Now that the Supreme Court has lowered the gavel on “Dial-a-Porn” 900-number telephone services, all those vacant phone lines will be available for other, more productive uses. Like preaching.
The Pope got things off to a rousing start with his new service, 1-900-740-POPE. Call that number and you’ll hear, in English a tape of Pope John Paul II’s daily message, as provided by Vatican Radio.
Each daily message will last about two minutes, and callers will be charged $1.95 per minute. I suppose if the Vatican gets in a financial pinch, they can get the Pope to tell a really good joke that runs about ten minutes, which would provide about $15 extra per caller; after all, who’s going to hang up on the pope?
The company promoting the service projects that about one percent of the nation’s Roman Catholics might call the service weekly, which would produce more than $2 million a week, with the Vatican’s cut amounting to $600,000-700,000 of that, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Surely the entrepreneurial spirits of preachers everywhere are already envisioning evangelical and mainline Protestant spin-offs.
The potential for TV evangelists is obvious. Instead of asking viewers to call a toll-free number or write in (then wait weeks for a donation), just flash that 900 number on the screen (Yes, folks, just call, 1-900-EVANGEL, for a personal message from Brother Billy Bob …. you’ll be charged just $19.95 a minute for this inspiring five-minute message for today.”) The direct mail folks could be out of business in a flash.
This isn’t limited to TV preachers, though. Why, every local congregation could install its own 900-number service. Think of the money …. uh, I mean, the ministry possibilities!
Use your church bulletin and flyers in the Sunday School rooms to promote “Pastor Bill’s Dial-A-Sermon.” Dig into those old sermon files and start recording; better yet, pull out those old sermon tapes that have been collecting dust in the bottom left drawer of your desk – you’ll soon be in business, ministering to shut ins, church drop-outs, or those who were tied up at the beach or lake last Sunday and couldn’t make it to your live sermon.
Not only is it a great new source of funds for mission projects, building campaigns, or the pastoral retirement fund, your personal 900-number also gives you new credibility in the community as a “media personality.” (It’s just the thing to help you rank right up there in the public eye with Oprah and Geraldo.)
The only problem I foresee is the limited number of clever number titles available; 1-900-I-PREACH is such an obvious one that it’s probably already gone. There are other possibilities — such as 1-900-PRECHER (for communities where literacy is not a priority); 1-900-HEL-FIRE or 1-900-LIBERAL (if you want to alert potential callers to your theological leanings before they call); 1-900-BAPTIST (if you have a particularly strong denominational appeal; alternates could include 1-900-4-WESLEY, 4-LUTHER, or 4-CALVIN, depending on your tradition).
Then there’s the “lure the sinners in” strategy, in which you purchase the number already used by one of the dial-a-porn services that is going out of business. That way you take over an established clientele that definitely needs to hear your message.
Maybe the greatest benefit of all is that when your most annoying members call to speak to you, your secretary can say — in all honesty — “I’m afraid the preacher can’t speak to you right now; he’s on the telephone.”
Need more ideas about setting up your own dial-a-sermon service? Feel free to call me at 1-900-4-MONEY – just $49.95 a minute; average call length is as long as I can keep you on the phone for $49.95 a minute. It’s a great way to contribute to the Editor’s Retirement Fund.

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About The Author

Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.

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