Rick Santorum’s Film Studio Turns Worship Service into Movie Night

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Having clean entertainment made by dedicated Christians is a good thing.  But when we turn God’s church into an entertainment venue, we’ve lost the point.

You might think the photo at the top of this page is a joke.  It’s not.  It’s an actual church postcard on outreach.com, a website for churches to buy advertisements and evangelistic tools like banners and brochures.  It’s very representative of the kind of attitude that is permeating the church today.  An attitude that we can substitute everyday fun for worship, put God’s name on it, and that makes it okay.

Those of you who are interested in politics may remember Rick Santorum as the Republican presidential candidate from 2012 who lost in the primary to Mitt Romney.  Since then, Santorum is no longer in politics.  He is, however, in entertainment.  His film company, EchoLight Studios, intends to release four films a year, including a re-release of the film adaptation of Max Lucado’s The Christmas Candle.  The twist?  They plan to release movies in churches, not theaters.

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The company explained its decision by saying it wants to “fuel the missional needs of the hosting local church,” as well as to “empower the church to bring in people to see films.”

Hold on a second.  I thought the purpose of the church was to serve God, not to have a movie night.

This is the culmination of a problem that has plagued Christianity for the past several years.  We have Christians making movies, music, and books, but it doesn’t stop there.  Instead of making the media an expression of Christianity, the media becomes the main point.  We start thinking that we can’t do God’s work apart from the media, and even worse, start acting like the media and God’s work are one and the same.  At the end of the day, we’ve reduced God to another segment of pop culture.

Here’s the bottom line: Christian media serves a good purpose.  It helps us to, as Phil. 4:8 tells us, focus on good things.  But that should never be confused with the gospel.

“Oh, but these films are just another way of sharing the gospel!”

Really?  Is that so?  Then explain this quote:

“Our vision is not to create sermons wrapped in a movie but to create content that inspires, fascinates and incorporates a strong Christian worldview.”

It’s not about the gospel.  It’s about entertainment.  Clean entertainment, and entertainment with a good message, but entertainment nonetheless.  What else does “inspires” and “fascinates” mean?  They are a film studio, not a missionary organization.

So before you flock to these churches to watch these movies, ushering in a new age of Christianity, ask yourself what the point is.  Where is God in all of this?  Is He the focus?  Are we coming to worship Him?  Or are we slapping his name onto a nice, clean movie for the sake of making ourselves feel better about neglecting Christianity for the sake of entertainment?

Let’s not reduce God to another facet of pop culture.  Let’s keep entertainment where it belongs, and worship where it belongs.  Let’s worship God.  Not entertainment.

Logan Judy
Logan Judy is a Christian blogger and science fiction author with a Batman complex. At Cross Culture, Logan writes about film, comics, cultural analysis, and whatever else strikes his fancy. In addition to his work at Cross Culture, Logan also blogs and podcasts at A Clear Lens. You can find him tweeting about Batman, apologetics, and why llamas will one day rule the world, @loganrjudy.
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2 thoughts on “Rick Santorum’s Film Studio Turns Worship Service into Movie Night

  1. Dear Mr. Judy,

    With the rise of mainstream Christian filmmaking upon us, your post serves to further the conversation and is both timely and important. As a senior studying business and film who is working for Christian entertainment firms after graduation, and a follower of Christ, this post definitely struck a chord with me. I agree that we should not be “substituting everyday fun for worship” but I don’t think it is fair to say that watching movies in churches replaces God with movies. As you stated, we never want the “media to become the main point”, but I do believe that there are ways to effectively incorporate media that serves as a tool to help people understand the main point without taking it over entirely. Reality LA, one of the big Christian churches in Los Angeles hosts theology and film nights where they show big movies like Jurassic Park and then engage the attendees in a theological discussion after the showing. This serves as a huge outreach event not only to Christians, but also to people who aren’t members of the church. A movie is a really easy way to get someone plugged into a church who may have no interest in attending an actual service. I think we would both agree that God works in powerful ways, and we cannot know how God would use a movie to impact many. This is not to say that these theology and film nights are a replacement for the Gospel, but rather a way to enhance Biblical themes and make way for a Gospel Presentation.

    Movies like Jurassic Park clearly aren’t based in Biblical truth, but the ideas that they promote may align with Biblical teachings. The great thing about movies is that they are able to evoke emotion at a higher level than other forms of entertainment. When Santorum states that he wants to “create content that inspires, fascinates and incorporates a strong Christian worldview” I don’t believe that he wants to create pure entertainment for the sake of entertainment. Storylines and themes in the Bible are both inspiring and fascinating. The Biblical theme of substitutionary sacrifice is powerful and is used over and over again throughout films like the most recent Captain America. When people are so “inspired” and “fascinated” when they see these extreme actions of love in the movies, how much more inspired and fascinated will they be when they hear the Gospel? It is the perfect outlet to bring what people see on the screen into Biblical, life changing truth. For some, these movies could serve to be the most important movies that they see. Not because the movie itself is important, but because the movie points to something much greater. That is the catch. These films always have to look up and point to something greater, or the mission is lost. We can both agree that it is very easy to cross the line, but I believe that is can be done in a powerful and fruitful way. I am excited to hear how this release method for EchoLight plays out and the impact it could have on the lives of many.

    Respectfully,

    Amanda Borland

    • Hi Amanda,

      Thanks for reading and commenting. I can agree with you that there is positive as well as negative affects to be gained from entertainment (which is the reason I started this blog to begin with), but I think we’re flirting with danger when we attempt to blend entertainment in with our worship services, and when we make entertainment part of the work of the church. Which is the work of the church: to teach the lost about Christ or to show them a story outside of Christ that’s a good, heartwarming, moral message? A moral message is great, but it’s not the gospel. My feelings would be different if they were showing a film like The Passion of the Christ, but it’s not. I believe entertainment and the work of the church should be kept in their separate places.

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