Tuesday, 26 July 2016

LIGHTS, CAMERA, PULPIT: Summer cinema and Biblical teaching make a cool combo at Transformed Life Church

KEEPING IT 'REEL': Pastor Fletcher's congregation has embraced the film series that recently featured the animated hit, Finding Dory (below).

How do you like your Sunday morning sermon? With popcorn and a Diet Coke? There is no concession stand at the Transformed Life Church (TLC) on Hope Road in St. Andrew, but throughout this month (and last month, for that matter), you can catch a series of homilies, delivered by dynamic preacher Dwight Fletcher, inspired by some of the biggest, action-packed movies making a splash at the cineplex this summer.

Yes, Pastor Fletcher and his flock are exploring “the Biblical truths behind this summer’s biggest movies,” in a bid to gain insight for living better lives, having better relationships and knowing God in a deeper way, through the widely appealing medium of film. By all appearances, we are living in the age of the summer blockbuster as Biblical teaching tool.

Seven films make up the curriculum: Captain America – Civil War; Me Before You; Independence Day: Resurgence; Finding Dory; The Legend of Tarzan; Jason Bourne and Star Trek Beyond. The films are not shown in their entirety during the services, and according to Pastor Fletcher the use of the film as a teaching tool is not an endorsement of the film by Transformed Life Church. It’s simply about drawing parallels between art and life and where God can be found in the mix.

“The truth is that a lot of movies that we watch are a reflection of life. When you watch the movies you can see that, especially in certain scenes, the movies are trying to teach you something or trying to get your opinion on something or move you in a certain direction,” Fletcher explains. “And if you’re not discerning, you might accept that. Sometimes with movies you absorb so much that you tend to respond to life in that way.”

As Christians, Pastor Fletcher hastens to add, it’s all about being vigilant. “So because the movies show this and that, it forces us now to reflect and ask ourselves, ‘Is that what God would have us do?’” he notes. “So here at TLC, we find the Biblical references and position them to what we are learning.”

When TALLAWAH attended a recent 7am service, the spotlight was on Finding Dory, the animated sequel that’s a hit with both kids and adults. Interestingly, Pastor Fletcher was able to draw parallels between Dory’s determination to find her way home regardless of the dangers and Jacob’s struggles on his journey and relationship with his Maker in Genesis 35. In the end, buoyed by the pastor’s keen observations, you begin to see the cinematic story and the Old Testament saga in a whole new light. 
Unsurprisingly, the “God on Film” series has struck a chord with the congregation, comprised mainly of young and young-at-heart upper St. Andrew professionals, blended families and middle-age couples. “We started it last year, but this year the response has been tremendous,” Fletcher tells TALLAWAH, beaming for a moment before regaining seriousness. “It is a teaching tool, so we’re not saying that the movie is correct, and obviously we can’t show every kind of movie. If it is R-rated we can’t show it because we’re not into those kinds of movies. The movie becomes a teaching opportunity because everything we see on film is an attempt to teach us something in life.”

The congregation has embraced the series. “It’s a very practical teaching tool,” shares TLC member Marsha Davidson. “God shows himself everywhere – in film, in dance, in music, giving us more and more opportunities to connect with him.” Orthel Faulkner agrees. “It makes the sermons more energizing,” she tells TALLAWAH. “A lot of the movies are true-to-life and the sermons are supposed to reflect life and speak to you in a relatable way.” 

For his part, Pastor Fletcher is pleased that the sermon series continues to have an impact. “We teach for application not for knowledge,” he says. “You teach so that people will apply what you are teaching.”

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