God at Work During the Pandemic
– By Jon Ralls –
Amid a pandemic and uncertainty, God is still at work. His Spirit is moving in the lives of people all around the world.
As people have found themselves at home, at times alone, and with questions, many are seeking answers to the challenges and emotions they are feeling. One of the places that people are turning to for answers is the internet. The number of people online – searching on Google, watching videos on YouTube, making comments on Facebook, and more – continues to rise.
Facebook has over 2 billion users, and YouTube is the second largest search engine behind Google (which owns YouTube). This increase in social media users is also increasing opportunities for social media ministry and discipleship.
God is truly opening doors for the gospel for many who are seeking.
From One Comes Many
God opened a door to the gospel for Azzibidiin through an evangelistic ad he saw on social media. He responded to the ad and was connected with a local disciple-maker named Bishara. Bishara had come to faith a year ago and has enthusiastically shared his faith with anyone who will listen. As a result, 300-400 have come to faith, representing 30 unique communities of faith. Bishara has been greatly persecuted for his faith but has kept his hand to the plow and is currently discipling and equipping Azzibidiin for ministry.
You Are Not Alone
For college students in one Asian region, God opened a door to the gospel through video clips from the Jesus Film used in a social media ad campaign. One student responded to an ad with a message saying, “I thought I was the only person feeling so lonely during the pandemic, yet I hear of you Christians and your love for us.” This student was not alone in hearing the love of Christ. At least three people have accepted Christ after responding to these ads.
One ad campaign asked, “What kind of prayer would you ask God to answer?” Hundreds of students replied with statements such as “God, please forgive me.” “God, please help me with the things that make me afraid.” “God, please bring me someone who understands and loves me.” “God, please show me what choices to make.”
The Unreached Reaching Out
Social media is allowing many in unreached areas to connect with those who can share the good news. For example, a Facebook ministry page gained more than 1,800 followers from an unreached group in Southeast Asia. Local Christians have been connecting with those interested in the gospel, and at least one person has already been baptized.
Not A Coincidence
Through the use of targeted ads and organic (non-paid) content, people are hearing about Jesus. In a country that is 99.9% Muslim, this message arrived to a team using mass media to find seekers: “Everywhere on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube I always came across things about Jesus and so on. I don’t think this could be a coincidence. I wonder if … I can believe in Jesus. I wonder if I can see a miracle.”
Extraordinary Times and Tools
Since the beginning of the Church, people have been sharing the good news. We share the hope within us as we interact with people throughout the day in our work, schools, and elsewhere. With the power and scale of the internet, we now have tools and technology that allow us to reach out to distant locations 24 hours a day. Even as we sleep, God’s Spirit is at work drawing seekers to those who can share about His Son, Jesus Christ.
Digital outreach does not replace us personally living out a missional life, but it does allow for a radically different ministry paradigm as seekers reach out to Christian workers. These seekers are contacting people who can start a conversation with them (both online and then offline), which can ultimately lead to a disciple who can make disciples.
Not A Magic Bullet
Digital outreach is not a magic bullet. We cannot just run a paid ad and expect thousands to be saved. Much strategy, training, and thought is needed to best leverage these digital opportunities. But with those in place, this powerful tool can be used for God’s glory and the advance of his kingdom.
If you are curious or want to start finding seekers via mass media, several ministries offer coaching and provide resources for Christian workers using such media. A few are:
Media to Movements – The Media To Movements team equips disciple makers in media strategies to identify and engage spiritual seekers who accelerate a movement of reproducing disciples. They provide coaching and mentorship from the first steps through ongoing outreach. www.Mediatomovements.org
Kingdom Training – This group has been doing digital outreach for years and has several excellent courses to help people get started. www.Kingdom.training
Mission Media U – MMU is a mentored, online training platform designed to help Christ-followers be more effective in making disciples and establishing churches by using media, story, and innovative technology. www.missionmediau.org/foundations-of-media-strategy
Kavanah Media – Specializes in helping mission teams and churches find seekers in their context. Specializing in training, media creation, management of campaigns, and coaching, they work with ministries to make the most of their advertising budget. They also host of a weekly media outreach podcast: “Christian Media Marketing.” www.Kavanahmedia.com
A coalition of Media to Movements, Kingdom Training, and Mission Media U have put together a great video reflecting what these teams are working towards. Watch the video What Is Media Outreach? to see a great example of collaboration.
The strategy that the above groups use all begins with the end in mind: reproducing disciples. The research-informed, creative, and culturally sensitive media content—videos and social media posts, combined with strategic marketing, invites people to explore and respond to Scripture. I pray that we might look at these times, and like the men of Issachar (1 Chron. 12:32) understand the times and use all possible means to see that all can know of Christ’s love, sacrifice, and forgiveness.