We often group those that work in fields like the arts, media, entertainment, and advertising as “creatives.”
This is appropriate since all human beings are created in the image of God and one of the primary ways we give expression to our divine image-bearing is by being creative (Gen. 1:27-28).
While every person bears God’s image and is endowed with creativity, those especially gifted at utilizing creative expression deserve our praise and support. In fact, the first people described as being filled with the Spirit of God are Bezalel and Oholiab as artistic designers for the temple of God (Exod. 35:30-35).
That said, when Christians think of Hollywood as an industry, the last thing that comes to mind for many is a group of “divine image-bearers wonderfully expressing their creative giftedness for God’s glory.”
The Hollywood that comes to mind is usually one of two extremes. There’s the grimy and gritty place with rampant homelessness and often bizarre display of humanity on Hollywood Boulevard, which LA residents know is far from the glitz and glitter expected on the star-studded Walk of Fame.
And then there’s the world of professional studios, stages, sets and serious professionals putting out work that is often characterized by un-savory values and largely antithetical messages to the Christian faith. These two extremes however, are incredibly oversimplified and much that God is doing within this industry remains unknown to the public at large.
We are in need of a renewed and insider’s perspective on the work of our creatives.
I’ve met several Christians who are accomplished professional creatives in the last few years that have been reworking my perspective and killing several false myths. One of them works for the Hollywood Prayer Network, which highlights some of the more common myths about this industry.
Myth #1: God is Not Present in Hollywood
CFWLA’s assumption as part of the faith and work movement in Los Angeles is that God is at work in every sector, and that he desires thoughtful Christian leaders with positions of influence to collaborate for his glory and human flourishing.
To my delight, I’ve discovered that there are almost 30 active entertainment-focused ministries serving this need today in Los Angeles. These are not only small workplace prayer groups and Bible studies, which are important. Most of them are serious vocational training groups providing coaching, courses, mentorship, and networking opportunities across many of the various sector career areas. They labor to provide entrance and strategic placement within the heart of working production companies, businesses, and professional organizations. Many executive positions at major studios as well as dedicated actors, producers, writers, and animators are currently filled by caring and highly-skilled believers.
Myth #2: Christians Can’t Make a Difference in Hollywood
There are seasons where much that seems to come out of the LA entertainment industry is difficult to watch as a Christian. Religion gets regularly mocked, anything-goes sexuality regularly pushes on-screen boundaries, political correctness dominates the value-grid, and the vision of the future is largely dystopian.
However, in all this there are significant and influential works being produced with excellence and care. I’m learning to see beyond the paltry “Christian” offerings with sappy overt gospel narratives and mediocre acting. I now look for the many incredible productions influenced by skilled and prayerful workers behind the scenes.
My family consists of avid movie watchers and loves to have rich conversations over many of the releases today. We recently re-watched Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life and then read out loud Brett McCracken’s recent discussion on the epic film. It gripped me in ways I had missed the first time and is a magnificent portrayal of spiritual truth in the lives of ordinary people.
Today there are many examples of top quality works celebrating the spiritually rich, enduring, and timeless stories of those such as Tolkien and Lewis as well as the sensitively retelling stories of moments in history and the lives of famous and ordinary people worth celebrating and remembering by all Christians.
These come to us by God’s grace and the endless labors of thousands of talented people, both Christians and non-Christians. But much of the best offerings are the product of believers embedded in the industry and striving towards common good excellence with a Kingdom impact.
Myth #3: Hollywood Isn’t a Mission Field
It’s tempting to think of mission fields as far remote regions of unreached primitive culture on foreign soils and not LA’s arts and media industry here in Southern California.
But when we define a mission field as a place reflecting a unique culture and language, a large concentration of non-Christian people, and a place of far reaching influence unlike most others, Hollywood begins to look remarkably similar to many of the cultural centers and cities the apostle Paul went to precisely for the promise of great impact of the gospel.
Whether it was Ephesus as a religious center, Athens as a thought and cultural center, Corinth as an international trade and economic hub, or Rome as the seat of power in the western world, the book of Acts unfolds God’s strategic plan (through Paul and others) to engage the places and people that could leverage the gospel message with the most reach for renewed lives and God’s mission in the world.
Myth #4: Hollywood Doesn’t Need Prayer
Those working in LA’s entertainment industry often carry an openness to spirituality and generally appreciate offers to be prayed over.
The tremendous stress and pressure of projects, high financial stakes, rejection, and the tension of working among the overly image-conscious, all while trying to maintain a sense of health, authenticity, community, and normalcy, weigh heavy on workers behind, on, and around the screens and stages of this industry.
A recent report from the CDC shows professionals in the entertainment and media sector are the third most-likely profession to commit suicide. In the midst of this great need, thousands have found hope in Christ and continue, as one leader has said, to move from the desire to be a “star” to instead become a “light” in their workplace.
We All Need Our Creatives
It is the creatives in our midst who cultivate important capabilities for human flourishing such as empathy and imagination.
Fostering empathy is core to the role of an actor in drawing us out of ourselves and into the life and experience of another human being. And to be able to properly imagine something as if it already existed is essential to the creative process needed in producing anything new and good.
In fact, our regular exercise of the essentials of faith, prayer, and hope all depend on a developed use of imagination. We must see the unseen to live the life of faith (Heb. 11:1-3). And our imaginations are cultivated through engaging the arts.
This also explains why God gives us his Word in the form of story, poetry, song, epic drama, and parables. He knows we are wired to only respond wholeheartedly when we experience the creative and varied forms of communication, which engage us emotionally, relationally, and dramatically—not just through information exchange.
So let us value those creatives in our city, both believers and unbelievers, that serve as God’s cultural guardians of imagination and faith. And let’s support and pray for the Christian community’s ongoing engagement and impact for God’s good work in their midst.
Steve Lindsey is the Executive Director of the Center for Faith & Work Los Angeles. As an engineer at Boeing for nearly 40 years, he often worked towards seeing how his work served God’s greater purpose for the world. He and his wife Margaret established the CFWLA in 2017 to help people reframe vocation and understand how all work, no matter the industry, has meaning and purpose.