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DVDs give modern view of Jesus’ parables

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–If the story of the Good Samaritan were retold with modern-day characters, what would it look like?

How about an elderly white man on a busy street playing the role of the man who was robbed, a wealthy doctor and a youth leader playing the role of the priest and Levite, and an Arab taxi driver playing the role of the Good Samaritan?

That’s how a new DVD-based Bible study curriculum called “Modern Parables” retells the story in a 13-minute film. The story of the Samaritan is one of six films that are part of the Modern Parables series, which seeks to help Christians better understand the meaning behind Jesus’ parables. Each DVD is accompanied with an application video (approximately 10 minutes), in which a pastor explains and applies the parable, along with a study guide for use in a group setting. The DVD also includes the director’s commentary.

The series — available at LifeWay Christian Stores and LifeWayStores.com — is the creation of Thomas Purifoy Jr., a film buff who produced, directed and wrote all six films. (Trailers are available at ModernParables.com.) Each film is visually unique and different, mainly because Purifoy borrowed ideas from various movie directors. For example, some scenes in the Samaritan film were inspired by a movie directed by Ingmar Bergman. The six films, which range in length from 13 to 22 minutes, used professional actors.

“I believe it’s a step toward understanding the original text,” said Purifoy, who got the idea for the films in the early 1990s while in school at Vanderbilt University. “The DVDs are not an end in itself. These are simply tools that are to be used by pastors and teachers to teach the Bible and to explore how to live in the Kingdom of God.

“They are not simply entertainment. We want people to be entertained by them — we put some sugar coating on them — but what I’m really trying to do with this is to do what I call pre-exegesis or compressed exegesis — by keeping the parables very, very accurately tied to the original text; then the hope is that we can help people get to the heart of the parable.”

The curriculum — endorsed by Craig Blomberg of Denver Seminary and Robert Lewis of Men’s Fraternity — is aimed at small groups, although some churches have shown the films in their worship services. Christian schools, home schoolers and families also have used them.

“I thought the movies were great — they were very well made,” said Jim Day, assimilation pastor at PaulAnn Baptist Church in San Angelo, Texas, which went through the series in six weeks in their small groups. “We were able to make [the parables] very applicable to our lives.”

PaulAnn’s senior pastor preached a parable-focused sermon each week to complement the small group topic. Additionally, during the week when the small groups studied the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the church showed the film in the service on a special outreach day. The church even advertised the film’s showing on local television.

In addition to the story of the Good Samaritan and the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the Modern Parables curriculum also spotlights the Parable of the Hidden Treasure, the Parable of the Shrewd Manager, the Parable of the Widow & Judge and the Parable of the Sower.

Two Southern Baptist pastors, Gene Mims of Judson Baptist Church in Nashville, Tenn., and Frank Lewis of First Baptist Church in Nashville, provide application commentary for two of the films. The other pastors featured in the application commentaries are Jeff Schulte, ministries pastor at ChangePoint Church in Anchorage, Alaska; Scotty Smith, founding pastor of Christ Community Church in Franklin, Tenn.; Daniel Doriani, senior pastor of Central Presbyterian Church in St. Louis; and George Grant, senior pastor of Parish Presbyterian Church in Franklin, Tenn.

Having a pastor apply each parable, Purifoy said, was critical.

“All good teaching goes back to two principles — exposition and application. That is, understanding the text and applying the text,” he said. ” … I feel that the pastoral office is the most important office in explaining the text. There’s always the possibility in our modern world of people taking a story and making it whatever you want. The parables don’t do that.”

The films are available individually and in a complete set.
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.

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