Those who tell the stories rule society.—Plato
An astute observation from the Greek philosopher more than 300 years before Christ, and it still rings true. Today, stories that dominate our entertainment come from Hollywood in the form of movies. Did you know American media is the second largest export of the United States? If you think about it, the entertainment we consume and are shipping out around the world shapes people’s worldview, values, and priorities.
In light of this truth, how should a church respond? Can churches use these movies to further their mission to make disciples? The answer is yes, and here are four ways churches can maximize movies in their ministry:
1. Acknowledge The Power of Movies
First, we have to recognize the power movies are making in our society. In John 17:14-19 Jesus prays for his disciples, sending them into the world but not being of this world. We must be in the world discussing—and possibly confronting—what society is participating in and talking about.
I encourage pastors to embrace the stories that general audiences are consuming. Find a sermon illustration or comedic moment during church announcements to show your people you understand the culture around you. Use it as a tool to help your people think critically about the media they consume. Ask them questions—what was the theme of the movie? What was the agenda or message behind the movie, is it right or wrong? What does the Bible say about this? As disciple makers we are called to help our people think about and process such things through the lens of Christ.
2. Use Movie Clips as Sermon Illustrations
I remember as a teenager, I attended a weekend retreat with our youth group. The preacher opened up his time with a clip from The Mission, a 1986 film about the experiences of a Jesuit missionary in 18th century South America. The clip showed a character struggling to haul cargo up a mountain through mud and the mire, but he refused to let anyone help him. He felt so guilty for his mistakes he literally carried his guilt up the mountain. When he got to the top, the priest cut the ropes, releasing the cargo, setting him free from the weight and struggle. The preacher went on to explain how that was a beautiful picture of grace and forgiveness. I never forgot those images and the message that pastor gave. There are tons of scenes in films that can bring your messages to life for the people in the pew. Take advantage of them.
3. Host a Church Movie Night
It’s been called collective dreaming, when a group of people sit in a dark room and experience the same flashing images. Whether it’s with tears or laughter, friends or family, a movie is a communal event where a story comes to life.
I don’t know about you, but it costs a small fortune for my wife and I to take my four kids to the movies. It’s a fun activity, something we can experience as a family, and it would be great to do that at our church. This is a great way for families to invite neighbors to an event at your church. Follow the film with a short message or discussion about the film and invite the visitors to church.
4. Lead a Small Group Study Based on a Movie
There’s no denying that movies have emotional power and the potential to impact people with life changing messages of hope and truth. Great movies take you on a journey that leaves you asking questions. Ultimately, the best stories point to the best story ever told. And when you combine creativity and movies with application and truth, you create experiences where truth comes to life in a new way.
But how do you do it? How do you make sure a movie is much more than just a one time event and instead stirs long lasting conversation?
LifeWay has worked with filmmakers over the years to produce resources for pastors and leaders to use films as a tool to stir conversations and point people to the truths found in scripture. If you and your church utilize all four of these tips or you want to start, I encourage you to check out the new film WAR ROOM that opens in theaters Aug. 28. It is a wonderful film that reveals the power of prayer. To learn more:
- Free Online Webcast with filmmakers Alex & Stephen Kendrick (Thurs. July 16 2pmET/1pmCT): http://live.lifewayfilms.com/warroom
- Resources: http://www.warroommovieresources.com
- Group Tickets: http://www.warroomthemovie.com
Trey Reynolds is a husband and father of four and has worked in both big media companies and in smaller entrepreneurial environments producing film, television and new media content. He currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee, and serves as head of LifeWay Films.