Not long ago I watched the movie, Unbroken, the story of Louis Zamperini. It was the best Christian movie I think I have ever seen. And the more I reflected on that statement, I began to wonder, how in the world did Angelina Jolie, who isn't a Christian, craft a movie that gave the best and most artistic version of Christianity ever seen on film, or at least in my lifetime.
While I loved Unbroken as saw it as an incredible gift to the Christian community, many of my peers thought that Angelina Jolie didn't do adequate service to the faith and convictions of Louis Zamperini. But the truth is, that Unbroken gave us Christians a beautiful way forward in our desire to share our faith with others, and there is much to learn from Jolie as to how to do this.
You see, every Christian movie I have seen, every Christian tv show, song, poster, whatever is bound by some awful rule that everything must be about Jesus, point to Jesus, worship Jesus, and clarify how to come to faith in Jesus and continue to grow in him. It is a classic winter camp series jam packed into every medium.
Christian movies don't speak the language of normal people
Christian movies leave no space for "normal" people and "normal" problems. Everything is spiritual, every thing is sinful, and everything points to our need of Jesus. While you and I, as Christians may know this to be true, people outside the church have ZERO touch points with anything that has been said in the last two paragraphs.
You see, those people outside the church have really complex lives, just like we do. There are many facets to their lives, many things that they enjoy, many things they are hopeful for and many things they regret. And the way we share Jesus with people is not by treating them as "other" but as real people with real hopes and dreams. And if and when they open up and want to know a little more about our faith, about our church, about Jesus, then we must first RELAX!
Are you using a Dixi Cup or a Fire Hose?
When someone opens the conversation towards something spiritual, means simply that, they have opened up the conversation. What normally happens, is we take this little crack in the door and kick the door down knocking them floor, or it is like they hold out a little dixie cup asking for some water, and instead we open up the fire hose on them. Both pictures are violent, intrusive, and close the opportunity for any further conversation.
This is exactly what every Christian movie does. They leave nothing up for chance, no questions un answered, everything is tied up into a nice little bow. When Kirk Cameron has his salvation moment in the bathroom in the original Left Behind (Christian movie classic) instead of simply having a moment of quiet, the directors felt like every thought has to be shared so as to walk the movie gower through the entire salvation process. And then the icing on the cake is the back ground song sings the salvation message as well. Fire hose!
People don't come to faith like this. God slowly woos people to himself. And these people who are bring wooed, if we are lucky, extend the dixie cup to us, crack the door just a bit as they want to know more about this life of faith. How great if we actually love these people as real people and simply give them a dixie cup full of water for them to sip and digest and consider until they are ready for the next dixi cup. Think of what a better reputation the church would have if we loved people like this and walked with them at their pace, not crushed them at any opening?
Meet people where they are at, not where we want them to be.
The dixi cup is exactly what Jolie gives us Unbroken. We get little glimpses of Zamperini's faith, we see his real and normal life, which is compelling, we see his doubt and his humanity. And at the end of the movie, we get two sentences about how his faith impacted the rest of his life. 2 1/2 hours of movie and then 2 sentences about his faith. But anyone who is looking for a dixi cup of conversation about faith, got exactly that.
When you share your faith are pouring water into a dixi cup or are you unloading the firehose? May we all be a little slower and filled with more grace and mercy as our friends and family are slowly inching their way towards Christ.