The following media ministries: Bible translation and Scripture use; Communication (radio, audio scriptures, television); and use of Films have different focuses that play particular roles in contributing to the unfinished task of discipling nations in Africa. Much work is being done here, some of the work being done in Southern Africa is highlighted.
BIBLE TRANSLATION AND SCRIPTURE USE
Zambia: The Bible Society conducted a survey worldwide in which it was discovered that only 20% of the body of Christ read their Bibles. Those 20% were usually the ones to do most of the work in churches and were regular givers but less than 10% read their Bibles systematically. Reasons for this were varied but some common reasons were that people were too busy to sit down and read, work demanded so much energy that they were too tired to read.
Globally, something was needed to get people back to the Word of God. The Faith Comes by Hearing (FCBH) programme was begun and its aim is to get people back into the Word of God and to see lives changed as they interact with the scriptures. In Deuteronomy 6:3-9, Moses exhorts a practice that runs through the Bible – listen to the Word of God. FCBH developed the Proclaimer. It is a recording device that uses modern microchips and rechargeable batteries run off solar power to play back the Word of God. In partnership with Wycliffe Bible Translators the whole New Testament of the Bible has been recorded in various languages, which are the mother tongues of the listeners amongst whom the Proclaimers are distributed.
In Zambia, where oral dissemination of information is popular, listening groups were formed by the Bible Society in various churches, orphanages, schools, colleges through ZAFES, villages, professional organizations such as the Police and Lunch Hour Fellowship and para-church organizations such as Scripture Union. Today there are 3,113 groups with 130 new listening groups added in 6 months almost every year. The Bemba region has seen the most growth but other groups are reported in Nakonde, rural Kasama, Isoka, Serenje and Kabwe. Listening groups are planned for the Southern Province. This means that more than 3,999 people have been introduced to the scriptures bringing the total listeners in monitored groups to 54,459.
This method of scripture distribution has overcome the challenges of poverty where many people are illiterate and also cannot afford radio receivers and batteries. It has meant people are hearing the scriptures in their mother tongues of Bemba and Chichewa and soon Tonga, which has been translated, will be added to the list. English is also available and is used as an interim language e.g. in Livingstone, while mother tongue recordings are being produced. Partnering with radio stations has also increased the dissemination of scriptures.
The Bible Society in Zambia also produces and distributes Bibles, Bible portions and other biblical literature from original languages into local languages. They have 11 Bibles and New Testaments translated and they would like to see all the languages of Zambia plus its neighboring countries translated. They would like to see another project that uses scripture get off the ground. It uses the parable of the Good Samaritan as the basis of a workshop to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which mainly affects the 13-49 age group.
As with any work, anywhere in the world the challenge is to ensure it is self funded. The past affected societies and how they view the importance and value of items. Some feel the Bible as been similarly affected. Surveys in Zambia show that neither rich nor poor are wiling to purchase a Bible even though they are amongst the least expensive books. There are many factors involved in this view such as lack of understanding of the gods of the original people and how they were served and appeased. Some feel that because the Bible was historically given free of charge by missionaries to new converts, the perception that it should not have to be purchased remains and now affects the advance of the distribution of scriptures because insufficient finances are generated to pay suitable personnel, undertake translation work and print the scriptures. There is a need to break this yoke and to change the attitude of people towards the Bible. There is a need to create an awareness of the word of God that leads to it being cherished and worth spending on. Where people have a sense of ownership.
COMMUNICATION – radio, audio scriptures, television, etc
Audio Scriptures: Audio Scriptures have played a great part in spreading the word of God here in a continent that is largely illiterate and with a tradition of orality. Good News Media, SA, suggests that 90% of non readers will never have the chance to learn to read and write and there is a need for more than a quick fix Gospel presentation as people need to be won and built up spiritually. GNM material covers Genesis through Revelation in 40 pictures and also has a two-minute teaching that is prepared especially for people that have received little or no teaching in the past. Bridging material is necessary to prepare people to receive and engage the Bible.
Working in partnership to produce materials on request for specific needs, they have Audio Visual Bible teaching available in 65+ African languages. Audio programmes in 128+ languages for Sub Saharan and Indian Ocean languages. Cassettes and MP3 players that work without power or batteries form part of their portfolio and also weatherproof backpacks to protect the teaching tools.
GNM feels there is need for more research studying cultures, values and communication methods in different areas and how languages relate to one another in order to create a more effective and cost effective outreach method.
They ask the question “ are high distribution figures proof that a particular evangelism tool speaks to the heart of a person in such a way that this person hears and understands the message so that it has a life-changing effect on him/her?
They are committed to learning from partners and coworkers so that together they can serve the church in Africa, better. Partners include Zimbabwe, Namibia, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique and Indian Ocean Islands. They are looking for more partners to prepare material in the other towns and cities. They are also working on an aids script for Malawi.
Television: Television has seen some new initiatives in South Africa. The Association of Christian Broadcasters is encouraging more, local initiative, TV stations, both satellite and Community terrestrial especially as the local licensing body, ICASA, is looking more positively at Community TV. There is a new Christian satellite TV station, WOW TV (Walking on Water). They have been licensed and should be broadcasting by 2008.
Film: Film is a creative way to reach people with the Gospel. Heartlines in South Africa produced 8 films designed to impart Godly values, that were aired to 24 million people over 8 weeks on national television. The films are multilingual and can be used by many religions who share a desire for moral regeneration. They aim to engender hope against a backdrop of high levels of crime and HIV/AIDS. The films come with a discussion guide that churches can use in conjunction with the films to bring about discussion of Godly values.
Campus Crusade continue to distribute the Jesus Film in Sub Saharan countries using this medium to orally and visually display the Gospel.
Radio: Radio is described as the communications medium of Africa today. It overcomes the lack of infrastructure, speaks the local language and understands the culture of the listener. It is cost effective and popular. Radio is the means by which many countries find out what is happening and how it can affect them. It is the means of providing community programming such as primary health care and education. It is also the means of spreading the Gospel in a relevant manner to the listener. It reaches the listeners in the privacy of their own homes, at the point of their needs. It is said that more homes in Africa today have radio than have access to clean water.
In the countries that MANI is focusing on, South Africa, Botswana (limited to 3 commercial stations), Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and Zambia community or private broadcasting are allowed. Zimbabwe has recently allowed a private radio station but Angola, and some other countries are not yet licensing private radios. Good work has been done by international radio organizations to cover Africa with Satellite and SW broadcasts in many languages so that people hear the Gospel in a language they understand. Through the World by Radio initiatives these and other organizations who develop programming in local languages, have produced programs that provide least reached people groups and large population groups with Christian programming in their mother tongues and with programming that address their felt needs. These efforts along with local Fm radio initiatives are ensuring that people are hearing the Word of God in a relevant manner.
In using technology as means of communicating the gospel there is a need to ensure that new and developing technology is being utilized where and when possible. Our young people want to use the technology their counterparts across the world are using. We find ourselves in a strange dichotomy where some people have almost no technology and others are demanding its use.
Botswana is one example of this. Licensing for Christian community stations is not available at this time and some are testing the waters by opening, unlicensed stations. Soul Fm has been waiting for years in anticipation of deregulation of the airwaves. Finally, new technology presented an opportunity to use the studio of equipment and the training they had prepared themselves with, quite legally. Internet is not regulated so it allowed them to stream their broadcasts. They feel that this experience will allow their staff to explore the equipment and bring the station to functionality before the anticipated license is granted, thus making it easier to compete with the licensed, commercial, secular stations, which have national licenses.
The challenges they face are a lack of easy access to internet, particularly broadband as it is expensive. Apart from audience affordability the station has to pay a monthly connection fee and these increase as more service is provided. Something they are keeping an eye on is the copyright laws which may affect music broadcast over the internet.
Rural Radio: The rural areas of Mozambique face the challenge of many other rural radio operators and people investigating planting rural radio stations. One such station started by a local church, operates in an area without electricity. Starting the station was a challenge as it first had to be determined how the station transmitter and studio would be powered before it could begin. Solar power backed up with generators has been the answer coupled with FEBA Radio’s new studio in a suitcase kit. This station has trained local men to present the gospel to the least reached Yao community. As more stations are allowed in urban areas the challenge for Christian radio will be to use the airwaves to present the gospel in rural settings where infrastructures and resources are not easily available.
Africa By Radio (AbR Media): Africa by Radio now called AbR Media, a chapter of World by Radio, is an association that was formed in 2004 as a further means of ensuring dialogue and providing a mechanism for those involved in the continent to meet together to discuss new initiatives and form new strategies to ensure every man, woman and child on the continent is receiving at least 30 minutes of Christian broadcasts in their own mother tongue each day. Also, looking at where the gaps are for planting radio stations. AbR Media works closely with Africa Media Trainers (AMT), another association that, through ICTI, the International Communications and Training Institute in the UK, provide accredited training and curriculum for radio training. AbR and AMT are associations, there are no fees involved in joining, the purpose is to gather as many associates as possible from the continent so all continue to dialogue, support each other, grow, help and encourage African Christian stations to become the best, most effective broadcasters or producers of programmes that they can be.
AbR Media supports the Lausanne Media Engagement plan ( http://engagingmedia.info/media-engagement-as-a-lausanne-theme/) and seeks to work together with Churches, Missions and other Christian Ministries. Radio is an effective medium to spread the Gospel and can even be used in disciple-making, by working in conjunction with the church, benefits can be found on both sides. Radio is an effective tool for spreading the Gospel and even disciple making to some extent, however, the church can help identify people groups to reach and offer advice on the right approach to that group.
Today, it is recognized that people reached through media can benefit if the media, Disciple-making Movements and Church Planting organizations work together. Media can help share the message of DMM movements and Church planting movements, help converts to continue to be discipled and grow in their faith. This can influence whole communities.
At this time AbR Media has more than 240 associates including local stations and production houses across Africa as well as regional associations plus radio trainers.
– VISION: AbR Media is a body of Christian broadcasters unified by an agreed strategy, supporting God’s plan for Africa. We are committed to seeing that every man, woman and child in Africa is provided the opportunity to turn on a radio and hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a way and language they can understand, so they can become responsible members of His Church.
– PASSION: As part of the body of Christ, AbR Media shares the goal of extending the Kingdom of God on the African continent, particularly by co-operating in strategic broadcasting issues and co-ordination of efforts in the area of broadcasting of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
– CHALLENGES: To have enough co workers and partners who will join and share the load to do the job quicker and most effectively.
– SPHERES OF INFLUENCE: Continent of Africa, local, regional and continental radio related organizations as well as grassroots radio workers. Radio planting, broadcasting, programming, training.
Often, radio works in partnership with Bible translators and Bible Societies to ensure that the Gospel reaches as many as possible in languages they understand. These organizations also lend their skills to assist in language translation for works like Gospel Recordings. Without the research and translation work of Bible translators, programming in different languages would be impeded and the Word of God would not be in the hands of as many people as possible. All this work contributes to the greater work of the Lord on this continent to bring people to salvation and to disciple them.
There is need to keep abreast of technology and changes in a changing world to meet the demands and expectations of developing society and to use them to the fullest to proclaim the Gospel.
Partnerships can play a key role in involving diverse groups working together to speed up work and avoid duplication of effort while using Kingdom resources effectively. When each lends their strengths to the project the work is advanced.
There are challenges in the various media genres as well as opportunities. We have much to learn from each other. Dialogue is helpful to identify areas of growth as well as challenges and dialogue identifies partners as well as solutions.
* This is a revised paper (by Sandy Day) from the original article taken from MANI 2008.
Sandy Day and Gibbs Mweemba
Ms. Sandy Day is the Administrator of Radio Africa Network and the Secretary of AbR Media.
Mr. Gibbs Mweembe passed away in 2012.