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Popular movies can give openings for sharing gospel, speaker says

GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–The popular movies that Hollywood produces can be used as tools to reach non-Christians with the gospel, according to a speaker at Student Week, Aug.7-13, at Glorieta (N.M.), a LifeWay Conference Center.
Jerry Nash, Baptist collegiate minister at McNeese State University, Lake Charles, La., led the seminar, “The Gospel at the Movies.”
Stories and popular forms of entertainment have always been used to witness, he said, while also noting that Jesus repeatedly used stories in his ministry to communicate God’s message in ways his audiences could easily understand, such as the parables of the prodigal son and the Good Samaritan.
Quoting Acts 17, he said the Apostle Paul used the idols the Greeks worshiped as a starting point in presenting the gospel. He pointed out that the Greeks had a temple “to an unknown god” and from there explained the identity of the one true God.
“Movies can become an incredible bridge if you allow them to,” Nash said. “The Holy Spirit uses things you wouldn’t imagine to pierce people’s hearts.”
He said themes such as faith, sacrifice, love and a search for meaning often are woven into movies. The film, “Contact,” heavily reflects the theme of faith while “Saving Private Ryan” addresses sacrifice.
Movies such as these can be used to begin conversations that can lead to discussions of the gospel, Nash said. “You’re appealing to what’s already gone past their defenses.”
Nash said movies strongly influence people’s worldviews in today’s society. They play on emotions and messages are communicated, even though the viewer may not be conscious of it.
All people everywhere have four questions in common, Nash said, and a person’s worldview is determined by how they attempt to answer them. The questions are:
— Where do I come from?
— Why am I here?
— Is there any justice?
— Where am I going?
These questions of origin, meaning, morality and destiny are found in the themes of many popular movies, Nash said. “We are bombarded with images and we don’t always evaluate what those images mean.”
As an example, Nash used “The Truman Show,” explaining the image of a powerful being above controlling the life of “True Man.” In the end, it is a life from which Truman must escape to find what is truly reality.
Another example he cited, “Titanic,” plays on “the myth that we can control everything.” Many people think that their lives are unsinkable, Nash said, and they feel hopeless when they finally hit an iceberg. It is at these moments that they need God the most.
The Christian worldview is presented in many movies, Nash said, but Christians must realize it is presented as the non-Christian world sees it. Christian characters are often portrayed as fanatical or hypocritical.
“At worst, [the Christian worldview] is seen as dangerous,” Nash said. “At best, it’s seen as lacking credibility.”
He encouraged students to think critically about the movies they watch. Viewers should be looking for the themes and worldviews presented in movies and for ways the story can be used to illustrate biblical truth.
LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention sponsored Student Week.

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  • Tony Imms