Sunday Sermons

Sunday Sermons

Word of Mouth

Word of Mouth

There have been times when I have thought to myself, “How can we get the word out about the gospel when we are competing with groups who have lots of financial resources, television, radio, direct mail and Internet advertizing all behind a different message? 

Confidence in Jesus

When Jesus commissioned His followers to go and preach the gospel (Mark 16:16), He did not build a publishing house, and neither did He give them a stack of fresh Bibles. The command to go and preach (Matthew 28:19) clearly authorizes the use of such things spreading the message by radio or television, but Jesus did not start there. In fact, God’s planning and timing is interesting from the standpoint of marketing the message (Galatians 4:4). God considered the First Century to be the best time for His Son to arrive with the message of salvation, while many experts would have postponed the arrival of Jesus until the age of Television and the Internet.

The Example of the Early Christians

  • “Those who had been scattered abroad went about preaching the word” (Acts 8:4).
  • “So then those who were scattered because of the persecution that occurred in connection with Stephen made their way to Phoenica and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word” (Acts 11:19).
  • “They met with the church and taught considerable numbers” (Acts 11:26).
  • “This took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord” (Acts 19:10).
  • “The hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I Paul, was made a minister” (Colossians 1:23).

The early Christians, with no radio, television, tracts, or Internet were able to spread the message of the gospel within thirty years throughout the entire Roman Empire and churches were established in most of the major and lesser cities.

The Immunity to Advertizing

“In the late 1970s… businesses began to realize that the phone was a really cheap and efficient way of reaching potential customers, and since then the number of telemarketing calls to target households has increased tenfold. The fact that everyone has a phone makes the phone network very powerful, in theory. But the truth is that over the past twenty-five years or so, the effectiveness of telemarketing has dropped to about 50 percent… As a network grows in size, however, it is also the case that the time and nuisance costs borne by each member of the network grow as well. That is why people don’t talk to telemarkers anymore” (The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell, p. 273). In like manner, most of us have become “immune” to television and radio commercials (time to change the channel). The same is true for many email solicitations, door-to-door salespeople (the abundance of no soliciting signs) and direct mail ads. If you are like me I go to the mailbox, stop at the recycle can, dump all the direct mail ads and then go back in the house.

Thus, Jesus knew what He was doing when He commanded His disciples to go and preach. Word of mouth endorsement or spreading of a message has always been and will always be the most effective way of spreading any message.

Anything But That…

We can be rather stubborn. I have seen churches opt for all sorts of things in the attempt to bring in new members — instead of simply spreading the gospel with enthusiasm to one person at a time. The denominations and liberal churches of Christ have tried the same things, from church kitchens, gyms, joy buses, outdoor concerts, car shows, potlucks for the community, day care centers, rock bands for worship, and they even dropped their names. All of this can create a jump in membership — often from other churches in the area, but such things have no Scriptural permission from God behind them, and from the fact that groups that have opted for them are frequently declining in number and losing their children to the world, such things do not produce real spiritual growth.

Change the Message? No!

Some churches in the attempt to grow opt for changing the message of the gospel. They may eliminate the doctrine of hell, Satan, certain moral requirements, the need to repent and be baptized or the doctrine that Jesus is the only way to God (Acts 4:12). Yet this only creates a message that condemns both those who spread it and those who accept it (Galatians 1:6-9). In addition, the world can see through such attempts at gaining members. Most people do not have much respect for anyone who would be willing to pay blackmail in order to remain popular, and that is exactly what is happening when churches alter the gospel to fit the whims of the present culture. It is a form of black mail or like a small business paying protection money to the mob. Yet the truth is there are plenty of churches that have changed all sorts of things about the gospel and are still declining. People are perceptive. Because if I can fornicate, divorce and remarry whenever I want, live in adultery, socially drink all I want, believe whatever I want, attend hit and miss or not really be a member of any congregation, yet still make it to heaven — why do I need to be a Christian? Yet the gospel teaches that I cannot just believe or live however I want (Galatians 5:21; Ephesians 5:6; Colossians 3:6).

The Right Messenger

“When people are overwhelmed with information and develop immunity to traditional forms of communication, they turn instead for advice and information to the people in their lives whom they respect, admire, and trust” (Gladwell, p. 275). Gladwell then speaks of Georgia Sadler who began a campaign to increase knowledge and awareness of diabetes and breast cancer in the black community in San Diego. Her initial attempts were disappointing. So she sought a new context or messenger for her message. She needed a place were women were relaxed, receptive and had the time to hear something new. Her solution was not expensive or dramatic. She simply opted to have her message presented at beauty salons — and it worked! 

Being the Right Messenger

I think that most Christians wished they could become very effective personal workers. And we might look at ourselves and say, “Maybe I don’t have enough charm or charisma to be effective”. Yet don’t let the devil convince you to retire in this area. There have been great personal workers who did not convert many people, like Noah, Isaiah, Elijah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel (Romans 10:21; Ezekiel 3:7). Yet here is something to consider. Most things that become habits are things that are reinforced by a pleasurable experience. Thus, our initial interactions with non-Christians need to leave a positive impression. Let’s remember that we have so much to offer and there are many things that are positive about us. We are friendly, have good marriages, happy home lives and a certain amount of economic comfort. Let’s be the people who give other people “permission” to change. If people are worried about what will happen to them if they become a Christian — they can simply look at us, and see happy, contented, fulfilled, active, busy people who are living very exciting lives.


  • There is no greater or better message than the one to which we are entrusted. There is no message with greater incentives for obedience or greater warnings against disobedience (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).
  • There is no greater incentive to spread this message (2 Corinthians 5:10). 
  • There is no greater picture of love than the message that we have (Romans 5:6-8).
  • There is no greater offer of a second chance, a new life and forgiveness (Isaiah 1:18).
  • Nothing else compares to or really matters. In the end, the message we have, is the only message that will matter (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).
  • The same God who raised Jesus from the dead can also raise people who are dead in sin, He can raise the addicted, He can raise dead marriages, He can raise those who have hit rock bottom (1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Ephesians 2:1-3).
  • The gospel is the answer for those things that plague people, such as low-self esteem, pride, an unhappy home life, bad choices, selfishness, nothing meaningful to do, anger, regret, guilt, self loathing and so on.

Mark Dunagan |
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017