Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21
When Lifeword’s board members met on August 18, 2017, they were given the details of the new path God has given to Lifeword Executive Director Donny Parrish and, subsequently, to the Lifeword team. All agreed that, as the 2017 Lifeword Sunday T-shirt logo proclaims, this initiative is exactly where and how God is directing Lifeword to “Reach the World.”
Donny says that, “When I think of the future of Lifeword, the word that rings in my heart is unlimited. Because we serve a God that is unlimited in his love and power and because he has adopted us as his children, we have his unlimited potential at our disposal. Our God has all power and all authority. He is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.
“How could we not dream big dreams for his glory? How could we not take big risks for a God so powerful? How could we not ask God for a vision that would result in him getting all the glory for something only he could accomplish?
“I am dreaming of an unlimited opportunity to reach the world with the gospel. The Lifeword team and the Lifeword board members have bought into this dream. And I’m praying that you’ll dream with us.”
The Same Mission but a New Vision
Our mission is set. Jesus gave us our mission in Matthew 28:18-20. We can set no other course than the one our Master has given. The directive is clear. But the method to accomplish that mission has and must change.
For over 50 years Lifeword has sought to accomplish the mission given to us by Jesus through primarily radio and analog technology. This has been the most effective media delivery system available. It was the right approach for the right time.
But the world is changing. In fact, it already has changed.
“The analog technology of yesterday has given way to the digital technology of today,” Donny explains. “The internet has made the world much smaller, much more accessible. Lifeword leadership envisioned this day coming when the O3b initiative was introduced several years ago. Dr. Steve Crawley and his team laid the groundwork when they told us of a day approaching when the internet would soon make it possible for the gospel to be preached to the entire world. And that day has arrived.
“That reality is causing Lifeword to think in a new way about how we will tell the world the good news. We believe that we have a vision, a strategy and a plan that will enable Lifeword to capitalize on this new opportunity and will serve us well for years to come. It involves the Lifeword Network powered by the Lifeword Cloud.”
Ultimately, Lifeword’s forty languages and their gospel programming would be accessible for people worldwide in audio and video at anytime, anywhere. Lifeword.org will be able to control the content locally and be the repository or the hub. Discipleship material would be available as well, bringing us one step closer to “Reaching the whole World” with the gospel.
As Executive Director Donny Parrish began formulating the idea for the Lifeword Cloud on the Lifeword Network, he considered the following: “Is this a big plan? It really is. It will certainly be the challenge of my life’s calling in ministry to shepherd this from dream to reality. After introducing this plan to our staff and getting buy-in from our team, there have been nights that I have laid in bed and thought, ‘What in the world are you doing? This is going to be very difficult to do! Why put yourself through this?’”
“I’m glad that I don’t have to accomplish this. My God is big enough to make this happen all by himself. I’m depending on his power, guidance and leadership to make his dream become a reality. I’m confident that what he has birthed in my heart he will see to completion.”
The Lifeword Network
Imagine for a moment the opportunity to provide programming in both audio and video for Lifeword Community Radio stations. This programming will allow churches and pastors to stream a constant source of uplifting gospel music and messaging from one source, the Lifeword Network, to people who would choose to listen to their “station.” The churches who join our network team will be allowed to broadcast Lifeword programming but then speak to their audience directly by preempting the Lifeword Network broadcast. This will allow for quality, trusted gospel programming from Lifeword, with local control and messaging. The goal would be to provide programming in as many languages as Lifeword could produce. The internet will allow churches and missionaries to broadcast the Lifeword Network without the financial constraints that have burdened us in the past.
The Lifeword Cloud
How do you deliver programming that has been produced to Lifeword Network stations around the world? Through the Lifeword Cloud. Our dream is for lifeword.org to become the center of all we do as an organization. Languages, broadcasts and discipleship materials would all be uploaded to the Lifeword Cloud for dissemination to stations around the world. Our goal is for easy access to our Lifeword Community Radio partners around the world, freeing them from having to be intensive programmers. Lifeword will be the programmers. They will have the freedom to concentrate on one or two programs that will enhance their outreach to their audience.
The Challenges Ahead
There are many challenges facing the Lifeword team as they move to this mode of ministry. Some of these challenges we understand and know. And there are many others that we will not know until we face them.
We are not the first Lifeword team to dream and pray about the possibilities of providing a global hub available 24/7 for anyone to access what Lifeword and her affiliates produce. But with advancements in technology, particularly O3b with its next-generation satellite network providing billions of people with low cost, high speed Internet and mobile connectivity, the time for such a monumental effort seems to be now.
There are many challenges facing us as we move to this mode of ministry. Some of these challenges we understand and know. And there are many others that we will not know until we face them. They include the following:
A Change in How We Think About Ministry
As we move into this new arena we cannot simply stop our present ministry efforts. At the same time, we will be forced to examine all we are doing with the prospect of moving into this new paradigm.
We Must Build a New Model for Ministry Operation
Our directors’ job descriptions will begin to change as we move into this ministry effort. Our organization on the ground around the world will look much different than it does presently.
Our Financial Structure Will Change
How we fund broadcasts around the world will begin to shift as we move away from traditional “radio time” broadcasts to Lifeword Network programming. We will begin to seek talented programmers to fund instead of radio broadcast deliverers.
We Must Build the Lifeword Cloud
The construction of the Lifeword Cloud will be a crucial foundational step in making this dream a reality. (Think of the Cloud as more a spider of broadcast servers scattered around the world instead of a hub located at one centralized locale. The reasoning for this move centers on the need to meet technical standards for each area of the world accessing our programming.) The goal is to build this Cloud without interrupting the present budget.
We Must Market and Develop the Lifeword Network
After all the technical challenges of building the Cloud are met and completed and after the challenges of developing programmers and delivering content to stations is done, the ongoing challenge will be to market and develop the Lifeword Network. Expanding the Lifeword Network around the world to new churches, pastors, missionaries and stations will be essential to fulfilling our mission.
It truly is an exciting time for the Lifeword team, and we covet your prayers as God uses us to achieve the same goal that those who have gone before us have done for 52 years: help our BMA churches fulfill their Great Commission calling through media.