Award-winning filmmaker Stephen Kendrick kicked off this year’s Christian Worldview Filmmakers Guild with a session on the 10 Core Values of the Christian Worldview Film Festival. His talk set the tone for the Guild and the entire festival, speaking to what the priorities in filmmaking must be in order to honor Christ. In fact, the principles he shared apply to all of life.
Despite it being the number one core value, Kendrick wove the preeminence of Christ into every other core value that followed.
Core Value #1 – Preeminence of Christ
He shared that when we put Christ the center of our lives, everything else falls into place. “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,” so he exhorted filmmakers to ask, “‘What does the Lord want me to do?’”
“What matters is not what the critics or your friends, or even what you want to do. The paramount question is, ‘What does the Lord want me to do?,'” Kendrick challenged.
As he shared about his own filmmaking experiences, he pointed out that we tend to make choices about who should be in or work on our film based on who’s the most impressive, but not necessarily who God wants to use. God chose David over Saul, because God alone knows the heart.
So when God is moving you to make decisions about your film, you must choose to honor Him above everything else. God’s ways are higher and different than our ways. Different from Hollywood’s ways.
Kendrick pointedly asked, “Can God trust you to honor him when you’ve got a lot to lose? If you fall on the sword for anything, fall on the sword for Him. Don’t run ahead of Him.”
Core Value #2 – Humility is not an option.
Kendrick pointed out how God always favors the humble. He’s choosing the one everyone else overlooks. If God wants to use someone, He often has to humble them first. So he exhorted us to humble ourselves first; don’t wait for Him to do it for you.
Pride causes us to deceive ourselves. Makes us think we’re more important than other people around us. Just about every sin is due to some kind of pride. Kendrick warned us to not to get bent out of shape when someone else gets the credit when you think you deserve it.
He encouraged the filmmakers to relax, collaborate with one another, set ego and pride aside, and work as iron sharpens iron to help one another improve — for God’s glory, not one’s own.
Core Value #3 – Your primary call is to be a disciple of Jesus.
Matthew 28:18-20 tells us to go make disciples of all men. In an increasingly disconnected world, we can’t rely on filmmaking to be our discipleship.
Kendrick urged us to be about disciple-making on the set. Create an environment that’s conducive to discipleship. He shared about how an unbeliever on the set of War Room gave his life to Christ at the end of the shoot because he witnessed authentic discipleship throughout the entire process of making the film. What you do behind the scenes is as important as what ends up on screen.
Core Value #4 – An authentic portrayal of the world is not Godless or Christless.
Does Hollywood make realistic movies? Top grossing movies are Avatar, Avengers, and Harry Potter (most are fantasies). No, Hollywood does not make realistic movies and shows no consequences for sin.
In the real world, there are consequences for sin. So this notion that we should pitch good Christian themes and stories to the curb in order to make ‘realistic’ films is a cop out.
Most Oscar winning films are not realistic. What ‘realistic’ film got an Oscar? Chariots of Fire, a true story that inspires and honors the Lord.
Core Value #5 – Filmmaking should not replace personal evangelism or discipleship
God created us to know and love the people around us. We have a generation addicted to technology, and they’re disconnected from each other. It’s incumbent upon us to nurture relationships with those God calls to work with us in every aspect of a project, not just filming.
Core Value # 6 – Fear the Lord in all things for He will judge every work.
Our words will be judged by God. Romans 14:12 says each will stand and have to give an account.
We all need a healthy fear of the Lord. James 3 warns us to be careful about being a teacher, because you’re held to a stricter standard.
“You’re held accountable for the influence you have,” Kendrick notes. Filmmakers can lead people astray theologically.
He implored filmmakers to ask, ‘Lord are You pleased with what’s in this script? How I’m stewarding the finances?’
He shared that he wants to give God an ‘Abel offering’ not a ‘Cain offering.’ Abel gave God his best, so should we.
In the scene in Fireproof where he’s tempted to view pornography, we felt needed to change what it said on the computer screen or we could inadvertently lure children into how to view pornography. So we chose fear of the Lord over convenience and reworked that scene, which was painstaking, when we were exhausted and just wanted to be done.
“Let the fear of the Lord guide your decisions,” Kendrick instructed.
He read some scripture to help cut to the chase.
Romans 2:16: “This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my Gospel declares.”
“He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart,” I Cor. 4:5.
Kendrick also read Romans 2:5-8 and then asked, “Do you feel uncomfortable? You need to feel uncomfortable in the presence of a Holy God.”
Core Value #7 – Esteem others as more important than yourself.
Kendrick asked, “What causes me to put myself first? Pride. What causes us to put others first? Love, humility causes me to put others first.”
Christ washing the disciples feet is like Donald Trump coming to your door and offering to clean your toilet.
He pointed to Philippians 2 where we see the humbling of Christ. The God-Man becoming a servant.
Kendrick exhorted us to give up our rights and yield to Him.
He wrapped it up with Philippians once again sharing from Phil. 2:3, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit. Regard one another as more important than oneself.”
Core Value # 8 – Embrace critique.
Kendrick points out that creatives tend to love their own work and hold it over their hearts and ask, ‘What do you think?’ If people shoot at our work, we take it personally. Devastating us.”
The Kendricks call it ‘shark tank’ where he and Alex go after each scene and sharpen one another to cut and hone things to make it better.
“We’re being honest and open then we ask others to come in and critique,” Kendrick shared. “Be willing to get honest.”
He admonished that when we’re willing to receive critique, we get better. He also noted that there’s a big difference between critique for constructive criticism by our peers in order to help our films improve versus the critique we receive from secular film critics.
“We aim our movies at the church and are overt about the Gospel,” Kendrick explained. “So when they accuse us of preaching to the choir, yes, that’s the point!”
But we can’t just ignore secular critics either.
“Gotta be dead to self. Often there is a strand of truth in those critics. Gotta be better with our scripts, etc.,” he entreated.
I Corinthians 2:14 talks about how people without the spirit cannot understand the things of God. So even though film critics are secular without understanding, we cannot dismiss them or ignore them as an excuse for bad filmmaking.
But he concluded, the world isn’t going to understand our message, so we can’t let the world take us down. Proverbs tells us a wise man will learn, and a wise man listens to counsel. So it must be with us in our films and in life.
Core Value #9 – Honor Christ in the entire production, not just the final product.
Writing, directing, how you treat people on set, what you do with the money — everything must be done to honor Christ. It goes back to the first core value – Christ is preeminent.
Kendrick entreated filmmakers to dedicate their movies to God from the beginning. He relayed how they take half a day and set it aside to share with the crew what the movie is about, how they’re going to treat people, and spend time praying and asking for God’s help. Everything is to honor God.
Core Value #10 – The favor of the Lord is your greatest asset.
He said it wasn’t Daniel’s genius. God gave him favor. It wasn’t Esther’s beauty, but God’s favor. Same with Joseph.
Proverbs 22:1, “A good name is more desirable than wealth, to be esteemed is better than silver and gold.”
God alone changes the human heart.
“Do you feel inadequate? Good,” Kendrick emphasized.
Now let’s get started.