Nourished by Story

Excerpts from “The Nourishment Business,” by children’s author John R. Erickson


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My mother, Anna Beth Erickson, was an excellent cook . . . . She regarded cooking as more than drudgery and more than a process of blending ingredients and spices into palatable concoctions. In her view, there was no job more important than monitoring the source of her family’s food supply and tending to its preparation.

She also recognized that there was a spiritual dimension to eating. We took our evening meals together as a family. For that one hour, we became more than individuals racing off to meetings and school events. We were the Erickson family. We said grace together, ate in a mannerly fashion, and talked.

Mother was a nutritionist, a student of the science of wellness and wellbeing—the chemistry of Life. She understood that what we eat, and how we eat, contributes substantially to who we are, both physically and spiritually.

I often compare what I do with what my mother did. There is a spiritual dimension to storytelling that equates to the chemistry of food preparation. A good story satisfies the appetite for entertainment, but it can also reveal truth, structure, justice, humor, and beauty, and when that occurs, a writer has the opportunity to make readers better than they were before.

People need good stories just as they need wholesome food and clean water. Stories that enumerate chaos and absurdity leave us weaker and diminished. Those that reveal beauty and meaning in human experience nourish the soul.

We who were given the talent to write (or compose music or make movies) should use our gifts to strengthen the people who use our products. Like humble cooks, we’re in the nourishment business, and that changes the focus of art from Me to Us.

“Us” is who we are as a people, the human family. In this country we share a core of traditions and beliefs that we call “civilization.” For at least 3,000 years, philosophers, prophets, and preachers have told us we should preserve it, protect it, and pass it down to the next generation.

The Founders of our nation accepted this as common sense. So did Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Luther, Bach, and C. S. Lewis. It used to be taught in great universities, and I hope it still is.

Are we making our readers stronger or weaker, better or worse? That’s a question that anyone in the nourishment business should be asking every day.

*Posted July 23, 2016 at https://world.wng.org/2016/07/the_nourishment_business

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.