Suppose you live next door to an elderly woman who doesn’t leave her house much. One day you talk to her about God, and she tells you she wants to know more. How do you respond? You might give her a large-print Bible or visit with her at her house; you probably wouldn’t invite her to your Bible study at a church across town, nor would you give her a website address for a huge library of Christian materials. Tailoring outreach initiatives to a person’s needs and situation helps ministry to be effective, and at TWR Canada, we strive to use the most appropriate media to effectively reach specific groups with the gospel.
One factor that influences our approach is cultural worldview. In Canada, if people want to explore Christianity, they would likely search for answers privately. They may pick up a book or browse a website. They might go to a church, but they want a private experience, perhaps asking themselves, “How do I feel about what is being presented?” Canada, as many other Western cultures, is generally seen as an “individualistic” culture. In the context of religion, this means that individual thoughts, feelings and ideas are extremely important. We emphasize the individual aspect of our relationship with God as well as our own decisions and actions to follow God and even our own interpretation of Scripture. Being part of a church is often seen as only one part of faith, or even as a mere duty of faith, and usually takes place after salvation.
Across the world, areas like parts of Asia and the Middle East are known as “collectivist.” Rather than the individual, groups are emphasized. As a Christian, although one’s personal relationship with God is necessary, it is group identity that is seen as most valuable. Belonging to a specific faith community is how they understand and experience their identity in Jesus, and the group relationships are the primary means for growth, belonging and discipleship. Therefore, belonging to the greater community of the church and the family of God is more important than individual experiences.
Radio programs are helpful to both individualist and collectivist cultures; however, the worldview of the area influences how TWR Canada supports listeners in different locations. In India, Sri Lanka and other regions, we specifically support collectivist cultures in group settings, and we are seeing amazing growth. People meet in groups, often known as radio home groups, to listen to radio programming together and discuss what they have learned. TWR Canada supports these groups by providing them with kits consisting of radios, discussion notes and media players. The media players are particularly effective because they allow the groups to listen to programs several times over, as well as provide additional programming to meet specific needs (such as pastoral training) and the Bible in audio format.
In a collectivist culture, people long for the honour of belonging and are willing to accept invitations to join a group. Here, they explore the truth of Jesus which then leads them to find their ultimate belonging in faith in him.
As TWR Canada supports spiritual needs in the context of a collectivist culture, radio home groups are alive and growing, and people are coming to faith in Christ! In Sri Lanka, less than two percent of the population claim to be evangelical Christian, but from early 2017 to early 2018 alone, the number of radio home groups doubled from 78 to 159! Likewise, the number of groups in India is ever expanding. TWR India has committed to use programming and radio home groups to bring the good news to 100 people groups, and we currently partner with them to provide 4,880 radio home kits in 58 unreached people group languages. What’s amazing is that each of these radio home groups is a small church, and these churches can be established for $40. What an effective way to share the gospel among communities across many regions in India, Sri Lanka and the Middle East! Praise the Lord for the work he is doing through radio home groups!