Friday, January 20, 2006

So What Now?

The hype/confusion/disgust/concern over the movie End of the Spear has been resounding all over the blogosphere, and even into more mainstream media in places. The casting of homosexual activist Chad Allen has created a great furor. Lesser furor has been boiling over the presentation (or lack thereof) of the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

For those unfamiliar with the story, End of the Spear is a presentation of the story of five missionaries who were martyred in their efforts to reach the Waodani Indian tribe of South America. After months of trying to establish a friendly contact, these five men, all with wives and families, decided to take it a step further by landing their airplane on a nearby beach and hoping for the Indians to come out to meet them. On January 8, 1956, all five men were killed by the Indians. In the aftermath, some of the wives of these men were able to establish contact, and lived among these Indians, sharing the gospel of Christ with them and seeing these Indians follow Christ for salvation.

It is sad that the producers of this movie showed show little discernment in casting Allen as a lead role. It is hard to imagine a poorer decision could have been made. Allen stands diametrically opposed to the message of the lives of these men, and has no use for the God for whom these men gave their lives.

It is equally sad that there is no clear presentation of the gospel of salvation by faith alone in Christ alone in this movie. That is, after all, the point of the story. These men did not give their lives for social reformation, or merely to teach people to love others and get along with them. It was not a mission in social dynamics. They gave their lives because they knew that this tribe was hopeless without Christ and they determined to take the gospel to them at any cost.

So what now? Given the poor casting choice, and the lack of a clear gospel, how should we respond? My answer may surprise some.

First, if you were not going to go see the movie anyway, I would not worry yourself about it. There have been far worse movies with far greater media coverage with far less church attention. Go about your life and serve God passionately with the heartbeat of these five.

Second, if you may be inclined to see the movie, go see it … or don’t. But realize that it has already been made and cannot be changed. Hopefully Every Tribe Entertainment (the production company) has learned its lesson.

What about a homosexual activist playing a lead role? He will play it whether you see it or not. I am totally against it. It was a bad decision, but it is done. And God has worked his will through great sinners before, and even a donkey. So Allen fits right in there. Had we never known about Chad’s activism, the message of the film would be the same. It will admittedly be harder to watch, and some may decide not to see it because of this. That’s fine. I would urge you not to blast away at your brothers and sisters who do decide to see it.

What about the lack of the gospel? In God’s work, gospel presentation is not always the first thing on the agenda. In many cases, there are necessary precursors to the opening of the heart to the gospel, precursors that God has ordained to use in people’s lives in his sovereign opening of their hearts to belief. God has used seemingly small and inane things to do his work in the past. He has used relationships (even unwise relationships), health and sickness, financial loss, family problems, and much more. God even used a donkey to open the eyes of Balaam. So, if he chooses, he can use this movie to spark someone’s interest in the gospel. A sovereign God can work in mysterious ways.

The fact that the gospel is not overt is not necessarily compromise. You might invite someone to dinner to get to know them, in hopes of building a relationship that will open the door for the gospel. You don’t bombard them with the gospel in the first five minutes of the conversation. You wait until later, maybe even a day or so later, or a week. View this movie as the first part of a conversation. If you never get to the gospel presentation, you have sinned. If you start the conversation first, then get to the gospel, you have done only what evangelists have done for two thousand years. So use it.

Let’s face it. In reality, this movie might be better than The Passion was, since those committed to preaching Christ will not have to overcome a faulty gospel to get to the real thing.

So ask your friends, “Did you see End of the Spear yet? What did you think? Did you understand what it was about? Can I tell the whole story?”

The old saying goes, “Do not look a gift horse in the mouth.” It fits here. This movie is not the way it should have been done. But it is done, and God is still sovereign. So if the door is open, walk through it. If the door is a ajar, push it open. See it … don’t see it. But be willing to tell the “rest of the story.”


Dan Burrell said...

This is a very balanced and mature perspective on this whole controversy. I've been reticent to inject my personal thoughts on this for several reasons, the least of which is that Steve Saint is scheduled to be at my church next month -- something that has been scheduled for months and because of his amazing testimony given at the Shepherd's Conference at Grace Community Church. Your perspective on this fully captures my thoughts on the topic and I appreciate them.


sally apokedak said...

I saw the movie today and loved it. I don't see how people can say the gospel was not presented? Did you see it? There is a Christ figure in the movie. His name is Nate Saint. He is far more effective at showing the sacrificial love of Christ than Aslan was.

We go to church to hear sermons and we go to movies to be changed by stories. Unfortunately half our pulpits are full of ministers trying to entertain and now it seems that half of Christendom expects movie makers to preach. This is backwards.

Glenn Gordon said...

Not being much of a movie goer, it is easy for me to ignore THIS ONE. I have only seen a couple of movies for the last year or so. My style is the movie about Penguins and Martin Luther - both at the endorsement of someone I trust.

Having been an admirer of Nate Saint's work and experiences since the book "Jungle Pilot" came out while I was at Moody, I feel a hollywood approach to portrayal of him would be hammed up or dramatized (not real life). I do not need any "entertainment" media to embelish my appreciation of the day-to-day involvements and commitment he exhibited.

Maybe, after the dust settles (?), I will drop ETE a note about my making it a point not to see this presentation of Spear because of their compromise in using this "activist" to represent a man whom I deeply respect. Surely there is SOMEONE "of the faith" who has talent enough to play the lead part. Bad Choice ETE!

sally apokedak said...

Glenn, if Steve Saint can get over it why can't you? Do you think you respect his father and love his memory more than Steve does? He is walking in his father's steps, loving his enemies, even to the point of making choices that cost him dearly.

Did you read the WorldNetDaily article where he told how he felt about the inclusion of a gay character? What do you think of that?

I also love Christ and hate homosexuality. I went to the movie knowing who Chad Allen was and thinking it would ruin the movie for me. It didn't.

I loved Luther, too. The penguins? yep it was cute and said much about our amazing God. But End of the Spear . . . Wow! It was really amazing and powerful. You should see it before you judge it.

Larry said...


I am less concerned about the clear presentation of the gospel than I am about the casting. I don't depend on the movies to preach. But let's face it, the story is about the gospel, and how do you make a movie about the gospel withotu a clear presentation of it? I have not yet seen it, but I have yet to hear from anyone (except you) who says the presentation is clear. It may be there, but even the producers have admitted that it wasn't the goal to present it.

Second, we could "get over it," but there is something bigger at stake. God demands that his ministers be pure. In a real sense, Chad Allen was cast in the role of a minister. He was not a good fit for the part. There are no doubt hundreds of people who, while being sinners, could have played the role just as well, and not used it as a chance to try to make homosexuality acceptable. Yet that is what Allen is doing.

Thanks for stopping by and reading. I appreciate your comments.

Glenn Gordon said...

Thanks for your review and comments. I appreciate them. But, until those around me tell me that the Spear is a "Must See", I still choose to ignore it and cling to my former sources of admiration of Nate Saint. I know 2 pilots in missionary service and 2 in-field administrators. I have a taste of what they do in their daily activities. I have read the books, so I do not think I need a movie presentation to enhance and dramatize what I already know. My largest complaint is ETE's choice for the Lead actor. My distaste for ETE's compromise to have a HOMOSEXUAL ACTIVEST portray Nate Saint's Role ruins the whole movie concept.

No, I did not read the WORLDNETDAILY article about the Spear. I don't have the interest. You seem quite enthusiastic about the presentation, and I thank you for your reply. But I will not take the time to view something until I have a very good reason to patronize the showing. I have no such reason yet, so I WILL ignore it and drop ETE a note about their casting later.

sally apokedak said...

Larry, your post on this was quite good. I should have mentioned that. I think you are one of the few balanced people commenting.

I only objected to the part about it not declaring the gospel. It doesn't really. It never says that you must be covered by the blood of Christ. And that's important. However, we shouldn't expect Christian movies to say that all the time, as you pointed out in your post. And if we don't expect that and then look at the movie we can see that it had a very strong gospel message. There were types of Christ everywhere for one thing.

Anyway thanks for allowing me to mouth off on your blog. =0)

sally apokedak said...

Glenn, you have enough interest to drop ETE a note about their choice of actors but not enough interest to read articles on the issue offered by reliable sources. That's your choice but I can't help but point out that I don't think you are wise in that choice.

Patrick Berryman said...

Excellent article Larry. I'm all for anything that opens the door to presenting the gospel. Let's hope that the sideshow doesn't become the circus here.