Tag Archives: Christian

Why would a church group want to make a movie?

Why does the church need to be involved in producing movies? I hear that question often… especially when we talk about how much it is going to cost to produce “The Prodigal Project.” (read more about that…)

“Doesn’t Hollywood already do a good job of it? And aren’t there other churches producing Christian films?”

The most obvious answer is that we have a story to tell – the story of God loving us so much that he came to live among us, showing us how to truly live. It is the story about God searching for the lost… and throwing a party when we’re found! If it isn’t the church’s job to tell that story, then whose job is it?

Unfortunately, most of the Christian films produced by churches speak primarily to a Christian audience. They tell powerful stories filled with the Gospel, but they’re done in such a way that “secular” folks will never see them.

Another answer to the question, “Why are we doing this?” appeared in a recent blog post by John Stonestreet.

He reminded his readers of the famous quote by Scottish politician Andrew Fletcher, “Let me write the songs of a nation, and I don’t care who writes its laws.”

He elaborated,

We’ve got to realize that the ideas that most effectively shape a culture are not necessarily those that are argued, but those that are embodied. They capture the heart and mind because they capture the imagination.

So let’s embody God’s unconditional love, forgiveness, and opportunity for second chances. And let’s tell compelling stories which reveal that truth. Let’s pour our energy and resources into capturing imaginations… Like Jesus did when he talked about wedding banquets… and travelers mugged on the side of the road… and farmers sowing seed… and fathers welcoming home lost sons.

Progress report on The Prodigal Project

The Prodigal Project continues, step-by-step, inch-by-inch, closer to reality.

Last week we finished the second draft of the screenplay. Calling this the second draft is somewhat misleading. We essentially started over, so perhaps we should call this the first draft of the second version.

If you’d asked me a year ago if we’d be working in this genre, I’d have said, “no way.” But here we are. It’s a movie about a church making a movie about Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son. It is a comedy with a heavy dose of satire, designed to attract a distinctly non-church audience… but with a message for both Christians and non-Christians.

We’re processing feedback from several readers. No doubt we’ll rewrite several times between now and the time we begin production.

The church’s Communication Team has initiated the process of establishing a separate entity – Bell Tower Pictures – to produce the movie. It will be an LLC (Limited Liability Corporation) under Virginia law, and will seek certification by the IRS under section 501c3 of the tax code – which means that it will be a non-profit corporation that can accept tax-deductible contributions.

We believe this project provides an opportunity for cooperation among many individuals, organizations and churches. So we’ve initiated conversations with some of these potential partners about joining us by providing money and in-kind support. So far, the response has been positive and enthusiastic. We’re also seeking support from our own church, of course. This morning we presented our request in a meeting of church leaders considering priorities for the 2013 church budget. Next week we have the opportunity to ask for support from the First Baptist Church Endowment Fund.

We’ve been working on the legal incorporating documents for Bell Tower Pictures. That includes a clear, concise and accurate description of who we are: Bell Tower Pictures is an independent, non-profit corporation focused on producing, promoting and distributing high-quality Christian-themed film, television and web projects. Our mission is to entertain and inspire, telling great stories that reveal spiritual truth.

Next week, we’ll begin production of a promotional video, which will be a key part of the Bell Tower Pictures website.

These are busy, exciting days as we see the vision begin to take shape.

Thinking about religious freedom

I’ve been working on a little video project for my friends at the Baptist World Alliance.

Back in 1988-89, I spent 10 weeks traveling in Europe and Israel, conducting interviews and videotaping sites and artifacts of significance in Baptist history. Now, we’re digitizing that footage to produce some little vignettes for the BWA website.

Baptists in many parts of the world do not enjoy the religious liberties that we in the United States often take for granted. We have the freedom to assemble and worship freely. Our disagreements about the meaning and details of baptism sometimes result in people getting upset and leaving a certain congregation. But I haven’t heard of anybody in the U.S. being martyred for his or her beliefs about baptism in the last couple hundred years.

That’s not the case for Christians in some parts of the world today.

And it wasn’t the case for the Christians in Europe in the 16th century. I was reminded of that while reviewing some of the footage we shot in Switzerland.

We spent a pleasant fall day hiking up the side of a mountain to “Die Tauferhohle” not far from Zürich. The lush, peaceful cave belies it’s history as a hideout for outlawed Christians in 1525.

In that year, the first Anabaptist group was formed in Zürich by Felix Manz and two other reformers. They considered the baptism of infants as practiced by the Catholic Church and the early reformers to be unbiblical. They had themselves re-baptized and their opponents began calling them “Anabaptists.”

Manz associated with and was influenced by the reformer Ulrich Zwingli. But Manz was advocating a more literal reading of the Bible, and a more radical break with the Church than Zwingli could support. The Zürich city council sided with Zwingli and prohibited re-baptism. That made Manz and his followers outlaws. They hid from authorities in Die Tauferhohle and other places. But Manz was eventually caught and, on January 5, 1527, he was punished by drowning in the Limmat River. He died singing.

Zürich-Schipfe quarter : Memorial plate for th...
Zürich-Schipfe quarter : Memorial plate for the Anabaptists, murdered in early 16th century by the Zürich city government: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Makes me grateful to live in a country where freedom of religion is guaranteed. And it leads me to think about those martyrs who gave their lives for what they believed.

Which of my religious beliefs would I be willing to die for?

Makes me think.