Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Power of Storytelling in the Christian Entertainment Industry

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As a Christian fiction author, I have a burning passion for telling stories that point towards Christ. Books are powerful. Not only do they entertain, but the impression they leave on the reader's heart can stick with them long after reading. This seed authors plant can either bring life or death; I have chosen to write stories that bring life, healing, restoration, and are a representation of God's love. 

And I have witnessed just how powerful this art of storytelling can be, too. I have received numerous emails from readers thanking me for writing Purple Moon because of its spiritual impact. I don't take credit for this, only because I know it was God who ultimately worked in that person's heart. 

But these emails only confirm how powerful Christian fiction can be. 
I have recently wrestled with the idea of writing for the secular genre, mainly so I could have a broader audience and have the potential to reach more people. And although this may be a good idea years down the road, I still feel like God has called me to the Christian fiction market. 
But why is that, when Jesus calls us to go out in the world and preach the gospel rather than staying in a "Christian bubble"?

Here's why: If I chose to write secular stories with a subtle Christian message, it may offer a clean, uplifting alternative to other stories in that industry, but I would not be able to overtly offer a story that points directly towards Christ. It is possible to write Christian stories that are not preachy but can attract even non-Christians to God. (There have been several people that have become saved by reading Christian fiction, including my novel, Purple Moon. It is not impossible. Just because it has the label of "Christian" does not mean that non-Christians won't pick up the book and enjoy it as well.)

With that being said, I do not understand why so many people--Christians and non-Christians--continue to bash the Christian entertainment industry. 

Over the past several years, the Christian film industry has produced more movies and as a result has gained far more exposure. Of course, with this new exposure comes new criticism. There have been Christians that look down on this industry, saying that Christians should not "stay within a bubble by producing Christian films since only Christians will watch them". 

I don't believe this is true at all. Just like the Christian fiction industry, it is possible for non-Christians to watch Christian films and become impacted by them. No, we aren't supposed to stay in a bubble. But that is not what the Christian film industry does. The Christian film industry offers films that are clean and point people to Christ--both Christians and non-Christians. We need more of these movies. We need films that are not afraid of proclaiming the gospel; films that are not embarrassing to watch with your family; films that pull you towards Christ rather than away from Him. 

One could use the same argument against church since every Sunday Christians gather in a building to hear a message about Jesus. But these weekly gatherings don't just minister to Christians; they minister to the non-Christians as well. And they do this in a way that is overt rather than subtle. If churches can do this--if they can cause those who have never accepted Christ as their Savior to turn their hearts towards God--don't you think the Christian entertainment field can accomplish this as well? God can allow those who have never heard the gospel to watch these movies and read these books, and He has the power to work in their hearts as they do so.

There is a ministry in both facets: the secular entertainment field and the Christian entertainment field. But frankly, I do not see the point in bashing Christian entertainment (films especially) when it has made a lasting impact on people's lives. If God has called some of His children into this area of ministry, then what is the point in condemning these films? 

God is at work in the arts. And if He has called His children into the Christian entertainment field, then you know He must have a good reason for doing so. 

➙ Closing thoughts:

There needs to be more books and films that can offer a beacon of light in the midst of the dark entertainment field. Christian fiction and films are a ministry. And as a ministry, we are called to proclaim the gospel with boldness rather than in fear of offending others. 

Ultimately, Christian stories are clean yet real; entertaining yet thought-provoking. And rather than leading someone further from Christ, they should pull them closer towards Him—or at least plant a seed and allow God to do the watering.

"When you merge the power of music with the ultimate power of the gospel, it not only has the ability to impact people's day, but it can ultimately transform their lives for eternity."
~For King & Country

✎ What are your thoughts? Do you enjoy watching Christian films and reading Christian books? What area of the entertainment field do you think has the potential of reaching the most people: Christian or secular?
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  1. I so agree. But I also think it's sad all the things that are coming out today that are supposedly Christian, but are not spreading the truth at all. Films like Noah are telling the public false things about the Bible, but telling it as if it were truth. We need more good, real Christian media. :)

    Thanks for a great post, Tessa! :)

    1. I know exactly what you mean. I started to watch the movie Noah, but I just couldn’t finish it. I think God’s version of that story was perfect to begin with and didn’t need to be messed with at all. =)

      Thanks for commenting!

  2. I think the main problem with the Christian entertainment industry, especially films, is that the Christians who are making them are not striving for perfection and professionalism. Many of the films have badly-written plots and bad production, and I think that that is the main downside to the Christian film industry. And many Christian books are not well written either. I am totally for what you are saying, but I think more believers need to realize that in order to make a difference in the world they need to strive to become professionals in the art God has given them. Just my thoughts. =)

    1. I couldn’t agree more. I’m not sure if it’s lack of budget, but I am disappointed in many of the Christian films that I’ve seen. I think those who are interested in getting into the Christian arts need to first study, practice, and study and practice some more before they jump in. Yes, God does want us to stand out—but I don’t think He wants us to stand out in a negative way. ;)

      I also don’t understand why so many Christian films (and books) are very unprofessional, especially since we are supposed to be a representation of the Ultimate Creator. He lives inside of us, so we should be able to produce quality material.

      Anyway, at least there are some Christian films that are both inspiring and of good quality—such as the recent film, God’s Not Dead.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Victoria!

  3. A very thoughtful post, Tessa.
    Overall, I would say that it's hard to measure whether Christian or secular media has the power to reach more people. I worked in a library for several years and suggesting a Christian fiction book to non-Christians was mostly met with skepticism- but not always. On the other hand, I wonder if secular books with a little Message mixed in is too often watered down to the point that it's easy to pass over. (Oh, this character prays before she sleeps, this one goes to church on Sundays, etc.) Now, I'm sure those comments come off a little negative thinking- but let me switch to agreeing with you that both CAN work.
    Sometimes non-Christians WILL read Christian fiction- and sometimes it WILL plant that seed. Sometimes seeds can come from secular fiction. I actually read a passage this very morning from a secular book written by an author who I don't believe is even Christian! but somehow I found God speaking to me through this particular paragraph, leading me into prayer about something that needed addressing. Who knew?
    I guess all this rambling is just to say that God moves and speaks in mysterious ways and that I agree with you completely that we should never condemn those who are working to follow His guidance. If you aren't lead towards writing secular fiction at the moment, that's completely alright! God must have a plan in mind for the Christian story you have to tell. If He ever does lead you to writing secular fiction- also great! Because even if we don't fully understand or see the results, we can't go wrong in seeking His will, in which there is always purpose.

  4. I think we need more authors like you, Tessa, who are willing to have a strong message about God and life with Him. I am really glad you're wanting the message to be more prominent than subtle in your books, but I would support you whether you wrote for the secular market and/or Christian one. I agree with the other comments that Christian films or films about the Bible should be sound and accurate. I can learn lessons from "secular" films--films that have spiritual lessons if we look for them, but I also think that it's not fair to say that Christians who work in the Christian industry are trapped in a bubble. God can use us in either field, but praise God if more and more Christians are willing to share valuable messages under the Christian banner. Thanks for writing an important post like this in this timing. Keep writing! ~Katy

  5. This isn't about this post, but when will the results from the last Monday Minute Challenge be posted?

    1. I don't know when they'll be posted but I know Tessa was in the hospital over the weekend and diagnosed with diabetes, so I guess it could take awhile.

  6. oh, well thank you for telling me. I will be praying for her. I was wondering why she didn't post it yesterday!

  7. I know what you mean. Moms Night Out was a clean wonderful Christian movie. And another blog I read bashed it because they mentioned video games (so what??). The author of the blog complained about the music and that the women's dress was indecent. I personally found nothing wrong with what they were wearing. The author of the blog expected the movie to have hymns and head to toe covering as far as clothes go. But nobody would come if it was like that. They had a happy medium to appeal to non-Christian and what they did was clean and Christian. That's is part of what made the author of the blog mad- was that they did a happy medium.


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