Category: The Median

The #1 Rule

Dave Alan Johnson, Screenwriter, Producer (Vanished: Left Behind Next Generation, Sue Thomas: F. B. Eye)

Dave Alan Johnson, Screenwriter, Producer (Vanished: Left Behind Next Generation, Sue Thomas: F. B. Eye)

by Dave Alan Johnson

Faith-based films and the Church both can and should serve more than one purpose. So how do we influence the world with our ideas and truths? We move into the “missionary lane” when we make media content, just as churches send missionaries into their community and the world with their message.

As believers, we are commanded to reach out to those who don’t understand faith. Many almost certainly will not go to a church on Sunday morning. But they will go to movies and watch television on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, or Saturday.

Excellent entertainment content gives us a platform. It is a chance to enter into the cultural conversation . . . to put faith audiences and secular audiences on the same starting page . . . and to spread God’s ideas and message to the world!

The #1 Rule is this: What we create needs to be great, or those “outside the choir” will not watch it. As Christians, we are told to do everything with excellence. It’s biblical. With excellent content we have a chance to bring God’s truth to non-believers. It’s not enough just to create films that are well-intentioned. Viewers we want to reach will not overlook the inferior writing, acting, editing, production, or “in-your-face” preaching. We must earn the right to be heard if we want to express truth through film.

For good reason, the typical person of faith may shy away from bringing secular people to a film that is made only for the “choir.” Too risky. But if we can run in the missionary lane, we’ll reach both audiences. We must connect with viewers where they are and not expect them to be where we are.

It is when we touch people emotionally with our content that they are likely to be more open to our message.

Turning Scripture into Spam

email-spam-2According to Christianity Today (CT, June 2016), two hundred billion tweets went out in 2015, and 40 million of them highlighted Bible verses. About half a million of these came from just ten pastors, celebrities, and social media stars, with John Piper, founder of Desiring God, at the top of the list. Other notables in the top ten include Franklin Graham, Dave Ramsey, Tim Tebow, Joyce Meyer, and T. D. Jakes.

But CT reveals that bots—programs that auto-create tweets—are also sharing the Good News. “Around 20 million of the 40 million verses shared on Twitter this year . . . came from Bible spam accounts—accounts that do nothing but tweet Bible verses all day,” says Stephen Smith of Open-Bible.info, who crunched the data.

Is this a good thing? Is it simply getting the Good News to more people . . . or is it digital overload? Is God’s Word changing lives, or is the heart of His message getting lost in cyberspace?

Phil Cooke, media consultant and author of Unique: Telling Your Story in the Age of Brands and Social Media, opines, “Who thought we’d ever see Bible and spammers together in a sentence? At first blush, it sounds like a good idea, since God’s Word doesn’t return void. But . . . the overwhelming clutter of media today desensitizes people.

“Our challenge in a digital culture is to develop strategies for making sure the message cuts through and actually gets noticed.”

Another perspective from Meredith Gould, author of The Social Media Gospel: “. . . I don’t care how or how often Scripture gets launched into cyberspace—or who sends it out. History is filled examples of people with less-than-stellar lives who have nevertheless helped deepen faith and belief. I trust that Bible verses will land, maybe taking root.”

In Philippians 1:18, Paul addresses a controversy about the character flaws of some who share the Gospel. His conclusion? “What does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached.”

Your thoughts? Weigh in at feedback@mastermediaintl.org.

The “Missionary Lane”

by Dave Alan Johnson, Screenwriter, Producer
(Vanished: Left Behind Next Generation, Sue Thomas: F. B. Eye)


 

Dave Alan Johnson

Dave Alan Johnson

I look at “faith-based” films much the same way I look at the church. They both can and should serve more than one purpose.

Most “faith” films have tended to serve only believers. I’m okay with that, but I’m not okay with our making only films like that. I think we’ve lost sight of something important—the Church wasn’t created just so it could serve its members. It was created so we could come together, yes, to fellowship and worship, but then we are to go out into the world . . . to meet people where they are and not wait for them to walk into a church door on a Sunday morning.

I feel the same about the films and television we create. I believe the next phase in “faith films” is to broaden our idea of what they are and their purpose. For example, there’s no doubt that Fireproof helped marriages—that’s valuable. Some of those couples will even go out and touch people around them with the truth of that film. However, the fact is, Fireproof is not going to have much impact on most secular marriages, because those couples are not going to see it.

So how do we influence the world with our ideas and truths? I believe we move into the next lane over—what I call the “missionary lane.” Healthy churches send out missionaries, both to their own community and across the world. That’s the way we have to think of the “missionary lane” when we make content.

We need to be intentional about how we do it. We need to make films that will resonate with the people we want to reach. We need to remember they don’t speak “Christianese.” They may not see the world the way we do, but that doesn’t mean they won’t respond to the truth.