Could This App Help The Gospel Reach The Muslim World?
A new app could allow believers in Saudi Arabia, Iran and other countries that persecute Christians to regularly access church.
Godvo was launched in August and is already available in several languages including Arabic, Bengali, Korean, Russian, Chinese and Vietnamese. It provides 24-hour live TV coverage of churches, talks, worship sessions and other Christian material which can be accessed around the world.
Jordan Nassie, the app's founder, says more than two million people regularly search for God online. In an interview with Christian Today he shared how his app could help provide the answers.
"Instead of going to churches people are looking for God online. We want to give people a way to connect with God through their phone," he said.
The content is free for users and churches or ministries pay a monthly subscription to have their talks or worship sessions on the app. For users in the United States and other Western countries it simply gives the option of going to church without leaving your bedroom. But Nassie said the purpose was much wider than that.
"One of our main goals is to reach people where there is currently no church," he told Christian Today. "We want to take church to where it is persecuted.
"It is very difficult to start a church in Saudi [Arabia] or Iraq but with the internet we can go into those places.
"People there may not have a church or they may be figuring out who Jesus is. We have heard of lots of people who are interested in finding out who Jesus is so they Google it, find the app and start learning."
Currently available in 120 countries, Nassie says Godvo is targeting what is known as the 10/40 window. The term refers to countries in northern Africa and Asia that lie between 10 and 40 degrees north of the equator and are generally considered to have the least access to Christian resources and the Christian gospel.
"In the countries we are reaching the Christian message is exploding," he said. "We are going where people are coming to Christ on a daily message. They are looking for content but they can't get it."
But one issue is that most of the content on Godvo is, unsurprisingly, from wealthy Western churches who can afford to have their material publicised, such as Hillsong and The City Church in Seattle. Their teaching is unlikely to relate directly to the struggles of a Christian convert in Iran facing a death sentence if he is discovered.
Another concern with an app like Godvo is whether it discourages actual church attendance in areas that are not persecuted. But Nassie insists he is partnering with local churches, not working against them.
"The way users interact with church now is like how we do with business – we first check it out online before visiting it offline. We're building that ability for online connection then offline relationship."
He says his main target market is "millennials" – young people born in the late 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s. He evidently fits into that bracket himself. Cutting through the tech heavy jargon where "people" are "users" and "going to church" is "connecting" is hard, but his enthusiasm is infectious.
Despite having just a few thousand downloads since its launch, the goal is to grow to more than one million by the end of 2016 and between 5-10 million the year after. "We are looking to become one of the fastest growing TV channels for faith based media," Nassie said.
It's a bold vision and one that is only likely to catch on if he succeeds in reaching that so-called 10/40 window. It is difficult to see Godvo being anything less than a fad if it just "gives people another option" for church in the US.
But Nassie is right that content is hard to reach for Christian converts in persecuted countries and he may have created something that could help people in desperate need,
"The community aspect to church is important but if they can't have that alternative at least there is something there in our app," he said. "People are searching for peace, hope and love in their lives and we want to bring that."