I finally got around to watching that Christian movie that’s been sitting next to my chair for the last three months. I knew I needed to watch it. Everybody at church who’s seen it says it is great.
“Have you seen it?” they’d ask
“Well, not yet,” I’d confess.
I felt guilty. But I was dreading the two hours I’d have to spend with it. I knew what was coming. The protagonist will cry when he reaches the bottom of his arc. Somebody will preach at me. And somebody will accept Jesus or make a commitment to live a better Christian life. That’s the “Christian Film Formula.”
To be honest, I’d rather spend time with one of my favorites: “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”
But I “needed” to see that movie, so I loaded it up and settled in for the tears, the sermon and the altar call. The movie did not disappoint.
It was well-made. Great lighting, camera work, editing, and music. I laughed. I cried. I was inspired.
I’m a Christian. As a member of the choir, I was effectively preached-to. And the makers of the film claim “thousands coming to Christ as a result” of their movie.
There’s a market for these films. Sony and Fox have each set up distribution divisions for Christian and Family Movies. There are more than half-dozen web sites that specialize in the distribution of Christian and Family DVDs.
But I wonder how deep the market penetration is among folks who are not part of the religious establishment.
It seems to me there’s a niche waiting to be filled: really good movies that entertain and inspire, and will appeal to people outside the Christian cocoon… movies that tell great stories with a voice that’s neither preachy nor condescending.
Let’s face it: our culture is less churchy than it was for our parents and grandparents. Much of society yawns at our well-intentioned efforts to “reach” them with the Gospel. But we really do have some good news to share. So how do we do it?
Obviously, the best way to preach the Gospel is to live an authentic Christ-like life. Do the things that Jesus did. What’s the old saying? “Preach the Gospel. If necessary, use words.”
Sometimes, words are helpful, too. But what words? And how to speak them?
My younger son and I were walking around Greenville, South Carolina’s downtown area on a recent Friday evening. We came upon a young man, standing on a box, preaching judgment and condemnation from a Bible he waved in our faces. Is that the way to communicate the love, joy and hope offered by God through Jesus? I don’t know. And I surely don’t want to judge the young man, who must have been doing what he believed to be God’s will. After all, there’s plenty of precedent for that approach in the Bible.
But really… must we take ourselves so seriously? Can’t we lighten up a bit? We have some great stories to tell. Let’s have some fun telling them. We can even poke a little fun at ourselves… Lord knows there’s plenty to laugh at.
Remember how Jesus started his Sermon on the Mount? It wasn’t, “Repent or you’re going to hell!” It was, “Blessed are you…”
Our little writing and production group is passionate about breaking out of the “Christian Film” mold to produce something that entertains and inspires those beyond the typical audience for such movies.
It won’t come across as the typical, sanitized, well-scrubbed Sunday school tale. In fact, it might be perceived as a little irreverent. We’re not trying to, but we’ll probably offend some of our religious friends. But who knows? Maybe a few Christians will be entertained and inspired, too.
I think that’s what happened when Jesus first told the story of the Prodigal Son.