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Although Williams Costa has been on the scene for a while, many wonder how communications will be impacted now that he has been appointed to direct our global efforts. I have been talking to his family and co-workers about what they expect from the future.
Having come from Brazil, I have grown up watching the programmes he produced being aired to millions every Sunday morning on open television. At the time those who started dreaming of the Adventist Church operating a whole TV station were labelled as crazy and mostly ignored. Today we call them visionaries and Costa was arguably leading the effort. Many would go as far as stating that Costa was the architect of Adventist Media in the South American territory. Today there are over 200 full time employees in the 'Novo Tempo' TV, radio and web studios located in the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil.
However, his ministry hasn't been all roses. Over the years many organisational leaders and laity alike have stood to blame him for his choice of expensive equipment and the quality of productions as 'unnecessarily high'. Others mounted criticism over his analysis of the cost/benefit in media investment. He introduced industry standards to measure results in terms of baptisms. In other words, if a certain investment would not yield tangible results, a new method had to be found. Many were very uncomfortable with this approach and tried to limit his scope of action in various ways. Although this is only mentioned in closed circles, some even contemplated his move to America a few years ago as a way to limit his influence in South America.
Since his appointment as Associate Director for media production of the GC Communication Department a few years ago, he has been responsible for the Global Internet Evangelism Forum (GiEN). This yearly event draws media ministers from across the globe to discuss new strategies for internet evangelism. Costa has also argued that satellite and television, important though they may be, should not be our only investment in this current and future age. In his words, "equal attention has to be invested on YouTube and social media".
Having talked to him for over an hour earlier this morning, I am convinced that we can expect his result-oriented mindset to shape much of our global communication and media strategy. As he put it: "there are many ways to communicate to people around the world and we need to research and find what really works. . .and when we find it, we should ignore everything else and do it, regardless of who likes the other methods." His personal style is not a forceful one and through his networking skills much can be achieved in the coming years.
However, I'm still unsure of how Costa will empower the various parts of the world that operate very differently from his native South America. I am hopeful that he will begin his new appointed ministry by visiting our many divisions to learn of local struggles and perhaps help them apply the same principles to achieve more for the Kingdom of God. I guess we will just have to wait and see.
Sam Neves is the pastor of Wimbledon International Church in London, England (think of tennis). He is also the director of EdgeTV, a supporting ministry that resources churches in the UK to stream their services live online.