February 2002 – Ralph Woerner’s ministries span more than half a century, radiating out from Birmingham, Alabama, to blanket the nation. He pastored Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMA) Churches for 25 years, preaching mostly to small and medium-sized congregations. Though he reached many people as a pastor, it is his second ministry career that now reaches countless millions.
The evangelistic Answer Magazine and The Messenger are the tools of his second ministry, established in 1976. Together the publications regularly reach about two million homes.
From resentment to salvation
Editor Ron Mitchell says he is amazed at how God uses Answer. “We had a display at Promise Keepers,” he remembers, “and a young lady working in the bookstore there said, ‘Answer! I know who you are!’” In their ensuing conversation she told Mitchell that someone had sponsored Answer in her community, so she started receiving the quarterly publication.
“I resented receiving it,” she said, “but I read it in its entirety. And there was always an article that really spoke to my life at that very time.” Eventually, through the witness of Answer, she accepted Christ. Mitchell says that’s what The Messenger and Answer are all about.
Woerner has fond memories of the ministry’s humble beginnings in crowded Sunday school rooms. “It was the last church we pastored,” he says, “Westside Alliance in Birmingham, where we started [The Messenger], mailing it out to the community.” He always speaks in the plural, his wife Barbara clearly a critical partner in his ministry. It was initially just a local paper to help reach the neighborhood.
Other churches saw it and began asking for a version they could use in the same way. Today, 600 churches use The Messenger as a neighborhood evangelistic ministry. The Messenger and its spin-off publication, Answer (sponsored by thousands of individuals), are distributed by Gospel Publishing Association (GPA), a non-profit group Woerner founded for that purpose.
“After about 25 years of pastoral work, I went full-time into this ministry of writing and putting the paper together and sending it out to the community,” Woerner says. The Messenger offers a customized version with a front page designed for each local church with its own title and graphics.
Rev. Bruce Head, pastor of Grace Missionary Church (a sister denomination) in Celina, Ohio, says, “I cannot say enough complimentary about The Messenger. In my first pastorate, it doubled our constituency. Another church had new life because of the impact of The Messenger – people who came to church, and then became believers.” He has used the paper for 21 of his 22 years in the pastorate.
Personal evangelism tool
Distribution costs for Answer are underwritten by individuals who wish to have an evangelistic outreach to their own communities. It is a unique opportunity for people to share the Gospel with their neighbors. For a quarterly contribution of $25, GPA will mail Answer to 125 families in the donor’s own zip code. For $100, it will go to 500 families.
Both papers carry the same stories including Bible study pieces by Woerner (e.g., “Are All Religions Leading to the Same Place?”), plus testimonies and articles to inspire and encourage (e.g., “Divorce: How it Affects Children,” “The Loving Wife,” or “We’re Praying for you, Dad.”) Every issue carries a clear presentation of the Gospel and urges readers to commit their lives to Christ.
Recently retired, the Woerners have four daughters and a son, and 11 grandchildren. Mitchell, also an ordained minister in the CMA church, is their son-in-law. He and his family moved from Florida last year for him to assume the roles of editor and publisher at GPA.
After 20 years as a pastor, Mitchell had more recently worked with a West Palm Beach foundation in outreach and discipleship programs among that area’s political and high-profile professional community.
“Personally, I don’t believe any other ministry exists which so completely targets the lost with the saving message at so small a cost, 20 cents a copy,” says Woerner. “At the same time, it allows the person who sponsors it to channel the ministry right into his own community.”
For a sample copy, or for more information about Answer or The Messenger, call toll-free 1-800-578-7594 (8-4 Central Time).