Editor’s note: The Seventh-day Adventist Church for many decades has used technology as one way of carrying out its mission. Hope Channel is an important tool for pastors and congregations. During a recent interview with the editors, Hope Channel president Brad Thorp and vice president Gary Gibbs shared some of the latest developments of this television ministry.
Nikolaus Satelmajer (NS): What is the mission of Hope Channel?
Brad Thorp (BT): Our mission is that everyone, everywhere, sees and hears and understands the wonderful messages of the Bible through Hope Channel. We are primarily an evangelistic ministry. The second purpose is discipleship and the third purpose is to provide resources for pastors and elders.
NS: Why not use existing broadcast systems and buy time instead of having our own system?
BT: First, to have our own system is a lot more cost effective. We can accomplish more with the same resources than if we were to buy time on various channels worldwide. In addition, our goal includes creating an Adventist radio and TV presence in every community worldwide.
Gary Gibbs (GG): The Adventist Church has been given the responsibility to carry the gospel to the entire world. If we’re not using television, we’re derelict in our duty. We are to broadcast God’s message twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, into everybody’s homes, and to do that we need our own system.
Willie Hucks (WH): How widespread is your audience?
BT: We’re global. We operate eight different full-time channels primarily intended for public broadcast. Additionally, we operate two church business channels for training and church events. We have two full-time channels in English, a channel in Portuguese, two channels in Spanish, one in German, and one in Romanian. We also broadcast in many other European languages.
Not only do we have the current ten channels, we are in the process of developing more—in Russian, Arabic, one for China, and one for India. Those will be multi-language channels as well. Here in the U.S., we’re in eighteen million homes via DIRECTV on channel 368. This is the largest media breakthrough for the church in North America. Forty-five to fifty million total individual viewers of DIRECTV will benefit from our programs. We’re telling everyone, “Go DIRECTV to Hope!”
GG: Hope Channel is a powerful force in our church. In Africa, more than ninety million homes get Hope Channel. Our Romanian channel broadcasts on all of the major carriers in that country; and our German Hope Channel is on ASTRA, the largest direct-to-home service reaching thirteen million German-speaking homes.
WH: What type of programming do you provide? Does it vary depending on geography? Are there some constants?
BT: Variations exist; that is primarily why we have different channels. We’ve developed the channels to differentiate our audiences. We have programming unique to each channel, but it’s primarily of a regional nature. The constants are when we have a world church, General Conference–sponsored broadcast, such as Annual Council or some particular message that the world church needs to get—then these go to every channel. Also, in our programming production we have a department called Project Hope. We go to a particular area of the world and ask them, “What topics do you want to hear?” “Which presenters do you want?” “Who should be a participant?” and “What illustrations should you use?” We go there providing the technical expertise; the local field provides all of the contextualization.
GG: The three angels’ messages of Revelation 14 begin with the gospel going to every kindred, nation, tongue, and people. That is the mission of Hope Channel—to take the gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people in the languages and the cultural contexts of those groups. We do this through programs that present Bible teaching, healthy living, nature, music, and sacred history using their local languages and stories.
NS: What about Webcasting?
BT: The Internet is one of our methods of distribution. We’re primarily distributed by satellite, but we also have hundreds of cable distributions. If you go to our Web site, www.HopeTV.org, you’ll see on the left-hand side, where you can click on every one of our channels, you can watch via streaming video any channel being broadcast worldwide. There also are links there that will take you to additional Internet channels such as Czech, Norwegian, and Chinese.
NS: Over the years you’ve been involved in various evangelism broadcasts and meetings. How do you see that fitting into the mission of the church?
BT: Since 1995, we’ve broadcast all the official NET programs. More than two million people have been baptized as a result. We see it as a complement to what the local churches do. In fact, Gary Gibbs is responsible for the development of the HopeNET projects.
GG: Hope Channel is the official broadcaster of all the NET programs. The church conducts about twelve to twenty of these a year, and about two hundred thousand people a year are joining the Adventist Church through t h e m . A l s o , because you always have p e o p l e t h a t you’re studying with, and you don’t always have the opportunity to bring in an evangelist, Hope Channel has a full-length series on its network every year so that people can show it to their friends at home or in the church. But we need more, which is why we have invested in what we call HopeNET. We’ve taken the term NET that everybody’s familiar with and we’ve turned it into an acronym for Network for Evangelism Training. We have put on the Internet free resources of some of the best known evangelism trainers in the denomination worldwide, resources that will help people know how to prepare for a NET evangelistic meeting, or just a local evangelistic series. How do you give a Bible study? How do you choose your venue? How do you preach an evangelistic series? What’s the best order of topics? How do you prepare and do follow-up? You can find it all on www.HopeTV.net. We also do training broadcasts on Hope Church Channel.
NS: Hope Church Channel?
GG: Yes, that’s one of our two business channels for the church.
Hope Church Channel is a supporting channel of the Hope Channel network and carries special event programming in North America only, such as the Ministry Professional Growth Seminars (also known as PREACH), training seminars, and camp meetings. Readers can get instructions on how to tune a satellite receiver to get Hope Church Channel, by calling 888-4-HOPE-TV (888-446-7388).
WH: Please share a story of how Hope Channel has been a tool for evangelism.
GG: There’s a lady in South Africa of Indian descent. She had an Adventist friend; they worked together at one time. They used to discuss religion. She was settled in her religion, and she told this Adventist gentleman, “You Adventists are strange.” They parted ways, but they kept in periodic contact. While on maternity leave, she was watching TV one day and discovered she had only one channel on her television. All of the other channels had been wiped out except Hope Channel. Irritated, she programmed all of the other channels back in. The next day she only had Hope Channel again; all of the other channels were wiped out. After three times, with the same results, she gave up and watched Hope Channel. She recognized it was Seventh-day Adventist, but that’s the only thing she had to watch. She watched it for six months, then called her Adventist friend and said, “You won’t believe what I’m getting ready to do. I’m getting ready to join the Seventh-day Adventist Church!”
BT: What we’re finding is that it takes two to four years for the impact of Hope Channel to be made in the public. We’re now getting a huge number of responses wherever we go. Somebody came to church, somebody’s baptized ten people here, five people there, and so forth.
NS: What are some of the challenges?
BT: One of the biggest challenges we face is to have the church see how media can be a core evangelistic strategy. It’s not the only strategy, of course, but it is a vital component. How can we show the church that we’ve got a resource where somebody can become familiar with the Adventist Church twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week!
GG: Anybody in almost any community around the world can access the Adventist message at any time.
Churches can use this as a powerful tool. On every brochure put out in the church, every ad they put out, on their signs, marquees in the front of the church, they should put www.HopeTV.org. I call this the threshold effect. There’s a threshold at the doors of our churches that people have to cross over to come into the unknown environment of our church. How can we do away with the threshold effect? You put Adventist television, Hope Channel, directly in their homes. Then they can get acquainted with you without ever having to go through the uncomfortable experience of leaving the safety of their home, of crossing their own threshold. They can come into your environment in their own home.
NS: Where do you see the partnership between Hope Channel and pastors?
GG: Right now, many pastors are using Hope Channel effectively. Many are drawing spiritual nourishment from watching Hope. But they’re also finding creative ways to promote viewership in their communities. They are instructing their members to connect with family and neighbors and say, “Would you like to get some good Christian programming into your home? Watch my favorite network, Hope Channel, on DIRECTV, channel 368,” or “You can switch from your cable TV service to DIRECTV and get Hope Channel.” Think of it … DIRECTV reaches eighteen million homes with more than forty-five million people— that’s fifteen percent of the American public; and they’re continuing to grow.
BT: To take that a step further, not only is this an evangelistic tool, it’s a discipleship tool. In the typical models of giving a Bible study or having an individual come to church for three to four hours a week, there’s relatively little time for the individual to become acquainted with the broad spectrum of Adventism. Thus, one of the most powerful ways to use Hope Channel is as a follow-up tool.
GG: With little effort, you can disciple and keep one of those new members within their new found faith by directing them to Hope Channel.
It makes a vast difference in their lives. Plus, it’s witnessing to the nonbaptized members of their family as well. You’ve got the passive, unobtrusive witness of the television doing a very important job.
WH: Do you have any closing comments?
BT: I would remind readers, primarily pastors, of the resources of the Ministry (PREACH) Seminar. Hope Channel has broadcast that seminar, worldwide, from its inception. We’re very grateful for the partnership of Ministry in providing these seminars.
We want to add a segment in our programming—which will be announced through Ministry—that will be targeted for pastors. This will be in the areas of theology, evangelism, counseling, practics, and so forth. I also would like to encourage pastors to recognize that Hope Channel, through its television as well as its Internet distribution, is a tool that they can use. We’re here to help pastors. The focus of Hope Channel is spreading the message of Jesus Christ. It’s not the technology that’s important—it’s the message.