The Assemblies of God hit the streets of New York City in an unprecedented two-week campaign that includes advertising spots on one of the city's flashy jumbotrons. While initially planned for two major screens in Times Square, the outreach has still generated a larger response than anticipated.
Currently beaming from the News Astrovision Screen - formerly the NBC jumbotron - is a "God Gives Hope" message and a prayer hotline number. The huge display is accompanied by a score of volunteers who have already given out two weeks worth of literature in the first two days of the outreach.
"When we began putting this campaign together, we thought we would pass out about 20,000 ["Stories of Hope"] booklets over the 14-day outreach, later we increased that to 50,000," said Intercultural Ministries Director Scott Temple, according to the Assemblies of God News Service. "The first day and a half, we have already distributed 20,000 booklets. We have put in a rush order of an additional shipment of 65,000, literally cleaning the shelves of GPH of everyone they have!"
Days before the some $60,000 campaign went live, Disney-owned ABC broke its contract with the Pentecostal group, refusing to run a religious message on its screen.
"All we can conjecture is that the top person [of ABC] had not seen these before," Juleen Turnage, director of communications for the church, told The Christian Post.
After hearing that the Assemblies of God was running ad spots on the News Astrovision Screen, ABC contacted the church to agree to a similar contract. On Friday afternoon, however, the broadcasting company pulled the plug on their advertising agreement and did not give further details on their sudden cancellation other than the displayed message being religious.
According to Turnage, ABC was aware of what was going to be advertised.
"They knew this from the beginning," noted Turnage, who speculates that the "top person," possibly someone in Disney, was not made aware of the contract or its details.
Although the contract was valid and binding, Turnage said the church will not be taking any action against ABC.
"We decided as a church and as a Christian group that we were not going to go that way and that God was going to provide even more," she commented. "We're letting it go."
The first two days of the outreach affirmed the church's belief that God would do more.
Responses from people on the New York streets have been positive to some people's surprise with little or no opposition or turning away.
"It's definitely a God-put-together thing," said Becky McClendon, co-director of Phoenix Masters Commission, which has students canvassing Times Square with thousands of booklets.
"Because of prayer and the ability to point people to the jumbotron, people are really interested in what we have to say," noted Masters Commission Founder and Director Lloyd Zeigler.