This is a follow-up to a previous post, which you can read here. By that I mean that we are called primarily to be teachers of the truth of God's Word. Our ultimate concern, of course, is to reach the heart and the will, but the scriptural route to the heart and to the will is through the mind. . .
Over the years, Christian films have gotten a bad rap. The accusations are many: they're poorly written, they have lousy production values, the acting is cheesy; it's clear that the personnel behind the camera are inexperienced. . . and the list could go on.
But the biggest problem is that many Christian filmmakers think they're supposed to be preachers. And what they haven't realized is that filmmaking is not preaching – it's an art form centered on telling great stories.
Some will say, "Wait just a minute. Preaching can be artistic. It can be eloquent, sermons can be well-crafted, and some preachers know how to turn a phrase just so. Great preaching can lead a person to change a life, to repent of sin, to adopt a new worldview." I agree.
But at their heart, these two means of communication are 180 degrees apart.
What is Preaching?
In his small booklet, What is Biblical Preaching? Rev. Eric J. Alexander identifies several key aspects, or "essentials" of the Word preached.
In his list of eight priorities, Alexander lists as number three, "Biblical Preaching is Didactic in its Nature." He goes on to say:
If you look at the language of Paul's preaching, it is the language of reasoning, persuading, and arguing. . .
So our preaching must have a teaching content.
(What is Biblical Preaching, Eric J. Alexander, pp.13-14)
By that I mean that we are called primarily to be teachers of the truth of God's Word. Our ultimate concern, of course, is to reach the heart and the will, but the scriptural route to the heart and to the will is through the mind. . .
Alexander also quotes William M. Taylor:
To call upon men to come to Christ. . . without at the same time telling them who Jesus Christ is and what it is to come to Him, is the merest mockery. It is using the name of Christ as though it were cabalistic charm and reducing the Gospel message to an empty formula.In short, preaching is didactic; it must be filled with content. To call a person to "believe in Jesus" without explaining who Jesus is can have disastrous results. A person could "believe in Jesus" without ever knowing who Jesus is or what they actually believe. Preaching that is not teaching can send a person straight to hell.
What is Filmmaking?
I posted the following in an earlier blog entry, but it bears repeating here (especially since Cooke says it more eloquently than I could):
Phil Cooke, CEO of Cooke Pictures and a respected consultant for faith-based, non-profit media . . . mentioned the poor quality associated with Christian films. "But in spite of that great need, most films, television programs, radio specials, and websites produced by Christians are still poor quality, and have a limited audience. That's because for most Christians, the message is everything, and we've forgotten the power of a great story."
Cooke goes on to say that films "aren't about sending messages, they're about telling great stories." Just like the stories or parables that Jesus told.
I’ve spoken with many filmmakers who will get on a bandwagon to preach how films are ideal to express an emotion, demonstrate a way of life and inspire a change in behavior. Unfortunately, most Christian filmmakers just want to preach an overt message using poor quality production values. They miss the entire artistic beauty of the medium.
At its heart, filmmaking is about storytelling, not preaching. As soon as Christian filmmakers understand the difference, we'll begin to see better Christian films.
And maybe, just maybe, if preachers understand that preaching isn't storytelling, we'll hear more biblical preaching.