Media Evangelism among the Unreached

The amount of media evangelism among the unreached really is amazing. The Western world is media-rich, and missionaries worldwide have learned to use this medium very effectively.

Audiocassettes and CDs are widely used in some countries. For example, the North Africa Partnership has used tapes with recordings of the JESUS Film for evangelism. Tapes and CDs have three benefits: (1) they can be played at convenient times, (2) they can be replayed at future (convenient) times and (3) they can be copied.

Radio Broadcasting
Radio broadcasting is also widely available. A quick scan of the World Christian Database reveals that over 5.8 billion people are touched by Christian radio and television broadcasts. I remember surveying many of these resources when I worked with the World Christian Encyclopedia and was amazed at the breadth of broadcasts, including ones from Far East Broadcasting Company (FEBC), FEBA, Trans World Radio (TWR) and HCJB World Radio. However, I did not know of the large variety of television, satellite and local radio broadcasts that were available. For example, Radio Tirane (in Albania) used to broadcast atheist programming, and is now used to broadcast Christian programs. SAT-7 airs all over the Middle East. Many people don't think about groups like the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) or LeSEA, but both broadcasting groups are airing in many unreached nations. Radio has an advantage over audiocassette: it is virtually an unstoppable medium for transmitting new programming. Tapes can be copied; however, it is not always easy to get new tapes. Radio broadcasts can be recorded with a receiver.

Film, too, is widely used. The JESUS Film has been translated into 920 languages, representing six billion people. Translation into another 232 languages is in progress. The JESUS Film has been viewed by over 5.4 billion people (including multiple viewings) in 228 countries (it has been shown on television in 176 countries). Over two hundred million decisions for Christ have been recorded. Other films are also seeing results. Film, of course, has the benefit of being visual and is an incredibly powerful medium for engaging the mind and the emotions.

Videocassettes and DVDs are visual, but they can be copied. They go like wildfire all over the Middle East and Asia, where video piracy is widespread. Sunday School programs like Veggietales and Superbook are especially enjoyed. I have not been able to find any statistics on the number of these in circulation—I doubt anyone really knows—but my guess is that the number is quite large. DVDs and videocassettes are perhaps one of the best formats for media. Further, they can be recorded from television. Using television and videocassettes hand in hand builds the synergistic value of both.

The Internet is becoming a burgeoning field for media evangelism. It represents the future of media delivery. The JESUS Film is now being streamed over the Internet. Podcasts are being aired (although few Christians make use of this for evangelizing the unreached). Still, whenever I hear people say we are a “post-typographic nation” or “we just don't read anymore,” it's funny to me because the rising generation reads as much as they watch. They read emails, blogs, websites and more. The only difference is that we don’t read as much on printed paper as we once did.

There is a downside to all this activity. Namely, that many people in the 10/40 Window are not being affected by these methods. Just because radio broadcasts are being aired doesn't mean large numbers of people are listening to them. The same goes for satellite television, which is banned in some countries in the Middle East.

Suggestions for Reaching the Unreached Via Media

Here are two areas where I think we could do better:

1. The JESUS Film works among peoples that are not very media-savvy, but not as well in media-rich environments. World B (majority evangelized, minority-Christian) countries like China and India and even some countries in the Middle East and Southeast Asia are becoming very media-savvy. Qatar, for example, is well-known as a media capital, and the latest DVDs are commonly found throughout Asia. The JESUS Film is, unfortunately, somewhat dated, having been filmed in the 1970s. In some cases it may be hard to get a young person today to connect with it. This is often the case with Christian films; I've watched some that were supposedly aimed at young people that unfortunately featured talking heads which gave long speeches of ten minutes or more. When videos focus on the same face in the same position for more than a minute or two, most viewers will lose concentration. We need new video approaches, but we should also concentrate on broadening the use of the JESUS Film among World A peoples who are not yet media-savvy and where film is something new and wonderful. There it will be most effective at communicating the gospel.

2. While there are exciting things going on with Internet Evangelism, it's still evolving. We have to find new, innovative methods and mediums that will work in conjunction with print on the Internet. We need great bloggers who can attract people with their witty, powerful, insightful examinations of current situations, trends and explanations of the Christian faith (as C. S. Lewis once did). We need people who can develop innovative, faith-filled, dramatic/humorous video shorts that will be copied as widely as pornography (check out Google Video to see what's popular,

For all media, we need to more widely incorporate non-westerners. We need to be actively recruiting media-savvy young people who are familiar with the people being reached. Perhaps this could be a new “short-term” mission of the future—to put together a team that would develop good evangelistic media that could be released under an open-source license and would be free for copying. Perhaps such a “film camp” could be sponsored by organizations like Youth With A Mission (YWAM) or Campus Crusade for Christ (CCCI). The results could be useful resources that would spark prayer or be used in evangelism. The question is, Who will be willing to take up the challenge?

Justin Long manages and is senior editor for Momentum, a magazine devoted to unreached peoples. He can be reached at [email protected].