Don’t Sell Your Pulpit
No, this isn’t an ode to church furniture.
There’s a curious and discouraging article in the November 20th Entertainment Weekly magazine about producers’ efforts to “sell” the upcoming film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road to Christians (by way of their pastors).
[T]he adaptation of . . . McCarthy’s acclaimed novel about a father (Viggo Mortensen) and son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) traveling through a bleak wasteland is getting the full pitch to Christian audiences . . . Plans include 15 advance screenings for church leaders nationwide, a website featuring free sermon and discussion guides, and a special trailer with extra scenes underscoring the film’s moral message.
This is a relatively new phenomenon, but it has been successful in the past. The most notable film-to-pulpit crossover is undoubtedly The Passion of the Christ, which held advance screenings for ministers and church groups and later supplied resources for pastor use in sermons and group use in Bible studies. The teams that produced Facing the Giants and Fireproof followed suit, although their crossover into pulpit “advertising” was probably considered more acceptable as the movies were made within the Christian subculture pretty much for the Christian subculture. (Hollywood had lesser success but still some crossovers made with the Narnia adaptations and Evan Almighty.)
But The Road has no explicit Christian content. It may very well be the best film of all the films ever marketed for pulpit use, but elements reminiscent of Christian themes are the feeblest excuse for church marketing yet. The money quote from the EW article:
“There are pastors who might not be able to recommend [the film], but would preach about it. I’ve got a pastor right here in Dallas who’s doing a sermon series on the end of the world, and I’m hoping that he’ll incorporate some of the metaphors from this film into his sermons.”
Ah, Dallas: the epicenter of evangelical awesomeness.
Cutting to the chase: The Road will probably be a good movie. Pastors can reference films (and other artifacts of popular arts and culture) till the cows come home. But this is not about helping pastors preach. This is about getting pastors to help impact a film’s box office. None of these guys have impacting evangelical communities as their motivation: they want evangelical communities to impact their bottom lines. We are a market share, a consumer base.
And any pastor who affords preaching time to help pitch a film because of some preferential treatment and free swag is a sell-out. I hope you have a congregation that cares and calls you out.