Cem Erçin, Pastor of Istanbul Immanuel Protestant Church and SAT-7 TÜRK Presenter of Essence of the Gospel and co-host of Let’s Talk, shares his unique insights into how SAT-7 TÜRK continues to support the Turkish Church during the pandemic.

“When I first started presenting Essence of the Gospel on SAT-7 TÜRK, I was lost in Istanbul one day and asked a man for directions, and although I had only produced two episodes of the program, he recognised me from TV. Turns out he was visiting from a village in the middle of nowhere – but he was still able to hear about God’s love because of television! God showed me the importance and unique value of this channel through this event.”

Misconceptions and prejudices about the Christian faith are widespread in Turkey. As a channel that supports all Christian denominations in Turkey,  SAT-7 TÜRK has a vital role to play.

“SAT-7 TÜRK has two main roles,” explains Cem Erçin, Pastor of Immanuel Church in Istanbul. “The first is to support existing Christians of all denominations in Turkey in their walk with Christ. The channel’s second role is to inform non-Christians about our faith, hope and trust in a God of love, not a God that is quick to punish and strike down”.

“The Church in Turkey today resembles the first churches that are described in the book of Acts” explains Pastor Cem. “Everyone knows everyone because Christians are a minority in Turkey – but we are growing. During this pandemic the role of the Church is very important. We are limited in what we can do at the moment, but we want to give people spiritual and emotional support, and one way we can do this is through programs on SAT-7 TÜRK”.

By providing a platform for churches across Turkey, SAT-7 TÜRK acts as a bridge between churches and people. Isolated believers living in regions with no churches or Christian communities can connect with Christians and churches through the programs broadcast on SAT-7 TÜRK. “Non-Christians also find it easier and are more comfortable reaching out to the channel than they are in approaching a church directly,” says Pastor Cem. “SAT-7 TÜRK serves as a starting point and a foundation in their search for answers about Christianity”.

“During this pandemic, people are rethinking their priorities. They are no longer concerned about material things such as fancy houses and big cars, but they do have a lot of questions,” explains Pastor Cem. In addition to continuing live programs, SAT-7 TÜRK responded to this need by creating a new program, Answers of Hope, in which church leaders across Turkey help to answer questions related to the Christian faith during the pandemic.

Pastor Cem shares that many people feel secular television in Turkey has become “boring”, because channels are currently mainly showing repeats. He explains how people are looking for alternative options to watch and many have turned to SAT-7 TÜRK. “As a result, the channel’s viewer engagement has increased, we receive more questions, there are more discussions and arguments, more positive and negative reactions. I believe this engagement with the channel will continue to increase because people are hungry for answers”.

One of the most exciting and encouraging developments that Cem has witnessed during this time, is that viewers have started to ask more challenging questions. “We used to get common questions such as ‘Has the Bible been changed?’, but now viewers are researching the Bible, they are comparing verses, they are engaging with the programs and their questions are becoming more difficult. This is a huge encouragement to us all”.

As for the role of the Church after the pandemic is over and people return to their previous routines, Pastor Cem says, “People fear that due to the virus people’s faith will be weakened, but we are seeing the exact opposite. Many are turning towards God, and I believe they will continue to do so as they re-evaluate their lives. For now, the Lord has brought us into a Sabbath in our homes, a time of rest. When churches finally reopen, I believe that many more people will come”.

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