In the mornings, Chris and Amy Brown explored the Pacific island of Saipan, combing the beaches for shells and visiting World War II memorials. But in the evenings, Chris, a multimedia missionary with Gospel Literature Services (GLS), had a greater mission: to teach video production and distribution to about twenty eager young men, fifteen of whom are pastors and leaders of house churches in countries without religious freedom.
“That was the goal of this nine-day trip—to equip them with the technology and then train them how to use it,” says Chris, who raised enough funds through GLS and his supporters to take his wife along (“I didn’t want to go to a tropical island on my own”) and to purchase and donate a video editing system worth $2,500.
The need to provide Bible training for pastors in closed countries is great, says Chris, but “smuggling Christian literature and videos into those countries on your body is dangerous because you can still get caught.” Video and web technology offers an alternative way to get Bible materials into the hands of pastors who don’t have access to Bible training, he says.
Thanks to the seminars, trained men on the island can now videotape, edit, compress, and upload Bible courses onto a secure website so pastors in restricted access nations (RAN) can download the videos without detection by Internet “police.” The Bible materials can then be used to train other national pastors. Pastors also will be able to produce and distribute their own web-accessed videos (of sermon messages or the gospel, for example).
“This project will be a very important tool for the church today to reach out to unreachable [unreached] people groups,” says Dr. Christian Wei, founder of Christian Way Missions. Dr. Wei organized the training seminars on the island and has focused on reaching people in the 10/40 Window since he began the mission in 1994. “With this kind of skill, we can reach out to even more RAN countries to supply training materials.”
China, for example, is a restricted-access country with an estimated 130 million Chinese Christians. “The Chinese church will be a key for evangelism for the next few decades,” says Dr. Wei. “If we are able to train [Christians] well—Biblically—we will be able to reach out to [the] majority of the whole world with the true gospel.”
For example, if they can reach Chinese Muslims for Christ, those converts can reach out to Muslims in the 10/40 Window, he says.
Toward that end, Chris spent part of the trip working with Dr. Wei to record a special interactive DVD for distribution during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. The DVD will teach English as a Second Language to beginners; later the gospel will be presented on a secure website.
“It’s cool,” says Chris. “That’s my job. I get to play with the fun stuff.”
Chris’s fascination with media began with his first computer in college and then grew when he became a youth pastor at First Baptist Church in Horseheads, New York. There he enjoyed producing videos, using PowerPoint, and creating flash animation gospel tracts on the web for his youth group. When outsiders saw the tracts on the Internet and began to dialogue with Chris by e-mail, some actually trusted Christ. Chris directed them to good churches and began to see the potential impact of “using media to promote the gospel and getting it out there on the web.” As churches and missionaries contacted him with questions about personalizing some of the tools for their own online outreach, Chris realized that his dabbling in media could expand beyond his church’s youth group. “I got a bigger vision of how God could use it around the world,” Chris says. “I made it my goal to be a resource to missionaries.”
Chris talked to his pastor about his burden to help missionaries who aren’t media savvy but who want to learn to use the web for gospel outreach. At his pastor’s suggestion, he contacted David Crandall, then the international director of GLS, about a job. Crandall got excited about having Chris join him, but not as an employee—rather, as a media missionary.
Prayerfully with his wife, Chris agreed, raising support from about a dozen churches and even more individuals, with the GLS goal to “equip and train missionaries and national pastors with technology to reach souls for Christ.”
After joining GLS in 2002, Chris went to school for six months of media training. “Every missionary goes to language school. Well, I went to language school for media,” he says. Since then Chris has supplied missionaries and pastors of new church plants with customized tools for gospel outreach, such as the creation of a DVD to promote a church in its community or duplication of CD gospel tracts. This past summer, he created for a supporting church in New York three thousand mini DVDs that present salvation. That church “went to a fair and passed them all out,” he says. Through supporters of adopt-a-church programs, Chris has set up websites with content management systems that allow the adopted church to log on and edit its own material. “When people have the desire to do something, I figure out the best way to do it through media,” says Chris. “I’m a James Bond type of guy.”
Most of Chris’s media tools are communicated through e-mail, but he also presents workshops and speaks at conferences on media outreach. Requests to have him teach seminars in Liberia and beyond are growing. It was at the GARBC Annual Conference last year that Chris met Dr. Christian Wei and was invited to go to Saipan to train men in video editing and production. Next summer, Chris will be traveling to Beijing with a team from GLS, led by director Chris Hindal.
“I have a bigger vision now of how God can use the web around the world; He opened my eyes,” says Chris, who remains an assistant pastor of outreach and special projects at Horseheads Baptist Church while fully supported through GLS. “It was a God-given call. Really, I feel called totally to this. It’s cool.”
Contact Chris Brown at email@example.com or visit www.garbcinternational.org.
Linda Piepenbrink is an editor and creative writer who joined the staff of Regular Baptist Press in August of this year.