After The Film Festival Is Over

It’s in the can.

That’s movie speak for the principle shooting is done and now the work of editing begins. We are kind of at that point in our Film Festival. This Sunday, we unpack our last film in the series – Batkid Begins. You can catch this one on Netflix, so gather the family around for a good night of entertainment.

We are to be IN the world and FOR the world but not OF the world.

This simple statement defines incarnational, Gospel living. We are not supposed to be hermits secluded from our world. Nor are we called to hate people and live combatively with our culture. Jesus tells us to love others, live peaceably, make efforts to live gracious, humble lives so that by all means SOME may come to know Him. In other words – we are supposed to love people, be FOR them.

But not at the expense of compromising who we are in Christ or His name. THAT is the real tension point. It’s easier to paint everything as either wonderful or sinful. It’s easier to either be a ‘mad-at-the-world Bible Thumper’ or a ‘God-loves-it-all Beatnik.’ Neither of these positions require a ton of thought or discernment.

The Scriptures paint a different picture, a picture with light and shadow and shades and rounded edges.

Acts 17. Paul embraces culture: the art, the poetry, the philosophy. They all form a platform from which Paul can dialog about the Grander Story of Jesus. He’s telling them, “You are on the right track. Let me fill in the details. Let me help you find the Truth.”

Acts 19. Paul confronts culture: can’t worship false gods, man-made idols, delve into sorcery and witchcraft. He stands up, and the conflict is unavoidable. It gets messy and combative.

And so it goes with a thoughtful Christ-follower’s interaction with culture. Is this an Acts 17 situation or an Acts 19? Is there something here to celebrate? Is there something here to confront?

Each of our films this year dealt with big issues. Star Wars: The Force Awakens dealt with father figures good and bad, the importance of legacy, and how the ongoing battle between good and evil often comes down to ordinary people stepping up and doing something instead of nothing. Woodlawn attempted to deal with the issue of racism and whether the Gospel really provides something to heal that deep wound. Bridge of Spies tackled the tension of patriotism and fair treatment. This week, Batkid Begins will reveal a core truth about humanity: our deep hunger for community and desire to help others.

I think we unpacked each of these films well, framing the issues with Scriptures and not just giving cliche, easy answers. But I want to pull back for a moment and ask the question that has really burdened me the last few weeks…

The week after the Star Wars discussion, a man was arrested for shooting his 4-year-old son. The week after the Woodlawn discussion, a black man was executed while in custody of the police in Louisiana AND they captured it all on film. The week after Bridge of Spies our nation’s top law enforcement agency passed on prosecuting a high level politician for leaking more damning information than Colonel Abel ever did, and we sentenced him to 30 years.

Our culture continues to make movies about the virtues of humanity while completely being unable to make those virtues a reality.

We’ve still got massive parenting issues in our country.
We’ve still got massive racism issues in our country.
We’ve still got massive corruption issues in our country.

Here’s the question that is keeping me up at night…

Is the Church really making a difference?

I know the power of the Gospel, how it can change a life, completely and utterly. The question isn’t on the validity of the Gospel…at least for me.

My question has to do with the lack of Gospel-Transformed lives inside the Church.

Here’s what is happening. The culture is screaming for hope and resources to be better kinds of people. The world sees a shadow of that hope. They can taste it, get a glimpse of it. They long for this hope, but it’s blocked from them. It’s like looking up at the sun. They get fleeting, soundbite answers at times. It’s like living in the shadows.

Meanwhile, is the Church playing potluck off to the side?

No program inside of a church is ever going to fix any of these issues. No Bible study. No sermon series.

It will be you. And me. In relationships with messy people. As they get to see the Gospel at work in us and through us, they will see clearer, real answer that they are looking for. But they aren’t going to come to a building to find it. We have to go to them.

It can’t be as just some project either, but as genuine, IN and FOR the world kind of relationships where they can see we are not OF the world.

The prayer is that this series has moved us all to BE the Church. Not just go to church.

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