International (MNN) — With its standard-setting power and time-consuming tendencies, social media can be a dangerous thing. But what if the standards set on social media were based on Gospel-found hope? And what if time spent on social media meant time spent in community with the Church?
That’s the principal driving many ministries to use social media as a tool for good. Among them is Horizons International. Pierre Houssney of Horizons International says that many of the problems social media causes are found or amplified in the Middle East and North Africa.
That sounds like a bad thing, but actually, it gives ministries an opportunity. “What we’re able to do now is put the Gospel in front of them while they’re spending all these hours on social media looking at videos and pictures and having conversations, and we’re finding that a lot of people are really open to the gospel,” Houssney says.
New Power in New Technology
Social media is a tool not to be taken lightly. “Any power or any media, it could have a lot of influence for bad or influence for good,” Houssney says. Fortunately, the Church already has a track record of reaching the Middle East with technology.
In the 90s, satellite TV provided ministries with access points to the Middle East and North Africa, even beyond previously closed borders. However, that interaction was largely one way. Satellite TV ministries could provide people with access to Gospel hope, but responses were limited to written letters, emails, and call-in channels.
Those ministries still have effective outreach work to this day, but Houssney wanted to emphasize response and dialogue. “It’s a very low cost for the ministries, and it’s very easy for the people that are responding to the content to respond,” he says.
Using social media effectively means using relationships effectively. Beverly knew how to do that.
“I have a friend whose name is Beverly (she actually passed away last year),” Houssney says. She “was living in in Colorado, and she had an amazing heart for Tunisia, for North Africa, and for Muslims… In her spare time, she would spend a lot of time on Facebook, just kind of getting to know Tunisian women and other Muslim women and befriending them, sharing the gospel with them, and mentoring them.”
Over the course of a few years, Beverly created a network of contacts, many of whom were believers, that focused on encouraging one another and sharing the hope they had found in the Gospel.
Pure Heart of the Middle East
Stories like Beverly’s are why Houssney wants to properly utilize social media as a ministry tool. Horizons International now has a social media platform called Pure Heart of the Middle East that focuses on sharing testimonies with the Middle East and North Africa region.
“We’ve been posting videos about stories of transformation, where converts from Islam are sharing their testimonies of how they experienced Jesus and had their lives changed,” Houssney says. “As a result of that, people are people are really responding in amazing ways. Some of these videos are getting upwards of 120,000 views by people in the Middle East and North Africa.”
People who want to respond are immediately put in contact with pastors and volunteers ready and waiting to have conversations. So far, it’s been effective. “Just in the past few months, we’ve had 35 people come to Christ who are being discipled through this Facebook platform in the Middle East and Africa, all from a Muslim background,” Houssney says.
Want to get involved? Connect with Horizons International to learn more. You can also check out Pure Heart of the Middle East right here. Mission Network News even has our own Facebook group you can join.
In the meantime, “Pray that God would raise up more harvesters also to be getting involved on social media instead of just consuming content that’s meaningless or watching funny cat videos on social media,” Houssney says. Pray that believers “would really get involved in the lives of seekers from a Muslim background to have an impact for the Gospel.”
Header photo courtesy of Unsplash