When Ted Baehr asked me to write an article for him on the Hollywood Ministries, I have to confess, I wasn’t entirely sure how to approach the subject. What is happening with these ministries is in some ways unprecedented in the history of the church.
Over the last few years an entire generation of believers has descended on what’s been called “the most influential mission field in the world.” They are actors, writers, producers, directors, pastors, teachers—combinations of these and more. Many are highly trained, many have no training whatsoever, but most have come out of some sense of God’s calling. Some have come to create evangelistic Christian films, some have come to create moral, uplifting content, others have come just to create and be “salt and light” in the secular arena.
It is a work that has been growing for many years—most notably the last few. It is a movement that invites the full support of a church, which is just beginning to learn of what God is doing here.
I have been working in the Hollywood mission field for several years. A graduate of Fuller Seminary with a pastor’s heart, I refer to myself as an ordained actor-producer. This label may raise more questions than answers, but it reflects the uniqueness of this work of God.
From the moment the Lord first drew me to the Hollywood mission field until now, I have found myself in the company of some remarkable people. In the decade preceding my arrival here, a generation of pioneers had a vision of God’s heart for Hollywood and began laying the groundwork.
Beside Ted Baehr, who grew up in the entertainment industry with a father (whose stage name was Bob “Tex” Allen) and mother (Evelyn Peirce) who were Hollywood stars and who has had the Christian Film & Television Commission/Movieguide ministries since the late 1970s, the late David Schall (ActONE/Actor’s Co-Op), Larry Poland (MasterMedia), Karen Covell (Hollywood Prayer Network) to name a few, who established a beachhead in the heart of an industry that has responded to the church at best with misunderstanding and at worst with outright hostility.
Over the past few years, that beachhead has grown into an impressive support network for the body of Christ in Hollywood. From the practical training seminars of Ted’s "How to Succeed in Hollywood (Without Losing Your Soul," "Act One" and "Hollywood Connect," and film screening/discussion panels of "Inter-Mission"to personal intercessors of "The Hollywood Prayer Network" and myriad small group ministries—the result is a substantial framework for any Believer who feels called to this mission field.
Bright-eyed and brimming with purpose they have risen up, established and aspiring artists alike. On arrival, “newbies” fresh off the boat (or Greyhound) have been met with many sobering challenges: the high cost of living in L.A., insufficient housing, and tremendous isolation. If there are 45,000 actors already established in Los Angeles, maybe 2 percent of them make a living at it. So, you can see that breaking into “the business” is a little like walking on water.
Over the last few years, established and aspiring Christian contenders in this arena have come to discover the Hollywood Ministries as a lifeline. They have begun to take advantage of these resources and have spread the word to others.
Recently, both Hollywood and the church have begun to take notice. The phenomenal success of Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ was a watershed event, which ostensibly unlocked the door for Believers in Hollywood. Once unlocked, however, the door remained to be fully opened. It’s been said, it takes 10 years to “make it” in Hollywood. If this is true then my own journey has just past the halfway mark! So, where is the body of Christ in Hollywood now? Well, the best analogy I can think of for the current state of this work is a story of Peter.
Getting Out of the Boat
We’re all familiar with Matthew’s story of Jesus’ walking on the water. After dismissing the dinner crowd, Jesus, not unlike a mother shooing her kids out of the kitchen, tells the disciples to get into the boat “immediately!” and head across the Sea of Galilee—all this so he can steal away to pray and get refreshed. Dinner for 5,000 can really take it out of you, even if you’re Jesus, I guess. A little puzzled, the Disciples climb into the boat and start rowing. Meanwhile, Jesus takes time alone with the Father, recharging his batteries.
A few hours later the disciples were a long way out in the middle of what is technically a large lake. A curiosity of nature in that part of Israel, the winds can whip up a storm almost without warning, which is exactly what happened next. The winds picked up and the waves started rocking the boat. Oh, and it was also 4 in the morning—perfect setting for an M. Night Shyamalan thriller! We don’t know who saw Jesus first, but it was decidedly unexpected, and a cross between spooky and awe-inspiring.
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