It seems many of my GoThereFor posts start by acknowledging that I have a significant self-interest in suggesting the use of books in gospel ministry. I suppose the need to make a disclaimer is something of an ‘occupational hazard’ for me; after all, I get paid to publish and sell books. But it’s also a ‘passion hazard’, because I am genuinely a convinced enthusiast for gospel books and the impact they have in people’s lives under God’s sovereign hand. So, deal with this disclaimer as you see fit.
Still reading? Excellent.
So here’s today’s suggestion: that as a church, you invest in gospel books to give away to the visitors who walk into your church this Christmas.
Need some convincing? Here are seven reasons:
1. Lots of visitors | Christmas is a time when we get lots of visitors in our churches. Some of these folk may be ‘regulars’ in that you saw them last Christmas—but you probably haven’t seen them in church since. In our church, we get so many visitors on Christmas Day, and they leave so quickly, that we can’t possibly hope to engage all of them in meaningful conversation. Furthermore, these services’ sermons tend to be shorter, and there are lots of distractions going on in the building, so the gospel touch on our visitors during this Christmas opportunity is generally brief and light. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they could take more gospel home with them to engage with at a time when they are more receptive and better able to focus on that message?
2. An echo of grace | Let’s be honest, most unchurched people come to church expecting they are going to be asked to give (money). Even if we don’t pass the plate around in our church, many are sitting there expecting it to be. So they will be pleasantly surprised when they aren’t asked for money. But wouldn’t it be even more subversive of their expectations, and gracious of our church, if they receive a gift from us? What a terrific way to echo the divine generosity that is at the heart of our Christmas message (Acts 20:35). For a more personal touch, one church I know got a little group together to also nicely giftwrap each book. It’s surprising how quickly this can be done when you have a bit of a production line, and what a great team-building activity!
3. A smaller first step | I’m a big fan of offering people the chance to learn more about the message of Jesus through face-to-face contact with us, e.g. through a Christianity Explored or Introducing Godcourse, or even personal Bible tutoring. However the reality is that most people are not going to sign up for that sort of commitment (at least, not at Christmas time). It’s awesome when they do, but it’s going to be a small minority of your visitors. But if you give them the easier first step, a short and easy-to-read book, perhaps they are more likely to take the bigger second step. You could, for example, put a bookmark in each giveaway book with details of how to join a course you are running.
4. Plenty of choice | You have plenty of choice: there are at least three Christian publishers now making available really excellent Christmas-themed evangelistic books: Matthias Media, The Good Book Company, and 10Publishing. Matthias Media’s new book is called The Curious Sign, and you can find out more in our online store (you can even read the whole thing if you want to).
5. Low cost | All three publishers genuinely want to see the books in the hands of as many unbelievers as possible, so they are offering these books very cheaply compared to normal books. That means that buying enough for every Christmas visitor is not going to need a special fundraising campaign. (Although it would be a pretty easy campaign. One or two evangelistically-minded congregation members might even cover the whole cost, or you’d probably cover the cost if you asked everyone to donate the coins in their pockets/purses next Sunday.) One book in the hands of an unbeliever will cost around the price of a single coffee, and sponsoring a book is a simple way to get all your church members involved in your church’s mission.
6. Engaging and short | Your church may be in a part of the world where literacy is low and where people just do not ever read books. If that’s you, well… I’d still offer the book for those who want to pick one up from a table, but maybe I wouldn’t actively hand it to everyone. But for most of our churches, people can and will read—the book just needs to be quite short and the first chapter or two very engaging so that they want to keep reading. The books from the sources I mentioned above are all like that.
7. A good investment | As an investment in mission, giving away books is, I think, a bit of a no-brainer. For just a few dollars, a book can communicate simple gospel truths to a warm church contact (someone interested enough to come to church). Compare that to the actual cost of paying a pastor to visit or even just call them. Of course I’m not for a moment arguing against personal contact, which has many benefits. But if that personal contact is not possible, giving someone a book is a small but very worthwhile investment in their spiritual good.
Have I persuaded you? Or do you have some other suggestions on how to make the most of Christmas as a church? Comments are welcome on our Facebook post for this article.
This article originally appeared on GoThereFor.com. Used with permission.
Ian Carmichael is Matthias Media's Publications and Marketing Director. He has been with Matthias Media from the very beginning (1988), and his current role focuses on producing new ministry resources and growing Matthias Media in Australia and around the world. Ian and his wife, Stephanie, have two adult children, and are part of the team growing a new church in Castle Cove, Sydney.
Image courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com
Publication date: November 21, 2016