Using Movies in Evangelism

The Son of God movie will be in theaters soon. So far, this movie has not been near the spectacle Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ had been. In fact, it may be said that the lack of success of using The Passion in evangelism may be the reason Son of God is not getting much press.

Maybe this lack of success means Christians should not use movies as part of their evangelistic outreach. Tim Challies wrote about this issue in his post Writing Checks to Mel Gibson. Tim was thoughtful without condemning.

However, Tim quotes a follow-up Barna study which stated that the evangelistic impact of The Passion was “Less than one-tenth of one percent of those who saw the film stated that they made a profession of faith or accepted Jesus Christ as their savior in reaction to the film’s content.” While not a perfect comparison, I wonder if a study has ever been done on the impact of the spiritual life from the number of Bibles sold in the U.S.

Nevertheless, the evangelistic impact of The Passion was horrible when thought of in terms of a return on investments. Yet, maybe Barna is causing us to look at the impact from the wrong perspective. Let’s see what the numbers look like if we limit the movie’s impact to the U.S. using Barna’s numbers with an average cost of $10 per ticket to count heads.

Total life time domestic gross:

  • $370,782,930/10 = ~37,078,293 people
  • ~37,078,293 people * .001% (Barna’s number) = ~370 professions

So, using Barna’s numbers (if my math is correct) about 370 made a profession of faith in Christ because of The Passion. Forget about how much money the movie made, that goes to Gibson and the rest involved in making the movie. Think about how much it cost those who saw the movie. It only cost about $10/ticket, plus some movie food, and some time.

I am sure most Christians probably feel that spending $10-$30+ and a few hours with unbelieving friends was well worth the time and money. And those 370 or so professions of faith may be seen as priceless!

This brings us to the question of whether or not Christians should consider using movies as an evangelism tool. I think movies can be used – not as the evangelism tool – but as an evangelism tool. Christians can look back at Barna study and at their own usage of The Passion in evangelism and consider how to better use another movie like the upcoming Son of God.

Consider the following two areas Christians might consider to improve their evangelism using the Son of God (or any Bible-based) movie.

One: Use Son of God to move to Scripture. The movie is based on the Bible God gave us. God chose to use Scriptures, the written word, to teach about, and bring people to, Himself. If using the movie for evangelism simply compare it to Scripture to begin a dialogue. It shouldn’t be too hard to use a movie based on Scripture to drive evangelistic conversations to Scripture. I bet Bible studies have started on less!

Two: Use Son of God to stay on mission. That is, the mission of making disciples. The suggestion here is simple – don’t let the movie share the gospel for you. The gospel may or may not be clearly proclaimed in a movie, but it is still just a movie. Movies are great at churning emotions leaving us much to think about. Yet, there is still a personal disconnect from the big screen that warrants personal interaction when it comes to sharing the gospel. Plus, God has commanded Christians to share the gospel.

Maybe using a movie to start a gospel conversation is not comfortable for every Christian. But if you’ve already got their ear, pray for boldness empowered by the Holy Spirit and share! Remember, God assigned the gospel to men, not movies. Besides, it’s a cheap date with eternal potential for a movie you’re probably going to see anyway.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jennifer McSparin (@mcjennn) February 19, 2014 at 10:12 am

You hit the nail on the head…these tools can be good conversation starters. Last year’s “The Bible” miniseries on TV did that with a lost friend of mine, who was quite taken by the stories in the series. He hasn’t accepted Christ, but it got us talking, and better yet, him thinking.

2 tshelliott February 19, 2014 at 12:54 pm

A movie will never replace the witness of a believer as they work with someone who has a hunger or desire to know spiritual truth. But it can be an effective tool in helping to explain spiritual concepts using something familiar to those with whom we are sharing. It is merely a seed from which can grow something strong and beautiful. It is God that gives the increase.

3 Mark Lamprecht February 19, 2014 at 1:10 pm

Jennifer and tshellior, thanks for the comments and grasping the spirit of my post.

4 Dave Miller February 20, 2014 at 1:28 pm

I loved “The Passion” though obviously it was a bit Catholic in presentation. I did not primarily view it as an evangelistic tool, though it could spur some conversations. I saw it as a reminder of what Christ went through and found it moving on that level.

I’m not sure how truly effective movies are as evangelistic tools – the Passion, Facing the Giants, Billy Graham’s movies. Any of them.

5 Mark Lamprecht February 20, 2014 at 1:59 pm

Wife and I didn’t enjoy The Passion too much due to all the RC additives. I’m not sure how effective movies are as an evangelistic tool either, but if we intentionally used them as such I’m sure the “success” rate would be much greater. We simply have to open our mouths. 🙂


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