I have a pastor friend in the mountains of East Tennessee who is experimenting with the use of film as a means of communicating God’s truth. He and his church recently posted their first two attempts on YouTube (MountainTrailFilms).
John Rush is the pastor of Liberty Church of Cosby, TN, which is producing these short films. I wrote to him the other day and asked if he would explain what his goal was in producing these films. I was encouraged to read his thoughtful response. The response is below. At the bottom of this post you will find both of the films which they’ve produced so far. Be sure to subscribe to their YouTube channel for their latest offerings. I’m sure John would welcome your feedback as they seek to hone their craft for the glory of God.
I’m glad you liked and are curious about our films.
Last year, I preached a message on Creativity and the Christian Life. I shared: We believe Christians should engage the arts, practicing and improving their craft, to display in the world new visions of God’s glory. I don’t remember if that’s a borrowed statement, but it describes our goal. Our festival was to encourage beginners to try their hand in film and photography.
We announced our plan last August. In September I taught a seminar on Story and Script. Later that month Clint Keller, who finished film school at Carson Newman, taught us Film: Composition and Techniques. Then Audrey Stephens, one our missionaries’ daughters came and taught us Beginning Photography. We filmed in December and February.
Our Festival was April 5, 2013. I introduced the event by mentioning Edwards’ essay “On the End for Which God Created the World” as the inspiration for making movies. The house was full. We showed our films in the auditorium. Our members’ photography displays were in the fellowship hall. It was a great evening.
Now, our local theater will show our films on a Saturday morning.
I’ve long been amazed at the imagination of folks like Jonathan Edwards and C. S. Lewis. They avoided cliches in how they spoke and wrote and were able to communicate to their generation. If glorifying God means perceiving His beauty and reflecting it back to him, as Edwards teaches, we should carve space in our minds for beauty as well as truth and goodness.
A. W. Tozer wrote an essay on “The Value of a Sanctified Imagination.” He said “I long to see the imagination released from its prison and given to its proper place among the Sons of the new creation…. the stodgy pedestrian mind does no credit to Christianity. Let it dominate the church long enough and it will force her to take one of two directions: either toward liberalism, where she will find relief in a false freedom, or toward the world, where she will find an enjoyable but fatal pleasure.” If we are a joyful, imaginative people, we’ll be healthier spiritually—and more attractive.
We think of film and photography as simply another area to explore. It’s not for everyone in the church or for every church. But our folks got behind the idea of making movies to share with our community. And we wanted them to be very Appalachian.
Old Adage: Drama is showing not telling. Preaching is telling. It’s hard for a pastor to pursue art when he’s trained to grab a lexicon. But I think art helps in pre-evangelism, giving platforms for clear tellings when the opportunity rises. Yet things that are beautiful (in the context of the good and true) are not necessarily means to an end. If they glorify God, that’s the end. It’s still hard to wrap my mind around.
We’re just beginners.