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.

Compassionate Responses to Harmful Worldviews

   arts3-this-one  Artists are often the barometers of society, and by analyzing the worldviews embedded in their works we can learn a great deal about how to address the modern mind more effectively . . . . When the only form of cultural commentary Christians offer is moral condemnation, no wonder we come across to non-believers as angry and scolding.

     Our first response to the great works of human culture—whether in art or technology or economic productivity—should be to celebrate them as reflections of God’s own creativity.

     And even when we analyze where they go wrong, it should be in a spirit of love . . . [Francis] Schaeffer . . . even when raising serious criticisms . . . expressed a burning compassion for people caught in the trap of false and harmful worldviews. When describing the pessimism and nihilism expressed in so many movies, paintings, and popular songs, he demonstrated profound empathy for those actually living in such despair.

     These works of art “are the expression of men who are struggling with their appalling lostness,” he wrote. “Dare we laugh at such things? Dare we feel superior when we view their tortured expressions in their art?” The men and women who produce these things “are dying while they live; yet where is our compassion for them?”          

     Today, Christian activists are quick to organize a boycott or pressure a politician to de-fund some artistic group, and these strategies have their place. But how many reach out to the artists with compassion? How many do the hard work of crafting real answers to the questions they are raising? How many cry to God on behalf of people struggling in the coils of false worldviews?

[Crossway Books, p. 57]

 

Off Camera . . . with Todd Komarnicki

SullyMastermedia CEO Dan Rupple chats with Todd Komarnicki, producer of Elf and screenwriter of the soon-to-be released Sully—a biographical drama about Captain “Sully” Sullenberger who glided his disabled plane onto the frigid waters of the Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 aboard.


 

Dan: Todd, when I think about Christian believers who have made a significant impact within the film world, while maintaining a faithful witness for Christ, you quickly come to mind. I am grateful to call you, not only a dear friend of Mastermedia, but a personal friend of mine.

Todd: My gratitude for Mastermedia extends from my first coffee with Larry Poland, to my latest prayer time with you and your colleagues and my staff in New York City. I am humbled and so grateful for all the love that has been bestowed upon me by your beautiful souls.

Dan: You wrote the screenplay for a major movie opening September 9th, Sully, directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Tom Hanks. That’s some pretty rare air in terms of talent. Can you give us a glimpse into your journey taking Sully from page to screen?

Todd: When adapting a true story it all starts with spending time with the real-life hero. The bulk of my adaptations have centered around people long dead, so it was an incredible boon to the process that I could have exclusive and vulnerable time with Sully himself. By “memorizing” as much of Sully himself that I could, I had a huge running start when I actually started going to script. I could see the man not as an abstract character, but as a real human being, making real heroic choices, in real time.

Dan: Integrating your faith with your career can be a challenge. Can you think of a time when your faith presented an obstacle or perhaps threatened your career?

Todd: I’ve never seen my faith as a threat to anything, except the darkness. I don’t consider anyone in the movie business as the gatekeeper of my destiny. That’s in the Lord’s hands. Perhaps certain jobs didn’t fall my way over the years, but I never perceived it as having anything to do with being a Christian. I cling to Romans 8:28 daily, and trust that God’s plan is the only plan worth investing in. After nearly thirty years in the business, I am certain that I am still here only by the grace of God. And that gives me deep and abiding peace as I do my work.

Dan: How about a time when you were ushered through a difficult time and it had the fingerprints of God all over it?

Todd: My father always used to say, “Expect to see Him.” That curiosity and openness to seeing the Holy Spirit at work everywhere is something that I inherited from him. So I see God’s fingerprints constantly. Mostly in the sense that I feel held in the palm of his hand. And I can see his fingerprints anytime I just open my eyes.

Dan: Todd, thank you for sharing your heart with us. All of us within the Mastermedia community will continue praying for God’s hand upon your career, your family and your life.