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.

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