Movies, Plotlines, & the Gospel

In Uncategorized by Alvin Reid0 Comments

Think about your favorite movie. Or just think about a recent movie you really enjoyed. Why did you love it? Do you ever think about how movies can help students share Christ?

I love helping students have conversations with friends about Christ, not by dumping the gospel on them like an ice bucket challenge, but by starting with a normal conversation about non-spiritual things (at least on the surface), and moving the conversation to the work of Jesus for our salvation. One way I do this is from the perspective of movies. The movies we know and love follow well-known plotlines. I just watched Guardians of the Galaxy from Marvel Comics. Like most adventure movies, it follows the plotline “man falls in hole and is rescued.” Everything from Rambo to Die Hard, from The Expendables to The Avengers follows this storyline.

So does every episode of the Power Rangers! A version of this plotline is “kill the dragon, get the girl” in which not only is someone rescued out of some real or out of a metaphorical pit, but a damsel in distress is saved from some evil person or beast.

Then we have another whole genre, the romantic comedy, or “boy meets girl.” From The Proposal to Hitch, this storyline features a boy meeting a girl or vice versa, after which we learn a couple of things: guys are dumb (just watch the movies to see how dumb), and girls are crazy (they overreact, etc.). But in the end, they finally connect and live happily ever after. We love these, don’t we?

A final example, “rags to riches,” follows the story of Cinderella or more recently The Princess Diaries. In all these storylines we see a similar pattern: a generally happy beginning, followed by tragedy, evil, someone or something evil (or a combination of these), followed by a rescue, a resolution, or some sort of dramatic change, ending in “they all lived happily ever after.”

Why do we love these?

Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson, and Eric Geiger help us to see this through the eyes of two literary greats, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien:

A conversation once held between colleagues C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien speaks to this innate human desire for being part of larger-than-life stories, quests, and victories—the draw of our hearts toward “myths,” which Lewis said were “lies and therefore worthless, even though breathed through silver.” “No,” Tolkien replied, “They are not lies.” Far from being untrue, myths are the best way— sometimes the only way— of conveying truths that would otherwise remain inexpressible. We have come from God, Tolkien argued, and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they do contain error, still reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God. Myths may be misguided, but they steer however shakily toward the true harbor.*

The Bible follows a plotline that stories ever since love to copy: Creation, Fall, Rescue, and Restoration. Take for instance the “kill the dragon; get the girl” plotline. Jesus said He came to defeat the works of the devil. And, one day He will present the church, the bride of Christ, to His Father at the wedding feast of the Lamb.

Kill the dragon; get the girl.

I have shown this to students and seen them go to movies with friends, after which they used the storyline of the movie to explain the story of the gospel. We see gospel truth all around us, even in movies. I taught sharing Christ from the perspective of the whole narrative of Scripture (Creation, Fall, Rescue, Restoration) to a large group in St. Louis. A student pastor emailed me the following week to tell me some middle schoolers who had attended the training invited their friends to see a movie (it was the Lion King when it had been re-released). Afterwards, they took their friends to get milkshakes and from the story of the Lion King explained to their friends the story of redemption from the King of Kings. Middle schoolers! We must help youth connect the gospel to life.

And that includes something as basic as going to the movies.

Note: The above was adapted from the book Get Out: Student Ministry in the Real World by Alvin L. Reid and Josh Reid (Rainer Publishing, 2015).

* Eric Geiger, Matt Chandler, and Josh Patterson (2012-09-05). Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (p. 84). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Header image: Film Projector Lens via photopin (license)

Alvin L. Reid serves as Professor of Evangelism and Student Ministry at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he has been since 1995. He is also the founding Bailey Smith Chair of Evangelism. Alvin has spoken at a variety of conferences in almost every state and on four continents, including over 2000 churches, colleges, conferences and events across the United States and globally. He has written extensively on evangelism, missional Christianity, spiritual awakening, and student ministry. Alvin has a passion to equip leaders for the coming generation who will change the world for the glory of God and the sake of the gospel.