Combining forces to bring evangelical television to the masses
While working as an accountant in the Netherlands in 1985, I felt God leading me to become involved in a Christian organisation, and for the next four years I prayed that he would direct my steps. He led me to More Message in the Media (3xM), a ministry that is reaching out to people in many countries via television and social media. I have been involved with 3xM for over 28 years and am now its chief executive officer. I am thankful that God has placed me in an organization where I really feel I belong.
Broadcasting the gospel to the nations
3xM was founded in 1980 with the mission of spreading the gospel beyond the borders of the Netherlands. When I joined 3xM, we conducted a feasibility study to evaluate whether we would be able to show evangelical programs on Belgium’s national television. After setting up a non-profit organization, we encountered many problems and did not make much progress for a couple of years.
Only after years of trying did our partner receive a phone call from the Belgium government with the news that our programs would be broadcast on the national television channel. Our partner is now self-sufficient and continues to broadcast on national television and radio. It took more than five years and countless visits to achieve this. Despite our initial doubts, we can look back on 25 years of broadcasting the gospel. What seemed like a hopeless cause at the time proved to be a precious investment in the Lord’s kingdom!
We also started projects in English-speaking eastern and southern Africa, and we worked for nearly 20 years in Estonia, Romania, and Bulgaria after the Iron Curtain fell. After evaluating our work, we decided to focus on the 10/40 window, the area of the world with the least access to the gospel but which is home to two-thirds of the world’s population. We are now working in ten French-speaking countries in western and central Africa as well as in Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Central Asia, and we plan to extend the ministry to Japan and Afghanistan.
An emphasis on unity
3xM works in unity with church leaders in a country. One of the first things we do when starting a project in a country is to bring leaders together in a united effort to reach their nation with evangelical television. This strategy is based on Jesus’ prayer in John 17:20–21 (ESV):
I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
We strongly believe that the unity of believers is a powerful key in bringing the gospel to people. The prayer Jesus prayed describes a closeness we often fail to fully appreciate. The relationship between Jesus and his heavenly ather is unbreakable; they are deeply intertwined. The effect of this profound unity is clear: that the world may believe. During my years with 3xM, I have witnessed firsthand the impact that a united effort has in the countries where we work.
I will never forget the day I was asked to sit down with a group of church leaders in Estonia who had been working together for five years. They thanked me for my efforts in bringing them together. Denominations that had once been fighting like cats and dogs were now joining forces to reach common goals. Lutherans and Pentecostals were evangelizing together in outreaches. God is glorified when his children work together in unity.
Working with partners to make programs
Together with our partners, we have developed a concept of television programs that we create and broadcast on nationwide television channels, often at prime time. Our partners function as a production house, delivering quality programs to television channels, websites, and social media.
Over the years, we have gained the necessary experience while fine-tuning our approach. Television programs suitable for prime time must comply with the requirements of the broadcasting channel. Unfortunately, I have often seen programs made entirely from the standpoint of the Christian producer that ignore basic rules for the medium, such as striking the right balance between entertaining content and the message we want to share with a non-Christian audience.
Our partners have demonstrated that drama is an excellent way to intrigue an audience while presenting the gospel. Their dramas highlight social issues from the perspective of Christian values. Our partner in Bangladesh produces weekly television programs on issues like acid attacks, public harassment of women, corruption, and child trafficking. Episodes are broadcast during prime time on a popular television drama channel owned by a conservative Muslim. This surpasses all expectations, considering we are broadcasting in a country of 180 million people of whom only 1% are Christian!
In Central Asia, programs are made on subjects such as bride kidnapping, domestic violence, and the bullying of girls. These programs are broadcast on the internet as well as on television. The number of views on YouTube exceeds 14.5 million, and one program on bride kidnapping has been viewed over 4.5 million times.
Programs in west Africa address topics such as domestic violence, the effect of social media on marriages, child trafficking, and family life. In 2016, our partner there received 9,000 phone calls and letters, 35,000 comments on a website, 55,000 likes and comments on Facebook, and 26,000 responses through a clinic that plays the programs all day. These responses indicate the large impact these programs are having. We also do independent impact research to evaluate our work.
Plans to broadcast in Japan
I have visited Japan five times in the past six years. During these visits, I’ve noticed that there is a hesitation to embark on such a project. People have told me that it is too ambitious to achieve at a national level and that the probability of failing and losing face is too great. Another problem is the minimal cooperation between churches of different denominations. My experience has been that if churches unite, a lot of opportunities will present themselves.
During my last trip to Japan, I observed that some Japanese have a deep appreciation of Western culture, others appreciate Japanese culture more, and still others appreciate both. To reach Japanese people, we will need to produce programs that take into account this diversity while proclaiming the gospel.
Looking for leaders in Japan
At 3xM, we are looking for Japanese leaders with a heart for the Japanese people and the ability to unite church leaders in Japan. We want leaders who are willing to head up an evangelical television and social media project on social issues. In particular, we are praying for leaders who are willing to approach the country’s television channels and governing bodies about the possibility of starting such a project.
If you have any questions or comments concerning our work, approach or vision, we would love to hear from you (firstname.lastname@example.org). More information about the 3xM ministry can be found on our website: https://3xm-intl.org.
Image from 3xM introduction video: https://youtu.be/wThIfKYDv1E
Martien Timmer joined 3xM in 1989 and introduced a new concept for evangelical television, which has opened doors in many hard-to-reach countries. The mission also now generates social media content.