On February 25 a movie will be released that is going to rock our world. It is about the last 12 hours of Christ's life and is produced by Mel Gibson. I want to invite you to take advantage of this as an evangelistic opportunity.
Rather than write about this movie myself, I'd like to copy a guest article from my friend, Media Missionary, Tim Eason. Tim is author of the book Media Ministry Made Easy. His mission in life is to turn your projector into a powerful ministry tool. He has forever changed my life by helping me produce a number of videos. He manages a popular webpage at www.churchmedia.net
Here are Tim's words about Mel Gibson's new movie, The Passion of the Christ:
Before I start, let me be clear that I am not belittling any prior productions about Christ. Many Biblical films have been made and each has had an impact for the Kingdom of God. But, as I hope we will all experience, none will change people's lives like "The Passion of the Christ" will in the coming months.
It HAD to be Rated 'R'
During my late teens I studied about the "real" crucifixion of Christ. I had never truly fathomed the reality of the utter torment that Christ suffered for us. The images that came into my mind made a huge impact on my spiritual walk. It forever changed me. This experience manifested itself when I wrote a song about the crucifixion. In the third verse of the song I wrote, "I pierced His side. I crowed Him with thorns. I gambled for His clothes. I sealed Him in a tomb." When I looked at those words and matched them with the images in my mind I was so ashamed. The first time I sang the song publicly my voice broke when those words came from my lips. My heart broke as well.... every time I sang it. I decided to leave it untitled, which I had never done before. There was just no way to give this expression a heading. Nothing would do it justice. This experience has been with me since and there is hardly a day that goes by that I don't think about it.
As I became more and more interested in media, I noticed that all of the depictions Christ's death on film were watered down. It was more than a decade ago that I began to tell people, "If someone were to make a realistic movie about the crucifixion of Jesus, it would have to be rated 'R' or even 'X' for violence. Anything less would not be realistic." Little did I know that it actually would happen in the Year 2004.
It HAD to be Mel Gibson
The first exposure I had to "The Passion of the Christ" was in a film magazine that I read monthly. I was a little confused. "Why is Mel Gibson involved in a movie about Jesus?? Sure, he's a great actor, but he's been a few questionable movies. I don't get it." To be honest, I still don't really get it. But, that doesn't matter anymore. As soon as I heard Mel Gibson speak on a talk show I knew he was perfect for the job. I'm convinced that he's a Christian. As to his walk in the past, I don't know enough about him personally and have no right to judge. But as to his actions and words right now, I'm a firm believer in the salvation of Mel Gibson. But being a Christian isn't enough to make a quality film that will touch people's hearts.
It had to be Mel. Not only does he know cinema, the human condition and how to tell a story, Mel Gibson is a Hollywood star. He's a Hollywood SUPER star! Kids love him. Adults love him. Elderly people love him. My Mom loves him. Despite anything he may say concerning religion, the public is still going to love him. Who better to tell the greatest story of all? Maybe God could have used someone else, but right now I can't think of anyone I would rather have had at the helm of the making of "The Passion".
If this movie had been produced by a Christian production company, I'm not sure if they would be courageous enough to depict the story accurately. Sure, I had predicted that a true-to-life portrayal of the last days of Christ would be rated 'R', but never in a million years would I have expected that a high-profile Hollywood actor/director would bring it to film. This movie has tremendous potential to change our society simply because Mel Gibson is behind it.
It HAD to be Now
This period in American history is the perfect time for this movie. What I'm about to say may sound somewhat insolent, but I think of it as a sad truth. Our society has become almost bent on realism, from the endless reality shows to realistic depictions of war and brutality both on the big screen and in our living rooms. Unrealistic depictions of violence are no longer acceptable to our mainstream audience. Even the History Channel recently ran a series called "The Barbarians", showing as much blood as possible and pushing the censor barrier even further. With movies like "Schindler's List", "Saving Private Ryan", "Gladiator" and others that have dominated the Academy Awards, another PG-rated version of Christ's death would have been tossed into the pile with the rest. Our society is unfortunately overexposed to extreme violence and "The Passion" would not stand as much of a chance of success without it. And although I'm talking about box office success, I'm also talking about Kingdom Box Office success. If this movie draws people in to see realism and even one of those is touched and follows Christ, then I say it's worth it.
Aside from our society's lust for realism as entertainment, this movie is accurate and true to the Word of God. I have not read or heard one single word to the contrary from anyone who has seen it. The violence in "The Passion" is not gratuitous or for any form of entertainment, but to finally show the horrific reality of the extreme suffering that Christ bore for us. This movie would probably not have received an 'R' rating had it been made even 10 years ago. I think it would have first received an 'X'. This is the ONLY instance in which I am glad that our censorship system has become so soft. Our society is (or thinks it is) emotionally prepared to see this movie. I think if it had been released before the onslaught of realistic war depictions, many would think it was too horrendous and gruesome to take seriously. Viewers may now go in expecting one thing, but many will come out changed people.
Although a movie like this is long overdue, it's also perfect timing. Our world is searching for security. I think they'll find it in the message of "The Passion".
Your Church HAS to Seize This Opportunity
Any church that does not take full advantage of this tremendous opportunity to reap the harvest will regret it. I've seen this coming for over a year now. In a post to my online community dated August 25, 2003, I said, "Next year will be amazing. We need to take full advantage of the wave that this will create. Start getting ready NOW!!" Of course, as churches we aren't well known for planning ahead (that's why I'm writing this at 1:00AM). But you do have time if you start preparing now.
I implore you to take this seriously. The power of visual communication will be unleashed in a way that you never experienced before. Christians who have taken their faith for granted will weep and rededicate themselves with a fervor that will last for a lifetime. Images of the crucified and risen King of kings and Lord of lords will sear the minds of everyone who sees. They will carry with them the images the ultimate expression of love as a perfect Man sacrifices Himself for an entire world. No longer will we be able to idly sing, "Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?" without picturing the reality of what Christ went through for us. For the first time it will become real to many Christians. Many of us have claimed to understand, "Yes, yes, I know what Jesus did for me." Now we will have no option but to experience it with a realism that will change our understanding of His sacrifice for the rest of our lives. We have to be ready to capitalize on the revival that many will experience.
Those who have pictured a trite Jesus seen in a painting and have written Him off will have no choice but to to re-evaluate their opinion of Christ. For the first time Jesus will be real to them. When the lights come up and they leave that theatre they will walk back out into the darkness of the world. It is up to us to take them in and nurture that seed which was planted in the dark. Many of them will seek us out for answers. We have to be ready for them. We can't simply do church as usual now that we have a realistic portrayal of Christ's death as a tool. HERE are some resources that you can order NOW so that you can be prepared.
You HAVE to Acknowledge the Power
I've said it before and I will go on saying that visual media is the most powerful form of communication that the world has ever known. Nay-Sayers will finally be faced with this reality. For years the screen has been used to deaden our minds to lust, greed, gratuitous violence, murder, drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, homosexuality, even satanism, witchcraft, hate, prejudice, and all the wicked things that fallen man has embraced. However the screen is but a blank canvas as is a piece of paper. It is not good nor is it evil. It only shows that which is projected onto it by those who would use cinema for right or wrong. Now those same screens that have so many times reflected the things of this world will shine out the truth of the Gospel.
And what of your screens? As churches using media we can no longer be content with the mediocre PowerPoint presentations which we throw together each Saturday night. In order to harness the energy that the "The Passion" will release we need to finally and fully embrace the medium on which the Story was told and use our resources to their maximum potential. Normally I would say to take your time, but you've had over ten years master the tools.
The fact is that as of February 25 you will start to run out of time. Those who leave the theatre to seek God in houses of worship will often walk in to face a similar screen to the one they just left. They have been exposed to a high standard of storytelling and will judge us by that standard. Please do not misunderstand me. I am a realist and I know you don't have a production crew at your beckoned call. However, it's time to get serious about this medium of communication. If in the past you have seen visual media as merely an add-on to a church service then now is the time to start using it proactively, but at the same time with balance and care. There are other churches that have squandered thousands and even millions of dollars on equipment and personnel and have yet to truly realize the potential of visual communication.
I have been called specifically to help you maximize the use of media in the Church. I'm only one in a sea of hundreds like me. Many others who actively participate in our ministry though our online community are also called to assist you. Every one has unique gifts and specific talents. If you thought media was just for techno-geeks, I invite you to join us so that we may help you understand our vision and passion for visual communication. We don't just like playing with toys. We seriously want to help you communicate more effectively. We've been waiting for more church leadership to understand and embrace this passion. The door is open and the table is set. It's your move.
I HAVE to See "The Passion"
My original intention was to end with an explanation of why I was NOT going to see "The Passion of the Christ". After writing this I've decided I can't do that. You see, my experience with the untitled song I wrote was extremely profound and life changing. It was painful. God spoke to me through music in a way that I had not experienced before. The thought of seeing the images in my mind of the suffering of Christ come to life in full motion, color and sound is frankly terrifying to me. I'm not in very good health and I have felt that I am physically and emotionally not up to the task. But the fact is, I may be suffering on the outside, but so many people are dying on the inside. My physical illness pales by comparison. I need to see this movie. I have to see it. If nothing else, so that when I do someday run into the arms of Jesus, I'll have a better understanding of His sacrifice to bring me Home. But more importantly, so that I can again be fueled with the passion to keep running the race despite myself.
Who knows how many days I have ahead? Who knows how many days YOU have ahead? God does, but we have to live each day as if it were our last. We will all pass from this earth, but in the end what will matter most is what we do with each day that God gives us. Those who are spiritually dead and separated from Christ need us to see "The Passion", no matter how painful it may be to us, so that we can be vividly reminded about His love that knows no limits; and so we can share that love with others that have seen but not yet understand.
Not of this world,