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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.
As public policy continues to change on the issue, a LifeWay Research poll shows 58 percent of American adults agree it is a civil rights issue and 64 percent believe it is inevitable same-sex marriage will become legal throughout the United States.
LifeWay Research conducted a wide-ranging survey of American adults on questions surrounding same-sex marriage; specifically examining whether clergy, wedding photographers, rental halls, landlords and employers have the right to refuse access and services to same-sex couples, even if same-sex marriage is made legal in their state.
You and I were made for a great adventure—it’s why we like movies. Movies have a story to them, an adventure to follow through. It’s also why we like shows like “Star Trek.” We want to “boldly go where no man has gone before."
That’s no accident. God made us to long for adventure—his adventure. God calls all believers to join him in a rescue mission, “to seek and save the lost” (see Luke 19:10) and complete the Great Commission.
Not only has God created us for this mission; he also wants us to go on the adventure together. God’s agent for completing his mission is the church. Churches start churches. The Bible says, “[God’s] intent was that through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known …” (Eph. 3:10). God has chosen the church—not governments or businesses—to be his agent to complete the mission.
“So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us.” (Heb. 12:1b, GNT)
If we’re going to be used for God’s purposes, we have to focus our lives. The Bible compares life to a marathon, and that means we have to simplify our lives.
The Bible says, “So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us” (Heb. 12:1b, GNT).
This means we should remove anything from our lives that would get in the way and hold us back. If the devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy. He’ll even keep you so busy doing good things that you won’t have time for the best things.
We live in a day in which we are continually being made aware of what we eat. We can hardly pick up a magazine or newspaper without seeing articles and ads that remind us to eat wisely, avoid junk food, and read the labels on cans and boxes before we purchase them to confirm that the contents will be healthy for us.
But how many of us are as concerned about our spiritual diets as we are about our natural ones? Are we using discernment in choosing the material we read, the Christian programs we watch and the ministers we listen to? Are we able to distinguish between the meat and the mixture, the holy and the profane?
Many people are so used to mixture that they have lost a taste for what is pure. Lavish displays and methods of presentation have come to be more important than what is being served, and the servers more important than what they serve. Those sitting down at the spiritual “table” reason: If it looks good and multitudes are eating it, then it must be OK.
Sadly, this is often not the case. Some of what we are eating is frighteningly unhealthy. Here are a few examples of the types of spiritual junk food we are being served, along with the meat from God’s Word that we should be eating instead.
Ever since God called me to preach, I’ve battled with deep insecurity about my delivery style. I can’t electrify a crowd like T.D. Jakes, pack an arena like Reinhard Bonnke or get audiences to turn sermons into trending topics on Twitter like Craig Groeschel or Steven Furtick. Those guys hit home runs when they preach. I get base hits—or strikes.
For years I felt like the reluctant Moses, who complained to God by saying, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent” (Ex. 4:10). For years the Lord kept pushing me out of my comfort zone, urging me to surrender my fears so that I would take the microphone willingly. Once He told me: “I didn’t call you to be T.D. Jakes. I called you to be you.”
On many occasions after speaking in a church or conference, I would sulk. I battled constant discouragement and wondered if my words had hit the mark. Did I preach OK? Did the message sink in? Finally I asked an older pastor if he had ever struggled with disappointment in his pulpit performance. He smiled and told me: “Son, I feel that way every Monday of my life.”
I’m learning an uncomfortable secret about preaching: Those who dare to allow God to speak through them will always squirm in holy agony. Preaching the gospel is both a glorious and a horrifying responsibility. When we speak under the anointing of the Holy Spirit and impart the very truths of Christ, we get so dangerously close to Him that our pride is challenged.
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