Wednesday, February 24, 2010

To Change the World Campaign – Through Five Core Principles Part 13

Step 4 is Support

This is where the Body of Christ must provide the support system necessary to encourage, uplift and provide financial resources when needed.

Many have been called and are ready to go. I’m sure they don’t fully understand the role and purpose of a media missionary, but they are ready to begin the journey. They need our support. Without it, they will probably fail. First, they need their family behind them. A supportive word of encouragement can go a long way. They need to know that their family members believe in them. What they don’t need is to be ridiculed because they want to go the entertainment industry as a media missionary. All of us need to realize that in the culture we live in, God is creating new avenues and opportunities for ministry.

Second, what is a really big deal is for the Church to embrace and support media missionaries. The Body of Christ can be the difference maker. Being called to be a media missionary should be recognized as just as important as being called to be a teacher or pastor. It must be accepted as a legitimate calling of God.

And finally media missionaries need financial support, especially during the first two years. Hollywood and the entertainment industry is a tough business to break into. Most fail because they do not have the initial support necessary to survive the first two years. A media missionary’s best strategy is to raise financial support before going into the industry. The home church can serve as a base of operation. Individual members of the Body of Christ could offer support for as little as $20 a month. The Church could support the media missionary by providing financial resources just as they already do for foreign missionaries. Other groups in Hollywood already use this strategy. They have a message they want to get out. So they support future filmmakers as well as fund projects that support their agenda. Is it working? Absolutely.

Neal Gabler in his book, Life The Movie, views the American culture as if it has taken on the characteristics of a movie. We have all embraced show business as if we are playing a role and long for our moment of celebrity. He argues that it is not politics or economics but entertainment that “is arguably the most persuasive, powerful, and intrusive force of our time, a force so overwhelming that it has finally metastasized into life.” This is from a secular writer. So if art has become life, and life has become art, why are we, as the Body of Christ, not recognizing this and responding? Don’t you think we need media missionaries?

I have laid out a strategy and a plan. Currently, only a few of those who have been called are making it all the way into the entertainment industry as media missionaries. Most are failing for an assortment of reasons. We will increase the number of media missionaries if we decide to raise them up, equip them, train them and support them. Until then, it’s a hit or miss approach.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

To Change the World Campaign – Through Five Core Principles Part 12

The concept of a media missionary is very much a work-in-process. Some Christian see themselves as media missionaries. Some do not. In fact, it’s quite possible that some Christians who reject the label as a media missionary are actually closer to being one.

I have identified seven groups of Christians that work in the entertainment and media industry, some within the system and others outside the system.

Group 1 –Full Message Group

This group consists of Christians who predominately make evangelical films. For them the message is more important than viewing filmmaking or media making as an art form. They usually have a laundry list that needs to be checked off, which usually includes a full representation of the Gospel message and spiritual laws. Undoubtedly, a conversion scene will be portrayed at some point in the film. Most people in this group work outside of the Hollywood system.

There is a subgroup I call “Full Message Light”. Although the message is still important, they do believe that the entertainment value of the film has some merit. They are also not as likely to be as dogmatic in the need to check off every item on their laundry list.

Group 2 –Conquerors

This group views media in a militaristic way and believe they are at war. Their goal is to infiltrate and conquer Hollywood for Christ. Their strategy can best be summed up as a Trojan horse approach. By entering Hollywood, they can inject mainstream movies with Christian values. In doing so, they can take over Hollywood from within. The problem with the Conquerors is that they don’t view Hollywood as a partner; therefore, they are unlikely to be employed for any length of time. Their rigid philosophical approach to filmmaking and their moral convictions make it difficult for them to relate to anybody in Hollywood. Most likely they are forced back to the Full Message Group.

Group 3 – Positive Values Group

This group loves movies and believe in the power of media. They believe that entertainment, first and foremost, should be innocent and harmless. They create positive and uplifting entertainment that reflects family values. No darkness is allowed within their films, television programs or media in general. They are primarily interested in producing G or PG films.

Group 4 – Positive Values with an Edge

This group supports many of the principles of the Positive Values Group. But they aim their material at a slightly older audience. They are willing to look at more complex moral issues as well as explore the human condition. They may on occasion support some R-rated movies, such as Schindler’s List and Shawshank Redemption. But, for the most part, they do not venture beyond the PG-13 rating.

Group 5 – The Under-the-Radar Group

This group wants to create non-evangelical, mainstream movies with some level of understated Christian content. The problem is that often the Christian content is just an add-on. It lacks a purpose or a justification for its existence. It feels like the writer is manipulating characters and plot points just for the purpose of injecting some Christian message. This group wants to work with Hollywood, but their primary motivation is not to the art form but to the message. They see the art form as a necessary means to an end. What we are left with is an unrealistic view of life.

Group 6 – The Quality Circle Group

This is the most difficult to understand of all of the groups. They see that their primarily responsibility and duty as Christians is to create films and media that reflect quality and excellence. They also believe that their work must be marketable. They embrace moral integrity that treats people with love, honesty, and respect. They also believe that your moral integrity demands that you must serve your employer first and not seek to subvert your employer with hidden Christian motives.

I absolutely agree that Christians must embrace excellence; however, there is something missing that this group doesn’t recognize. A media missionary has more than just a responsibility to his/her employer and the media business in general. There is a spiritual component at play which is the will of God and what He wants to do in Hollywood. It’s not an either/or proposition. You can have integrity, believe in excellence, and create marketable work for your employer while also serving a greater purpose.

Group 7 – Media Missionary Group

A media missionary must seek a greater purpose. I am sure most Christians have worked in each of these groups and at times have moved back and forth from one group to another. Are they fulfilling their calling as media missionaries. On some level perhaps. But I believe there is another group that goes beyond these six groups. In some ways, it is like entering a fourth dimension. I call it the Media Missionary Group. There are very few in this group, and most may not recognize that they are part of it.

The Media Missionary Group is under the control and direction of the Holy Spirit. Their faith defines who they are as a person, not their filmmaking or media making. They are motivated by something more than what they want. They recognize God at work and join Him in that work. Their work in essence becomes an act of worship to the Lord; therefore, their responsibility and calling is to serve Him through their art. Sounds easy. Right? Not really. It comes with years of experience, wisdom and knowledge.

Becoming a media missionary is a long journey. At some point, you are no longer pursuing projects that you believe will reflect Christian values, but those projects start to pursue you. I called it the fourth dimension because it is entering into a supernatural, spiritual realm. This is a place that will be different for every person. What this looks like will be between you and the Holy Spirit. Without His supernatural influence, favor and enabling, your role as a media missionary is like walking a high wire that can be dangerous and full of pitfalls. When you enter into the Media Missionary Group, you are not concerned with genre, rating, or how marketable the project is. You stop thinking about it. The main reason why we fail in the role of a media missionary is because we are trying to do the work and make the decisions in our own power. The media missionary has no agenda except to do the will of God. Ultimately, it will not be what we think it should look like.

Monday, February 22, 2010

To Change the World Campaign – Through Five Core Principles Part 11

Step 2 is Equip.

This is the process where you develop and gain an understanding of your spiritual gifts and talents.

(1) What are your talents and gifts? We have all been given spiritual gifts. If you have been called by God to be a media missionary, He will have given you the talent necessary to complete the task. You cannot create talent. It can be enhanced, but it either is there or not. But what talent? Are you a writer, director, producer, actor, etc. Each discipline requires a completely different skill set. And what spiritual gifts have you been given? Discernment? Wisdom? Knowledge? They will all be required. has created a formula to help predict your success in the entertainment and media field. Here’s the formula. T + (N + K + E) + (C + A + D + F) + P + X = Y.

T is for talent. It is a determining factor, but you can have talent and still fail. N is for networking. Social skills are a necessity. You need a good understanding of how the industry works and how to work a room. K is for knowledge. You need to know everything about your field. For example, if you are director, you need to understand your craft. E is for entrepreneur. Opportunities usually don’t come looking for you. You must see what other people don’t see. Entrepreneurs make their own opportunities. C is for confidence. You must project confidence. Not false confidence. Your confidence should come from God. In this industry, perception IS reality. A is for attitude. A wrong attitude will sink your efforts. Are you willing to serve others and start at the bottom? That requires the right attitude. D is for Drive. Can you outwork everybody else? The media business requires long hours and dedication. F is for focus. Can you be laser-like in your approach to your work? Seeing the goal at hand is the secret of focus. P is for plan. Have one. Then have a backup plan. The point is you’ve gotta have a plan, preferably a good one. X is the unknown factor. For the Christian, this is God’s plan and purpose for your life. The X factor works in your favor if you’ve been called to be a media missionary. But it is not guaranteed. You must do your part so God can do His part. The X factor is usually the determining factor that gets you across the finish line. Y is the sum – the finish line.

(2) You must learn to allow the Holy Spirit to control and lead your life. Without the direction of the Holy Spirit, it is impossible to be a media missionary. John 14:26 says, “The Spirit will teach you all things.” The media missionary’s work is a spiritual calling. Acts 1:8 says, “But you shall receive power after the Holy Spirit is come upon you.” You will not be able to do this in your own strength. God may very well have given you the talent, but you will need the spiritual gifts to fulfill the calling.

I Peter 4:10 - 11 says, “God has given gifts to each of you from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Manage them well so that God’s generosity can flow through you.” Are you called to be a speaker? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Are you called to help others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then God will be given glory in everything through Jesus Christ.”

Romans 12:6 – 8 says, “God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out when you have faith that God is speaking through you; if your gift is that of serving others, serve them well; if you are a teacher, do a good job of teaching; if your gift is to encourage others, do it; if you have money, share it generously; if God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously; if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

Jesus says in John 16:13-14, “When He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all Truth. He will not be presenting His own ideas. He will be telling you what He has heard. He will tell you about the future. He will bring Me glory by revealing to you whatever He receives from Me.”

So what are some of the gifts of a film and media maker? We can find our inspiration in the Bible. We are teachers, servants, encouragers, and leaders. And we do this with compassion and love. It’s vital especially during Step 2 for students to have a mentor. Nothing is more important than having a committed Christian who is a media professional to personally advise and disciple a potential media missionary.
Step 3 is Training

This is the process wherein you receive the knowledge and training that you most likely would not receive in film school or college.

(1) Do you understand the Christian and Biblical worldviews? Without them, you cannot be a media missionary. Can you recognize other major worldviews, such as secular humanist, post-modernism, cosmic humanism or new age?

(2) How is God at work in Hollywood? This involves understanding how theology and film intersect. I’m not interested in theory. We need practical application on how to incorporate Biblical principles into mainstream Hollywood. That’s not as difficult as it sounds.

God is at work in Hollywood. And He has used secular filmmakers to tell His stories. For example, we can find God’s fingerprint in movies such as Lars and the Real Girl, Juno, Places in the Heart, Bella, Signs, Magnolia, and Grand Canyon. What make these movies spiritual? Can we discover the patterns? These are the lessons that the media missionary must learn.

(3) Media Literacy is what students won’t learn in film school or, for that matter, even in a Christian college or university setting. We covered media literacy in detail earlier. It is essential for future media missionaries to understand how media literacy works.

(4) Hollywood is a business. That’s why they call it show business. Film schools don’t do a good job of teaching the basics on how the industry functions. The following are some examples. How are projects financed? How do you buy film stock? What do things really cost? What goes on in deal making? What are the essentials of distribution? How does the marketing of a film affect its success? How do you network?

(5) What filmmakers should know is what they are often not taught. For example, most film schools teach students the “studio system” as if they were going to graduate college and start making $30 million films for a major studio. That’s unlikely to happen. Christians who are called to be media missionaries should take note that their best opportunities may be to enter into low-budget or independent filmmaking. A media missionary program will teach the skills necessary for low-budget filmmaking.

6) Christians who are coming to Hollywood need access to resources that will help them live and function in the industry. Where is your spiritual support system? Without one, you could be overwhelmed by the industry. Teaching you where the resources are is critical. You will need a church and fellowship group, as well as practical answers to where you can find affordable housing. You should know these answers before you go.

(7) How do you function in the entertainment industry as a media missionary so that you can complete your calling? In a practical sense, what projects should you be working on? What roles should I accept or reject? How do I function as a Christian in this business? What is my responsibility as a Christian in this industry. These are some of the basic questions that students often ask. These questions get to the heart of the role and purpose of a media missionary. Ask these questions to Christians in the industry, and you will receive many different answers.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

To Change the World Campaign – Through Five Core Principles Part 10

Training a media missionary is a four-step process.

Step 1 is To Raise Up, which is the process wherein you determine if you are called by God to be a media missionary.

(1) You have to examine whether or not you have been called and what is your purpose.

A few years ago, I took a course called Experiencing God, Knowing and Doing the Will of God. It offered a process in which we can understand the will of God. Often we ask the question, What is God’s will for my life? For example, “Am I called to be a media missionary”, and “Should I go to Hollywood?” But the real question is, “What is God’s will and where is he at work?” God is at work everywhere, including every human activity. That also includes Hollywood and the entertainment industry.

If we are going to know God’s will, we must have a relationship with God. It has to be real and personal. We must know His character, His motives, and His purposes. It’s only then that we understand what we believe and why we believe it. He will then invite us to join Him in His work. God will speak by the Holy Spirit through His Word, prayer, circumstances and the Body of Christ to reveal His purposes and His ways. It is during this phase that we start to realize what our calling actually is. God’s calling will always lead us to a crisis of belief that requires faith and action.

Next , we have to decide if we want to make the adjustments in our lives to join God in what He is doing, not in what we want to do. That may mean going to Hollywood or accepting the fact that we are not called to be a media missionary. It’s at that point that we truly experience God by obeying Him. He then accomplishes His work through us.

(2) Check your motives. Do you want to serve God or serve your own self-interests?

Just because you have a love and passion for film and media doesn’t mean you have been called to be a media missionary. Having a desire to be rich and famous is not a good indication that you have been called. Right motives go a long way in determining your calling. Finding God’s will is dependent on a life focused on God and His activity and the ability to deny one’s self as well as be humble before God.

(3) Do you have a vision for Hollywood and the entertainment industry?
Can you love the people in this business? Why do you want to go to Hollywood? Sure, making movies is fun. But are you ready to serve people? A media missionary first and foremost is a servant. You are there to love people into the Kingdom. Can you love people that don’t agree with you? Who don’t share your values and morals? Who may consider Christianity a joke?

(4) Do you really understand the role and purpose of a media missionary?
This takes time and work. A lot of people think they understand what a media missionary is. And there are many Christians working in Hollywood and the entertainment industry, but they do no function as media missionaries. That’s not to say they are not doing good work, but to be a media missionary requires a unique skill set and a profound understanding of your role and purpose.

Here are a few scriptures to consider.

Galatians 1:15 But God had special plans for me and set me apart for his work even before I was born.

Romans 11:29 - God never changes his mind about the people he calls and the things he gives them.

Isaiah 49:1 Before I was born, the LORD called me to serve him. The LORD named me while I was still in my mother’s womb.

Hebrews 5:4 To be a high priest is an honor, but no one chooses himself for this work. He must be called by God as Aaron n was. 5 So also Christ did not choose himself to have the honor of being a high priest, but God chose him.

Romans 12:2 Don’t copy the behaviors and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect His will really is.

Media missionaries need support, especially during this first critical phase. Often parents, family members, friends and the Body of Christ can squash these dreams and hopes. If someone came to the Body of Christ and proclaimed that he/she has been called into the ministry or to the mission field, I can’t imagine that it would be met with criticism and doubt. Most likely they would receive support and encouragement. Shouldn’t we do the same for media missionaries? Isn’t their calling just as valid

Why so much opposition? Some can’t understand how you can be successful as a media missionary. The concept doesn’t make sense. God doesn’t call us to be successful but to be obedient. Some see Hollywood as an evil place. They are afraid that those we send as media missionaries will be contaminated by the dark side. Doesn’t the Bible say avoid all darkness? It really says to avoid sin. And what about the power of God that works within us to accomplish the calling and keep us safe? Christian parents realize that Hollywood and the entertainment industry is a hard business, which is true.

From a practical side, can you make a living? Some parents I have talked to would rather see their kids get a degree that leads to a more stable and predictable career path. But that violates the entire spiritual perspective of a calling. Serving God has never been practical. But with the right training and equipping, we can increase the likely percentages of getting a job.

I believe that parents, friends, and the Body of Christ would be more supportive of media missionaries if we had a training program. This would allow people to explore their calling in a safe environment before going to the mission field. In many cases, students may very well discover that they have not been called. For those who have been called, we will be able to focus on their development and training.

Friday, February 19, 2010

To Change the World Campaign though Five Core Principles Part 9

If Hollywood is a mission field, then it will be necessary to send missionaries. Throughout the 19th Century, Christians reached out to the people of Asia, Africa and the South Pacific. They saw these places as mission fields that required the training, development and support of missionaries. Africa is not a mission field without missionaries just like Hollywood cannot be a mission field without missionaries. So what kind of missionaries do we send to Hollywood and the entertainment industry? What is their role? Who do they work for? What is their purpose? Is it to reclaim, redeem, transform, or to infiltrate the entertainment industry? Do they make Christian movies and media? The idea of Hollywood being a mission field raises many questions, which brings us to our fifth and final principle.

Principle Five – The Body of Christ must raise up, equip, train, and support media missionaries to the mission fields of Hollywood and the broader entertainment and media industry. Our purpose is to reseed the culture with mainstream entertainment and media that reflects Christian and Biblical values. We do this by partnering with the mainstream, entertainment and media industry.

Our missionary to the entertainment industry is called a “media missionary”. What is a media missionary? If you that question to 50 Christians working in the mainstream entertainment industry in Hollywood or elsewhere, you would probably get 50 different answers. The same would be true if you posed the question to those who work in Christian film and media. The definition of a media missionary is a work in progress. It’s an ongoing discussion we have at our ministry,

Here’s our basic view of a media missionary. Without question, it is someone who is under the control of the Holy Spirit. I don’t see any way you can succeed in this industry without God’s direction and your willingness to allow the Holy Spirit to control your life. So what should media missionaries be doing? Preaching the Gospel? Producing Christian films? Working in Hollywood? Telling stories?

But what kind of stories should media missionaries be telling? Jesus taught by telling stories about everyday life. His concept of communicating was the parable and is the model that media missionaries should embrace. Jesus said the Kingdom of God is “like” not that the Kingdom of God “is”. There is a profound difference. Jesus embraced the power of the story. The vehicle he used to communicate was through oratory (story telling). If Jesus came today, he would, most likely, use the media.

A media missionary is someone who makes films or media that speaks of Jesus the least but has him most in mind. It is a difficult concept but one that is very profound. In order to embrace the concept, one has to see Hollywood as a partner. We will not be able to change the world or our culture without working with Hollywood.

When I talk about Hollywood, I am speaking about not just the physical place but the entire media and entertainment industry. Should we be working with Hollywood? I Corinthians 9:21 - 22 says, “When I am with the Gentiles, who do not have the Jewish law, I fit in with them as much as I can. In this way, I gain their confidence and bring them to Christ. But I do not discard the law of God. I obey the law of Christ. When I am with those who are oppressed, I share their oppression so that I might bring them to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone so that I might bring them to Christ. (New Living Translation)

Because of Hollywood’s influence throughout the world, they are the most important mission field of our day. Yes, we should be partnering with Hollywood. A media missionary is someone who wishes to redeem and reform Hollywood. That doesn’t mean leaving Tracs on the set or impressing people with our spiritual language and phrases. In order to reach nonbelievers in the entertainment industry, the media missionary must be Christ-like, living out his or her values, morals and Biblical worldview with integrity in front of their peers.

Being a media missionary is not about infiltration or subversion. We are not in the business of propaganda. If we want to be effective, we will tell stories that are honest, broken and, above all, true. So the goal is to work in the mainstream, entertainment and media industry. That can be in Hollywood or elsewhere. The media missionary’s purpose is to make movies and media for a mainstream audience or general audience that reflect Biblical truth.

Here are some examples of films where I see the media missionary at work: Bella, Spitfire Grill, Lars and the Real Girl, and To End All Wars.

How do we develop and train media missionaries? Currently, there is no training center or program. There is no school dedicated to the development of the media missionary. Our goal at is to create resources that will lead to the development of media missionaries. It is a first step in the right direction.

Why is it important that they are equipped and trained? Christian ministries based in Hollywood report that many people are coming to Hollywood claiming to be missionaries. Most of them have no training, have no concept of what a media missionary is, lack the giftings and talents necessary, don’t understand what they are getting into, lack a plan—you get the picture? It’s a mess. Perhaps, some of them are actually called to be there. But they lack the resources and knowledge to be successful. Hollywood and the entertainment industry is a hard business. Over 90% who go to Hollywood will not make it through their first year. The odds are against them. That’s why we need a training program that will determine if they have been called to Hollywood and if they have the talents and giftings necessary to navigate through the treacherous minefields that they will undoubtedly encounter. In fact, many Christians working in Hollywood could use a similar training program.

It’s quite possible that many who think are they are media missionaries are not. And some Christians in Hollywood who don’t consider themselves to be media missionaries could very well be so called. So why aren’t Christian colleges and universities who have film and media programs missing the mark? Because their goal is not to develop media missionaries. Their goal is to teach you to write a script or direct a movie, or learn how to use a camera, etc. They instruct you in your core competencies so you can graduate.

Yes, some schools do offer classes in film and theology. However, they are not practical applications because they are based more in the theoretical concept of God and cinema. Over the years, I have talked to many students at various Christian colleges, and I get the sense that they do not understand the concept, mission and purpose of a media missionary. They main mission is to get a job.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Smoke Signals

It’s interesting to see how well a movie holds up over time. Is it still relevant? Does it speak to the current generation? Or is it forever trapped in the past, out of step, unable to relate to the current times? I recently watched one of my favorite films from 1998, Smoke Signals, and I asked myself those same questions. Would I be disappointed or would it reinforce my belief that Smoke Signals deserved all the acclaim it received?

It had won several awards that year, including Best Picture, at the Sundance Film Festival. I was not disappointed. Smoke Signals transcends time with a universal message that is just as relevant today. It was the first feature movie written, directed, and acted entirely by Native Americans. It offers a fascinating perspective on Native American culture rarely seen in today’s media. And it’s done through humor as Native Americans are poking fun at themselves. “It’s a good day to be indigenous”, as the weather report says on the reservation radio station KREZ.

Smoke Signals not only helps Native Americans to better understand themselves but also transcends culture and speaks to all of us. The director, Chris Eyre, describes the movie as a “universal story about fathers and friends and forgiveness”. The story centers around two 20-year-old, modern day Coeur d’alene Indians, Victor Joseph (Adam Beach) and Thomas Builds-the-Fire (Evan Adams), who leave their Idaho reservation to retrieve the ashes of Victor’s father, Arnold (Gary Farmer), in Arizona.

Both characters are completely different from each other but are linked together through their relationship with Victor’s father. Victor has a somewhat ambiguous relationship with Thomas as he is trying to understand his friend’s pain. Along their way, they are presented several challenges that will help lead them to discover life’s meaning and possibilities. I love “road pictures”. It’s never about getting to the destination. The journey is always a metaphor for something greater. The real story is what happens to Victor and Thomas on their journey.

Will they unlock their past? Can they develop a friendship? And what about life’s big question, “Are we willing to forgive and move on?” Smoke Signals is an honest film willing to take a hard look at Native American culture. It allows the viewer insights. Sometimes the world it portrays can be harsh with alcoholism and quiet anger to the outside world that surrounds the reservation. But it also celebrates Native American traditions such as oratorical storytelling. Fry bread is used several times in the film and serves as a vehicle to introduce Christian elements into the story as Thomas tells Victor, “It is used for communion”. It’s an interesting mix of Christian symbolism and Native American traditions.

I especially enjoyed the witty and poignant dialogue. I have to warn you that this is a talking movie. It’s all about “the story” so don’t expect any action sequences. The film goes back and forth between two time periods that are woven together with seamless flashbacks.

Smoke Signals is a very spiritual film that I think could change the way you think about forgiveness. “How do we forgive our fathers? Maybe in a dream. Do we forgive our fathers in our age or theirs? Or in their deaths. Saying it to them or not saying it.”

We are all on a journey to forgive someone as we seek our own forgiveness. Smoke Signals is available on DVD for less than $10 at most online stores. It is highly recommended.

For Discussion

1. What is the source of Victor’s pain?
2. What did Victor mean when he said that his father did not mean to leave?
3. Have you found it difficult to forgive someone in your life?
4. What kind of impact does unforgiveness have on our lives? How do we become unstuck?
5. Why is it so difficult to forgive?
6. How has this film helped you to better understand Native American culture?
7. Why does Thomas see Arnold as a father figure?
8. How does the tradition of storytelling help Native Americans cope with their past?
9. What two emotions does Victor express for his father?
10. What really drove Arnold away?
11. How do we find our identity?
12. What key event in the film allows Victor to finally confront his true feelings?
13. What is the real meaning of the cross-country journey that Victor and Thomas embark on?
14. Why does Suzie have a different view of Arnold than Victor?
15. What does fry bread represent in the movie?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

To Change the World Campaign – Through Five Core Principles Part 8

So why don’t we pray? And not just for Hollywood. Because prayer is probably the most difficult thing for Christian to do. To be honest, we really don’t like praying.

Some of us think that God is on vacation. He created the world, and now it’s up to us. Some of us approach prayer as a last resort. We think we’ve got everything under control. God has given us gifts and talents so all we have to do is put them into action. So why get God involved? If we just work hard enough and smart enough, we’ll get the results we want.

For some Christians, praying for Hollywood is just a waste of time. We don’t think the issue is all that important. It’s all meaningless and harmless entertainment. Right? For other Christians, Hollywood is a convenient boogieman. We despise and hate Hollywood. They are the enemy. So why pray for our enemies? How about Luke 6:27-28 where Jesus says, “But I say to you that listen, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”

For others, we just don’t believe anything is going to happen. We’ve been praying our entire lives, and it seems like God isn’t hearing us. Some are convinced that prayer is too hard. It takes up too much time. It’s impossible to get up at 4:00 in the morning and pray for two hours. Basically, we have turned prayer into a job. For some, it’s a matter of fear. What if God actually answered our prayers? It might mean that we would be required to do something that we are uncomfortable with. But, let’s face it. There are no good reasons or justification for not praying.

If we can agree that prayer is important and that Hollywood should be a focus of our prayers, how do we do it? First, let’s make it easy. You don’t need to pray two hours a day for Hollywood. Can you find five minutes. Remember, when you pray, you are talking to God just like you talk to anyone else. You can pray anywhere and at any time. I don’t believe in making prayer complicated. Do you?

Here’s a sample. Pray for God’s Kingdom to come and His will to be done in Hollywood as it is in heaven. Pray that Christians have favor and opportunities to witness to their fellow industry professionals. Pray that they receive discernment and wisdom on which projects they should work on. Pray for creative ideas that illustrate Gods’ love and grace for his people. Pray that God will raise up, equip and send media missionaries to Hollywood and the entertainment industry. Pray for nonbelievers in Hollywood to receive Christ. Pray that God’s Spirit will fall upon every set and production throughout the entertainment industry.

If you prayed the above points, just think what God can do in answer to your prayers. Do you want to change the world? Do you think prayer could be the key? If so, you are on your way. Could it be this simple? Yes. Yes. And yes.

To know more about what you can specifically pray for concerning Hollywood, there is no better resource than The Hollywood Prayer Network. Check out their website at They offer I-to-I Prayer Partnerships, incognito prayer teams, and prayer walks. They also get kids involved with a kid’s prayer calendar.

Most of us will never go to Hollywood to work in this business. But we can do our part by influencing Hollywood through our prayers. Everything changes when we embrace our fourth core principle.

Principle Four – Prayer is the foundation of the Christian faith. Without prayer, nothing is possible. Christianity currently faces a media crisis. Therefore, we must pray for both Christians and nonbelievers working in Hollywood and the broader entertainment industry as well as all other media fields. We must pray for God’s Kingdom to become a reality in the entertainment industry.

So pray, watch and see how God will move in Hollywood. With prayer we will be able to execute our fifth and final principle.

Monday, February 15, 2010

To Change the World Campaign though Five Core Principles Part 7

Throughout my years of being in the Church, including Sunday School, Sunday morning sermons, small groups and Wednesday night services, I cannot think of one instance where someone offered up a prayer for Hollywood and the entertainment industry, whether that was for Christians working in the business or for nonbelievers to come to know Christ. Quite frankly, the entire concept of praying for Hollywood has not been a priority or even on the radar screen. But if Hollywood as we talked about earlier is the most influential mission field, why aren’t we praying? Prayer is the foundation of the Christian faith. Without prayer nothing happens. We must invite God to do His work in this world (Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven – Matthew 6:10.)

I think it is safe to say that prayer is the game changer.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Philippians 4:6

Never stop praying. 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. James 5:16

I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. Matthew 18:19

You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.” Matthew 21:22

Matthew 21:22 says that you can pray for anything. That includes Hollywood, which brings us to our fourth principle.

Principle Four – Prayer is the foundation of the Christian faith. Without prayer, nothing is possible. Christianity currently faces a media crisis. Therefore, we must pray for both Christians and nonbelievers working in Hollywood and the broader entertainment industry as well as all other media fields. We must pray for God’s Kingdom to become a reality in the entertainment industry.

Of all of the five principles, prayer or the fourth principle is the most important. So why didn’t I make prayer the first principle? Because we won’t pray for Hollywood unless we understand why we need to. First, Unless we accept the first principle that we are currently in a media crisis and must be part of the solution, we will not pray for Hollywood. Second, if we won’t take the time to become media literate and understand the power and influence of media, we won’t pray for Hollywood. Third, if we are not willing to accept Hollywood as a valid mission field and recognize it as the world’s most influential mission field, we won’t pray for Hollywood.

The first three principles help us to understand why we must pray for Hollywood. They give us the motivation to act and become part of the solution. Can you imagine what would happen if every Christian would start to pray for Hollywood on a daily basis? Do you think we would see a change? Can you imagine God’s Spirit moving in Hollywood and throughout the entertainment industry? Can you imagine the impact of actors receiving Christ? This is not fantasy. It could happen if we choose for it to happen. Every Christian has a part to play in solving our media crisis. That part for all of us is to pray.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

To Change the World Campaign – Through Five Core Principles Part 6

If we are going to reach Hollywood and fulfill the Great Commission, we must have a different mindset and a change of heart, which starts once we embrace our first two core principles.

Principle One—Christianity is rapidly loosing its impact on culture. Today the media controls the culture and, by doing so, controls the hearts and minds of the people. That includes both young and old, Christians and nonbelievers. In fact, it is no longer possible to determine where culture starts and where media ends. They have united to create a media culture. We now have a “media culture crisis”. Every Christian must play a part in solving this crisis.

Principle Two—Christians must become media literate so that we are knowledgeable in the language of media and its influence. And by doing so, we can unlock the meaning of the message which media communicates and take control of how we respond to the message.

When we recognize that we have a media culture crisis and decide we want to respond to the crisis, we must start first with reaching Hollywood. Remember Hollywood is the most influential mission field on the planet. If we reach Hollywood, we reach the world. Consider this. Foreign missionaries will tell you that the greatest influence on their people group is the American media. Media produced by Hollywood shapes the hearts and minds of people around the globe. Some 60 years ago, the President of Indonesia requested an audience with some of the key Hollywood executives of the day. He stated that he regarded them as political radicals and revolutionaries, who had hastened political change in the East by creating unrest. He said what the Orient saw in a Hollywood movie was a world in which all of the ordinary people had cars, electric stoves, and refrigerators. Now the Orient regarded itself as an ordinary person who has been deprived of the ordinary man’s birthright. If that was 60 years ago, you can only imagine how our influence has increased throughout the world.

What happens if we embrace Hollywood as a mission field? Not only do we influence the uttermost parts of the earth, but we get a 2-for-1 deal. We also can impact our own hometown and our own local mission. Why? Because Hollywood’s influence is everywhere. It’s the only mission field that extends beyond the physical limitations of a confined space and time. America’s number one export is entertainment. If we embrace Hollywood as a mission field, our message will be part of whatever Hollywood is exporting.

Finally, by accepting Hollywood as a mission field, we are embracing Jesus’ commandment found in Acts 1:8 which says, “But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power, and you will tell people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem (in your hometown), throughout Judea (in your state), Samaria (in Hollywood) and throughout the ends of the earth.”

We have a passion and conviction that drives us as Christians in our efforts to embrace foreign missions. No sacrifice or effort is too great. We are on board with a “whatever it takes” attitude. We need that same passion and mindset if we are to be successful in our efforts to redeem Hollywood. I know we can do it. And I’m sure it’s on God’s “To do List”. The only question is are we willing.

By accepting the third principle, we can move on to the fourth principle, which will give us discernment, wisdom and the help we need to fulfill Principle Three.

Principle Three – In order to engage our culture, we must recognize Hollywood and the entertainment industry as a legitimate mission field. In fact, Hollywood represents a unique people group or tribe that for the most part has not been reached. They have their own language, customs, and culture. In order to redeem Hollywood and the broader entertainment industry, we must stop blaming them for all of society’s problems and begin a dialogue of reconciliation.

Friday, February 12, 2010

To Change the World Campaign through Five Core Principles - Part 5

I have been a Christian since 1976. During that time, one thing that the Body of Christ agrees on is the need to support foreign missions. I have never heard anyone argue against financial support for missions or the need to send missionaries overseas. It is a universal concept accepted in the Church and is the basis for the Great Commission. We all know the scripture by heart. Jesus said in Acts 1:8, “But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power, and you will tell people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, Samaria and throughout the ends of the earth.”

Most of our churches actively send out short-term mission teams, who pay their own way, on a routine basis. Youth ministry also supports short-term mission trips. Students raise their own support though fundraising activities and typically will spend up to two weeks during the summer on a mission field. Whether it’s through humanitarian efforts such as digging wells for clean water or building a school or an orphanage, or through evangelistic outreach, we are unified in our efforts to reach the lost in foreign lands or to “the ends of the earth” as Jesus commanded.

I would wholehearted agree that we need to fully support foreign missions. But we have missed something in this scripture. Remember, those that Jesus was speaking to were actually in Jerusalem—that’s local missions. What Jesus was referring to was to start where they were and then to move over to the next town and then to the next region and then to the world. Think locally and then globally was the model that Jesus was communicating. In recent years, we have made a better effort in embracing the local missions concept. Outside of many of our churches, we often see a signs saying ‘You are now entering the mission field”. That’s a step in the right direction. But, we have a mission field that we have completely ignored that has the ability to influence the world. This brings us to our third principle.

Principle Three – In order to engage our culture, we must recognize Hollywood and the entertainment industry as a legitimate mission field. In fact, Hollywood represents a unique people group or tribe that for the most part has not been reached. They have their own language, customs, and culture. In order to redeem Hollywood and the broader entertainment industry, we must stop blaming them for all of society’s problems and begin a dialogue of reconciliation.

So is Hollywood a mission field? According to Karen Covell, Director of the Hollywood Prayer Network, only 2% of media professionals go to church or synagogue. She goes on to say that Hollywood is an isolated society ignorant of and often hostile to Christianity. That would certainly qualify them as an unreached people group. People in Hollywood and the broader entertainment industry have often been described as a tribe because they have their own gods, customs, language, culture and belief systems. There are similarities in Hollywood to what we see in unreached people groups with strange customs in faraway places, such as Africa or South America. So why don’t we see Hollywood as a mission field?

Hollywood is like Nineveh. Jonah was commanded by God to announce His judgment. But Jonah had animosity toward these people because they were wicked. And he refused to do what God commanded because he knew God would have mercy on them. Eventually, Jonah accepted God’s will. Jonah 3:10 says, “And when God saw that they had put a stop to their evil ways, He had mercy on them and did not carry out the destruction He had threatened.” Because Jonah responded to God, the people of Nineveh were saved. Jonah 4:2—Jonah said, “This is why I ran away to Tarnish. I knew you were a gracious and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. I knew how easily you could cancel your plans for destroying these people. Jonah 4:11 says, “But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city.” (And to this day, Nineveh for the most part is a Christian city.)

We know where God stands on the issue. So shouldn’t we feel sorry for Hollywood? Why are we acting like Jonah and refusing to go. First, we have been at war with Hollywood for so long, we know nothing else. We have made our views known through boycotts, threats, and protests. Often it has become ugly and, quite frankly, very unchristian. Sure, the content of many of the television shows and movies produced have contained offensive and questionable material, but that doesn’t justify our tactics. The fact is that many Christians simply hate the people in the entertainment industry.

Second, we blame Hollywood for polluting the minds of our youth. We see them as responsible for much of society’s problems, including pornography, drug use, violence, promiscuity and promoting anti-Christian views. For many of us, we just simply cannot forgive them for what they have done or what we think they have done. It also is hard to see Hollywood as a mission field when the people there enjoy a lifestyle of the rich and famous that includes wealth, power and influence.

And, finally, Hollywood and the broader entertainment industry doesn’t look like a third-world country. They don’t fit into our way of thinking. We like to put our Christianity in a nice, convenient box. Hollywood doesn’t fit into that box. In reality, most of the people who work and live in Hollywood and the entertainment industry are decent people much like us. They are not the stars that we think they are but are everyday working people trying to raise a family, pay the mortgage and just get by. They need to be reached just like everybody else. For every director or movie star, there are hundreds of people behind the scenes building the sets, moving the camera gear, setting lights, running the audio, etc. They are the people of Nineveh.

Sat. part 6

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Mighty

Sometimes life can be hard and unfair. I’m sure that’s how the filmmakers for The Mighty must have felt. Released in 1998, The Mighty is a comedy drama based on the book, Freak the Mighty, by Rodman Philbrick. It went on to receive strong reviews and was considered one of the best films of the year. Amazingly, it was a huge commercial flop for Miramax Films. Was it the marketing? Or lack of marketing? Bad Luck?

At the time, Miramax was the hottest studio in Hollywood. Everything they touched turned to gold with big hits like The English Patient and Goodwill Hunting. In fact, The Mighty was considered to be the next Goodwill Hunting, which helped to launch the careers of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.

The Mighty has so much going for it. It is an enduring story with a whimsical and magical feel. It has an excellent cast and a wonderful sound track, featuring a song from Sting. The Mighty deserved a better fate. Today, it is mostly forgotten. But it is a lost treasure worth discovering.

The Mighty is a welcome change from movies that typically portray teens doing the wrong things and embracing bad lifestyle choices. It is a positive and uplifting movie that speaks to our ability to overcome physical and emotional handicaps though the power of friendship. They discover an inner strength that lies within us all. The Mighty does this without resorting to ridiculous comics or unbelievable, happy-ending nonsense.

The Mighty is a story about two boys who are social outcasts. Max (Eldon Henson) is physically strong but suffers from a learning disability called dyslexia. Kevin (Kieran Culkin) is physically weak from his battle with morquio syndrome. He is extremely intelligent and creative.

Both are tormented and bullied by Blake and his teenage gang. They form an unlikely alliance. Together they are able to do the impossible. “You need a brain. I need legs, and the Wizard of Oz doesn’t live in South Cincinnati”, exclaimed Kevin to Max. With that they form a symbiotic friendship, balancing out their strengths and weaknesses to complete one person. Soon they are on a quest as knights in King Arthur’s Court to rescue fair maidens, slay dragons and walk high above the world.

Back in the real world, they face other challenges from Blake and his gang to problems at school and at home, including the impending release of Max’s father from prison.

Are we defined by our past or our parents mistakes? Kevin teaches Max that a Knight proves his worthiness through his deeds. This is one of the strongest themes that runs throughout The Mighty. We also see that through a nonviolent approach, we can right injustices and defend the rights of the weak. I consider The Mighty a very spiritual film because we are all on a quest in one way or another.

Rounding out the cast are wonderful performances by Sharon Stone as Kevin’s mom along with veteran actor, Harry Dean Stanton (he always bring his A game) as Grim, Max’s grandfather. In minor roles are X-Files’ Gillian Anderson, who is almost unrecognizable as Loretta Lee and James Gandolfini (The Sopranos) as Kenny (Killer) Cain.

The Mighty could have been your typical family film or even the dreaded after-school special. And it could have floundered in cheap sentimentality. But, under the steady direction of Peter Chelson, the film found a balance between fantasy and reality.

Kevin and Max live in a gritty, urban environment full of poverty and despair. The film has a realistic feel. You might call it an edgy, family film with an intelligent story. It explores many themes typically not found in the family film genre, including strength of character, acceptance, self-worth and identity.

So what are you watching Friday or Saturday night? The same old typical Hollywood special effects bonanza? How about considering a movie with some substance that will inspire you, challenge you to be a better person or make you feel how special life can be. You probably won’t find The Mighty for rent, but it is available online for under $10. Check out

Inspiration and courage can be found in the most unlikely places.

1. Which character do you identify with?
2. Have you ever felt like a social outcast?
3. How do Max and Kevin solve their problems through nonviolence?
4. Why does being different always come with a price?
5. How do Kevin and Max deal with the question of identity? Who and what defines them?
6. How do we find our inner strength?
7. Does Kevin’s mom help create a safe place for both Max and Kevin?
8. How can our imagination help us to dream and escape our reality?
9. What is the true strength of friendship?
10. Why do people accept Kevin and Max after they join forces?
11. How do Max and Kevin right injustices?
12. What did Loretta say and why is it important?
13. How did Max discover his inner voice?
14. What is the turning point in this film?
15. Have you ever had to face a bully?

To Change the World Campaign – Through Five Core Principles Part 4

All filmmakers, including writers, directors and producers, have a point of view (POV). In fact, we all have a POV. Some people refer to this as a world view. Our POV defines our attitudes and core beliefs. Without a POV, we would not be able to interpret the world around us. It offers a perspective and insight into how we view politics, religion, social issues and personal lifestyle choices. Paul Verhoeven, the director of Starship Troupers, POV has been shaped by his life experiences. As a child, he grew up in The Netherlands, his home country, during the German occupation. He was exposed to a totalitarian and fascist regime that routinely used propaganda to proclaim Nazi superiority. It unquestionably has influenced his political and social views, which are evident in his film Starship Troupers. Understanding the POV helps us to unlock the message within a film, television program or media in general. By using the tools of media literacy, we become more effective in identifying the POV.

Ecclesiastes 8:1 says, “How wonderful it is to be wise, to be able to analyze and interpret things. Wisdom lights up a person’s face softening its hardness.” Understanding the language of media is to be wise. Embracing the concepts of media literacy gives us the ability to analyze and interpret everything we see and hear. I think movies especially have the ability to challenge us to examine our life choices and lifestyles. They can be a doorway to the truth. There have been countless examples of where God has used mainstream films to touch people’s lives. Media is neither evil nor good. It is a conduit that carries whatever message we choose to communicate and by whatever manner we choose to use.

So why are we not teaching media literacy? First, for most people, it is simply not on the radar screen. We just don’t understand what media literacy is. Second, there is a lack of instructors. Media literacy is a difficult subject to teach if you don’t have a background in media. Third, we don’t believe there is a media crisis. Media is no big deal. Fourth, we are not sure what our views are on media. So why get into it.

But what does a good media course consist of? First, the program must encourage people to think for themselves. When I teach media literacy, I tell my students that I am not here to tell you what to think but to challenge you to start to think about what you see and hear in the media. You must come to your own conclusions. Second, the program should be designed as not to paint Hollywood as evil or the villain. We must be objective. Third, it needs to be interactive with a multimedia presentation. Media literacy is a three-step process. First it starts with awareness and education. Second, in order to apply media literacy, you must develop a skill set that utilizes various techniques and strategies. In other words, it offers you a toolbox that you can use to unlock and read the multiple layers of image-based communications. Third, in order for media literacy to be successful, in must be applied daily.

I think the most important elements of media literacy are common sense tools, such as teaching students how filmmakers use editing to create a reality that doesn’t exist. Or how colors can create different emotional responses. Or how camera movement and angles can affect an audience’s perspective.

And the most critical part is challenging students to take control of how the message is impacting them. Should I accept or reject the message? Does it reinforced my beliefs? Does it ignite my passion to live a life consisitant with my Christian principles? Does it challenge me to bring positive change to my life as well as to others? Does it cause me to act on my beliefs? Does it cause me to be more socially conscious? Or do I reject the message because it is not consistent with my Christian beliefs? The more we ask ourselves challenging questions, the closer we are to discovering the truth.

If we want the world to change, it starts with us. We all have a responsibility to become media literate. No, you don’t have to go to film school. By just spending 15 minutes a day, you can start to become media literate. Our website, in the future will offer all of the resources necessary to start your journey. We have developed an extensive media literacy program, which can be taught online or in a classroom setting. We offer a 1 – 2 hour program all the way through an 8 – 10 week course.

Principle 2—Christians must become media literate so that we are knowledgeable in the language of media and its influence. And by doing so, we can unlock the meaning of the message which media communicates and take control of how we respond to the message.

If you see the need for media literacy, then you have embraced our second core principle. You are now ready to move on to Principle 3.

Sat. Part 5

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

To Change the World Campaign through Five Core Principles – Part 3

What would it be like if we couldn’t read or write? How would you use the internet? It would be impossible to get a job. In today’s society, reading and writing are essential skills. Or can you imagine living in a foreign country and not knowing the language? Simple things like using the transportation system or ordering from a menu at a restaurant would be challenging.

Knowing the language is essential for navigating through life. Just as we need to be able to read and write, developing media skills is now just as important. Media has its own unique language. It consist of design, structure, meaning, and syntax. For Christians it is absolutely essential that we understand the language of media, which brings us to our second principle.

Principle 2—Christians must become media literate so that we are knowledgeable in the language of media and its influence. And by doing so, we can unlock the meaning of the message which media communicates and take control of how we respond to the message.

In John 8:32 it says, “Jesus said to the people, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” We need to know the truth and not just what anybody calls truth. Is what the media communicates to us really the truth? Or is it a distortion of reality? Understanding the tools and language of media will help us to be discerning. By not understanding the language of media, we are held captive to any message which the media wishes to communicate. Our goal as Christians is not to be subject to the control and influence of media.

We now live in a media culture that surrounds and envelopes every element of life. Our best defense is to become media savvy. For the most part we don’t understand what we are being exposed to. For example, we would consider a G or PG movie to be relatively safe. And we would view most R-rated movies as offensive. But in reality, the G or PG movie today could contain more anti-Christian and anti-Biblical content than the R-rated film. In fact, the R-rated movie could be a redemptive film which embraces Biblical views. Often we make assumptions that are not based on the facts.

Most people, including Christians, consume media without processing its purpose, goals, and message. We don’t ask challenging questions about it authenticity. Therefore we become sponges absorbing everything we see and hear.

How do movies or television shows or any media affect my decisions, values, and behaviors? Have you ever thought about it? Have you assumed that they don’t? Do you think it is something we should consider? These questions could be answered in a media literacy program.

What is media literacy? In the past three years, I have taught media literacy to over 100 students. Only five students had ever heard of the subject. Media literacy teaches and unlocks the language of media. It contains five elements. (1) It helps to define the message media communicates. (2) it reveals the purpose behind the message, (3) It identifies how the message impacts the individual. (4) It identifies how the message influences behaviors and shapes perceptions in society. (5) It offers resources on how we can take control of our response to the message.

We should be teaching media literacy in children’s church, junior and senior high school classes, as well as to small groups in every church in America. It is essential curriculum. Most of us have no idea what the real message is in today’s media. For example, I often use Starship Troupers in my media literacy classes because it seems like an innocent sci-fi, action thriller. The film is set in the future with earth battling an alien species of bugs on a faraway planet. Seem harmless. Right. Or is it?

Could the film be communicating a political message—one that casts doubt on our very way of life. Perhaps, even an anti-American film? Director Paul Verhoeven weaves an interesting tale in which he believes government is misleading and lying to its citizens. They are convinced that war is good and just. But the people are being misled and are unaware of the government’s true intentions. The government is only interested in their agenda. They want the natural resources of the alien planet. Some believe Verhoeven’s real purpose was to criticize America’s political and military objectives not only in the Middle East but globally as well. Is America becoming a new totalitarian and fascist state?

So is this innocent science fiction or political commentary? How do we know? Could this movie have an impact on your beliefs? I’m sure your first answer would be an absolute No! But what about on a deeper, subconscious level?

In Matthew 10:16, “Look I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. Be as weary as snakes and as harmless as doves.” I think a case could be made that today’s wolves represent our media culture. If we are to be weary as snakes and harmless as doves, we need to understand media literacy. For if we are going to be successful in bringing about the Kingdom of God, we must know what we believe and why we believe it. I don’t want the media to define my truth and my beliefs.


Monday, February 8, 2010

To Change the World Campaign – Through Five Core Principles Part 2

Do you know the real message the media culture is communicating? Is there a singular story, a general theme? Whether it’s on a conscious or subconscious level, we are being told, “You, as an individual, are the center of the universe.” You are more important than anything else. Your needs, wants and desires must be met at any cost. The message comes in the form of instant gratification and the glorification of wealth, power and sex. This helps to explain our obsession with consumerism, which is at the root of most of our problems.

Businesses and corporations want to sell you something. Media outlets need cash to produce programming. In turn, they are able to create content that can influence the culture. Their influence turns into desire. As desire increases in the culture, it creates demand. Demand fuels the cycle, which takes us back to square one.

Craig Detweiler, a professor at Fuller Seminary in California, puts it this way. “The media is a process lived in the marketplace, driven by consumerism, fueled by advertising, and obtained by celebrity.”

This situation that we find ourselves in is similar to when satan tempted Eve with the DESIRE to taste the fruit. She was convinced she had to have it. Today, its like DESIRE created by the media culture is on steroids.

Nowhere is this affect more intensified than on our youth. Today’s media culture has become the ”new church “ for a new generation. It is a place of worship. It takes place in our local multiplexes, mobile media devices, computer screens, and flat screen televisions.

Under the age of 18, the average daily consumption of media is nearly 8 hours a day. It’s raising our kids. Some studies suggest that 70% of kids that are now in church youth groups will abandon their faith. I realize that this is disturbing. And many people I talk to refuse to accept the findings.

I have been involved in media ministries for over 25 years. In that time, I have worked with high school and college students. I have also worked with many youth ministries. I’m convinced that the numbers are right on target. I’ve got eyes to see and ears to hear.

Often, I am able to ask questions when kids are more relaxed and open. My findings are first, most young people don’t know what they believe. Second, what they do believe; they can’t tell you why. Third, they have a somewhat fragmented Christian worldview. For parents, “it’s everybody but my kids” approach. They believe by setting standards, such as no cable TV and other guidelines that they are safe. Are they? Parents and youth workers see what they want to see. Sure, everything might look good on the surface, but nobody is willing to look under the surface. We really don’t want to see the truth.

The media crisis is everybody’s issue. Every Christian must play a part in finding a workable solution. Our ability to function as a Christian and be effective in our ministry is directly proportionate to our response as the Body of Christ to the media culture crisis. Currently, we have no plan. We have no strategy. No unified effort. I think we need one. I want you to know that there is a plan. It starts by accepting the first principle. There is hope in this crisis.

Consider this analogy. Have you ever tried to work outside in the sun on a hot summer day? Let’s say a really hot summer day at 105 degrees. How productive are you? Everything is a challenge. It takes every effort just to stay cool and survive. What would happen if you turned the temperature down to say 90 to 95 degrees? It would still be hot. But it would be a little bit more bearable. Perhaps we would be more effective and productive in our work. What if we could get the temperature down to 80 to 85 degrees? Now the environment would no longer be in the way. We could be fully productive and no longer concerned with just trying to survive. The media culture is like a hot summer day at 105 degrees. It makes us ineffective. Somehow, we have to find a way to turn down the temperature. By doing so, no matter what our ministry, we will be in a better position to further the cause of Christ. The reason that ministries are not successful is because of the environment the media culture has created.

This is every Christian’s issue—yours and mine. No matter what the cause or ministry, from the pro-life movement, outreach, youth ministry, teaching, local church, family counseling, etc., we all can play a part that will make a difference. Our part is to turn down the temperature. Everyone playing their small part equals the whole.

We don’t have a choice because in five years, the temperature is going to be 110 degrees. We must do something NOW, not tomorrow. We have to care about this issue because it’s in our self interest. It amounts to self-preservation. We’ll act when we accept Principle One.

Principle One—Christianity is rapidly loosing its impact on culture. Today the media controls the culture and, by doing so, controls the hearts and minds of the people. That includes both young and old, Christians and nonbelievers. In fact, it is no longer possible to determine where culture starts and where media ends. They have combined to create a media culture. We now have a “media culture crisis”. Every Christian must play a part in solving this crisis.

If we reject this principle, there is really no hope or anywhere else to go.

We cannot change the media culture until we, the Body of Christ, are willing to change. Are you ready to move on to Principle Two or not?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

To Change the World Campaign – Through Five Core Principles Part 1

I’m convinced we all want to make a difference, especially if our faith matters. As committed Christians, we get up each morning with a purpose and a mission. Acts 1:8 says, “But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power and will tell people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria and throughout the ends of the earth.” New Living Translation.

The Body of Christ has been doing this for over 2,000 years. It would seem that today our society has become resistant to Christianity. Are we happy with what we see in the world? Do you believe, as Christians, that we are making a difference? Is it possible that something is blocking our efforts? If you are like me, you are frustrated. Why are we not changing the world? Why does it seem to be changing us?

I offer for your consideration five core principles that I believe will change our world. They involve the combination of media, faith, and culture. They are interconnected and dependent upon one another in order to achieve results. Without accepting the first principle, you cannot move on to the second principle.

Some Christians argue that if we simply live out our lives and be Christ-like we can change the world. But why is this not working? Sure, we can see pockets of our faith in action,. But, for the most part, our society and the world in general goes about its business as if we, the Body of Christ, do not exist. We have become irrelevant.

Let’s be honest. Only two things can happen. We are advancing the cause of Christ and changing our society or Christianity is in retreat. There is no middle ground. We cannot remain static.

37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” Matthew 22: 37-40 New Living Translation

Christianity is not complicated. If we do the above as Jesus commanded, we will change the world. So what’s stopping us? The change must first come from inside the Body of Christ. We must examine what is blocking our efforts. Our five core principles will lead us to a better understanding of how we can change the world.

Principle One—Christianity is rapidly loosing its impact on culture. Today the media controls the culture and, by doing so, controls the hearts and minds of the people. That includes both young and old, Christians and nonbelievers. In fact, it is no longer possible to determine where culture starts and where media ends. They have united to create a media culture. We now have a “media culture crisis”. Every Christian must play a part in solving this crisis.

Most Christians reject the above concept. We see only 10% of the issue. The media culture is like an iceberg. Only a small portion lies above the surface of the water. For the most part, we see sex, violence, bad language and nudity as the main problem. To be fair, the majority of Christians accept this part of the concept to be true. Why we reject the other parts of the principle is because of fear. We don’t want to admit that we are just as likely to be influenced and controlled by media as the general public. Others see the issue as too big or too complicated so it’s easier not to think about it. Why? Because we believe we can’t change it even if we wanted to. Still other Christians have a false sense of security by not having cable TV, or watching R-rated movies, or limiting their exposure to media in general. It’s much easier to justify that it’s somebody else’s problem. But we are only lying to ourselves. Isn’t it time that we face the truth?

What is culture? It is a shared consciousness, which influences our behaviors, attitudes, actions, and thought patterns. It helps to create a collective worldview. It is direct and indirect as well as tangible and intangible.

In other words, it is part of the air we breathe. It goes beyond one movie, one television program or one cable network. Media impacts every aspect of culture and society. I will not bore you with all of the statistics, analyses, and studies. But I do trust their results. We have more than enough information from Christian and secular outlets, such as the Rand Corporation, George Barma, the Kaiser Family Foundation, Media and the Family, the Bridger Generation and the list goes on.

What are their findings? Faith seems to have little or no impact on our lifestyle choices. Our behavior and attitudes are linked to our exposure to violence, sexuality, and media in general. The research suggests that the media culture extends beyond the reach of the electronic screens of our media devices. Consider this analogy. We are being exposed to a low form of radiation. We cannot taste it. We cannot hear it. We cannot see it. Nor do we feel its affects immediately. But over time it will kill us. And just like exposure to low radiation, exposure to media over a period of time is killing us spiritually and making us ineffective.

Monday Part 2