I know that I have mentioned it before, but it bears repeating for any new readers, I am currently back in school working on my Bachelors in Divinity Degree with Christian Leaders Institute. This is a fairly new program for them, previously the school awarded certificates and included an ordination program. However, last year, the school began it’s accreditation process. This resulted in the addition of a Bachelors in Divinity Degree program! And since, they have begun partnering with some great theological seminary schools for continued education into their masters programs.
It blows my mind how different my life is from where I expected when I graduated high school. I went to college for a Bachelors in Arts degree, in Theatre Arts specifically. Talk about a shift! And, while I still long for the stage (on it or behind the scenes)… in many ways I don’t miss it. I think over the years I have become very disenfranchised with what we see on stage & screen. Even when I was in the thick of it, I can recall not understanding the need for gratuitous violence or sex. I’d watch an action movie and wonder WHY this film needed a sex scene? If it didn’t add value to the story, if it didn’t serve a purpose… then WHY? I would also question how much they would show, perfectly content with the two lovers closing a bedroom door. I knew what was happening behind those doors, I didn’t need too see it or hear it.
I think for a time, I wanted to be that change. I could be a Christian and work in this industry. I would just have standards. There would be movies I wouldn’t do, scenes I wouldn’t do. Easy peasy. Not really, not anymore. The industry has changed so very much, and there are so many actors and actresses willing to do ANYTHING in order to land the job…. a woman with convictions & standards doesn’t have a chance. Right? In fact, quite often, what we see now is a person who was willing to bend the rules in the beginning to get established. Once they become a power house that gets the ticket sales, THEN they establish their new standards. Everyone admires them for it too. But they paid a price to afford them those convictions.
Then I looked at Christian movies and videos, available at the time. I thought for sure that HERE would be the place that I could make a difference. The story lines, scripts, acting and filmography were quite often cheesy. But, let’s face it… they were working with a smaller talent pool, definitely smaller budgets, and time frame. If we could just begin to infuse these movies with better actors, better budget, better everything…. we could WIN. Those changes began to take place.
Yet, I find myself really disappointed still. We didn’t make it beyond the first 10 minutes of Left Behind, with Nicholas Cage. I had HIGH expectations for this movie. Noah, well… Noah had rock monsters. Fireproof and Courageous were ok, but like a Lifetime Movie type of ok. (Yes, I know I am being HIGHLY critical here). In fact, to be totally honest, the BEST Christian movie of all time in my opinion was The Passion of the Christ by Mel Gibson. Let me explain why.
In your earliest acting classes, you are taught two very important things. 1) Acting is the art of lying. In other words, you are responsible for creating a character totally outside of yourself that is also totally believable. Every word out of your mouth is not true for you, but you have to sell it as truth for your character. 2) Acting is the art of suspending belief. I know, that sort of sounds the same as the first, but it’s a bit different. Because this one is about the effect on the audience of the entire production. It means that the writing, set, performance is SO GOOD… that the audience is totally invested. You are transported out of your movie theater style seats and you are immersed in what you are watching. Suddenly singing in the middle of a battle field doesn’t seem out of place. Dragons are not only real, but you have an emotional connection (love/hate) to them. You grieve this person who has died. You are rooting for the underdog. In today’s industry it also means buying the CGI that allows things that defy laws of gravity, or are seemingly impossible.
The Passion of the Christ, is the FIRST and ONLY Christian film that has (again in my opinion) pulled of those 2 important things. It was also a film, unlike any other in the Christian catalog, to illicit a response in me beyond the theater walls. Who hasn’t walked out of a movie theater or play, and discussed it over dessert or the course of the next few days. The Passion of the Christ, broke me because my belief was suspended. I was transported into that moment, watching my Savior being beaten, mocked and crucified. It was real. It left a visual imprint. I still talk about it to this day. It created the standard to which I weigh all Christian productions against.
This should be the goal.
So, as I draw to a close of this semester of school…. in a completely different area of study… I can’t help but wonder about our churches. Churches today have access to greater resources than ever before, the pews and seats are filled and filling, and many “pastors” put on a great show. But why? What is the purpose? What is the goal?
I am growing more, and more, concerned about the response of the church body as they walk out of the doors Sunday afternoon. Did they get their fill up for the week? Or did it inspire them to dig deeper, did it leave an imprint, did it make the person want to learn more? Is this part of their process of change?
Are we failing our body, when we spoon feed them everything they need to know, without inspiring them to read more on their own? There is nothing greater, to me, then when I arrive home from church on Sunday… and I crack open my bible. I want to see more, I want to learn more about what the Pastor was talking about. I have been known to email our Pastor, or my mentor, a question here and there about the message. I’ve looked at commentaries. I have gone on to share it with others, because it was so profound. Always hoping they too will be encouraged to dig in and read it for themselves.
Is this not the standard we should be striving toward, as Pastors, Bible Study Teachers, Small Group Leaders, Writers, Speakers, etc? We don’t want to hand them a plate full of food, and call it a day. We want them to return for seconds, thirds, and more. We don’t want to satisfy their hunger for the word, we want to show them how starved they are!
It was during a video lecture, from one of my classes, Dr. John De Vries mentioned the idea of having a Small Group that actually meets to discuss the sermon message. INSPIRED! Seriously, I thought to myself… wow, that is a great idea! And yet, it seems so obvious and simple.
This teacher, did exactly what I was talking about… his words in the lesson, called me to go a step further. The semester is over, summer is calling and I know exactly what I want to do with it. This is my summer small group! The great part about this? It is going to create a ripple effect, in our church. Dr De Vries started the ripple by inspiring me to do the small group. This small group is going to create 1) accountability to attend services each week and 2) encouragement to dig deeper into the message and word. And, I pray that God will bless this small group by rippling out further as we talk about it in our homes, with our friends and even begin to invite people to join.
If you are a student, or a parent of a student… this term is coming to an end. Summer is calling. God is calling.