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Why Am I on TikTok?

by Josh Angel

The Problem

A recent study estimates that 70% of people who grow up in church will leave it when they are older, and only about 50% of those will return in later life. This should be an earth-shattering statistic! Jesus told the parable of a shepherd (“pastor” in Spanish) who left the 99 in search of 1 that went missing.

What would he say to us when the majority are gone? As a pastor, I’ve felt challenged to radically alter what I’m doing in order to reach the primarily men and young adults that don’t find what they’re looking for in the church. And I think I know part of what it is: there’s not enough adventure.

My Background

My parents made the difficult decision to become missionaries in a war zone in the ’80s, which gave me a unique perspective growing up of a God that is radically committed to seeking the lost. To me following Christ has always been an adventure, and I want the next generation to know what’s possible. My early experiences led to my formation as a first responder in the areas of disaster relief, medicine, search and rescue, self-defense, and many other related technical abilities.

In my years of ministry, the most maturing I’ve seen is from times I’ve done youth activities that challenge and stretch participants from victims into rescuers, from helpless to conquerors, showing them their God-given identity and purpose. When I use God’s image in me and offer my time and attention as a big brother or father figure, I find they soon discover God’s image in themselves yearning to stand in the company of the worthy.

The Discovery

These young people are capable – they’ve just never been given the time and training they need to develop that. And they’re hungry for spiritual things and real relationships. With a few small groups and a partnership with a discipleship program nearby, we’ve proven the model of training camps is working. The testimonies are powerful: people say they think differently – they see themselves differently – and they want more. They want harder, longer, more challenging courses. They want to be committed to this community.

The Shift

So we’ve decided to scale up the effort. The program is called The Forge – an evangelistic leadership institute which presents content through in-person wilderness modules throughout the year. As participants come back for each module, they “level up” their skills and are honed as leaders for the next cohort. The first official Forge camp was in February 2024 and the next is in November.

The Strategy

But what drives the demand? (And here’s where TikTok comes in.)

Well, all the people that aren’t in church anymore, and most of the ones that are, also spend a lot of time in the same place: on their phones. A recent stat says that across the globe 16-18 year-olds average 63 hours a week on screens of some kind.

So with The Forge, we’ve created an online presence over the last two years – over 100,000 followers across social media and millions of views – and we have rapidly become one of the leading Spanish channels for outdoor and survival content. Although the channels aren’t explicitly religious, they are part of the strategy for capturing the attention and earning the trust of young people, who are then invited to come and see – in real life – what this God stuff is all about.

So you won’t see me writing blogs too often – that’s more Annie’s domain, and she even co-wrote this one! – because I’m focused on reaching the unchurched or “ex-churched” on other platforms.

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