Radio is still a very powerful tool in reaching people around world, but people (even in third-world countries) are changing how they consume media. To remain relevant as a media ministry, we need to pay attention to these changes and perhaps that means, in certain places – with certain people groups, that we change how we deliver content.
Recently Gregg Harris, President and CEO of Thru the Bible (TTB) spent time with us in our Canadian office. I have personally been involved in strategy development for TTB for over 20 years. I’ve had a lot of experience in Africa and the Caribbean with TTB (though it’s heard in many other places). In many places in Africa, TTB is known as the Bible School of Africa because there are only a handful of Bible schools so many church leaders rely on TTB to teach the truth of the word of God.
I asked Gregg to share about the TTB ministry. Take it away Gregg.
TTB is one of the more unique ministries you’ll come across. I call TTB the bumblebee of ministries because engineers tell us bumblebees shouldn’t fly. They’re too heavy. The mechanics don’t work.
TTB is the bumblebee of ministries.
- We don’t do any fundraising of any kind other than a simple mention on the program. This principle was laid down by Dr. McGee. It’s one way to do ministry and it may not work for everybody.
- Dr. J. Vernon McGee, the creator of the TTB programs, has been dead for 28 years and he had a poor voice for radio. The programs we’re airing were recorded between 1975 and 1980.
- TTB also has a history of being very open with our content. We give it away freely and don’t ask for money. It opens up a lot more opportunities when you’re generous and trust the Lord to bring in the resources.
- We give away 52 cents of every dollar to our international global ministry. We run a global ministry with 800 radio stations in North America and TTB is heard in 120 languages around the world with 12 fulltime employees.
That’s how impossible this ministry is – it shouldn’t work, but it does because it’s a God ordained ministry.
We’ve been called the greatest, most successful Christian radio program in history and the current leadership had very little to do with it – we’re stewards. Our greatest challenge is how do we preserve the historic values of the program and move into new forms of media and distribution?
We’re paying for a great deal of radio air time around the world because that has worked well for us. We are, or have been fundamentally, a radio ministry, but we also believe our world is changing and listening habits are changing too. We are becoming aware that we need look at this more carefully and decide if conventional radio or using alternatives like TWR360 are the best way forward.
New Media Opportunities
One of the best things TWR International has done for us in recent years is the TTB Global App which is available in 86 languages, and each language is contextualized for ease of navigation in the user’s own language. It’s all open and free.
Television was never on our radar before it became a reality in Arabic. You just need a satellite dish – most of the Arabic satellites do not require a monthly subscription. We’re on 7 times a day, with a massive footprint – all of Russia, Africa, Australia and we pay nothing for that air time.
The Arabic video producers took the radio script and turned it into a conversation between two or three people. We use the same content, but take a statement from the radio script and turn it into a question, a conversation, for video. It is available on Youtube and to our amazement we have now surpassed 4 million viewed minutes. There’s also a Facebook page, and follow-up is immediate through the sharing of a cell phone number and a Skype address. This is all a complement to the TTB Arabic programs broadcast on a super-powered transmitter coordinated by TWR International. This is just one example of how we are thinking creatively in the ever changing media landscape.
New Is Not Better – Traditional Is Not Obsolete
The mission of TTB is not to replicate the radio ministry of J. Vernon McGee. There was a time when that made sense because that was the best media and the best way to distribute the content, but we are looking at potentially significant changes as we honour the mission of Dr. McGee to get people into the whole word of God.
If we were starting TTB today, we would probably start as an internet based, app based, player based ministry and add radio where it is the best medium for distribution.
What a blessing to have Gregg with us. It is such a blessing to be connected with this ministry. I have seen first-hand in Africa how the Word of God penetrates man’s heart in impossible situations. TTB very often is the tool that opens doors and hearts to a relationship with Christ in these impossible situations.