Christian Movies: Does quality matter?

Joseph Bardwell, Chairman and President of In Jesus’ Name Productions

Joseph Bardwell was led to Christ in 1991 while trying to break into Hollywood as a screenwriter. God had other plans for Joe, which led him to the Washington, DC metro area of Virginia.

Joe has worked for over 20 years in the IT industry. During this time, he also served as a lead Bible teacher and evangelist within his church’s teaching ministry. After being involved first hand in mobilizing the body of Christ around “The Passion,” God began to call Joe back to film and solidify the vision for a Christian Motion Picture Studio.

  • How much should Christians care about a Christian film’s quality?
  • Should we judge a movie based only on the numbers of people who see it?
  • What about the film’s effectiveness?

Many have seen the Christian movie, “Facing the Giants.” For many Christians the movie represented a breakout film. The success of the movie was in and of itself a David and Goliath story. Here, a little church in Georgia decided to make a low budget film (between $100-300 thousand) to proclaim the message of Jesus Christ. The movie attracted the attention of Sony Pictures and was distributed in 100’s of theaters before going to DVD. Its popularity exceeded everyone’s expectations, especially Sony’s.

Christians reacted to the film in a number of ways. Most I know were spiritually blessed by the film and even if they don’t want to admit it, many cried. Yet there were also many Christians who were critical of the quality of the film regarding its production quality, acting, and writing. Not to pick on “Facing the Giants” exclusively, there have been many Christian films made over the years with quality issues.

Another well known example is the “Left Behind” film based on the popular “Left Behind” book series. Sighting these examples, there is a debate among Christians as to if the quality matters when making a Christian film. Feature films are generally judged by both the money they make and their quality. As Christians, we may not be interested in box office sales but we certainly care about the number of people who see a film. How much should Christians care about a Christian film’s quality? Should we judge a movie based only on the numbers of people who see it? What about the film’s effectiveness? Our real question should be: Is a Christian film less effective if the quality is lower?

Our answer depends on who we see as our audience. Is our audience only Christians who have a high desire for Christian entertainment, thus, are willing to be forgiving on a movie’s quality in order to receive the message or support the filmmakers? Or does our audience also include seekers or even Christians who are less gracious with the movies they watch?

Does quality matter? If we wish to reach seekers, I believe quality does matter. “Facing the Giants” was a miracle and witness of what a small group of Christians could accomplish together, led and empowered by God. However, if we want to be effective in reaching people, especially seekers through film, we need to be careful that we do not use this success to set a lower bar for quality and excellence. When we lower the bar for excellence, could we not be communicating to the world that Christians are not capable of making films on par with Hollywood? Or, perhaps worse, that the message is not worthy of our best?

Quality matters to God. Consider when God was leading the Israelites. When it came to making the Temple or the objects of worship, quality mattered. God directed the Israelites to acquire the best workers, the best artists, and the best craftsmen because their work was in His name and their work represented Him. If our motivation is to represent God, His Truths, and proclaim them throughout the world, should Christian films not be held to the same standard? Consider the Renaissance where the Church commissioned artists to do great works of art to glorify God, such as the Sistine Chapel. What if the Church said to Michelangelo, “We just want to get our message across so we don’t need the best artists. Just send us an apprentice. As long as he is a Christian, I am sure he will do a good job.”

There is a new ministry that has been established to aid Christian filmmakers to help them make movies on par with Hollywood.

It is the first donor-funded not-for-profit Christian Motion Picture Studio set up to help fund and promote excellence in Christian filmmaking. Excellence, not only in movie-making quality, but also effectiveness in impacting the world with the message of Jesus Christ told through great stories set to film. In Jesus’ Name Productions takes its name very seriously. We make movies In His Name; hence, we desire Christian films to be made with the highest quality possible to honor Jesus, our Lord and Savior.

By Joe Bardwell