Thursday, January 14, 2010

Excellence is Everything. Or is It?

Don’t get me wrong, excellence and quality are essential no matter what career path you choose. Everything we do in life should be done in excellence. But I think at times we as Christians are guilty of overstating the value of excellence as if it could guarantee you success. That’s especially true when applied to film and television production.

Over the years, I have been to several Christian media conferences. It’s a sure thing that our responsibility or duty as a Christian working in the entertainment industry will be discussed. If not from a panelist or special speaker, it will be a question often posed from a member of the audience. Inevitably the answer will be that our responsibility is the pursuit of excellence, quality of our work, and the integrity of how we carry it out.
I don’t dismiss this as being part of the answer, but to be fair, it’s a complex equation. There is more to it than just a simple question of excellence. There are many people walking around Hollywood who are excellent in what they do and have pursued a life of quality. But they are also unemployed.

Does anybody really want to have a discussion about Hollywood and excellence? Have you seen the kind of movies being produced in this industry today? Are you telling me that it’s just about excellence and quality? Our responsibility as a Christian working in this industry goes well beyond the pursuit of quality.

 Because Christian films have been so poorly produced, and Christian media in general have been mediocre at best, we now preach a doctrine of excellence and quality while overlooking the spiritual aspect.

The first question we should ask ourselves is have we been called to be a media missionary to the industry? For many Christians working in the industry, I think that answer would be No. It’s a job and a career first and foremost for most people. For others, it is a calling. They may have recognized it or may be struggling with trying to understand its implications.
For those Christians working in the business as a career, our responsibility would be the same as any Christian working in any industry or business. We are accountable to live out our lives in front of our peers by being Christlike with integrity to our values, morals and Biblical worldview. In other words, we can’t be one thing on Sunday morning and be someone completely different on Monday working on a film or television project.

We also have a higher responsibility. I think it’s fair to say that media, film and television is the most influential industry on the planet. Therefore we are in a place to be a game changer, so should we make movies that are contradictory to our Christian principles? For many who see this as a career, this question will undoubtedly be a struggle with no easy answers.

I believe that there are many Christians in Hollywood who have been called to be media missionaries to the industry. Their art will reflect Biblical values while at the same time be capable of engaging a mainstream audience. Some have recognized this calling, others have not.

How do we get to the place where we are operating in the calling of what I refer to as “the office of media missionary”? First we have to recognize the calling. That means you are motivated by something more than what you want. You have a purpose and a destiny to fulfill. It’s more than a job or a career.
Second, you have to accept the responsibility of the calling. That means you will be held accountable for your actions. Everything becomes an act of worship to the Lord. Your responsbibility is to serve Him through your art. Third, you have to be willing to be lead by the Holly Spirit. There is no way you can be effective as a media missionary without His supernatural influence and enabling. Your role as a media missionary is like walking a high wire. There really isn’t much wiggle room.

Which projects do I get involved with? Which ones do I avoid? How do I talk about Jesus without really talking about Him? Without the Holy Spirit and your willingness to submit, you are going to be lost and ineffective. Remember, the goal is not infiltration or propaganda but to tell honest, broken and, above all, truthful stories. The Holy Spirit can help you to better understand how to take Jesus’ model of storytelling and apply it to your art. That’s the key to true success.

Fourth, become a student. No matter how long you have worked in the industry. God has something that he wants to teach you. To really walk in the office of a media missionary, you will need wisdom, knowledge and experience. And that takes time.
Finally, let me be clear. You definitely need to pursue excellence and quality. Be the best you can be. That means getting the education, training and preparation needed to work in this business. But excellence is not your last stop or the end game. To be successful both artistically and spiritually in the entertainment industry, requires a deeper understanding of God’s will and purpose for your life and demands a closer personal walk with Him.

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