Son of God. Noah. God Is Not Dead. It’s been a season for religious movies. And there are more to come. Are these opportunities for us to engage our unbelieving friends, co-workers, and family members? Maybe. But how?
Before I go to a movie, in hopes of using it as a witnessing tool, I first determine if it is worth seeing in the first place. To do that I usually ask myself something close to the following ten questions.
- Do I know unbelievers who will go see this movie?
- Do I know unbelievers who will want to talk about this movie?
- Am I willing to actually take unbelievers to the movie or talk to them about this movie?
- Is the movie an accurate depiction of what it claims to be? Does the movie claim to be a story of actual events, a story based on actual events, a story inspired by actual events, or just a story? And is it faithful to that intended end?
- Does the movie treat the antagonist with the same dignity as the protagonist?
- Does the movie accurately depict elements of the human condition? (e.g. a sense or human depravity, the need to be rescued, a longing for hope)
- Does the movie depict evil as evil and good as good?
- Does the movie have a clear redemptive message? Or does it at least leave the audience longing for a redemptive message?
- Will this movie open up dialogue or does it perpetuate destructive stereotypes?
- Is this movie actually a good movie? (acting, storyline, production values, music etc.)
If I can answer ‘yes’ to most of these questions, then I will likely go see it.
Once I’ve seen the movie then it is time to think about how I can bring it up in a conversation, bible study, or a sermon. The way I tend to do that, is to ask myself the following five questions.
- How is Jesus the better savior/hero/answer to the ultimate need/dilemma/question of the movie?
- If Jesus was inserted into the movie, how would it have been different? What would he have said to the different characters?
- If Jesus was actually in the movie, what were his most meaningful moments in the movie?
- What does the Bible say about the events depicted in the movie?
- What was the overall message of the movie? How is it similar or dissimilar to the overall message of the Bible?
There is no doubt that movies, both religious and non-religious can be excellent tools for witnessing. Of course not all movies are created equally. But I have found that when I take the time to determine whether or not the movie is worth seeing. And then take the time to think about how it might be used in a conversation. Jesus gives me the opportunity to use the movie as a fruitful means of talking about who he is, what he has done, and what he is doing now.