Gospel Communications International, Inc. celebrates 50 Years of Media Ministry
convey, January 29, 1999
MUSKEGON, Michigan – In the beginning – long before fiber optics, satellite uplinks, e-mail downloads, or color TV – there was 16-millimeter film. It was 1950 – the midpoint of the century and the debut of Gospel Films, Inc., a fledgling ministry dedicated to capturing the drama of the Christian story on celluoid.
Since that modest opening scene 50 years ago, the ministry has repeatedly outgrown its headquarters in this city along the Lake Michigan coastline. But it has held firm to its mission of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Last year, they even outgrew their original name, Gospel Films. They’re now known as Gospel Communications International, Inc., a name that more accurately reflects the broad scope of their work.
And today, Gospel Communications International (GCI) carries out its life-changing objectives by continuing its distribution of evangelistic film and video productions, as well as extending its influence through a fast-growing Internet outreach called Gospelcom.
Launched in 1995, Gospelcom is the largest and most popular Christian web site on the Internet. The site had more than 414 million “hits” in 1998 from Internet users in 193 countries and territories around the world. Now averaging nearly 1.5 million hits a day, Gospelcom (address: www.gospelcom.net) is ranked by the Internet rating company, Relevant Knowledge, as the 222nd most-visited site on the World Wide Web. The number of people reached in 1998 more than doubled the 1997 outreach, and 1999 already shows even more remarkable statistics. Gospelcom’s free “Bible Gateway,” with its seven searchable English translations and nine foreign translations, is the most popular area on the site.
“We’ve gone from being a pioneer in film evangelism to leading the way in high-tech, worldwide ministry via the Web,” noted GCI’s Board Chairman Richard M. DeVos. “It’s been an amazing journey, and a testimony of what God can do through the willing hands of a small group of men and women whose efforts are dedicated to Him.”
The ministry is already looking for the next high-tech opportunity to “spread the Word.” In addition to their donor-sponsored high school and prison ministries, they organize international television outreaches from Africa to Asia and place films and videos into the hands of dedicated missionaries in South America, Russia, the Fiji Islands, and over 200 other countries. DVD and other new digital media systems are next on GCI’s list of “must use” technologies for evangelizing the world.
“Although we have changed the methods by which we convey the message,” DeVos added, “we have not changed the message. For every one of our 50 years of history, our aim has been the same – to help people who are spiritually dead find salvation in Christ, giving them life forever in Heaven.”
Through Gospelcom, GCI has established an unprecendented cooperative venture with other national and international Christian organizations. After launching the Internet site with 10 founding ministries in 1995, the Gospelcom online alliance has grown to 157 separate but unified ministries today. “We have been able to accomplish so much more together than we would have done on our own,” said Gospel Communications International’s President Billy Zeoli. “People are understandably confused and frustrated when they hear of ministries competing with each other. God has blessed this cooperation of the strategic alliance of Gospelcom ministries in phenomenal ways.”
The organization’s leaders and board of directors agree that the ministry must be ready to utilize new technologies in the new millennium. The prospect of ever-improving technological breakthroughs energizes the team at Gospel Communications International. A spirit of excitement permeates the organization’s sprawling headquarters – from the Gospelcom technology center to the executive offices, from the film and video warehouses to the shipping docks.
“Only God knows what is yet to come,” said DeVos, “but this ministry will remain vigilant in its commitment to send forth God’s Word.”
“With God’s help,” declares Zeoli, “Gospel Communications will continue as a cutting-edge ministry in this constantly changing world. For us, the end of the twentieth century is exciting, not ominous. It’s the doorway to a new millennium of opportunity to reach the lost with the light of God’s Word. We can’t wait to see what God has in store!”