Christian Films and False Teachings.
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]oday I celebrate my sixteen year anniversary of being a Christian. Every year on Memorial Day I remember that on Memorial Day of 1998, I became a Christian. I won’t get into my testimony here but I will say that I got saved in a movie theater watching, "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas". It sounds ungodly but this is what God used to bring me to repentance. It’s a long story, and that’s the shortest version I’ve ever told. Sixteen years in the Lord and I’m sitting here on a picnic table, alone, sad, suffering, and persecuted. This was not what I expected when I first became a Christian but that’s exactly why I’m writing today. The fact that I didn't expect this early on demonstrates I had a lot to learn about Jesus and Christianity.
I was surfing the web earlier today and I came across an article on a successful, Christian, filmmaker. As I read the quotes I realized that there was a time when I totally agreed with everything he was quoted as saying. In my earlier years as a Christian filmmaker I taught that, “We shouldn’t beat people over the head with Gospel, “We need to reach the world through our films” and “We can’t be heavy handed in our filmmaking”. I went on a public campaign to tell those things to the church throughout the U.S.. Now, after sixteen years of my faith I find myself right back where I started when I first got saved. Once again I desire to preach the truth through films; not concerned about whether or not it is heavy handed or how it is received. Not ashamed of the message of Jesus trying to live by faith and walk as Jesus walked. Reading the quotes of the "Christian" filmmaker brought to remembrance what Jesus’ brothers said to Him just prior the Feast of Tabernacles:
4.No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world." 5.For even his own brothers did not believe in him. 6.Therefore Jesus told them, "The right time for me has not yet come; for you any time is right. 7.The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil. 8.You go to the Feast. I am not yet going up to this Feast, because for me the right time has not yet come." 9.Having said this, he stayed in Galilee. 10.However, after his brothers had left for the Feast, he went also, not publicly, but in secret.John 7:4-10, NIV
What I see in those scriptures is that Jesus’ own brothers didn’t have a clue as to what he was doing or who he was. The same concept applies in relation to the filmmakers statements. Doing the work of the Father is not about ticket sales, star power, relevance to the times, culture or about gaining acceptance. It’s about doing the will of the Father without fear and without quenching the Holy Spirit, holding to the truth of the scriptures and walking in that truth. Let’s not forget to include proper story telling and character development and all the things that demonstrate skill that and the desire to do it as unto God.
When I first got saved, one of the first things I did was drop out of college for a short while. I wanted to get grounded in the scriptures and allow God to build a strong foundation of Jesus before I found myself on campus sharing the gospel with philosophers and historians who might crush me because of my lack of knowledge of the scriptures. After a short break I returned to college and joined the campus ministry, Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship. I declared my film major and began learning how to make films. By that time I had already worked in television for about four years. Film and television are different crafts and I wanted to learn filmmaking the right way.
I took a playwriting course and after writing my first play I learned a tough lesson from my professor. The script was a heavy handed, corny Christian story about archaeologists finding Noah’s ark on Mt Ararat. The truth was, I didn’t take the time to develop the story. I didn’t put the time into the assignment that it required and the script demonstrated that fact. After my classmates did the reading for me the professor said, “People go to church to hear a sermon. When they go to the theater they want to be entertained." That comment stuck with me and I tried to incorporate it into my writing, but no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t resist incorporating the Christian characters and church settings. I never did anymore work on that script. I dropped it and went on to the next assignment.
Later, I took some screenwriting classes and all the other filmmaking courses needed to obtain my B.A. in Film and Video Production with a minor in Theater. By the time I graduated I had three short Christian films written, shot and ready for editing. I used those films to launch my first Christian film production company, Five Smooth Stones. My first film, “All You Can Eat”, won three film festivals. I began doing interviews for local papers (see articles to the right) and news stations and I coined the phrase, “Neovangelistic Films”. I was trying to tell the Christian film community that we needed to tell good stories and try to do it in a way that made non-Christians want to see the film. I looked at many of the Christian films of the time and I was unimpressed. Actually, I was embarrassed. I knew there was something wrong with the way professing Christians were making films and I really believed that I knew what the solution was; tell great stories, eliminate the Christian characters and use parables instead of literal situations.
In spite of all the notes my professors gave me there was something I couldn’t ignore. I saw two movies that I thought were great and were made by non-Christians, "The Apostle" and "The Passion.” These were movies that were overtly Christian in the story yet they were seen and applauded by millions. “The Apostle”, especially, made a great impact on me. Here was an original story about an evangelist and everything about the story was about church, preaching, scripture and the life of an evangelist. Somehow these non-Christians, Robert Duvall and Mel Gibson, were able to tell a pure Christian story saturated with scriptures and Christian characters and still make a great film. How did they do it? They succeeded because they told good stories and created great characters. That was it! They didn’t have to avoid anything but poor filmmaking. They told the truth and did it in excellence. That is what Christian Filmmaking was and is lacking.
Today we see a trend that’s been building where more Hollywood production companies are appealing to the “Christian” audience. Professing Christian filmmakers are basically doing what I believed and taught earlier and now we are at the opposite side of the spectrum. Now that I have seen it materialize it is obvious that was not the solution.
Here is the problem I find with this approach. The so-called "Christian Filmmakers" making films that are not heavy-handed, have totally quenched the Holy Spirit. They are ashamed of the gospel. They have avoided the real matters of the Gospel and out of fear have sold out…literally!
Now we are getting to the fullness of why Hodos Pictures came into existence. Hodos Pictures is a film company. It is also a ministry that shares the truth of the gospel. The goal is not just to tell a good story, but to tell a story that will preach the gospel and transform lives through that same Gospel. I'm still learning what it takes to make a film that can transform a life via the gospel and by the grace of God I've learned to avoid both extremes.
“The Apostle”, proved that all this could be done. The question is; how do you do it. The answer is the same way you get to Carnegie Hall from Castle Hill Avenue in the Bronx. Practice my boy! Practice!
Producing the Highwaychild for the last 9 years has shown me something bigger than the problem of Christian or counterfeit Christian filmmaking. The problem is not limited to filmmaking. We have a much bigger problem and Christian filmmaking is just one result of that bigger problem. Remember what Jesus said in Revelation:
4.Yet I hold this against you: You haveforsaken your first love. 5.Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.Revelation 2:4-5, NIV
I have observed and fellowshipped with different church congregations across America during my travels across America. I've watched false teachers such as Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyers and especially John MacArthur and his disciples. I've seen that the church has forgotten its first love. When I first became a Christian back in 1998, “Christian” music and “Christian” filmmaking were just beginning to grow in popularity and cross-over into the mainstream. For the most part, they have removed the truth of the bible and replaced it with generic proxies that cater to a mainstream, secular audience. Not only can it be seen in the work, but if you had the chance to spend time with these artists you would see it in their lifestyle. That same problem has occurred in the church in America and many lamp stands have been removed. We’ve allowed psychology, and the wisdom of this world into preaching and teaching and in some cases eliminated the preaching part and replaced it with teaching sprinkled with eloquent words. We’ve spent more time debating predestination, cessationism, Calvinism, sanctification verses justification, the elect, the depravity of man and all the other fine sounding doctrines that rely on the wisdom of this world. We’ve thrown in more secondary sources than bible sources and forgot that the bible says not to go beyond what is written. When you mix the imperfect (secondary sources) with the perfect (the bible) the result is imperfect. The result is error and falsehood. We don’t preach or teach about lying and false accusations. We don't preach about justice or suffering for the gospel. We teach people to forgive themselves. We tell people that God doesn’t want religion he wants a relationship. We preach about, "The Five Love Languages." We are scared to teach that the the New Testament clearly says that women are not permitted to teach or have authority over a man (1 Timothy 2:12, NIV). We mention repentance in passing but when confronted with our sin by a brother we don’t repent but instead falsely accuse them in retaliation and deny our sin. False teachers love to argue about words and the Greek definition. Their favorite responses to sound doctrine are, "You have to remember the context" and "That was a different time and a different place." They have everything to do with foolish and stupid arguments. They are quick to speak, slow to listen and quick to wrath. These false teachers forget that, “the Kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.”(1 Corinthians 4:20, NIV)
I believe that God has been judging the church in America. Pastors have been getting publicly exposed and rebuked a lot lately. Its all over the news. Judgment begins with the house of God. The Adventures of Highwaychild documents some of this judgment in seven churches across America. As an evangelist I tried to admonish these false teachers and negligent and greedy pastors, with patience and respect but, they all refused to repent. They all thought I was a joke when I confronted them. If they knew me before I became a Christian I don’t think they would dismiss me and attack me. I am a Christian now so, I come in love and kindness and like they say in the world, they take my kindness for softness. So, here comes the demonstration of power.
Hodos Pictures is here to make the call to repentance and demonstrate what that looks like. Hodos Pictures is here to document God's deliverance of his people and His destruction to the unrepentant who are attempting to destroy his church and peddle the gospel for a profit. I myself have renounced and repented of my false doctrines and sinful behavior. I am free now. I am only trying to save my brothers from their own destruction but the harder I try, the more I believe that they weren’t my brothers to begin with. So be it.
I’ve had everything except my salvation taken from me because I preached this message. Professing, born again Christians who I enjoyed fellowship with, tried to throw me in prison for preaching repentance. God protected me and I am still enduring. Not only will I endure, but I will cross the finish line in victory. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Those who deny the truth, can only do some things.
The purpose of this website, the information provided and "The Adventures of Highwaychild" documentary is to present evidence of crimes and injustices committed against the children and families mentioned. It is the hope of Hodos Pictures, LLC that shedding light on these facts would lead to legal justice for these innocent children. This case is about crimes committed against innocent children and not about a marital dispute. It also important to note that mothers, pastors, police officers, judges, lawyers and social services employees have in fact committed crimes in the past and have been prosecuted and incarcerated for their crimes. There are women's prisons and there is a significant population of ex-pastors, ex-police officers, ex-attorneys, ex-judges and ex-government employees in prison. Holding a position of authority comes with a higher level of responsibility and accountability.
From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.
Luke 12:48, NIV
But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.
James 2:9, NIV