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By Chris Khoury
A Nazarene evangelistic program that has aired on MTV Lebanon for five consecutive Lenten seasons has changed attitudes in Lebanon, not just toward Nazarenes but evangelicals as a whole.
Prior to the first Nazarene Lenten TV series to air on MTV in 2012, Christian programming on national television was produced by the Catholic or Maronite churches. With fewer than 1 percent of people in Lebanon identifying as Protestant, evangelicals make up an even smaller number and are widely thought to be a cult, according to Rev. Ayman Kafrouny, the program’s director.
Kafrouny is a former secular pop singer whose music was popular across the Middle East and Arabic-speaking world before he gave his life to Jesus. Now, as pastor of the Bouchrieh Church of the Nazarene in Beirut, he also produces the program each year with a team of volunteers from his congregation. The group leverage their connections and skill sets in Lebanese media to write, film and produce the show, attract celebrity interviews, and acquire air time on MTV Lebanon, a secular station.
Each year, after the entire series has run on MTV, it goes into syndication on other Arabic-speaking channels in Lebanon and around the world. It also is archived on MTV’s watch-on-demand website and posted on YouTube.
Over five years the high quality show has steadily built credibility for the Nazarene church and for evangelicals, partly through Kafrouny’s reputation and the involvement of other celebrities.
As the show launched this year, a Catholic Monk named Nohra designed a poster for the Nazarene Easter TV program and sent a message:
“Jesus’ peace and greetings from all my heart,
I am from the faithful followers of your new program and have been following you for 2 years, and each year it has been more and more spectacular. How amazing it is to talk about God and witness for His presence in our lives, the presence which is full of love, faith, and peace.
I would like to thank you from all my heart for your show on MTV and for your continuous passion to deliver the word of God. We have big trust in you and in your ministry. You are always in our prayer; do pray for me as well. Amen!
I just wanted to share with you this humble poster for the show and may the Lord protect you and strengthen you.
Your brother in Christ,
Father Nohra – Carmelite Monk”
“What do you think?”
This year’s production, entitled “Shou Ra’yak,” in English is translated to “What do you think?” and tackles current issues in our world today. In each episode Kafrouny asks a famous person to share their views about the episode’s featured topic, and towards the end, he turns to the audience and shares God’s truth concerning the topic. Each episode creates an opportunity to share the gospel with a celebrity in their pursuit to search for the truth.
Being the first to initiate such a ministry for the Arabic-speaking world, Nazarene Broadcast and Communication Ministries (NBCM) is breaking paradigms in the Middle East mindset about Christianity. Once again this year, the Church of the Nazarene is not only reaching millions of Arab viewers around the world to correct any misconception about the cross, but also reaching people of influence who would probably not have had the chance to hear about God’s love before.
In addition, local Nazarene social media is flooded with messages and comments about its TV shows. Over the years, many have expressed feeling blessed and encouraged; others have said they’ve gotten to know Jesus simply by watching their usual TV station or coming across replays of the episodes on social media.
“I sit with my kids every morning to watch the show; the words fill my house with peace,” said Mrs. Liliane Terek. “Words cannot convey how much the TV program means to me.”
Terek is a mother and wife and has been attending a Catholic church all her life. She has a better view of the evangelical church now since she started watching the NBCM shows. Terek mentions that she learns new biblical values through watching the program and it is strengthening her relationship with Jesus.
“Kafrouny is a phenomenal person and all his songs give glory to God. I love the genuine worship; it is incomparable to any other TV program.”
Terek said that one day, while she was driving her car, another car nearly collided with her while it tried to cross several lanes. Terek was forced to hit her brakes hard. Her temper flared, and she was about to shout curses at the other driver, but at that moment, she remembered what Kafrouny said in one of the episodes about patience: that it is better than being powerful. At that moment, she cooled down and decided to let it go. She said, “I wish we have Easter all year long to watch Nazarene TV shows and get closer to God.”
Serge, another fan of the Easter TV show, is an older businessman who watches the Nazarene productions every year. He is fascinated by the way Kafrouny presents the topics. In an interview, he said, “The production is a gem. I have never seen a show that explains the word of God in a creative way that leaves you thinking about it even after the show ends.”
Serge explains that he cannot always watch the show on TV, but he instead watches the replays on YouTube. He is inspired by the lyrics of the songs in each episode and loves how it is linked to the main topic.
Nivine, one of the program followers, said that this year’s show caused her to repent and go back to Jesus.
People are thirsty for Jesus, and during Lent many are seeking to be closer to God. Many prayer requests came in after the program finished and many people are watching the replays of the show on YouTube now.
Nevertheless, it is getting more challenging to get a Christian spiritual TV program on secular television and every year prayers are lifted for this ministry. Hard work and perseverance, along with partial funding through World Mission Broadcast offerings, is what keeps this the program going forward.
God is ever faithful, and this Lenten season, the Nazarene TV production overcame numerous obstacles to air on MTV Lebanon as the only evangelical show on secular television in the Arabic-speaking world. It is by faith and prayer this ministry is moving forward and making a God’s name glorified.