I got involved in Christian TELEVISION more than 30 years
ago for one reason: It could reach huge numbers of people with the
gospel—people who would never set foot in a church. I wasn’t
particularly interested in changing the culture, promoting a political
agenda or entertaining whilepromoting Christian morals. It was a heart for evangelism
that caused me to dedicate my career to helping dozens of “broadcast
Today I feel betrayed by the “industry.” I have to be
honest and call it what it is. With the billions of dollars we’ve
raised, it is indeed an industry.
Several months ago, I set out to test the responsiveness
of a few dozen of these ministries. I selected small ones, giant ones,
evangelicals and charismatics across all the major Christian networks.
Many I knew personally; some I had worked with; some I had never heard
I began the test, confident that if I asked any of them
about the primary reason they were on television, they would say
without hesitation, “to win the lost.”
I drafted a very simple letter under an assumed name. I
thanked the ministry for being there and asked how I could accept Jesus
into my heart. I enclosed $20 and listed my address in a bit of an
After 45 days, I had heard from more than 95 percent of
them. Sadly, less than 25 percent addressed my question about salvation
in a direct, easy-to-understand way. Think about that. If we are really
about evangelism, how can this be?
The most impressive response was a
simple letter from a small ministry that walked me down the road to
salvation. It was personal, direct and spoke to me from the heart. A
few others sent short books on leading a person to salvation that
presented the process in a more formal manner.
Another 20 percent sent packages that
contained books or a handfuls of books and DVDs, but none gave me a
direct answer to the most important question a person can ask. One
up-and-coming TV preacher sent me a large package of stuff that cost
$8.10 to mail! But there was no simple explanation of the good news.
The rest of the ministries (the majority) didn’t respond
to my question. I was thanked for my gift and put on a direct-mail
list. I received magazines, newsletters and more stuff, but no answers.
By the end of the test, I was shocked, sad and angry. The
truth is, I think all the leaders of these ministries would be
horrified to know what had happened.
They are simply too busy to know this is the way
correspondence is handled. They have messages to write, funds to raise
and TV programs to produce. They trust their managers to know their
heart’s desire and make it happen.
I think they would be horrified to know
what else I learned: More than 80 percent of the ministries either
failed to thank the new donor—who cost them from $70 to $300 to
acquire—within a month’s time, or they didn’t have a system in place to
detect and fix a minor address issue that is costing them money every
Is yours one of these TV ministries? If I could face you, this would be my challenge:
Today, ask the senior person in your ministry to tell you
what happens when someone inquires in a letter about the way to
But don’t stop there. Have your secretary test the system on the side to see how it works. Know what actually happens.
I will not share in public all I learned. But the leaders should be grateful that I am not a reporter for 20/20 or 60 Minutes. My heart is not to make anyone angry or get anyone into trouble. It is to help fix this now.
Mary Hutchinson is a donor-development professional and runs her own company, Inspired Direct (getinspireddirect.com), in Nashua, New Hampshire.