I’ve been in broadcasting for 37 years in Arizona, New Mexico, and Turkey, with ten of those years in Mongolia serving as manager of Eagle Television, the first independent TV station in that country following the fall of communism.
Eagle TV was the first independent TV station in Mongolia that was not owned by politicians or programmed by government officials. Because Eagle TV was independent it afforded me a special status. I had everything in Mongolia that a TV manager could want.
In Mongolia I had status, power, finances, powerful friends, and powerful enemies. I interacted with ambassadors, parliament members, presidents, and prime ministers. I was awarded with medals twice by the Mongolian government, including once from the President who also gave me a signed letter of recommendation.
I had a staff of 136 people and a budget around $70,000 a month to use for our ministry. We saw thousands of people become familiar with the Gospel and our ministry planted 50 new church groups. Anywhere from 9% to 23% of people responding to our call center made professions of faith in Christ. It was all I could have hoped for and more. Yet, after ten years, it was time to leave Mongolia and return to the States for a new ministry assignment.
I’ll come back to Mongolia in a moment.
I currently serve at the headquarters of Cru in Orlando, in two capacities:
(1) Director of Global Broadcast Strategy for the Jesus Film Project.
(2) Broadcast Consultant for Christian radio and TV in the developing world.
My role is to help facilitate the airing of the JESUS Film, and several other films, on TV stations all around the world. Our goal is to give every person who sees our films a chance to say yes to Jesus. Let me give you a little background on the JESUS Film.
The JESUS Film
The JESUS Film, first released in theaters in 1978 has been called the most accurate depiction of the life of Christ ever put to film. It is still shown all over the world in a variety of venues to tell people the story of Jesus.
Why is the JESUS Film important for evangelism and fulfilling the Great Commission? Because it is the single most effective evangelism tool ever created in the history of the church. JESUS has been viewed over 7 billion times, more than any other film in the history of the motion picture industry.
600 million people have made decisions for Christ after seeing the JESUS Film.
60% of all new church plants involve a JESUS Film showing.
In my current role as director of Global Broadcast Strategy, since 2016, JESUS has been viewed or heard over 850 million times through TV and radio in 155 countries.
Starting in 2022, our goal is to have 500 million people a year see the story of JESUS on television.
94% of people watching TV watch with a device in their hands—a tablet or smartphone.
71% of people watching TV are looking up information on their device about what they are watching. In case you think that’s not a lot, consider this: In a country where 10 million people might be watching JESUS, 7.1 million are looking up information about the film or about Jesus while they are watching.
41% are messaging family and friends about what they are watching. Prior to the age of the Internet, we could only address those who were watching at that moment. But because of how people are using their smart devices while they are watching, we are picking up millions of additional people seeing the films that we might not have reached before.
In view of this behavior, we place website addresses and WhatsApp numbers on many of our films so that we can direct people where to go to learn more about Jesus.
Since 1979 over 600 million have made decisions for Christ watching the JESUS Film.
Our West Africa broadcasts of JESUS in December 2020 saw 634 people in Nigeria, Ghana, and Liberia sign up online for discipleship materials to help them grow in their faith.
In 2017 in Orissa, India a showing of JESUS to 11 million people on TV resulted in more than 4,000 phone calls from people wanting to know more about Christ.
Our December 2020 airing of the JESUS Audio Drama resulted in more than 4,700 calls and emails from people in dozens of countries wanting to know more about Jesus and looking for discipleship.
During 2020, 42% of all viewings of JESUS happened through broadcast! That’s near half of all views of the film globally.
In 2019, 22 million people made decisions to follow Chris through the JESUS Film.
“I have studied Islam and discovered that it is not the truth. I listened to the drama about the life of Jesus. I’m scared to believe in Jesus, but I know that Jesus brings comfort and peace.”
“My husband never liked to listen with me to your programs, but the JESUS drama has moved him very much. There are very few gospel radios, but I believe that the Spirit of God works through you. You should air JESUS often, more often, as often as possible.”
“I was released from prison on Sunday. I heard Luke’s Gospel (JESUS), and the world has made sense again.”
“One of my friends used to be very negative about anything I tried to share with him, and totally rejected the idea of Jesus’ death. But eventually, after many years of friendship, he started to show some interest in stories about Jesus. Every time we would study a story together, he would show more and more understanding and interest. I knew that it was a very sensitive topic, but eventually I shared the Good News with him about Jesus’ willingness to bear everyone’s sin on the cross. I was hoping he would not be offended at my boldness, but to my surprise he said, “Oh yes, I believe that. I’ve believed it for quite a while.” “I was shocked and wondered how he could have changed his mind so dramatically. He told me, ‘It’s true that I used to be confused about Jesus. But then I started watching the JESUS film on TV every night. I learned about the history of what happened and then I understood. It’s true, Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for sin and if we follow him, he will take responsibility for our sin.’”
Here is a brief story about an Iranian man who was watching the JESUS Film in Iran on TV. “Mohsen was addicted to drugs for many years. He tried AA meetings, going to boot camps, nothing helped. Watching the JESUS Film on Mohabat TV, he prayed; ‘Lord, if you really are who you claim to be, please set me free of this addiction!’ The next day he was sober and has never again used drugs to this day. He witnessed to his friends that only Jesus can set them free, and many have come to faith as a result of his testimony.”
Now, let me draw a comparison with our Mongolia work.
I noted earlier that our ministry in Mongolia saw many thousands exposed to the Gospel with many coming to Christ. We had a budget of $70,000 a month to make our ministry work. However, when we left Mongolia after ten years, everything changed.
Upon leaving Mongolia, we lost 90% of our personal ministry support. We nearly drained our bank account in the first year just to make ends meet. But once we got resettled in the US, I began working with JESUS Film Project on global broadcast strategy. And something remarkable happened.
When I reported to Orlando, I was given a tiny workspace, no assistants, no staff, no authority, and no budget. Yet, in the last six years we’ve had over 850 million views of our films in 155 countries. The Lord gave us partnerships with key people around the world to make our efforts for television possible. Millions have come to faith in Christ because of our TV showings.
The lesson: You don’t need a big office or powerful friends to make a difference for Christ. You don’t need a big budget or massive resources, you just need the partnership and support of the right people, willingness, faithfulness, and the power of the Holy Spirit.
Look at the Apostle Paul: When he got started, he had no office, no staff, no car, or smart phone, or plane, or horses, and no budget. He likely walked from country to country. Yet, Paul did have three important things:
(1) He had a sending church,
(2) He had partnerships, and
(3) He had the leading of the Holy Spirit.
With just these three things Paul changed the world.
If you get involved in fulfilling the Great Commission, you may have precious few resources to use to bring those you know to faith in Christ. But if you walk faithfully, trusting the Holy Spirit for your efforts, you too can see fruit from that faithfulness.
To learn more about how to support our ministry, please visit www.thomasterry.com.
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