When it comes to modern audiences, short and powerful pieces maintain attention. For Ayman Kafrouny and his wife, Grace, keeping this year’s Arabic Easter television programs brief was essential in their efforts to share the gospel.
Kafrouny, a well-known secular Lebanese vocalist, left his profitable career when he gave his life to Christ and became pastor of a local Nazarene church. Now, the Kafrounys create television programs to share the Good News with Arabic-speaking people. By featuring celebrities asking questions about Christ, personal testimonies, and dramatized Bible teachings, the Kafrounys produce programs funded by the Church of the Nazarene’s World Mission Broadcast. These shows take the message of Christ to Arabic-speaking people around the world.
For the last two years, the Kafrounys and a group of dedicated volunteers, including members from the Nazarene church that Kafrouny pastors, have produced television shows for the Lenten season. At first, the shows were asked for and eagerly welcomed by Murr Television (MTV) in Lebanon, a secular television station broadcasting across the Arabic-speaking world. Kafrouny is a popular figure, and there is a significant traditionally-Christian population in Lebanon. Religious programming before the Easter holiday is desirable. However, making room for free, 25 minutes shows twice a day made scheduling difficult and costly for MTV. Additionally, some church leaders in other denominations were wary of the airtime and influence the evangelical presentation of the gospel was receiving.
This year, Kafrouny and Grace aimed to express the message of salvation in a powerful way and alleviate the airtime pressures MTV was experiencing. Kafrouny’s entertainment industry experience allowed him insight into what a television station might need. Soon, they had a plan to create 14 three-minute segments that would easily fit between shows, acting as fillers for the station and presenting the teachings of Christ in easy-to-understand segments. They would be named “????,” which roughly means “to glimpse or see.” To overcome the critics’ objections that the free airtime for the evangelical message was excessive, the initial spot for the segments was paid for through the Kafrounys, much like a commercial.
Since airtime was being purchased, the station negotiated with Kafrouny for spots. Two were reserved: before the morning news and prior to the evening primetime shows. These were ideal times, providing the opportunity to reach a large number of viewers. The station also used the pieces as fillers after live shows and sports events throughout the Easter season.
The completed programs not only shared the teachings of Christ, but engaged imaginations as actors portrayed the principles and stories of the Bible. In one piece, a lamb is lost in the wilderness, crying out for help until the Shepherd comes to retrieve it. Another segment depicts, without words, the importance of showing kindness to your neighbor. The metaphorical illustrations of Christ encourage people to seek and find the hope of eternal life.
In response, Kafrouny’s critics released their own gospel programming for Easter. Kafrouny saw this is as a positive. He paraphrased Philippians 1:18, noting that if leaders in the church are motivated to create these programs and teach “the good news of the word of God, I consider it a gain, not a loss.”
Kafrouny is quick to note that the inspiration for the programming is not his or Grace’s.
“I believe, with my experience with the Lord, this is something that comes, in a way, inspired by Him,” he said. “When we’re praying and we ask Him, ‘Lord, what do you want us to do? Give us an idea…’ and all of a sudden an idea comes—I’m not that creative [of a] person.”
While it is difficult to quantify the lives that are changed by the biblical messages portrayed in these shows, Kafrouny knows that his work is making a difference. He has received positive feedback from Christians and secular leaders alike, and sees the Lord working in their lives. One well-known actor in Lebanon recently contacted Kafrouny through Twitter to praise the shows.
“I really want to encourage you for this show,” the actor said, “even though it [is a] short show, but it’s very powerful. I hope one day you will be able to make it longer because of the good content for the Spirit that you are including in each show.”
Additionally, more than a million Syrian refugees who previously may not have heard the gospel have been flooding Lebanon. The providentially-timed program presents the Good News when they are most in need of hope. As they experience the greater religious freedom that Lebanon offers, there is also the opportunity for them to encounter the Kafrounys’ biblical programs through MTV Lebanon’s channel and website.
Every year the Kafrounys and their small team of volunteers face the challenges of creating Christian programming: They encounter financial and political hurdles that can only be overcome by prayer and the partnership of supporters through World Mission Broadcast. Yet, God continues to provide.
“We see that the Lord is coming back very soon,” Kafrouny said, “and what we are doing, presenting the Church of the Nazarene in that part of the world, we could not do it without the support of all the saints around the world, especially those who want to serve the Lord but cannot go there. We are doing the work on their behalf.”