For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. — Luke 14:28-29
One of the most recognizable landmarks in Washington, D.C., is the Washington Monument. This 555-foot tall obelisk in the middle of town provides a spectacular view of the city and surrounding areas. It also has a rather fascinating story regarding its construction.
Work on the monument began in 1848, but six years later, members of the Know-Nothing Party (the nickname of the American Party) stopped the flow of funds, leaving an unsightly stump in the middle of town. It would be 25 years before construction resumed. Visitors can take note of this by looking at the color of the marble used in the building. A lighter shade is used for the first third of the monument, while the remaining section is darker.
I'm thankful that the Washington Monument was completed. It wouldn't look too good unfinished! And neither will our Christian lives if we don't consider the cost of following Christ.
With a large crowd following, Jesus told a story illustrating how costly faith is. No one would build a tower or go to war without first considering whether the endeavor would be successful. If the builder decided to plunge into these activities with reckless abandon, the results would be disastrous. Faith is not just reserved for church services but has a part in every decision we make at work, at home, and at school. It affects our choices of entertainment, our comments to other people, and how we spend our spare time. It reveals what our true beliefs about God are.
The cost of being a follower of Christ is immense. In fact, judging from the parable of the treasure hidden in the field (Matt. 13:44), the cost is total. But it pays huge dividends in the end. And we will be complete, instead of unfinished.
You’ve surely heard the growing body of prophecies declaring the impending judgment of God on America. Indeed, The Harbinger—a book that many believe holds the secret to America’s not so pleasant future—has remained on the New York Times’ best-seller list for more than a year. Rabbi Jonathan Cahn’s prophetic message is resonating with believers and unbelievers alike—and for good reason.
So when Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke stood on the grounds of the Vero Beach Airport proclaiming “All America Shall Be Saved” in early February 2013, the declaration demanded my attention. After all, this is the same German evangelist who declared “All Africa Shall Be Saved” and witnessed more than 55 million African souls make a decision to renounce Islam, witchcraft and other strange gods—and commit to follow Jesus Christ—in just a nine-year period. 55 million souls.
Despite the judgment prophecies, despite the rising gay agenda, despite the increasing persecution against Christianity in the United States, Bonnke made a bold declaration for the devils in Vero Beach and beyond to hear that night: “All America Shall Be Saved.”
Why do you want to make disciples? Have you ever asked yourself that question?
As followers of Christ, we should be focused on making disciples. But if we don’t do it with the right motives, we are simply wasting our time. Worse yet, we could be doing more harm than good. If God cared only about outward appearances and our participation in religious activities, then any effort toward ministry would please Him. The Pharisees would have been heroes of the faith.
After all, they were continuously engaged in ministry: They vigorously pursued outward demonstrations of godliness; they made sure the people around them kept themselves holy; and they diligently taught the law of God. And yet Jesus’ harshest words in Scripture were always reserved for these religious overachievers.
Criticism hurts. It hurts to have our motives unfairly called into question. It hurts to diligently prepare and deliver heartfelt sermons, only to be met with skeptical people who nitpick our interpretations of a particular Scripture. And it hurts when we do our best to love and serve our people, only to be misunderstood, unappreciated and questioned in our integrity.
Now granted, this doesn't happen very often; but it doesn't need to happen often—just one or two criticisms can wipe us out and take us from the peak of Mount Hermon to the valley of the Jordan.
So how do we deal with it—at least how do we deal with the unjust criticism? We know how to deal with legitimate criticisms: We humble ourselves, we repair any damage we may have caused, we ask forgiveness, we repent, and then we pick ourselves up and move on. That's not too difficult to deal with. It's the other kind, the unfair, unnecessary kind that takes the wind out of our sails and causes us to question why we ever signed up to serve as pastors. Fortunately for us, Jesus, the Pattern Son, modeled five ways of handling criticism.
Recently, I did an article on “7 Women Pastors Need to Watch Out For.” Someone who just read it wanted to know why we put the blame on the women when pastors are more likely to be the sexual predator.
“Google that,” she suggested, “and see for yourself.” My only defense is that in the body of the article, we said, “Sometimes women are the victims; sometimes they are the victimizers.” However, my critic is correct. And thus, what follows …
I’ve known more than one pastor who was a sexual predator. And if it makes readers feel any better, every one of them is out of the ministry now.
Simple ways your church can impact Hollywood
As a Christian who works in Hollywood, nothing frustrates me more than seeing the vast chasm separating those two worlds from each other. But it really doesn’t have to be that way.
For too many generations, we who claim the name and the cause of Christ have ceded pop culture to others, walking away years ago in a well-intentioned but ultimately self-defeating attempt to lodge our displeasure. We have all too often allowed ourselves to get involved in harebrained, quixotic efforts (boycotts, letter-writing campaigns, etc.) that have amounted to little more than making us look like a bunch of whiney chumps.
Much of our failure with Hollywood is due to a severe lack of relationship. We demand changes, issue threats and dismiss a whole industry as evil, all without ever trying to build any trust or friendship. It’s like a stranger telling you you’re fat and demanding that you go on a diet. They might be right, but how would you feel?
Grace Hill Media, the company I founded 13 years ago—it wasn’t even a company then, just me—has been trying to change that one project at a time. We’ve worked on more than 350 movie and TV projects now, including Les Misérables, The Hobbit, The Blind Side, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Bible series, The Chronicles of Narnia series, Walk the Line, Man of Steel and 42, to name a few. Our goal is to extract spiritual lessons from secular films, highlighting for the faith community entertainment that shares in our beliefs, explores our values and enhances and elevates our view of the world.
But it’s time for a grander vision for the world’s 2.2 billion Christians to change the future by looking to our past.
There was a time when the Church was a patron of the arts, where we worked in concert with the great artists to create timeless, transcendent beauty. We wanted great art, and we were willing to pay the best artists to make it. I dare you to walk in St. Peter’s Basilica and not be awestruck. Or stand in front of Michelangelo’s Pietà and not be moved by the sacrifice of Mary. I dare you to visit Leonardo’s “The Last Supper” fresco at the Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan and not be lured in by the startled reactions of the disciples when Jesus announces that one of them would betray Him.
But the definition of “patron of the arts” has changed over five centuries. No longer a rich aristocrat, a “patron” today is the audience, the ticket-buying consumer. And that’s how we can forever alter the cultural landscape. Christians are a huge demographic in this country and around the world. If only a tiny percentage of us decides to act in unison, we can make any project we want a hit—any time we want. We can turn the game of Hollywood on its ear by making ourselves a desirable, bankable audience.
If we support movies that spotlight and reinforce our biblical values—as we did with the excellent, Oscar-winning Les Misérables—Hollywood will make more. That’s how the industry works; it chases money and momentum. In fact, already in the pipeline are projects like Noah, starring Russell Crowe and directed by Darren Aronofsky, and a retelling of the story of Moses being developed by Steven Spielberg. And there are countless others in development: Paradise Lost, Pilate with Brad Pitt, Cain and Abel with Will Smith. The list goes on and on.
Each time one of these projects gets made, it also gets marketed with tens of millions of dollars, both domestically and internationally. That’s a free global advertising campaign for our faith. That means the Bible becomes a staple in pop culture. The gospel gets preached worldwide.
When that happens, we’re looking at another Renaissance. And isn’t that a lot more appealing, and eternally significant, than another boycott?
Jonathan Bock is the president of Grace Hill Media and the founder of As1.org.