The social media platform TikTok continues to make headlines for all the wrong reasons, whether its inappropriate content or concerns over its owners use of data.
With millions of mainly young people logging on to the app every day, often accessing humorous videos, it seems there may be opportunity for some good to come out of it.
Joseph the Dreamer is a Christian TikToker who defines himself as “a filmmaker that absolutely loves Jesus”. He has more than 80,000 followers on the platform alone.
He started producing videos as a result of lockdown, having lost his job because of the pandemic.
He thinks that although TikTok is an “outrageous” place, is it also a place where Christians must be present.
“There are now over 100 million people in Europe alone who are just sitting and scrolling through the app and they're looking for something. They're looking for Jesus. They think they're looking for a bit of connection and a bit of joy. And I believe that Jesus offers both of those.”
The videos can be up to 60 seconds long and are usually accompanied by music and dancing. Not all Christian TikTok channels are the same. Some, for example, are used exclusively for preaching and telling Bible stories. Joseph the Dreamer´s approach is quite different.
“I personally would say that I'm trying to reach people who don't yet know Jesus. So that's why I, at the moment, on my TikTok profile, I don't do preaches. I try and do everything for those that are non-Christian because that's who I want to reach.
“I’m all about starting that conversation and then seeing where it goes. I'm not looking to be the A to Z,” referring to full conversion. Joseph is happy to be “anywhere in that journey for someone if it means that they're coming deeper into a relationship with Jesus.”
It seems that, in some cases, those videos are resulting in a full conversion though. Recently, a girl in the United States who identifies herself as Felicia, posted a video on TikTok claiming to have become a Christian after the app's algorithm exposed her to Christian content on her feed
But there have been concerns that perhaps this algorithm, in particular the way in which it gives you more of what you like, could somehow undermine the Christian message.
Premier´s digital theologian Rev Dr Pete Philips believes the gospel can be spread using any means as it is God who ultimately converts.
“God can use that, definitely. If he can use a donkey in the Old Testament, he can certainly use a TikTok algorithm.”
Dr Philips does however highlight his concern with TikTok´s ability to create a personal connection.
“My only problem is that most people come to faith through somebody who they know is a Christian, a significant other people, family member, a deep friend. And, I'm not sure you can get to that level of engagement through TikTok.”
But not everyone seems to agree with TikTok being so distant and cold. Claire Hooper is a church planter and a Christian TikToker.
She told Premier that it is precisely the personal connection and ability to talk about ordinary things that attracted her to TikTok in the first place, in order to show people what it is like practically to live a “wholesome” Christian life.
“I have lots of outlets for preaching the gospel. I have my own accounts. I am in church. So what I really wanted was the version of the moment at the school gates, which is when you just go and chat to people. I was missing that and I am an evangelist by nature. I love to just talk to people about what God's done, but in a really natural way. “
“TikTok has become like that for me, chatting to ordinary people about ordinary things but trying to be wholesome and live out my Christian values as much as I can there.”
Regardless of whether more people are actually becoming Christians, Christian content on TikTok is sparking many conversations among believers and non-believers.
“If I'm not always pointing towards God, while I'm on social media, do I need to be on there?" Joseph The Dreamer added.