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.

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