A Vast Need

More than half (perhaps 4.5 billion) of the world's population of eight billion prefer to learn by oral (rather than textual) means -- either because they can't read, use a language that isn't written, or are part of an oral-preference culture.1 Even in highly-literate societies, oral methods are the choice of many.

How, then, are they to hear the Gospel and study Scripture?

While direct person-to-person communication is always desirable, recorded audio plays a crucial role and can be particularly effective for:
  • inaccessible areas or people groups
  • rapid mass impact (abundant sowing of seed)
  • repeated listening, for comprehension and internalization
  • sensitive, hostile, or restricted areas and situations
  • insuring accurate transmittal and preservation of the message

What, then, are the options for delivering audio Gospel content?

Option 1: Cell Phones

Inserting microSD card in a phone
There were 5 billion unique mobile subscribers globally (2/3 of global population) in 2017. Today, nearly 75% of the global population is likely connected.2

Perhaps more than half of the world's population has ready access to a mobile phone with a memory card slot or is able to access wireless or Bluetooth downloads. For this group, ministry organizations can provide content with a MicroSD card, or through a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth transmission. A number of free apps exist for accessing many of the world's audio Bibles.

WiFi icon Bluetooth icon
Where public proclamation is possible, mass-distribution of follow-up cards with download instructions may be an effective tool.

Option 2: Gospel Radio

Radio tower, Wesha, Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA-3.0
Organizations like the Far East Broadcasting Company (transmitting in 110+ languages), Galcom (solar-powered radios, studio and broadcasting equipment), Trans World Radio (broadcasting in 230+ languages), and many others provide content, stations, and receivers to effectively reach many areas of the world with Gospel radio content.

With the equivalent power of a light bulb, a small radio station can reach an area of many square miles.

Radio is also anonymous -- important in areas where governments track internet usage or downloads.

Option 3: Dedicated Audio Devices

These cell phone and Gospel radio approaches are being widely pursued, and very effectively used, all over the world by many agencies and individuals.

However, there is another option -- dedicated audio devices -- also in broad use, but within which we believe a particular opportunity has not been well-exploited.

Audiences where a dedicated audio device may be appropriate include:

Among Potential Cell Phone Users

Among the web-accessible cell audience, users may not follow through on visiting provided links, or may face prohibitive connection charges, or may be wary of, or blocked from visiting non-approved websites. In many locations cell coverage is spotty, allowing access only during brief periods when a user moves (or travels some distance) into coverage.

Among those receiving microSD cards, while these slots have been ubiquitous on non-Appletm phones, they may become less available in the future as phone manufacturers push internal memory.3 Some users may also be reluctant to displace the memory card they are already using for their own content. In poorer nations, users often repurpose a Gospel memory card for personal videos or music.

For all cell users, there is constant competition for attention by other apps, websites, games, calls, and texts, that may distract from focused use of Gospel content.

Among the Indigent

Woman beggar
The poor may lack access to a phone, or lack resources or access to charge the phone ("pay to charge" is common in many areas) for extended listening sessions. They may not have access to Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, or be unable to afford high data charges.


Among Potential Radio Users

Some factors that may limit the reach of Gospel radio content include:
  • limited station geographical coverage
  • difficulty funding operating expenses
  • time-of-day availability
  • end-user difficulty in discovering appropriate programming
  • lack of native language broadcasters
  • limited distribution of receivers
  • hostile group social dynamics
  • competition from other stations

Student reading braille

Among the Blind

Braille is a remarkable communication medium that has given, and will continue to give, great independence to many blind persons.

However, less than 10% of the US blind population reads Braille; in the UK, the figure is less than one percent; in developing nations the percentage of Braille readers is vanishingly small. Braille literacy can increase the number of readers, but providing this training to the world's 39M blind is a daunting task.

Children carrying the many volumes of a braille Bible
And this is a Braille Bible -- about the size of two mini-fridges -- expensive to print, ship, and store.

While many blind people learn to use a cell-phone with screen-reader navigation, this fraction is probably a minority of the world's blind (far fewer than the general population).


Among Students

Islamic students smiling in classroom, public domain
In some communities, a mobile phone may be available only to older, more financially-secure members of the family.

School distributions of audio devices sometimes offer an efficient means of reaching entire families.


Among Other Unique Groups

Prisoners are often not be permitted to have mobile phones.

Aid worker shaking hands with hidden prisoner
Soldiers may be restricted from phones or radios, either by military policy, or by size or charging constraints.

There is a need for easily-operated devices in hospitals, for shut-ins, and in hospice care.

In remote areas, whole communities lack cellular service and sometimes phones.

Summary

All of these distribution methods and approaches are critical, effective tools that are each needed and fill unique niches. We ought to deploy them wisely, appropriately, and in a complementary fashion.


Next

Does Scripture suggest how we might think about Gospel audio distribution?



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