For years films and filmstrips have been viewed by the church as novelty items—attractions to enliven a sagging evening service or substitute for an absent teacher. Learning from experience (if nowhere else), the church is beginning to respond to communications media tools as resources that can be used rather than merely shown.

Some of the more creative resources to assist in the teaching and preaching ministry are short films or other audio-visual media presentations. These can be placed within the service or teaching hour in order to provide a valuable backdrop against which the rest of the service can be played.

Of course, the more familiar uses of these resources—such as films as discussion starters and training tools—are increasing in sophistication as well. The following might provide ideas on some of the better software currently available.

In Remembrance (distributed by Evangelical Films, 2848 W. Kingsley, Garland. Texas 75041, 214-278-3531) presents a moving interpretation of the Last Supper and the Jewish customs behind it. Using a comfortable blend of narration, vignettes, and monologues, E.C.R.F. Productions captured much of the emotion the disciples may have experienced as they faced the demands of discipleship.

Though the sound is somewhat uneven at times and twentieth-century customs may have been imposed upon biblical culture as Philip talks with his girlfriend, “Beca,” the film provides a beautiful and sensitive interpretation of Communion and its depth of meaning for those who would follow the Savior. In Remembrance could effectively facilitate a worship experience prior to a Communion service, provide the basis for discussion of discipleship in a class or on a retreat, or serve as a vital part of the Lenten season as the church discovers a depth of meaning in the Last Supper. The film runs 47 minutes and is available exclusively through Evangelical Films.

“Exploring the Churches of the Revelation” claims to be a “major teaching and preaching accessory” and the description is justified. Produced by Win Arn, president of the Institute for American Church Grouth, the package contains eight colorful and well-researched films on the seven churches of Asia Minor addressed by the apostle John in the Book of the Revelation.

The eight films include a general overview and seven capsule features on the churches of the Apocalypse. Lasting but five minutes each, the films focus on the historical, geographical, and cultural settings of the Asian churches as they were confronted with difficulties described by the aged apostle John. The music and visual impressions strengthen the informative narration. This is an extremely practical innovation for the pastor or Sunday school teacher. The modest cost ($8.50 per film) places the films within the budget limitations of most churches while assisting the teacher in describing sometimes boring background information in an attractive manner without becoming preachments in and of themselves.

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The films can be obtained by writing to Church Growth, 150 South Los Robles #600, Pasadena, California 91101, or by calling toll-free 1-800-423-4844.

C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as seen on the CBS Television Network is now available through Gospel Films, of Muskegon, Michigan. The delightfully animated Emmy Award winner contains a wealth of Christian imagery as it portrays the death, resurrection, and ultimate triumph of the lion Aslan, the Christ figure, in the delightfully mysterious land of Narnia.

The film is available in two 55-minutc segments ($100) or in four 25-minute installments ($125). A study guide designed to assist families and study groups in exploring the symbolism and imagery of the film can be obtained from local distributors.

Strike the Original Match (New Liberty Enterprises) is a well-edited series of interviews with six couples who candidly discuss the very real dynamics of their marriages. Ranging from the safety of the parsonage and the monotony of a dock worker’s life to the glory of a professional football player and the seeming glamor of a wealthy industrialist’s family, the couples come across as real people with human problems to which most married couples can relate.

Discussion flows over the gamut of frustrations and joys faced by the couples, who talk of their work drives, desire for intimacy, sexual disappointments, process of communication, and spiritual commitments. While evangelical in perspective, Strike the Original Match does not burn out with pat answers and religious jargon.

The length (40 minutes) and cost ($50) of the film would make it a valuable resource for a couples retreat or as part of the family life emphasis of a local church. The effectiveness of the film would be enhanced by a well-guided discussion immediately following viewing. Questions about men’s work drives, sexual compatability, and the role that frustrations play in their homes would allow participants to shed new light on their feelings about marriage.

One of the most interesting innovations in the field of religious media software (tapes, films, slides) is what might be called “multi-media shorts.” “Shorts” are usually two-to-six-minute presentations creating visual images (cartoon, clay figures, real life, clip art) on a specific theme such as forgiveness, love, fear, man’s search for God, communications, or justice. Blending audio and visual stimuli by means of slide projectors, tape decks synchronized through dissolve units (but which are sometimes incompatible with units locally available), “shorts” present a crisp, delicious appetizer for the message of the evening.

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The philosophy behind multimedia shorts is that all of the “message” need not be presented when the youth leader or pastor stands up to speak. “Shorts,” like properly selected music, should be used to create an appetite in the heart and mind of the hearer.

Two of the leading producers of multi-media shorts are the Chicago Multi-Media Company, 6648 North Odell, Chicago, Illinois 60631, 312-775-4265, and Trans Light Media Associates, 1 N 045 Morse Street, Wheaton, Illinois 60187, 312-690-7962. Both producers have catalogues available upon request.

Teacher training materials from independent publishers have come a long way since the first materials were published by Clarence Benson in the thirties. International Center for Learning, the training arm of Gospel Light, has produced an excellent set of training kits that combine cassettes, overhead transparencies, tapes, posters, and complete lesson plans for four basic age groups: early childhood, children, youth, and adults. Each kit provides filmstrips on characteristics of the learner, how he learns, and specialized aspects of the learning process. Though fairly expensive ($59.95) the materials perhaps are the most complete training resources available apart from denominational sources.

In addition, at the conclusion of each year ICL is making available films from their well-received training seminars. Thirteen films are presently available, most of which are demonstrations of what can be done with the teaching hour. Though these films are not high-budget productions, the research behind them and the concepts portrayed are valuable to the local church or denominational training program.

Scripture Press Ministries similarly has produced training materials in their Teacher Development series. Each module in the series (nursery, preprimary, primary, and junior) provides an 80-frame filmstrip, cassette, leader’s guide, and resource booklet on the particular age group. The narrow age group focus and relatively low price ($14.95) may make the Teacher Development Modules attractive to Sunday schools that are seeking to provide basic training for new Sunday school teachers.

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Appreciating the World God Made represents perhaps the first time the Genesis Project (5201 Leesburg Pk., Suite #800, Falls Church, Va. 22041) has put together a package the average church can afford. Built around Creation as filmed for the New Media Bible, the package appears to be a creative method for marketing a super-8mm version of the film on Genesis 1 and 2; accompanying guide books are extremely thin from an educational standpoint.

The Genesis Project has taken as its objective “to translate the written language of the entire Holy Scriptures to the language of motion pictures, image by image, Book by Book, without elaboration or distortion.” Appreciating the World God Made is merely a small, but attractively packaged part of this enormous project.

With some creative revisions, the package could be used for adult education, worship services, or any one of a variety of educational functions for children (VBS, camp, released time, classes, confirmation classes). When viewed as a permanent curriculum purchase, the $295.00 price tag begins to sound quite feasible.

White Lion Pictograph has emerged in the likeness of an alley cat in its musical allegory, A Music Box in Chicago (28 minutes, $38 U.S., $42 Canada). Despite press release claims that the “film is the first of its kind to incorporate gospel music and jazz dance into a simple story about the joy of the Christian life,” the production hardly does justice to the noble idea.

Set in the snow-covered streets and alleys of the inner city of Chicago, producers J. Robinson, and Wendell and Marge Moody have used expressive gospel music, written by Charles Johnson and performed by the Sensational Nightingales, along with creative jazz dance techniques choreographed by Emmy Award-winner Gus Giordano, to contrast with the bleak existence of an assembly line worker. Unfortunately, the story line is so thin, the acting is so wooden, parable so obvious that the movie leaves the viewer with little to think about after the music fades into the cacophony of city life.

Music Box will appeal to audiences where cultural trappings have not inhibited spontaneous responses of joy as long as the quality of the parable is not compared with the works of Calvin Miller or C. S. Lewis. While White Lion Pictograph (146 Melrose Place, San Antonio, Texas 78212) is to be saluted for the innovation it attempts in Christian cinematography, the company will need to invest more heavily in the basics in order to produce a greater pride in its Lion.

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