If you ask that question to 50 Christian professionals working in the mainstream entertainment industry in Hollywood or elsewhere, you would probably get 50 different answers. The definition of a media missionary is a work-in-progress.
So let’s get started with a few concepts that make sense. A media missionary is someone that has a calling to the mainstream media or entertainment fields. So what is a calling? In Romans 12:4-5 we read that there are many parts in the body of Christ, and each of us has a different part to play. Finding that individual part is our calling. In I Thessalonians 5:16-18, we learn that God’s will for each believer is to pray, evangelize and disciple. These are the foundational pillars for your calling.
A media missionary needs to have the right motivation, a willingness to serve God as well as others. If you are motivated by fame and fortune, you probably are not a media missionary. Do you have a passion to work in media? Working in the media or film industries requires a lot of dedication and hard work. If you see this as just a job, you’re probably not a media missionary. Do you see the media as an opportunity for good? Do you see Hollywood as a valid mission field with its own unique customs, language, and culture?
One of the best definitions that I have come across for a media missionary is someone who makes films or media that speak of Jesus the least but has him most in mind. It’s a difficult concept but one that is very profound. In order to embrace the concept, we have to see Hollywood as a partner. If we think we can have an impact on our culture through media and film, we will have to work with Hollywood. When I speak of Hollywood, I am not talking just about the physical place. Hollywood represents the entire scope of the entertainment industry which today is everywhere.
It’s also important to consider who may not be a media missionary. For example, is a Christian who works for a Christian media organization or church or a Christian who makes Christian films a media missionary?
A media missionary is someone who wishes to redeem and reform Hollywood. That doesn’t mean throwing tracs around on the set or using spiritual phrases in your language. Being a media missionary is not about infiltrating or subversion. So how do you redeem an industry that is resistant to the very concept? By asking questions and not giving easy answers. If you want to be effective, you need to tell stories that are honest, broken and above all true. We are not in the business of propaganda.
When a filmmaker or media maker can link some aspect of the culture back to the gospel message, it is a clear sign of a media missionary at work. When we talk about pain and suffering and wonder where God is or when we talk about real people going through difficult situations and struggles, we can see the media missionary at work.
Perhaps the greatest work of a media missionary is just to live out your life in front of your peers. If you are a committed Christian believer and you embrace a lifestyle that represents being Christ like, you will undoubtedly have great influence.
Do you think you are being called to be a media missionary? What role will you play? Will you work in your home town or perhaps one day travel to Hollywood? Are you ready to start the journey?
The Defining Principles of the Media Missionary
The media missionary is not concerned with genre, ratings, marketability, or the level of Christian content contained with any media or film project. Their work becomes an act of worship with no division between the sacred or secular. The media missionary approaches each project with no defined agenda other than to recognize God at work and their willingness to join him in that work.
A media missionary has a distinct calling from God to serve him in the area of media and entertainment. For the most part, it is a calling to reach a broader or comprehensive audience. His or her purpose is to reflect God’s glory and truth in the media he or she creates. In order for a media missionary to complete or fulfill his or her calling, he or she must be willing to submit and be under the control of the Holy Spirit. The journey to become a media missionary starts first with recognizing the calling. If you choose to assign a title or not to assign one is not important as long as you recognize you have a purpose and a calling to fulfill. In fact, calling yourself a media missionary in front of your peers may be more of a hindrance or obstacle to your calling.
A Love for the Industry
Without a respect and love for the people that work in the entertainment industry, it is impossible to fulfill your calling as a media missionary. A media missionary will live his or her life in a way that will reflect God’s love and grace for those in the industry.
A Student of the Filmmaking Process
We have a responsibility to be proficient in all aspects of filmmaking and media making. Our work should excel in the areas of production values and artistic expression. There is no excuse for not being a student of the filmmaking process. A media missionary must study and learn the art of filmmaking and media making.
Redeem and Reform
A media missionary desires to redeem and reform the industry from within. In other words, we must go, work and function in the mainstream media and entertainment industry. It requires us to live out our faith on a daily basis. The only way that we can redeem or reform the industry is through the power of God’s presence in our lives. If we approach our work in this manner, it becomes more than just a vocation or job. It becomes an act of worship to God.
Sees Hollywood as a Partner
The Parables of Jesus
Media missionaries must be culturally relevant and learn to communicate to a broad audience. Our inspiration comes from the parables of Jesus. He taught us how to tell stories that are engaging, thought-provoking, honest and truthful. He used symbolism and metaphors to communicate complex truths in order to make them understandable. His stories always had a point and were never boring. As with Jesus’ stories, our stories need to be Biblically based and contain truth that lead people to the Father.
Find Point of Entry
Filmmaking is not about giving all of the answers, but it offers a venue in which we can ask questions. The media missionary’s role is to find a point of entry where we can link some aspect of our culture back to the Gospel message. We have the opportunity to ask questions — Where is God when I hurt? Does he care about me? Is he still present? Why is nothing in my life working? These are often questions our film characters are asking, if not externally at least internally. Often the audience will identify with these characters because they want the same answers to these questions.
A media missionary is a mentor to the next generation of filmmakers and media makers. Future media missionaries require a mentor, based on the Paul/Timothy relationship model (mentor/ disciple). This relationship involves a lot of work that is often inconvenient and requires dedication, tenacity and commitment. But it is necessary if we are to create disciples who understand how to use media to communicate God’s love, grace, glory and truth. Media missionaries are often developed through on-the-job training with the help of a seasoned, veteran media missionary to help guide and direct them.
Do you love your audience more than what you are saying to them? The media missionary must build trust with his or her audience. We build trust when we respect our audience. If they are willing to give us two hours of their time, it is our duty to create a product that is entertaining. The media missionary must put art first and the message second. We rely on God to reveal his truth through the art. We don’t have the power to change anybody’s mind unless the Holy Spirit is involved in the process.
Our responsibility as a media missionary is to get out of the way and allow God to do what he is going to do. It’s not our job to tell the audience what to think. All we are required to do is to develop a relationship with our audience. God will do the rest. Speaking with mercy, compassion, and kindness in our work will be more powerful than the words we use in our art. Media missionaries are motivated not by outrage but by outreach. Where, in the past, Christians have branded Hollywood in a negative light, our mission is to view Hollywood in a positive light so that we may enter into a discussion and dialogue with them.