By Vince Williams
April 9, 2013
Opening on March 3rd, History Channel’s The Bible received ratings unexpected by Hollywood elites. By its final episode on Easter weekend it had been seen by over 13 million viewers. Through various blogs and news articles I have seen Christians take a stance both for and against the various episodes and their accuracy to the written word. My goal is not to condone the choices of the producers, but to evaluate how those choices affected their results. Has The Bible shown us a new way to reach out to our neighbors? As a person who is passionate about church communication in the world today, here is what I took away from this highly viewed and somewhat controversial series.
Keep it simple. The message of the Bible is both simple and complex. It’s an epic that offers amazing details that can be studied for a lifetime; however, the completion of our faith can be summarized in one verse, Luke 10:27:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
The Bible mini-series left out details that, although important, did not always translate to the crux of the storyline or to the screen. Did the lack of these details hurt the story? I don’t think it did, at least not for the film’s intended purpose.
It is important that we find ways to communicate God’s love without too many details that can take away from the crispness of that message. People need to develop in maturity and knowledge, but keeping our outreach simple allows people to engage with God and start down the road of that process.
Keep it Purposeful. The Bible can be so many things at so many times—a book of wisdom, love, peace in tragedy—however our communication should be more focused. The mini-series focused in on the specific “big” stories it wanted to cover in order to paint a picture of God’s love and mercy. Its mission was not to relay every theme and story throughout the Word.
We should make sure we know the purpose of our communication. What is the purpose of this form of communication? What needs to be conveyed for people to take the next step? Anything more than that can be overwhelming to the viewer.
Keep it Sensational. This one is always a hot topic for debate. The story of the Bible is filled with sensational, bigger than life tales that paint the picture of God’s omnipotence. It is imperative that we do not understate that grand scale.
After working in church marketing for over a decade I have seen that provocative language and strong visuals get attention. The pastel colors and floral designs that are too often synonymous with Christian culture do little to attract the attention of part-time church attendees and non-Christians.
One scene from The Bible movie that stood out for me was Moses and the burning bush. I have seen this represented with a little fire on a sage brush or even a lot of fire on a tree, but this movie made it a big living and breathing spectacle. I was moved at how they represented the power and strength of God with the scale and beauty of those flames. In that moment it called me into a conversation with God about his majesty.
God’s glory is seen in the scale and beauty of the Earth he has given us, in our creative hand, and our artistic minds. It is ok to go a little “Hollywood” with our special effects as long as we are true to the story and representing God as He is: glorious and magnificent.
Keep it Coming. Maybe the best part of this mini-series is the fact that 13 million people viewed it, the fact that people are talking about it, and that they are wrestling with its accuracy. We need to not be paralyzed by our inability to convey all of God’s word quickly, and push forward with the message. Compromises were made on this film’s storyline, both to fit it into the limited number of hours it had and its budget restrictions. But, did it do good? Did it convey the basis of God’s truth enough for people to seek more? I think so. And I think we need to keep showing the world the big, bold and beautiful stories found within the Bible, so that people can wrestle with the idea that there is a God who loves them and who wants to know them.
After all, God’s Word is the greatest epic ever written.