(Mike Tyler, the author, is an AGWM missionary to Germany.)
AGWM’s International Media Ministries (IMM) runs with the goal of presenting Jesus on every screen across the globe. In 2021, this remarkable ministry, which is based in Madrid, will celebrate 40 years of operation.
Denise Godwin, director of IMM, shares, “We will kick off our celebration of 40 years of ministry in Orlando, Florida, at the 2021 Assemblies of God General Council. We will host a reception — “Celebrate 40 Years of International Media Ministries” — on Thursday, Aug. 5, from 8:30-11 p.m. All are invited, no tickets are needed. Guests can try on costumes and see what God can do with media as we move into the future! There will also be opportunity to win a trip to Spain.”
In April 2022, IMM will celebrate again, this time at its base in Madrid.
The Why and the How
Though the how of IMM serves is varied, the why is singular — because God’s great love is contagious. His love has infected Denise and her team, and they gladly share it with anyone who will tune in.
During the mid-1990s, IMM invested time in training people in how to use media resources to share Jesus. Believers from churches around the globe spent time in the IMM offices and studios, learning how to tell gospel stories visually in ways that are both faithful to the Scriptures and exciting for audiences.
On a recent visit to IMM, a man who now helps lead the faith movement in the Arab world reminded Denise that he received his start in media ministry while training at IMM. Now his web-based ministry has an active monthly viewing audience of over 21 million people — Arabic speakers who are hearing and interacting with the gospel every month.
IMM also creates tools for other people to use, enabling churches worldwide who don’t have resources to build their own TV studios to have products they believe in produced for them at almost no cost to them.
For example, a church from Bulgaria might approach IMM and say, “We envision using a visual representation of the story of Job as a conversation starter for our website.” After laying out the particulars and parameters, IMM’s team begins writing, designing sets, filming the content, and overlaying audio tracks.
The Bulgarian church then takes the finished product and uses it in such a way that people who see it and have questions about the content are offered a chance to speak with someone about the message. IMM does everything in its power to make sure that follow-up to its materials is always offered.
Then IMM’s ministry plan becomes even more exciting: If the piece on Job is well received in Bulgaria, it will likely be shared with neighboring countries as well. Everything is designed for multiplication. IMM arranges all of their videos in a such a way that local narrators can make each piece fit in multiple local cultures. They simply overwrite the audio tracks or include sections of the video where characters can be switched out to include people who verbally or visually fit in each country.
Possibilities for the use of IMM’s pieces are only limited by the imagination. They aren’t tied to one viewing audience — their pieces are utilized around the globe.
Some of their conversation starter pieces have taken off in the most unlikely places. Medical centers in Burkina Faso routinely request copies of one IMM piece, and a government office in Saudi Arabia picked up a spot IMM created to cause families to think twice about the dangers of giving young girls away through arranged marriages. The spot has been seen countless times across the nation.
Nadija*, a new follower of Jesus in a very closed country in northern Africa, saw a video that is part of IMM’s Heritage Series (which documents key figures from the history of the early church in North Africa). As she watched, Nadija quickly realized the video had been filmed in the exact park where she takes a walk every day.
She said, “I can’t believe it. In such a strongly Muslim nation, we never hear about our own Christian history. I never knew the park that I walk in every day was the actual setting for so many important historical events in my people’s history. Now I can use our history as a conversation starter for sharing the gospel with my neighbors.”
At great personal risk, Nadija continues witnessing to her friends and neighbors about Jesus.
40 Years of Ministry, 40 Years of Partnership
IMM has 40 years’ worth of gospel-centered media in 70 languages that can be utilized at a moment’s notice. They have also amassed 40 years’ worth of wisdom and insight on how to disseminate what they have through a network of broadcasting partners who have distinctive eyes for their local market.
One such partner is a 5-million-viewer-Farsi-language-broadcast partner, for whom IMM is currently creating a specifically Persian depiction of the book of Esther. Iran is the land in which the events described in the book of Esther actually took place, and currently the nation’s underground church movement is experiencing explosive growth. There is no telling how various members of the movement might be able put this video to use in starting discussions about God’s hand in Iran’s history.
Yet filming a specifically Christian video for dissemination in an officially Muslim nation is complex. The actors are all refugees who are now living in Europe and put themselves at risk through their participation in the video. The co-director of the piece is herself a former Iranian television star who spent several years in an infamous prison, locked up for her faith. Yet her pain did not silence her — quite the opposite. She approached Denise with the idea for the Esther film and has been critical to every part of its creation.
Come One, Come All
IMM welcomes participation from churches and individuals worldwide who have the desire to see Jesus on every screen. Some come for a week, some come for one to two years. Some come ready to swing hammers, fix doorknobs, or sew costumes. Others work from home as skilled editors who can participate via remote desktops. One missions-minded church even offered the help of their church AV tech one day per week as a missions offering.
“IMM is thankful to greet volunteers and supporters of every kind,” Denise concludes, “so that together our team can create the right tools for the job the Lord has given us all — taking the gospel to the nations.”
*Name changed for her protection.