The JESUS Film Makes Astounding Progress
Three years ago we featured this powerful mission resource. Read and be amazed at their progress in so short a span of time.
In the December 1997 issue of Mission Frontiers we featured the JESUS Film Project on the occasion of their having reached over one billion people with this global mission resource. Their goal for the year 2000, just three years away, was breathtaking. They planned on reaching four billion more people in just three years. The goal seemed unbelievable, but as the following statistics demonstrate, they made great progress towards reaching that goal. It is absolutely stunning to realize that it took from 1979 to 1997 to accomplish what is listed for 1997 and just three years to accomplish the increased progress listed for 2000.
Milestones and the Future
An Interview with Paul Eshelman, Director of the Jesus Film Project.
Q: With only a few weeks left to go, how close is The JESUS Film Project to attaining its primary year 2000 goals?
A: First of all, I'm tremendously pleased with the progress we've made in the translation of the film into other languages. We expect to finish this year with close to 700 translations of JESUS. I estimate that 90 percent of the worldapproximately 5.6 billion peoplecould listen right now to the JESUS film in their mother tongue. The remaining 658 million people will have the film in a nearby trade language. That's a tremendous tribute to the engineers and recording teams and all those at The JESUS Film Project's Master Studio who have worked so hard to make that possible.
I'm also very excited about the milestone we passed at Amsterdam 2000, when the Christian leaders gathered there committed to planting a church in every remaining unreached people group of the world of over 10,000 people. Since The JESUS Film Project has as one of its goals to preach the Gospel where the name of Jesus has not been named, as Paul said in Romans 15:20, this has been very important to us. We go into a new millennium with at least one denominational organization or mission that's committed to planting a church in every remaining unreached people group.
The third thing I consider significant is attaining "coverage" of proclaiming the Gospel in the majority of the 5,753 Million Population Target Areas (MPTA's) of the world.1 There may still be 100-200 such areas of a million people that await someone coming in person with the Gospel, but even there, many have heard about Christ through presentations of the JESUS film on radio, television or by some other form of media. We are getting very, very close to confirming that in every area of a million population or more, the JESUS film has been viewed or heard via radio or audiocassette.
We still, of course, want to increase the actual number of individuals hearing the message of Christ. Four billion people have seen the film to date, and our year 2000 goal was 5 billion. Yet we recognize that figure includes some duplication, since people may attend more than one showing. However, we will continue to work to get the Gospel to some of the more difficult parts of the earth where people still have not heard of Christ.
Q: What are some of the key objectives the Project has for the next five years?
A: Number one: To take the Gospeland specifically show the JESUS filmto those who have not yet had an opportunity to encounter it. That was our plan at the beginning and we will not veer from that.
Second, we will seek to help get the JESUS film into additional languages that will give viewers greater comprehension of the message. As just one example, the film is available in 40 of Nigeria's 435 languages. Other translations will aid in the comprehension of the Gospel among smaller tribal groups.
Third, we are looking toward reaching the younger side of the world. From 1995 to 2000, 730 million babies were born. Every year, more and more of those young people will reach an age where they can understand the Gospel. By 2010, at least 50 percent of the world will be under age 18, so that becomes a very important audience for us to try to reach. We want to be at the forefront of reaching the young half of the worldthose who will be the Christian leaders of tomorrow and leading the church. A primary tool to help with this: new translations of The Story of Jesus for Children.
In addition, we will continue developing new approaches to lift up Jesus. We will continue expanding our use of technology, such as through the Internet.
Q: What will 2001 hold?
A: During 2001, we plan the international launch of The Story of Jesus for Children, the children's edition of the JESUS film. There is great enthusiasm throughout the world for this new film. Six languages, including English, have already been recorded, and we will seek to translate 25 other language versions of this children's version during 2001.
We will first target countries where it could be immediately usable on national television, such as the more media-sophisticated countries of Western Europe. We will be launching not just a new film, but a way for the churches and denominations of a country to really make sure that their most precious possessionthe childrenknow how to receive Christ and then launch outreaches to the other children of their communities.
Here in the U.S., we will be encouraging the "Celebrate! Jesus for Children Day" strategy. As denominations and local churches schedule an annual day of commitment for children, The Story of Jesus for Children film lets the young audiences encounter the life and message of Christ. This plan would ensure that at least once a year, every child in a church or denomination is given an opportunity to receive Christ.
Q: Any new directions you foresee for The JESUS Film Project?
A: Several. Briefly: first, we'll work more in the area of helping churches use the film for effective church planting. Second, we plan to do more work on written and video/audio materials that will help provide immediate follow-up care of new believers.
In addition, we'll focus on use of the dramatized audio version of the JESUS film, particularly audio tapes of it that can be used in follow-up after the film showings. In areas where many cannot read, we're finding out that many families will buy at a subsidized price an audio tape that they can take home. There, they play it over and over again. This both reinforces the story and offers the opportunity to receive Christ, especially to family members not at the original showing.
Q: Any other thoughts on this milestone year?
A: I have been absolutely overwhelmed at how God has provided over and over again. Certainly one way has been the staggering amount of low-cost or free time that major television networks in numerous countries have given for showings of the Millennial Tribute version of JESUS.
In addition, so many partners have given very sacrificially of their time and resources to get the JESUS film out to other areas. Also, the commitment of the worldwide staff of Campus Crusade for Christ has been awesome. It's their hard work on the field, on site, that makes the big difference.
We had named 2000 as the year by which we wanted to get the Gospel to every person in the world. In one sense, we have made staggering strides toward that goal beyond anything we've ever seen before. In another sense, we haven't completed the task yet, so we'll keep going. Our purpose in life is not to complete goals.
Our purpose in life is to reconcile people who don't know God back to Him. That's what He's called us to do for the rest of our lives.