Sharing the gospel through animated Bible stories
Several years ago, a church planting team in the Arab world invited us to create an animated video series of Bible stories to engage with people online. Each of the 20 episodes focuses on a specific story from the Bible. The series starts with creation and ends with the resurrection of Jesus. Together, they build a picture of God’s grand story of redemption.
Revolution leads to new freedoms
A revolution happened in the Arab world in the early 2000s—the Arab Spring. As you might imagine, it caused political unrest and uncertainty. But it also offered new freedoms, including the opportunity to use media to connect with people in the region.
The church planters who were there at the time were using media as well as other efforts to find spiritually seeking people. They began to ask, “What else can we do to get God’s Word in the hands of people who are seeking? They are ripe. They are curious.”
The team was excited about the possibilities but unsure what to do. They decided it would be great to visualize Bible stories. They already had a set of oral stories in the local language, but didn’t know how to make those into compelling videos.
After several attempts, they were connected with us. That’s how this beautiful partnership began, and it’s the project that launched our ministry.
Sharing the gospel online
Media gives us access to people who are already online asking questions. After all, that’s where many people, especially in the Arab world, go when they have faith questions — they go online. They can’t ask their family or friends because they’d be labeled a blasphemer.
And they’re often struggling with big questions, like “Who is Jesus?” or “Is the Bible true?”
Husani, a man living in the Middle East, asked, “How do I pray?”
The new believer was meeting with a local pastor at a café. This is the first time he met a Christian.
“I don’t know how to pray like a follower of Jesus,” he said.
We want to meet them where they are with answers. YouTube is the second-largest search engine in the world. And it’s where people go to search for answers to their “how to” questions.
Let’s meet them there and point them to Jesus.
Animating Bible Stories
Bible stories are a natural place to start when it comes to pointing people to Jesus. That’s why when the church planting team in the Arab world approached us to visualize the Bible stories, we were excited for the challenge. Their culture informed the creative process, influencing the look and feel of the animations. Each of the 20 videos focuses on a specific story from the Bible. The theme throughout the series is showing God’s grand story of redemption, from Abraham and the promised son to Jesus’ finished work on the cross.
The great thing about starting with the stories of the prophets in the Bible is that Muslims already have a frame of reference for those stories. And we get to show how those are just a foreshadowing of the Savior—Jesus.
To make them culturally appropriate, we used silhouettes instead of showing faces. And we used other visual elements such as a red sash to represent Jesus.
What’s been cool to watch is how God is using the series beyond its initial purpose. The videos are currently in two languages. And they are being adapted into nine more!
“This is the best video content in this dialect I’ve ever seen. As we’ve been sharing these videos, already we have seen people come to learn, share, and discover the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
– Church Planter in North Africa
Looking at the layers
Since this was our initial project as a ministry, it definitely pushed us creatively – whether it was Kayla illustrating or Elizabeth and Candace animating the stories.
“Illustrating for print is very different than illustrating for animation,” shares Kayla, an illustrator with MOTION. “Rather than designing a frame as one complete image, I had to think about it as if each layer was sitting in a 3D space.”
She also was creating visuals for a non-Western audience.
“I felt a bit of pressure knowing that every creative choice I made was important,” she shared. “After all, we’re communicating the greatest story ever told! Thankfully, we were working with wonderful partners who helped bridge that gap. They provided valuable input, pointing out things that could be offensive or confusing to our audience.”
That’s why the characters are silhouetted. For the Arab cultures, showing the faces of the prophets is offensive. We also needed to make Jesus stand out from the rest of the silhouettes. We decided on a red sash, which became a theme throughout the whole series – a symbol of the redeeming blood of Jesus.
The gospel theme runs throughout scripture and we wanted to reinforce that.
“We wanted the gospel thread to run through the animated Bible series, visually reinforcing the message that Jesus was promised, and that he fulfilled that promise completely,” Kayla shares. “What a beautiful story that we get to share!”
Enhance the mission of church planters
We love equipping church planters with video content and love watching God use this in so many contexts.