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Deacon Spreads the Gospel--Through the Mail

From Associated Press

Don’t tell Horace Burks that preaching the Gospel through the mailbox is too simple, or too hard.

The church deacon decided in 1989 to reach every home in America with a brochure on God. That was $10 million and about 102 million homes ago.

The mass mailing, in comic book format and funded through donations, has not been without its ups and downs, or without critics who wondered if the money could have been better spent.

“A lot of people in this country are turned off by religion,” Burks said in defense of the eight-page brochure. “I don’t know why it hasn’t been done before, except maybe the time wasn’t right.”

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Burks, from the 550-member Sycamore Church of Christ on the Cumberland plateau, 75 miles east of Nashville, is pleased with the response to his brochure. He hopes to raise enough money to go international.

Responses have been flowing in at a rate of 2,000 a day since the first brochures went out July 4th.

“It’s our biggest mailing ever . . . and it’s been called the largest private mailing in history,” said Mike Stork, a sales representative for a Ft. Worth company that is mailing the brochure using bulk rates.

He heard of the mailing through the church and offered Advo-System’s services.

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The brochure, sometimes stuffed inside newspapers, portrays characters as missing something in their lives, with some turning to drugs and alcohol before finding religion. Television anchors present the story.

The brochure offers a Bible correspondence course free. The first packet of material for the course is mailed to a Church of Christ in the person’s area for delivery.

Volunteers are assembling material for the course and answering telephones.

Burks thought of the idea after hearing how five people in the 1960s helped coordinate the battle against smallpox.

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Phase 1, which should be completed by the end of August, is the United States. The second phase will cover Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Eastern Europe with brochures. The final phase will blanket Asia.

Church elders and deacons began work on the project in 1989. They raised the bulk of the $10 million through donations from 3,100 church congregations.

Advo mailed an average 10 million brochures a day, with 70 million sent in the first week. Within two weeks, brochures to about 92 million U.S. households--more than received the 1990 Census--were sent out.

Some critics say the money could have helped the needy.

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“I threw mine out because it was stuffed in the newspaper with the ads and I thought it was an ad and I wanted to get to the news,” said the Rev. Jack Mraz of Ashland City United Methodist Church.

Many out-of-state visitors stop by the church to see if the congregation exists.

“One man in Oregon was sure he had found a religious scam. He thought a marketing company was using the name of a church to make money,” Burks said.


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