Jesus was a storyteller.
At any time during His ministry, this is who He was. More a storyteller than a rabbi or a counselor or even a pastor of any kind. When I read the Gospels and immerse myself in the life of Jesus, I see a man who told stories.
Stories that connected audiences to the divine.
Stories that connected audiences to one another.
Stories that connected audiences to themselves.
And even now, 2,000 years later, stories are, to me, the most impactful way to change someone else’s mind or even my own. We exist in a time when many young people feel jaded from the conventional church experience. Yet films, television shows, and web content continue to explode across all platforms. And explode not just in directions of mindless sensationalism but also in directions that push the viewers into the deeper questions of life and how we are meant to exist as individuals and in community with one another.
And yet, because of our church’s historically complicated relationship with Hollywood, many Seventh-day Adventists struggle with the calling to pursue storytelling and filmmaking as a profession.
There are many safe and conventional paths to the medical field.
There are many safe and conventional paths to working in tech.
There are even many safe and conventional paths to becoming a pastor.
But to pursue film is a risk.
The truth is that God in every generation has asked a group of His believers to step out in faith. And He doesn’t promise that it will be comfortable or easy. He doesn’t even promise success on this earth. He just promises that He will be with them.
When I set out for Hollywood more than 20 years ago, I was filled with the hope of what I believed God was calling me to do. I drove out to join an industry in which I didn’t have a degree in the field, I barely knew anybody, and to be honest, I didn’t even fully know what I was signing up to do. But God was with me. And through His guidance, I had the privilege to tell stories with such amazing collaborators as Octavia Spencer, Tony Hale, and Melissa McCarthy. I got to be a part of a team that created The Record Keeper, which opened new visions for what Adventist Church media could become. And I eventually got to join as a professor at Pacific Union College, where I now get to work with students who feel similarly inspired and called to tell stories that have the potential to change the world.
And I can say that the industry is much more prepared for them, and that they, when they leave our educational institution, are much more prepared for the industry. But it is still unconventional to some. As unconventional as a 30-year-old storyteller who moved from town to town telling stories that were so powerful that we still look to them today to understand how to love God, ourselves, and others better.
The truth is that many conventional careers in this life support institutions we don’t even believe in. But often, to be truly called is, in many ways, to create the world and the life that has yet to come. And that is what I believe the true calling of all filmmakers is and why God needs filmmakers.
To create worlds that don’t yet exist.
To cast visions that can be seen by multitudes.
To paint stories of God’s kingdom here on this earth as it is in heaven.