Think of all of the movies that move you, made you think or got you talking? Are their life lessons? Is God’s word illustrated?
When Paul preaches on Mars Hill (Acts 17:22-31), he says, “as one of your own poets has said,” and goes on to quote that poet, saying, “in him we live and breathe….” He quotes from a culture that the people were familiar with and then goes on to explain that although that poem is about Zeus, he (Paul) is here to explain about Jesus. Paul is modeling his own evangelism apologetic of “to the Greek I become a Greek...that I might” convince them of Christ. As such, he opens an interesting door for preaching. Utilizing cultural stories and signposts as a basecamp of shared experience in order to lead people to Christ.
We already utilize this to a lesser extent simply by using a text translated into a language of the people. And, we already use illustrations from life, nature and personal experience. When using a movie, we are looking at the journey of a character, usually involved in what we call “the hero’s journey.” Thus, when we see David move from shepherd to killer of Goliath, we see an arch of narrative. Ignored, opportunity, moment of choice, moment of courage and triumph. Neo in the Matrix follows a similar path.
Paul goes from cynic to believer. Ruth goes from fear to faith. A movie arch can mirror/shadow this transformational journey, thus illustrating similar journeys in the text. The betrayal and abandonment of Joseph compared to Maximus in Gladiator. Solomon called to build the temple like the farmer in Field of Dreams. The trick is to find scenes and dialogue that echo scripture in the crucial moments of that journey. As such, they become illustrations of either agreement or disagreement with scriptural directives and mandates. When they agree, they illustrate the story moving forward. When they disagree, they illustrate the consequence of ignoring God’s will and ways.
The benefits of using movies to illustrate God’s word are layered.
- It makes for a dynamic service to invite the unchurched.
- It teachers us (Cornerstone family) to draw people into conversations using shared culture as Paul illustrates.
- It permanently changes how people see that movie. If it’s a favorite movie, it makes it boot-up in their mind as a devotional experience.
- It breaks down the artificial and false dichotomy of sacred vs secular and creates a bridge where incarnational thinking can happen.
- It follows a narrative approach which is how 85% of scripture is written. It is also how humanity has always best engaged in tribal truth and is compelling, particularly to those looking for “their” story.
So what happens when we use moving to illustrate God’s word and illuminate our lives? Something amazing!