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God's on the line in Kitsap
For most of the last 18 years Howard Reagan has run an advertisement in the miscellaneous section of the newspaper: FREE - A three minute message from Gods Word anytime 479-5585.
Even though the ad sits between $79 divorce offers and public auctions, Reagan said it reels in 70-80 calls a week.
Most people are appreciative, he said.
Especially those who dont have the time to make it through the church doors on a Sunday.
Reagans ad is different from most of the postings in the classifieds, because he isnt trying to sell anything.
And its never really brought in new blood for his congregation, Church of Christ in West Bremerton, he said.
With the support of his church, Reagan started the posting messages in 1974 to make people think.
We wanted to pique everybodys interest and present it in a challenging way. We like for people to contemplate their spiritual condition, to think about their spiritual status, he said.
Reagan has been thinking about his spiritual status for 50 years, ever since he moved to Bremerton and started work at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. He taught Bible study on the side, and worked his way to a leadership position at Bremertons Church of Christ.
While skimming the classifieds of religious newspapers nearly two decades ago he noticed other Church of Christ congregations posted similar ads.
He borrowed the idea, presented it to his congregation, and they helped him promote it.
The answering machine sits in the church office, and Reagan records the messages whenever he gets the free time. When hes on vacation, others fill in.
He always records a message under three minutes.
We like the shortness of it because people are on the run all the time. In our day and time people dont want to spend a lot of time listening to something, he said.
He considers it a daily dose of Gods word.
Each day Reagan presents a new topic, or answers a previously posed question, footnoting a few Bible passages.
At the end of every message he asks people to leave their name and address if they are interested in receiving a free Bible study course.
If they leave their name and address we just send it to them the next day, he said.
The course is eight sessions long but most people give up after one or two sessions, Reagan said.
Out of the 70-80 calls per week, six or seven people request course materials.
I assume a lot of people call just to hear the message, he said.
Reagan gets fewer calls during the summer, but in the winter, the numbers pick back up.
And sometimes, when people call, Reagan is in the office.
I appreciate it and am thankful for it (when people call), he said.
In all the years the message has run, Reagan has never picked up the phone.
Though in some cases it is hard not to, he said.
Some call in sad or lonely. When they leave a number, Reagan calls them back to talk to them.
He admits, Its much better to be able to meet them and shake their hand.
No one calls in very angry, but Reagan does get messages that make him laugh.
Once in a while we get a jokester blaring out with some kind of instrument.
Neither the ad nor the message includes the name of his congregation.
Its for a reason, Reagan said.
A lot of people are opposed to organized religion so we dont put any name on there.