a tran­scriber. The tape cartridge is removed and put on the fifth machine so that the names and addresses can be taken off each day by our secretary. This makes it possible for our four machines to be in service con­stantly. The Code-a-phone 770 has a two-hour tape for receiving incoming calls. We have received as many as 650 names and addresses on one tape.

There is the machine known as Record­O-Fone Model 69. It has a sixteen-minute tape to receive incoming calls which will receive approximately fifty names and ad­dresses. By using a thinner tape, the time allotted for receiving incoming calls can be increased to thirty or thirty-two min­utes. This makes Record-O-Fone Model 69 capable of receiving about one hundred names and addresses before they would have to be taken off.

Another machine being used in some areas for telephone evangelism is Call Con­trol. This has a one-half-hour tape for receiving incoming calls. By writing the man­ufacturers of these various machines, you can get information as to their construc­tion, guarantee, price, et cetera.

How to Get Started

You ask, What do I do to get started in telephone evangelism? First, investigate the various machines available. Get a demon­stration. Determine which machine you are going to purchase. Then call the tele­phone company to make arrangements for the installation of a telephone line. If you anticipate that in your area you may need more than one machine in the future, it is wise to ask for a rotary phone number; it costs no more. In the future, should you need to add a second or third machine, the only number advertised is your original number. When the first machine is busy, it automatically rings the second or third ma­chine.

You will find the new book The Magic of Telephone Evangelism, published by the Southern Publishing Association, invalu­able when setting up telephone evangel­ism in your city. It will answer all of your questions. It provides the daily messages for the first thirteen weeks. After that, you can do one of two things: secure additional messages from the author of the book, or write your own and record them each day. The book contains not only step-by-step instruction for setting up telephone evan­gelism but some twenty different advertis­ing ideas with which to publicize the pro­gram.

How Long?

Some have asked the question, "How long can I expect the telephone program to be successful in my city?" It will be suc­cessful as long as you want it to be success­ful. By that I mean, people will continue to call as long as your telephone number and this public service is publicized. Stop advertising, and the calls will begin to dwindle down to nothing. For best results, the advertising ought to be varied from time to time. In Atlanta we have used two advertisements in the newspaper in the classified section—"Do You Need Advice?" and "Are You Lonely?" Of course, with each one of these lines we have put the telephone number to be dialed. On a few occasions we have asked the members of our churches in Atlanta to distribute a

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HAROLD E. METCALF, Ministerial Association Secretary, Southern Union

November 1967

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