As technology slowly infiltrates even the most unlikely of places, media “disciples” the nations in cities and villages around the world. Tragically, it can be a tool of evil (e.g., pornography, violence). Gloriously, the Body of Christ is also utilizing it to bring righteousness, joy, and the life-changing message of the gospel.
At Create International we focus on producing media tools to communicate with those who have the least access to the gospel. The 6,800 distinct unreached people groups of the world reflect the incredible complexity, diversity, wonder, and greatness of our God. One media form, or one message, will not reach them all. We need to culturally contextualize our message to make it relevant.
Media producers should seek to both distribute media and to facilitate personal contact or follow up. Media producers are primarily enablers who work to make resources available and to train people to effectively utilize media in their witness.
Contextual media is the best form to ensure continued use by the audience. This was demonstrated to us during a project in West Sumatra, where our team was filming a dramatic rendition of the “Prodigal Son” parable. One of our actors happened to be Muslim, but at the end of the filming he gave his life to the Lord. Part of what impressed him was that our team cared enough to make a film adapted to his Minang culture.
During the filming, he heard the gospel and was personally witnessed to by a Minang Christian. When this actor, a prominent singer and entertainer in the Minang culture, proudly showed us some of his music cassettes, we challenged him to produce and sing God-honoring music for his culture.
Two years later, a team from Singapore was visiting that same area in Sumatra and heard of a local dance and music performance. They all attended and were overjoyed to hear the gospel woven into the presentation in a way that was non-offensive (and yet professionally done) to the majority Muslim audience. They went up to the manager after the show to congratulate him and to ask how he was able to do this type of presentation in a predominately Muslim people group that was less than one percent Christian. He proceeded to share his experiences with our Create International team, who had challenged him and showed him how to use the arts to present the gospel. He continues to rise to the challenge, winning people to Jesus using Minang cultural art forms.
We are continually discovering ways in which we can best use the indigenous arts of a culture to convey the gospel message. However, much more could be done in this area. Christian workers around the world should be paying special attention to how this can be encouraged and promoted in their work, especially among the unreached nations.
Working with the Culture and the Audience
Serious consideration must be given to the non-technical media already available in the audience’s culture. The Christian message conveyed through a familiar indigenous expression is far more likely to be embraced by the audience than the same message introduced through a strange or foreign media. Traditional cultural forms such as music, art, storytelling, and dance can be redirected to reveal one’s true relationship with God and to communicate his message of love and salvation.
Thus, evangelism combines varied media approaches, including films, videos, live dramatizations, and traditional cultural arts.
Films are a powerful medium which attract a wide audience of viewers. People love dramatic stories. Jesus knew this, and that’s one reason why he spoke in parables. Parables personalize the message. People can say, “I can relate to that.”
The Bible is full of drama and stories. In 1994, Leighton Ford wrote,
It's been said that next to food and drink, our most basic human hunger is for storytelling. Storytelling follows the model that God himself has given us in Jesus, the greatest storyteller, and the Bible, the greatest story ever told.1
Dramas, such as skits and puppet shows, provide opportunities to speak to people about the condition of their hearts without quickly alienating or placing them on the defensive. They serve as preparation for the more direct approach.2
Discerning Which Media to Use
Ultimately, Christian communicators need to provide the appropriate media, at the appropriate time, in the appropriate setting. The following questions can help discern which media should be used in discipling a people group:
- Who is the target group (i.e., to whom are we trying to communicate)?
- Which types of media are culturally, technologically, and financially appropriate for use within and by the target group?
- Which forms of media are presently being employed to communicate the gospel? How effective are they?
- What are the anticipated long-term benefits and/or consequences of using a particular medium?
- Who should introduce this new form of media? Local pastors? Missionaries? Community leaders?
Exhausting All Possible Means
God has given us both a great challenge and a great opportunity. Never before have we been given the ability to communicate with so many people for so little cost. As the Internet grows and the convergence of digital technologies approaches, the future for discipling unreached nations is looking brighter and brighter.
This challenge represents an amazing opportunity for both evangelism and discipling of millions of people if we will make the effort to translate or incorporate already translated materials on our websites, VCDs, and other digital materials. Bulletin boards, email forums, and chat rooms are just a few of the electronic locations where we can meet with individuals from around the world and share the love of Jesus.
Evangelistic postcards and follow-up email can be sent to contacts we have made while visiting Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindu websites. Free advertisements and classified ads can be used to promote Christ and his kingdom. God has millions of new ways to reach the peoples of the world, and he will give them to us if we seek him earnestly. The Apostle Paul’s words ring true for us today: “…so that by all possible means some might be saved” (1 Corinthians 9:22).
Have we exhausted all possible means?
God wants our involvement, using all of our gifts, by all possible means, to bring all the nations the greatest story ever told. Let’s take full advantage of all the multiplicity of media forms, clothed in familiar forms, to help a needy world understand the gospel message in all its fullness.
1. The Power of Story. Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA: Nav Press.
2. Nicholls, Kathleen. 1983. Asian Arts and Christian Hope. New Delhi: Select Books, 134.