A Toronto couple is helping to raise awareness of a South African church that provides 24-hour Internet and TV spiritual services to followers worldwide.
The Spirit Word Ministries (SWM) began in 1985 with services being held in a tent.
It now has 170 full-time employees, who work in its church, school and facilities that broadcast religious programming by satellite TV and Web streaming day and night.
The sprawling church, in Stilfontein, near Johannesburg, was started by the late author and televangelist, Kobus van Rensburg and wife, Annalise. It has thousands of followers in Africa and elsewhere who follow free prayer services provided by the Spirit Word Channel.
“The church has really taken off,” said Jannie Langeveld, who with wife, Judy, are the directors of the Canadian branch of SWM. “Spiritual TV is big in South Africa and in the neighbouring countries and other parts of the world.”
He said the church holds bi-annual conferences and followers can donate and buy religious goods at a local store or online.
Langeveld said worshippers from many countries access the Channel daily through the use of a decoder box for TV, to seek prayer services, healing and daily inspirational messages. The same services are streamed on the Web.
“The service is popular and people in South Africa see the station as a regular church,” Langeveld told Share. “This will fill a need for many Canadians.”
The couple, who now live in South Africa, are working to raise awareness of “church without borders”.
The channel has been online and broadcasting by satellite and Internet since 2004 and now has a legion of dedicated followers, he said.
“This was one of the first private South African-owned Christian churches to begin broadcasting 24-hours on the Internet,” said Langeveld. “Canadians and other people can benefit from the services we provide.”
He said most of the programming is generated by local pastors, or from services taking place at the church. Some sermons from other churches are also used.
The scriptures are beamed to inmates in South African prisons and in a growing number of hotels.
“Our mission is to consult with churches and help them market their ministry via the Internet,” he said. “We also make it possible for outside churches or pastors to broadcast their programs in Africa.”
They believe remote “brick and mortar” churches can gain followers and donations by providing their services free on satellite TV and through Web streaming.
The channel provides a list of sermons available and their broadcast times. The services are lively, engaging and can be addicting.
The church also has a hostel and musical band that helps spread the word, he said.
The couple became involved in the church after being asked to help design a more user-friendly Website.
“We believe this is the way of the future,” he said. “This trend will only increase rapidly with time.”
Church officials believe their Bible channel can save worshippers time and money required to travel to church; and is safer in countries with terror concerns or anti-praying laws.
The couple is consulting with churches in New York State that want to take their messages online. The project can take several months.
“We are making it possible for foreign pastors and their churches to take their messages to Africa and elsewhere,” Judy told Share. “We are called to educate, teach and train Christians.”
The SWM also provides E-sermons and 24-hour prayer lines for its global congregation.
The church claims to have helped 14,000 handicapped people get back on their feet in sessions called Miracle Meetings.
By TOM GODFREY