Tim Day on Why (and How!) His Church Gave away 30,000 Copies of His Book for FREE!
Tim Day is the Senior Pastor of The Meeting House, one of Canada’s largest churches, and author of the book, God Enters Stage Left. An engaging speaker and active writer, Tim along with Teaching Pastor Bruxy Cavey, lead a dedicated staff and church family in helping communicate the irreligious message of Jesus to those who may have given up on God or are simply asking spiritual questions. In this episode Tim talks about why his church has given away nearly 30,000 copies of his latest book. He digs into the philosophy and strategy of FREE and how it’s impacting his thinking. If you are pastor looking to spread your message this episode is for you!
Interview Highlights //
00:30 // Rich welcomes his friend and former boss, Tim Day
00:57 // Tim gives a history of The Meeting House
02:45 // Tim released his new book ‘God Enters Stage Left’ in December 2013
04:11 // Book was birthed out if his desire to distill down the narrative of the Bible for the average person
06:20 // Tim shares stories of people whose lives have been changed in a few short months
08:19 // This book helps accomplish one of TMH’s goals to invite 100,000 people to the message of Jesus
09:30 // The church has since printed 30,000 copies, given them away and invited people to contribute to the printing cost
11:04 // Books are the new business card
11:54 // Tim explains why he didn’t want to charge for the book
15:20 // The Meeting House has generously offered to allow other churches use it as a resource, even reprint them with a new forward by your pastor
17:11 // Pens, books, marketing and evangelism
19:19 // Tim encourages listeners to keep dreaming about how to create points of contact conversations
Lightning Round Highlights
Inspiring Ministries // EastLake Church
Inspiring Leader // Larry Page, CEO Google
What does he do for fun? // Basketball, running
Interview Transcript //
Rich – Alright well, welcome to the unSeminary Podcast. Happy Thursday. Hope you are having a great week as we get ready for this weekend at your church. I am super excited about this podcast. I have a friend, my former boss, great guy. Excited to have him. We’ve got Tim Day from The Meeting House. Hey Tim, welcome to the show!
Tim – Hey, it’s great to be here Rich. Thanks for having me.
Rich – For folks who don’t know, The Meeting House is a network of churches all across Canada, or really around Ontario. Tim, why don’t you tell us a bit about The Meeting House, tell us about your church. Give us a sense of your ministry.
Tim – Sure. The Meeting House has been around, well was planted as a seeker focussed church back in the mid 80’s but it really started to take off just before the year 2000. So it’s grown up over the last 16 years let’s say from about 200 people to about 5500 on a typical weekend. We have 14 locations as you said, around Ontario where our hub is the Toronto area and we spread out from there. You were a huge part of that. You helped us launch into multisite. That’s how we’ve grown. Our theological stream, we come out of the radical side of the reformation, so the renewal movements, you think of sort of the Anabaptists with messages around peace, community, personal discipleship, radical, Jesus focused discipleship. But also influenced by people like John Wesley and again real focus on evangelism, discipleship, piotus movements. Anything that get’s people fired up for Jesus. Get them out doing something to change the world. That’s our little stream that we come from, are the people that are jazzed about that. So we’ve always got our eyes and ears open, even though the denomination that we are a part of is real small compared to some of the huge movements, that’s sort of our heart position. That’s how we grew up.
RIch – Nice. So Tim is one of those leaders that every time I interact with him, he’s one of those leaders I wish more people would get to hear from him, so that’s why I’m so glad to have Tim on the show today and always has ideas that I think are just slightly left of center, or a little off, that make you think, not politically, just differently. So i am excited for that today. Now Tim, specifically we want to talk about a book that you released. Now when was this? This was late last year right?
Tim – Ya this was the first week of December, 2013.
Rich – Right before Christmas. It’s called ‘God Enters Stage Left’. Now why did you decide you needed to release a book as the Senior Pastor of The Meeting House?
Tim – It’s a life long passion. This is going back almost 20 years. Back to seminary. I started as a youth pastor and basically what my experience was, people jump in and out of the Bible and a lot of times they will take a passage from the Old Testament, a passage from Jesus, then jump back and they just think it is all completely flat. This is timeless truth, it doesn’t matter where you drill into this narrative, you are going to get the same thing. And then you get into all these issues, well why is there violence and why did this happen, and literally the theology that would be developed that sort of in people’s own minds, the average disciples minds would be filled with all these contradictions and I don’t know how to put this together. So they just stop thinking. So that started me on a journey of ok, I am going to see what I experience. Taking my masters degree education, I started reading through the BIble, chronological order. On my third pass I wrote a commentary, it’s on my website timday.org. And that was for my kids I wrote, it’s about an 800 page commentary on the whole thing. I slowed myself down on every verse. I am going to sound like a Bible nerd. Then the next thing that I did on my way though it was I started translating the New Testament. And just completed that this past December, where I slowed myself down, looked under the hood on every verse in the New Testament. So really out of this book, comes my attempt to distill the meaning of the narrative for the average person, almost like Cliff’s Notes, or Coles Notes, the meaning of the Bible for dummies. That someone who is in grade 7 could understand, and someone who is 90 and only has a grade 5 education could understand. And it’s not theologically watered down. I was privileged to have some great thinkings like Dr. Terry Brensinger who is Dean of Fresno BIblical Seminary, Dr. Paul Eddie who is a well published InterVarsity author, Bethel Seminary. A number of seminary profs who read this through, different theological perspectives, Ian Scott from a reform perspective, baptist, catholic seminary guy read it. I just tested it out to say ‘Does this hold up? is this what Christians would believe as the meaning of the Bible?’ And really cool thing is, the response is, I don’t think there is a book like it on the market. It’s a unique book in that way, that no one has really attempted to distill it all, i’s meaning and engage in around 120 pages. And the second thing is, what I found fascinating is the response both from the wide range of readers now that have engaged it, theologians, but also people from other faith perspectives.The first person who really repositioned their life in terms of their heart direction was somebody raised Muslim. He was in his thirties and found that the faith that he grew up in raised questions that he just stubbled with, arabic background, and just started a search, and literally he attributes and he picks up this book and said, ‘This is what makes sense.’ Now it’s not my book, what it is is reading scripture and understanding the entire narrative meaning of what God is saying. This made sense to him and he was just baptized a month ago. So you think in December, here we are in March, and that was one of those stories, when that unfolded as the first person who came to faith in Christ, I was like you couldn’t have written me a big enough check for that story. Right? Just that one story.
Rich – Absolutely! So I don’t want people to miss what you just said. I just want to loop back on it. So Tim, in your spare time, you have written a commentary and translated the entire New Testament. You know, some guys place baseball in their spare time, and you run all the time. I always notice you are out. Which is amazing! And you’ve condensed that down, part of what I love about the book is you’ve attempted to say how can we try and tell the entire story from a narrative approach to give people a framework to then jump back in and say, I want to read the scripture. You are trying to get people to engage with the text ultimately, and see it in context. Which is amazing, it’s been a great tool. So, how has your church used this? It seems like a great thing to release. How has it been a tool in your community.
Tim – Every about 4 or 5 years, and you helped us launch the first one, First Mission. We use major mission goals to launch mission and get people to embrace big, hairy, audacious goals. Big goals to challenge us to move outside of our comfort zone. Challenge us towards generosity. Challenge us in towards innovation. So we are in our 3rd season of mission called Transform. So we had this goal to invite 100, 000 people to consider Jesus’ message. One hundred thousand people. So we are about 5000 people and we gave ourselves about 4 years to do that. And we wanted it to be personal. We didn’t just want to put a billboard on a highway and say we did out job. We wanted to create points of engagement. So as I was writing this book, I was like, ‘I want to work on this to make it one of those points of engagement.’ A conversation started. So that’s why I wanted it to be short, easy to read. I can go through the filter of different back grounds, skeptics, people of different faiths, and be clear, comprehensive, but gentle approach of engaging the message of Jesus and how that fits into the larger story of God and where we fit into that . So that was the heart. So what we did then was I pitched the idea of ‘Can we print 10 000 copies and then just give them away?’ And if people want to chip in some money for the printing cost, they can do that, $5, $10, don’t have any money, just grab a stack, just go give them away and we will see what happens. So the amazing thing is, by the first weekend the 10,000 were gone. We were in a scramble to print the next 10,000 and now we just received the third shipment of 10,000 . So we will have distributed between Christmas and Easter, 25, 000-30, 000 copies. In terms of our printing costs, some people come up and just throw $100 in, some will throw$5 in, a toonie, a ten. So we seem to be covering all our printing costs. I’m not making any money. It actually goes right back in it. So that just last week someone came up and wrote a check for $100,000. All that means is our growth fund which is focussed on evangelism and church planting will just have more money. So there’s no one making profit in this I guess. The beautiful thing in this, because we worked with a publisher in the States, they allowed us to publish it like a trade book, but then to have complete control of the rights. They call it custom publishing, but you have the quality of the publisher behind it, the editing and all that, but you are buying it dirt cheap. It’s like the best post card you can ever give away.
Rich – Absolutely. A friend of mine, Ben Stroup, talks about how books really are the new business cards. People see them as, if you want to kind of understand, in the marketplace, if you want to understand what we do, here’s a book. Rather than just here’s a business card. The think I find fascinating, for people who don’t know, 10,000 copies is about what it takes to get on the New York Times Best Seller List. And the thing that’s amazing is that you are going to almost triple that between Christmas and Easter. You are doing it in a way that is crazy innovative in a sense of “Just take some, if you want to cover the cost, great. But just take some and give them to friends.’ Now that’s obviously a fairly non-traditional approach. Why not charge for them? Let’s loop back on that . Why not actually say it $5 or $10.
Tim – Couple things. I just found that I couldn’t think of a good enough reason to charge for them. I just basically came down to and said, ‘If this is going to create a hiccup, a little bit of a barrier, something when someone might say, ‘I only have $20 in my wallet, and it’s $5 a boo, I’ve got 5 people I want to invite, who do I need to cut off that list?’ I thought, why am I doing that. It just didn’t make sense. If we just give them away to everyone, and people want to chip in, and it would kind of be a community experience, I couldn’t think of a downside to it. And some of the really cool stories. I will just throw out a couple quick stories. Elderly woman, 90 years old, a friend of a friend gave the book to her and when she read it she said she cried for hours because she had been raised in a harsh, legalistic environment her whole life and when she read it she knew that something was wrong, but she never knew why, or how it fit it. And then she asked and gave me this long list of names of these friends, can you give me more books to give to my family, friends because so many people have been hurt in my sphere. So I had another crazy story. I don’t even know how this happened. About 2 weeks into it, I am getting a request from the Indianapolis Colts Bible Study. No lie. Maybe it was January. Can you send us a shipment of books because we are done our last book and next we want to do God Enters Stage Left. I’m like…how does that happen? And here’s another one. We have two churches now, they are dialoging on how they want to do it. They are two churches of about 1500, 2500 in size and they want to get the books and do the same thing with them where they just give them out. ‘Can we just buy a whole boat load of them at printing cost.’ And we may personalize them where the pastor writes the forward. And we strip off any sort of our church brand. And the church just gives them away in their community. I think if I would have had that charge thing, all sorts of those conversations would have just stopped. And to be honest with you, I think the day of the pastor who somehow wrote something that turned him into a millionaire, I think that day has probably come and gone. It doesn’t sit super well. I just don’t think it sits well with the average person out in the street. So the conversation of ‘You are just giving this away? You are not making any money? You don’t make anything? Nothing?’
Rich – Zip, zero, zilch you mean?
Tim – It’s good news to people. That becomes good news that there is a message more important and it doesn’t need to be a part of my economy. And I love it! It just has made me happy!
Rich – Absolutely. Now the thing I, ’cause I know there’s some pastors probably thinking, that’s a great idea. I’m encouraged that you are working with some other churches, how do we repackage this. Even that, I think it’s incredibly gracious to say we want to work with another church. ‘You take the book, put your forward on it, strip our branding from it, we just want the message to go out?’ Is that what you are saying, fundamentally with those other churches?
Tim – Oh ya. LIke I said I will remove any reference to The Meeting House from inside . You write the forward and you put your brand on the back of it.
Rich – Wow! Crazy.
Tim – I don’t really care. Like honestly, in the end, if I could have another guy, like the first guy that came to faith in Christ, and we all do this and then we get another email of a guy who went through that life journey, why would I care. What is there to care about that I didn’t get my brand somewhere in there. So it’s like, let’s see it happen!
Rich – So there’s probably 1000 church leaders listening in right now. Is that like an open conversation or is that a closed conversation. You know are you interested in more of those conversations, or do you have to be friends with Tim Day to do that?
Tim – No. It’s wide open. Getting friends with a church in Seattle, a multisite church in Seattle, East Lake. We are in dialogue with them. We ended up shipping them 15,000 copies to give out to their community and for them to give as a give away. It really is for anybody. You might say I am just a church of 300, can you send me a copy or send me an ebook to look at, and if I like it I will pass it around. We would love to be in dialogue. You might have to pay some shipping cost, and the print cost is somewhere in the $0.60-1.00 a book depending on how many you get. It’s not a huge amount. It’s not prohibited in terms of an evangelism tool.
Rich – Now I know there’s a lot of executive pastors listening in. They are thinking this is great, but go back on the part where you are covering your own cost. So that you are finding that in that open forum of….I’ll give you an example at our church. We give away free pens, it’s not a book, but it’s a pen. We get people who will literally dig into our pen thing and walk out with 50 pens. Which I love because I am like, this is great, people take them and they drop them and we have heard all kinds of stories of them dropping all over the place. But every once in a while some of the folks who work in our accounting department will say ‘Do we really want to keep doing this because I feel like we are just giving people free pens?’ But you are finding that it seems to be working out in your context.
Tim – When we did that the production cost for the first 20,000 was just over $20,000. And I think we brought in $19,000. So let’s say we got a third of it back, or two thirds, so now our evangelism…we just distributed books at $0.20 at cost to us.
Rich – It’s ridiculous. We pay more for pens than that.
Tim – It’s ridiculous. What we are saying, pretty much all of us have some sort of marketing budget. If you allow people to pitch in and say here’s a resource in market economy, let’s say that this is a $10 book in most exchanges, it somewhere around $10 book, we just moved $200,000 worth of product and our bottom-line cost was $2000. It’s like a penny. There is no real risk.
Rich – Great! Is there anything else you would like to say to our guests before we turn to the lightening round.
Tim – I would just encourage you guys to keep dreaming. I hope, even if you don’t do anything with this book or don’t write a book, but you like the pen idea, I would say keep dreaming about how to open up point of contact conversation. This was a risk for us. It was a crazy idea. But now that we are into this crazy idea, the amount of conversations where people are saying ‘I am now having weekly conversations because of this book’, I would say, it is well worth it. Keep dreaming, keep listening to this podcast, keep the ideas flowing!