The Talk Place - James Thomas

Blogs with inside information and personal opinions from GRN members around the world

Music - the most used function on a phone

James Thomas - Monday 15 August 2016

In 2015 21,000 youth between the ages of 12 and 24 were surveyed in Peru, Guatemala, and Mexico.

The most used phone feature was music. Phones are no longer primarily a person to person communications device.

The majority of users also wanted to hear a Bible Story on their phone.

If a young person in these developing countries owns a phone it is now more likely to be a smartphone than a basic phone.

The opportunity to reach the world with the gospel via smartphones is continuing to rapidly increase. Our challenge is to make GRN's recordings easily accessible to smartphone users everywhere.

You can access SIL International's survey results and report at

One size does not fit all

James Thomas - Friday 26 February 2016

The Global Information Systems Team at GRN attempts to produce technology that can be used in any part of the world. However, one size does not fit all. For example, there is no point relying on users to download GRN’s recordings from a website in countries where internet access is slow or expensive. SD card distribution or portable audio players might be best in that scenario.

Keith Williams from Mobile Advance has done an excellent job in creating a template that evangelists can use when preparing for their next mission trip. The template contains links to the latest information for each country in the areas of mobile, internet, social media, and video. You can use the template by focusing on one particular country and writing down what you observe from the information presented on the websites. Keith has done the hard work of finding some good websites. We just need to focus on our country of interest and write down what we observe from the information presented. This should help you to make an informed decision about how to best use technology in your next outreach.

GRN has gospel recordings available in a variety of digital formats that can played on CD and MP3 players, mobile phones, and the Saber hand wind player. GRN’s 5fish mobile apps make it easy to find languages and recordings for download and playback.

How to share gospel recordings using 5fish for Android

James Thomas - Friday 13 November 2015

Have you ever tried to share GRN’s recordings using the 5fish for AndroidTM app?

Just imagine that you are sitting on a bus and you start a conversation with the person next to you which leads you to sharing part of an audio gospel message in their heart language. You will be getting off the bus soon and don’t know whether you will see them again. You want to put the recording on their phone so they can listen to it later.

There are several ways to achieve this. The best method will depend on what type of phone the user has and whether you expect they will have a good internet connection.

Using 5fish without the Internet

James Thomas - Monday 14 September 2015

You might be aware of GRN’s 5fish for AndroidTM app for listening to GRN’s recordings on your mobile phone. What you may not be aware of is that the 5fish app can work without being connected to the Internet. GRN knows that not everyone we are trying to reach has a mobile phone with mobile data enabled. Mobile data is still relatively expensive in many parts of the globe and the availability of high-speed mobile broadband can be very patchy in remote communities. That is why we have worked hard to make 5fish work without the need for an Internet connection.

The recordings still need to make their way onto your device somehow, but that does not need to be via the Internet. Recordings can be transferred using Bluetooth or SD cards.

Bluetooth is very popular in many countries for copying MP3 music from one phone to another. The sharing function of the 5fish app allows you to share recordings via any appropriate technology or apps available on your device, including Bluetooth. Recordings can be shared as individual MP3 files or grouped in a ZIP file. Not only can the recordings be shared, but the actual app can also be shared as an APK installation file. Bluetooth can be good for sharing a few files, however for large numbers of files it might be best to copy the files to an SD card.

Sharing files via this method requires the right kind of device. Your device might have a large primary storage area (emulated external storage) as well as an SD card slot. By default the 5fish app stores all recording and APK files on the primary storage. You can place an SD card from a friend’s phone into your SD card slot and copy the files from the primary storage area. Alternatively there are phones with multiple SD card slots or some devices that allow to you plug in an SD card adaptor.

You still need to get the files onto your device somehow. Free WiFi is increasingly available around the world. You can download content while in range of WiFi for sharing while offline. GRN are increasingly making available SD cards pre-loaded with recordings for free or cost price.

GRN is doing more to help you share content offline. GRN’s compressed video (3GP) files will soon be available on 5fish. We are also introducing features for helping you control your mobile data by allowing you to switch off background data generated by the 5fish app.

For more information please refer to the 5fish for AndroidTM support page.

Is social media the new frontline for evangelism?

James Thomas - Thursday 19 March 2015

Social media is the number one activity on the web.

Personally I do not spend much time engaging with people on social media, but I can see great potential in using social media for evangelism.

Social media is based on relationships and dialogue, important for effectively sharing the good news. People trust comments and recommendations from friends. It is a place where we can live authentic lives openly and transparently in front of our friends. With such free flowing open communication everyone has the power to influence.

Comments and postings can go beyond your immediate circle of friends, potentially going ‘viral’ and reaching anyone in the world. There is opportunity to form new connections and relationships.

Effective evangelism will have an aim of discipleship, going beyond digital relationships and connecting people with other believers. It should not be used as a pulpit for preaching, but as a conversation place, like you would at a café.

Social media can leverage the power of other online resources such as video clips and outreach websites. There is a great collection of thought provoking videos and other resources on the yesHEis website which is designed to support Christians in online evangelism.

Social media is not free of challenges. If you want to become more intentional with your social media evangelism I recommend you check out this Ministry Magazine article by Miroslav Pujic. There are also some helpful tips on the Internet Evangelism Day website.

Finally, make sure your time online is not at the expense of offline relationships.

It’s important to say ‘no’ sometimes

James Thomas - Tuesday 10 February 2015

If you are like me, you struggle to say ‘no’. No to tasks, email, TV, people, meetings…

Attempting to say ‘yes’ to everything that happens to come your way may seem noble, however the result is that everything suffers. You may do a good job at a lot of things, but never a great job.

The difference between saying ‘yes’ to everything and deliberately selecting what to say ‘yes’ to is like the difference between watching broadcast TV and video on demand. With broadcast TV others decide what you watch when, while with video on demand you decide what you will watch and when you will watch it. I often feel as if I have wasted my time after watching broadcast TV, however after watching a DVD on a Sunday night with the family I usually feel it was a good time spent together. One viewing experience is aimless, and the other is purposeful.

Are you in control of your activities? Saying ‘yes’ to everything means that you are leaving it up to others to determine how you spend your time/energy/money, life is unpredictable, and you rarely finish the things you should in a timely fashion.

Martha thought that she was doing the best thing by being busy serving. However Jesus points out that her sister Mary had chosen what really mattered, listening to Him. (Luke 10:38-42)

What is it that God has you here for? What is it that is really worthwhile? Where should you be fully investing your time and effort? To be fully devoted to the answers to these questions it will be necessary to say ‘no’ sometimes.

There are times when it is best to say ‘yes’. We need to help those in genuine need. We need to say ‘yes’ to God. We need to put other people’s needs before our own. The Parable of the Great Banquet (Luke 14:15-24) teaches us that there is a time when we absolutely need to say ‘yes’ even if it is interrupting whatever we are doing.

Leslie Samuel says it well in his video “It's More Important To Say No Than To Say Yes”. Join me in saying ‘no’ more often so that we don’t merely do good things, but achieve great things for God’s glory.

More phones than toothbrushes

James Thomas - Friday 07 November 2014

There are more phones in use today than toothbrushes. No, this is not a blog about dental hygiene.

Villagers who can hardly afford their next meal own phones. They use them for communicating with family, finding work, accessing information, entertainment, and as a light source.

Half of internet users will never use a computer to access the internet. Their mobile is their personal source of global information.

What greater message is there for people to hear than the Story of Jesus in their own language? When has there ever been a greater opportunity to connect with anyone in the world? Although communication is normally best done in person, mobile technology can speak to people anywhere in the world. With mobile technology the time, device, location, and language are all personal to the hearer.

GRN has 11,000 gospel recordings in 5,500 languages available online. This treasure MUST be shared with the world.

GRN is trying hard to expose these precious recordings, making them accessible by the best means available to mobile users everywhere.

Half of new phones in the world have a touch screen. GRN is developing easy to use apps for these devices. Our aim is to make accessing our gospel recordings as simple as answering your phone. We want people to not be able to stop themselves from telling their friends about the wonderful message of God's love they have heard on their phone and how they can hear it too. We are not quite at that point yet. Please pray for wisdom and the means to achieve this. Mobile devices can offer not just artificial light, but the true light of God's good news.

We know that the prevalence of mobile devices and their affordability is only going to increase. We also know that technology changes. Ask for God's help in staying abreast of the latest changes in technology and the ability to recognise further opportunities for evangelism via mobile technology.

You can use GRN's 5fish mobile evangelism tool today. Go to on your mobile device.