Film is one of the best ways for people to experience empathy for others, tap into their own emotions, and explore complex topics and themes. While the film industry is full of mindless popcorn flicks and trash, it also has the ability to spark deep conversations, explore the depths of humanity, and help people open up about their own thoughts and feelings. That is why the Jesus Film was released 41 years ago and why the Jesus Film App is a popular way to share the Gospel.
“To be able to share Gospel truths with people in film follows what Jesus did so often when He told stories in parables,” says Chuck Gipson from The Jesus Film Project. Recently Chuck joined Indigitous for one of our Digital Outreach Workshops, explaining how to use the app to start spiritual conversations. The app contains the feature-length Jesus film, short segments of the film, and various short films in over 1,800 languages.
When sharing a short film with someone, it’s important to watch it first by yourself, giving yourself time to think about how you connect with it, what questions and thoughts about God it prompts, and how you can use it to segue into a spiritual conversation. After the person you’re sharing with watches the film, ask them follow-up questions: How do you identify with this? How does this film make you feel? What does this make you feel about a relationship with God? Each film in the Jesus Film App comes with a few suggested discussion questions that you can use.
If you have a great discussion following the film and it leads to an opportunity to share the Gospel, you can tap a button that will bring you to the GodTools app, which has several helpful Gospel presentation tools that will walk you through how to have that conversation.
Starting a conversation
To show how to go from a normal conversation to sharing a short film and transitioning that to a spiritual conversation, Chuck and his wife role-played the scene. In this scene, Chuck is living in Orlando and spends hours online playing videogames with his friend, Lori, who lives in Australia. After playing Madden for four hours, Chuck uses the opportunity to share the short film La Liberté De L’Interieur.
Chuck: Man, I almost beat you this time.
Lori: Yeah, keep dreaming.
Chuck: Hey, I just sent you a link to a video that I think you’ll like. Take a look.
Lori: Okay, just give me a minute.
[Lori watches the film]
Chuck: So, Lori, what did you think of the film?
Lori: Wow, I really loved it.
Chuck: If you were to unpack that film, what are the different themes you saw?
Lori: Gosh, there were a lot of themes: Bondage, freedom, change, loneliness, joy.
Chuck: Yeah, I got a lot of that, too. That’s kind of where I was thinking about it, too. But one of the major themes that I see in this is regarding freedom. You know, it makes me think of the spiritual freedom I have found.
Lori: What do you mean?
Chuck: Have you ever thought about spiritual freedom? What does it mean to you?
Lori: Well, I think it might mean that sometimes our worldview is limited to what we know and then something happens and that expands our horizons.
Chuck: Yeah, I can see that. I remember in my Humanities class we talked about changing horizons and stuff like that. But let me tell you what I mean when I say spiritual freedom. Would that be okay?
Chuck would then use that segue to talk about God, spiritual freedom, and the Gospel. “The films are meant to start you on a journey that the person showing you the films can continue when the film is over,” Chuck says.
Navigating the app
When opening the Jesus Film App, if you tap “browse,” it brings you to a list of different kinds of content. The best starting place for having a spiritual conversation is the “Conversation Starters” category, which currently has more than 40 videos in nearly 200 languages. Once you choose a short film, you can download it (helpful if you won’t have wifi), share it with another person, and use the question prompts to start the conversation.
In addition to those Conversation Starters, when browsing you will also find Jesus, the feature-length film after which the app is named, and other feature films. If you have two hours to watch the feature film, that’s great, but that’s not usually how people consume such content. “How many times have you gone to church and heard your pastor preach the whole book of anything?” Chuck asks. “You’re not going to see that happen. Our pastors are trained to teach us Gospel truths one piece at a time, so we’ve done that with the Jesus film.” To make it easy to share individual scenes of the film, the app has broken up the film into 61 bite-sized segments.
Each of the segments is available in multiple languages, with more than 1,600 languages currently available for Jesus. Aside from the language drop-down on the clip, you can also use the Map feature to find the appropriate language for the person you want to share with. Once you select a nation from the map, it shows you all of the common languages in that country that are featured in the app, and helps you find video content in those languages.
When having a spiritual conversation with the Jesus Film app, one of the most important things is to not put pressure on yourself to bring the person to God. No one can make a person accept Jesus as savior; only the Holy Spirit can do that. “I can just do my part, share the Gospel using these resources and let God take care of the heart,” Chuck says.