Social media has changed forever with the rise of TikTok, which is now officially the most opened and watched app in the social media ecosystem. It has become so successful that Meta, YouTube, and Twitter have altered the way they function in order to maintain their footing…and that’s a good thing for the gospel.
First, a bit of my experience as an evangelist on TikTok. When I jumped in on July 2021, I was skeptical-seeing the constant money grab and little return on investment on other social platforms over the years. Immediately, however, I began to see results, real impact, and a loyal following of brand new believers hungry to devour God’s Word. As I write this, I’ve had over 50 million views, over 280,000 followers, nearly four million likes and most importantly, over 140,000 indications for a decision for Christ! Certainly, not all of these decisions are real or first time decisions, but even if that number is a sliver of the total, this has changed gospel communication for me forever! Here are five things I’ve learned that can be applied to many, if not all, algorithm-based platforms for your ministry:
1. Metrics: The algorithm only cares about one thing. Watch time that converts to followers. With the data I get from TikTok, I can objectively see when viewers scroll away, how many watch to the end, and with clear calls to action, I can see exactly how many are responding to the gospel in the comment section. Clear metrics are good for me, but they are also really all the algorithm cares about, except, of course, obeying the terms of service (so don’t get banned for violations!). Because I have a clear call to repentance and ask viewers to indicate their decision for Christ, I get comments like this every day, “I prayed the prayer and am shaking. I’ve never felt anything like this. I’m crying my eyes out.”
2. Consistency: The algorithm wants consistency in messaging and content: I post three to five short videos a day, on a variety of things—mostly basic doctrines of sin, judgment, righteousness and addressing common struggles like pornography, anxiety, fears, family pressures and the like. The algorithm can depend on my account to provide fresh, engaging content on a specific niche (Christianity) and, in turn, it pushes my content to the “For You Page,” or FYP. Normally, over 80% of the views on my posts are not coming specifically from my followers but from views on people’s curated FYPs. Here’s a recent comment, “You popped up on my FYP and now I’m following you every day. You’ve changed my life and I’ve grown so much!”
3. Value: I have a very consistent following base to which I can push private content and go deeper in discipleship with because I provide something unique in their lives—biblical teaching with an evangelistic edge. One follower recently wrote these words: “Before I found your account, I didn’t know anything about God. Now I am a Christian and am getting baptized!” I wake up to comments like this literally EVERY SINGLE DAY and the main reason is I provide distinct value in the form of constant teaching. Out of the 280,000 followers, I estimate 8,000 users are engaging with my content every day throughout the day.
4. Residual Returns: I’ve spent nearly 30 years traveling the world preaching Christ. Countless hours hoping when I got to the destination, there would be people to preach to, that there would be fruit. I’ll never give that up, but there has not been a single day where I’ve not seen decisions for Christ on TikTok. I wake up everyday to comments like this: “You don’t know me but I prayed to become a Christian months ago on your account. I want you to know that I have my first Bible and will be getting baptized next week.” That comment was posted on a video I had uploaded months before. The library of content continues to be viewed 24/7/365-posts don’t die on TikTok, they live on. The delayed residual return on TikTok makes it unique from many other platforms.
5. Spiritual Power & Authority: Just like in-person preaching, gospel proclamation engages powers and principalities in digital spaces and requires the evangelist to rely on the Holy Spirit and focus on the authority of Scripture & the gospel. This is one of the ways my account has prospered and suffered some persecution. There are real people on the other side of the screen and the enemy is at work in them and through them to thwart the gospel. Using the name of Jesus and stewarding the power of that name has proven time and time again to bear much fruit. One commenter was dropping profanities into many posts and provoking Christians to anger. I made a post in response, calling on Jesus and the community to respond in love. Over the course of two weeks, this person repented and took first steps into the Christian community.
While I could teach a seminar on how the algorithm works and the tricks of the trade, none of that is nearly as important as the power of the Word of God—it is unstoppable. God is using TikTok in a powerful way to reach Gen Z with the gospel. Gen Z is NOT tuning into Christian radio or satellite TV, the eyes and ears right now are undoubtedly on TikTok and so this is where we bring the unction of the Spirit of the Living God. We may not be able to pray in schools, but every single day I get to speak 6-12 inches away from the eyes of a 14-year-old sitting in the back seat of his mother’s SUV after school and tell him that Jesus loves him and that he can be born again through repentance and faith. There is no greater honor or joy for an evangelist!
Check out some of York’s work on TikTok HERE.