Adventists Use YouTube Internet Videos to Share Messages
By Alexis A. Goring, Adventist World
Standing on the edge of popular technology, the Seventh-day Adventist Church is using YouTube, the same online video-sharing Web site musicians and politicians use to promote their platforms, to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.
YouTube, which describes itself in news releases as “deliver[ing] more than 100 million video views every day, with 65,000 new videos uploaded daily” and as “the leading destination on the Internet for video entertainment,” was started in February 2005 by three former PayPal employees and has taken the world by storm. Eighteen months after its founding, Internet giant Google acquired the service for US$1.65 billion in stock, one of the largest deals of its kind.
Internet users can visit www.youtube.com to upload, view, and share videos made by both directors and amateurs. People of all ages and life experiences shoot homemade videos and, once registered with YouTube online, can post their work for all the world to see.
As of June 2007, when someone types the word “Adventist” into the YouTube’s search engine, results of 3,190 videos are listed. Among those videos, one would find: congratulations from U.S. President George W. Bush, and U.S. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., for the Adventist Church’s stance on religious liberty; music videos from Christian artists and amateurs—ranging from Brazilian church musicians in concert to Mark Schultz performing in America; a CNN feature about the longevity of Adventists in Loma Linda, California; even a decades-old promotional film for Avondale College’s theology program, starring a then-unknown actor named Russell Crowe. (It was, in fact, believed to be Crowe’s first paid film role.)
When asked what he thinks about YouTube, Adventist pastor and North American Division Church Resources Center associate director Dave Gemmell replied, “It’s basically the democratization of video.” According to Gemmell, video has been so expensive over the years that only very powerful organizations can produce and distribute video.
“YouTube cuts through all that so people with their own video cameras can upload videos on the Internet and make their videos accessible to the world,” he said. “It changes the entire culture of video.”
According to media research firm Nielsen-NetRankings, YouTube racked up 2.76 million page views in May 2007 in the United States alone, with users spending 2.1 million minutes, or 35,000 hours, that month viewing videos online there. Clearly, this is a new “medium” that is attracting a substantial audience: Ellacoya Networks, Inc., a company that helps telecommunications carriers optimize broadband Internet services, said in May 2007 that “YouTube alone comprises ... nearly 10 [percent] of all [North American] traffic on the Internet.”
Those unfamiliar with this new cultural phenomenon might wonder from where it emerged, who started it, and what users can gain from YouTube. The service began in 2005 as an “underground” venture, created after its founders experienced conflict and frustration while trying to share videos online. Fast forward two years later: YouTube is so well known that even the 2008 United States presidential candidates are using it to promote their platforms.
Politicians aren’t the only ones who see worth in this video-sharing Web site, as the Seventh-day Adventist world headquarters also recognize its value.
Williams Costa, Jr., associate director of the world church’s communication department, who is seen on many of the Brazilian Adventist YouTube music videos, accredits a specific human trait to YouTube’s success. “People have [a] curiosity to search and find,” he said. “For this reason, it’s becoming very popular, especially with the young people.”
Costa notes that while there’s a lot of good information on YouTube, there are also a number of less-suitable items; though the service is itself morally neutral, good and bad can come from it. He believes, however, that YouTube is an overall positive experience and that Adventists need to place good materials on it. “We need to be proactive in producing good material in all medias,” Costa said. “Radio, Internet, YouTube, and Google—those are the tools that reach the people and we are about reaching the people.”
Thomas Dooley knows how to reach people. He works as a production coordinator for SRB productions in Silver Spring, Maryland, and believes YouTube should be used to its fullest potential as a witnessing tool.
“The church needs to experiment with the different technologies out there to expand their ministries,” Dooley said. “[It would be ideal] if somebody who’s homebound or searching for a religious experience can go on YouTube and see church service.”
Currently, YouTube is used to further ministries, give public exposure of a family’s “Kodak moments” with home videos, promote political platforms, and give a global stage to professional and amateur musicians.
“There’s so many other ways to get church messages out than a pastor going up [to a podium] and hoping someone’s going to walk through that door for that day’s sermon,” said Dooley, who shared information about his home church, Community Praise Center (CPC), an Adventist congregation in Alexandria, Virginia, and their venture into making their sermons into podcasts available via Apple, Inc.’s, iTunes music service.
Gemmell shares Dooley’s outlook: “The future is now,” he said. “Technology is going to continue to permeate society, and for those of us in the field of media, we need to understand new media and utilize it to the fullest.”
Costa would also like to see the church using YouTube and other communication media to reach out to people outside its own walls.
“We need [to reach] big cities,” he said. “We need to do everything possible to reach people with this message, especially in hard-to-reach places such as the 10/40 window [and] in China.”
According to Costa, the Lord is giving the church tools to do that now with advances in technology. He believes we need to be more than simply active in broadcasting the good news.
“We need to go ahead by faith and trust that the Lord will open the gates,” Costa said, “so that we can go fulfill the mission.”