International (MNN) — Did you know 80 percent of those unreached with the Gospel live in a country where YouTube is the first or second most visited website? For ministries, that’s something to think about; and for Trans World Radio, it means diversification in their outreach.
Up until now, TWR has mostly focused on radio and audio methods to share Christ. Radio is sometimes the only way people in hard-to-reach countries and regions can hear uncensored messages about God’s Word. This ministry niche with TWR has produced a powerful impact for the Great Commission in places like Central Asia, North Korea, and the Middle East.
However, says TWR’s Tyler Gates, “In 2017, we’re finding ourselves in a situation where more and more completely unreached people groups are going online and watching visual media, they’re watching YouTube, they’re watching satellite television. They can go online, they can watch cat videos, they can watch extremist recruitment videos, they can watch soccer videos — but they’re not going to be introduced to the Gospel because the Gospel doesn’t exist in their language on these platforms for the vast majority.”
Because of this emerging reality, Trans World Radio is starting a new project called TWR Motion, and with it comes some exciting implications for evangelism.
“There [are] really three components that make up TWR Motion,” explains Gates. “The first is training. Nobody has a greater responsibility to reach their people groups than the local believers within those people groups. So, like I said, with the fact that many of these people groups have the ability in their pockets with mobile technology to produce videos, we want to be able to equip these indigenous believers and these local churches to use what they already have to produce influential messages for the Gospel, for their own people groups.”
Gates goes on to say, “Secondly, we want to be able to create original content in places it doesn’t exist. So at this point, we’re working right now on a project in North Africa, a completely unreached people group in North Africa that has been under the grip of Islam for over 1,000 years, but they are all over social media and the internet and Facebook and YouTube, and there is little to no Gospel resources in their language. So we are creating a series of animated videos that express the Gospel through a narrative story of the Bible culminating in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
“The third is research. TWR Motion, because this is so new, we’re using technology that didn’t exist five, ten-years ago and has grown so fast and is so pervasive in the world now that we’re trying to figure out how do we accommodate a technology that’s been changing so quickly? So good research, good academics, good strategic planning of how do we approach this is a big issue, because there [are] other ministries right behind us wanting to do the same thing, and it’s going to be a growing aspect of missions.”
The Millennial Unreached
A prevalent millennial generation is a big reason for why visual technology is becoming more critical to new ministry approaches among the unreached.
Gates explains, “You have to understand, if you want to say the millennial generation, the demographics under the age of 30, that’s the majority of the population among the unreached. When you think about Western Africa, when you think about the Middle East, when you think about much of South Asia, those are predominantly very young populations. In fact, I just read somewhere that almost, if not over, 70 percent of the population of Western Africa in the Middle East is under the age of 32.”
Because ministry is very personal and TWR continues to reach the unreached with the Gospel, they really want to empower believers at the ground level to reach those in their own communities.
“We really want to be exclusively at the local level through the local church and the local believers. I think very seldom will any of our audience members see the words ‘TWR Motion’. We’d much rather them see the words of their local church or see the face of a local believer, because we really believe that empowering the Church is the greatest calling we could have as foreign missionaries.”
This new technology and approach may not be cheap, but there is a silver lining.
“Visual media has a much higher price tag than audio; however, it has never been more affordable today to produce compelling visual stories and visual media.”
Ways You Can Pray
Gates asks for your prayers — for financial support of the outreach, for wisdom, and for more workers.
“We are completely dependent on a gracious God for every step of this ministry…. We really need prayer for a lot of wisdom as we take these steps. As soon as you portray the Gospel in a visual format, you are by definition in extra-biblical territory. It is the written Word of God we want to proclaim, and so it’s very easy, especially cross-culturally, to communicate something visually that could be either irrelevant or, at worst, an obstacle to the Gospel. So wisdom is critical.”
He says, also, “We need a lot more people. We now have this foundation set where we can create and assist in the creation of visual media that’s reaching people who are completely unreached…. There are so few resources on those platforms that introduce people to Jesus. So we need a lot more hands; we need a lot more workers.”