I’ve seen my share of Christian Movies. Movies that extrapolate a message to proclaim the message of the Gospel. Most of them have been painfully bad. So bad most of it was spent cringing on the bad script writing, or yawning at the predicable plot.
Don’t get me wrong, I would love to love watching films proclaiming a Christian message. And there are a few commendable ones which do this. Amazing Grace, Courageous, and The Penny to name a few.
For awhile now, I’ve been convinced the Christian film industry will eventually fail if it continues in its path. Or at least, never thrive and make the impact it could. Why? I’m so glad you asked. Let’s look into that, shall we?
Think about the most famous films of all time.
What comes to mind? Casablanca, Gone with the Wind, Moses, or maybe even It’s a Wonderful life? What makes these films meaningful, memorable, or so popular? They are uncommon stories, with memorable messages, told in exceptional ways. Over the years, hollywood has mastered the art and practice of telling stories. They have decades of failures to learn from, and successes to draw upon. This makes them a giant in the industry of movies no one else has yet to trump.
Even moreso however, is hollywood’s mastery of pushing subliminal messages and beliefs into our American culture today. Situational ethics, dressing a certain way, relative morality, and political views… All these things can be found woven into a plot that has nothing to do with the aforementioned topics. Again, they have had years of practice, and influence people when the viewers have no idea they are being influenced.
And that my friends, why- if the Christian film industry continues on the same path- will fail.
See, Christianity has some of the most powerful messages known to mankind- unconditional love, undeserved grace, absolute forgiveness… the list goes on. What they haven’t mastered yet, is the art of telling a story with that message in an exceptional way. We are shown a very predictable story with lightheartedness (and a few tear jerkers) all obnoxiously pointing to Christ. When one finishes with these films, they feel like their face has just been scrubbed with Jesus.
Now, I will say I do enjoy movies with a blatantly Jesus message like any other, but that is only because I trust Him as my savior. Put the movie in front of a lost viewer, and he is going to reject it immediately. Why? Because moves are made to entertain and influence an individual- not through preaching- but through example and showing. We see that Christ actually did the same thing with parables. He spoke not directly of himself, but rather of what people did. Then, at the end, whoever was left, he shared clearly what he meant.
If Christians truly are making movies to influence the world, then they need to start telling those stories we see in a wiser form. Not conforming to the worldly content, but most definitely learning from the method a movie is made. Hollywood has it figured out, why not use their experience to tell better stories that have meaning?
Think about the potential of a “Good” Christian Film.
Picture a film that has a scriptural message, a godly story, and a testimony for Christ taking millions in the box office. Trumping the latest 500 million dollar budgeted Sci-Fi release. Trumping the latest not really funny comedy. Trumping everything Hollywood spits out to bring in the big bucks.
Impossible you say? I say it isn’t, but not with the method being used- and that’s why I say in the beginning “Why the Christian film industry will fail.” The commonly accepted low standards, the pitiful writing, and the predictable story is going to keep the film industry where it is at right now. But there is so much potential for growth and influence it astounds me. I’ve begun to see some change happening in this industry.
Isaac Lee, for one has caught my eye. He is a Christian filmmaker who gets it. He knows what Hollywood does, and mimics their style to communicate powerful messages. Sherwood pictures, has begun to seriously address darkness in life, not just focus on happiness and little trials. There is a slow tide turning, and it makes me excited for what might come next.
As a closing, there is no rally cry, no “spend your money on Christian films only”, no step by step solution. All I can suggest is like everything else in life- prayer. Prayer that good stories would be told well for the purpose of influencing others. If we can master this one task, the amount of influence and exposure to the life of the gospel will expand crazy fast. The industry won’t fail, it will thrive.
Then one day, some day, we will see the greatest voice of sinful living overshadowed by an industry proclaiming morality based on the gospel. That’s a day worth imagining and hoping for. That will be a day not of failure, but of success. And it all starts with telling a good story.
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”