“Among all varieties of evangelism, film makes one of the deepest impressions, even more than hearing a proclaimed message, reading words of Scripture or listening to a friend’s witness.”— Atlas of Global Christianity, 2010
In 1987 I went on a mission trip to Guatemala where I met the wildest four missionaries you’d ever want to meet. These guys didn’t preach in cathedrals with stained glass, but rather hop on their motorcycles and take off to various parts of the Guatemalan backcountry where even today many still live without motorized vehicles, cell phones, running water and gasp!—regular updates on Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber. One of their primary methods of evangelism was showing the Jesus film. For electricity, one of the guys would strap a generator to his dirt bike while another would bring a fold-out screen. People in remote parts of this Central America country would turn out in large numbers to watch the film. Untold thousands of missionaries in other parts of the world have done similarly and the strategy has proven highly effective. For spreading the Good News, I love the power of film!
When I speak publicly on media discernment, I often cite the Jesus film as an example of why I’m not anti-entertainment. I make sure my audience knows that Campus Crusade for Christ, the group behind this film, estimates that a whopping 225 million people have made decisions to follow Christ after viewing it. I’ll then often go on to say how films such as Fireproof, To Save a Life, End of the Spear, Not Today, Grace Unplugged and even The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe can point people to Christ and encourage other aspects of the Christian walk. How could I be against a delivery system that’s done so much to build the Kingdom?
Well, recently I discovered yet one more reason to be a huge fan of the medium of motion pictures: It’s called Create International, and it’s an offshoot of Youth With a Mission. As I perused CI’s site, I found a video link that told me a little more about the ministry and began watching. I was completely taken back when one of the individuals interviewed was Rev. Daniel Kikawa. I’ve known Pastor Daniel for years and have even spoken at his church in Hilo, Hawaii. Like me, Pastor Daniel is not part of Create International. He just believes in what they do.
So, here’s why I quickly became a fan of CI: In a nutshell, the group uses film to share the gospel, but with a twist. Rather than use subtitles (as most video-using missionary organizations do), they film actors from unreached people groups who, in their own language, creatively share Christ. I guess it’s a no-brainer, but I hadn’t really thought much about the power of using non-subtitled film to reach people for Christ. To date, 61 indigenous people groups such as the Aceh, Bamar, Hui, Isaan, Awandi and Balinese now have a gospel film in their own language (don’t feel bad if you haven’t heard of these; I hadn’t either). I randomly chose an indigenous group and watched a film geared toward them. Sure, I didn’t understand a word, but I got excited nonetheless. You can find out more info on what they do here, and here’s a sample of some of their work.
My next step was to talk with the Cal and Carol Conkey, the couple that launched this initiative. That happened recently by Skype. I asked them how they got involved in this media outreach.
“My wife was Miss Media Person and I had a background in cross cultural ministries,” explained Cal, underscoring the sum of their experiences and expertise paved the way. It was a blessing to talk to them because I realized that their brainchild is making a huge difference among peoples most of us will never even hear about, much less meet.
The Bible makes it clear that the harvest field is ready for harvesting. The problem is not a lack of people ready to respond, but a lack of workers willing to share. Jesus asked us to pray for more harvesters. I see the Conkeys as harvesters, using the sickle of film making. They’ve seen great results. Would you join me in praying for them and their ministry Create International? Seriously, would you? If so, pray, too, that the Lord would send additional people into unreached people groups with laptops and cell phones to share a movie with these potential brothers and sisters in Christ.