Why Film Is So Powerful for Sharing the Gospel

church full of people sitting and watching the Jesus FIlm on a projector

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Film is central to the ministry of Jesus Film Project®—it’s in our name, after all. We believe that film has a unique ability to communicate the gospel with people no matter where they call home. 

As Michael Allen, Director of Narrative Production for Jesus Film Project, explains: 

“Something that always fascinates me about Jesus is that he used storytelling to communicate kingdom truths in his ministry. He did this in part because, during biblical times, you passed on your heritage through the spoken word. Jesus knew that his listeners could connect and understand his teaching that way. That is precisely my answer to ‘Why film?’ Film and media are the cultural pathways in which we communicate ideas. So naturally, we should be using them to communicate the truth of the gospel.”

The power of storytelling is universal. Whether someone’s from an urban center like Dublin or the plains of the Serengeti, stories have the ability to communicate ideas, touch people’s hearts and make a lasting impact. And film combines visual, thematic and musical elements to empower stories and make them even more immersive and influential. 

The JESUS film has taught us a lot

The JESUS film is the most watched and most translated film in history. Billions worldwide have seen the movie, leading to more than 600 million decisions to follow Jesus. Praise God!

Since its release, we’ve streamlined the translation process, enabling us to work with local people groups to speak the gospel’s words in their own heart language. Even the process of translating and dubbing our films into new languages has resulted in life-changing experiences with Jesus

Over the years, we’ve seen how people from every walk of life respond to film’s incredible power. We’ve seen faces light up in Burma and Ukraine. We’ve watched people break down while watching the crucifixion of Jesus in Kenya and Brazil. 

We’re more convinced than ever that film is an incredibly powerful tool for sharing profound and cross-cultural truth. 

Here are some reasons why film is such an effective communication tool. 

1. Film overcomes challenges of the written word

You might be surprised to learn that out of the more than 7,000 languages in the world, around 3,300 of them don’t have a written language. And worldwide, about 15% of people over 15 years old are functionally illiterate

Through the audio translation process, we can use film to communicate with people no matter what their literacy level is—and in the language that speaks most deeply to them. 

The Bible is not yet fully available to everyone in the world, and even if it was, some people would not be able to read it. But film can be used to effectively share the gospel, and often the very words of Scripture. 

2. Film makes it easier to communicate through cultural differences

Simply reading a story about another culture opens us up to all kinds of assumptions. We read a phrase or a word and naturally attribute our own understanding to it. Without even realizing it, we can read stories and information through the lens of our own background and culture.

While film can’t completely overcome this challenge, it can definitely make an impact. We hear the vocal inflections and see the look on people’s faces when they deliver lines. And we pick up context clues from actions and reactions. 

Someone in Borneo may not understand what it means to be a Jew in first-century Israel. But they can understand from context what it looks like for a righteous man to be rejected by his own people for doing good, to be betrayed and killed. They can also understand the significance of the resurrection, especially when they see it with their own eyes. 

3. Film helps reorient our perspective

We all assume that we see and understand the world as it is. For people to have personal breakthroughs and transformational experiences, they often need to see things from a new perspective. There are a lot of ways we can facilitate these breakthroughs. Deep conversations can help. So can literature, music and various forms of art. But film has a unique ability to help people see things in a new way. 

With film, all these powerful elements come together: story, dialogue, music and visual components. These elements help to challenge worldviews and perspectives in a way that bypasses our natural resistance to new ideas. This is compounded in cultures that haven’t had a lot of exposure to film as a medium. 

4. Film is transformational 

At Jesus Film Project, we believe in film’s transformational power. For good or for bad, film is a tool for personal formation. It can improve our ability to sympathize with others, and even stimulate our empathy. But it can also desensitize us, too. This is why we need to be mindful of the media we consume. It has a profound impact on us.  

In some cultures, it’s assumed that information leads to transformation, but that’s not always true. The way we receive information can be quite passive. Someone may receive information and agree with it, but it might make very little difference to how they live. But so often, when truth goes beyond information to connect with us on a deeper personal and emotional level, it has a more significant impact. 

Art can be influential, although it may cause us to work a little to find its meaning. Whether we are looking at a painting or a listening to a piece of music, we wrestle to interpret art in a way that speaks to us. This wrestling is worth it, as art can communicate ideas with beauty and power.

Film is impactful in a different way. It informs us, but it does so while drawing us in, making us ask tough questions, and helping us see things through a different lens. This can help drive information home in a truly transformational way. 

We’ve watched people all over the planet respond to Jesus immediately through their exposure to film—a life-changing message presented through a transformational medium. And we’ve also seen the formational changes that happen over time as people engage with meaningful, thought-provoking, gospel-centered videos. 

Film is an amazing tool for evangelism

The gospel changes lives and transforms people and communities. But in order to embrace and follow Jesus, someone needs to understand the gospel story. Nothing beats film as a medium when it comes to telling a story. Through film, people get to experience stories in powerful, visceral ways. 

We’ve seen the power of film through worldwide showings of JESUS, and we’ve also seen it through showings of films like The Story of Jesus for Children and Magdalena. We’re so convinced of the power of film that we’re working with partners to provide equipment and technology to make it easier to share films out in the field. 

We’re even developing a brand new, animated family film about the life of Jesus! We look forward in great anticipation to how God will use this film to share the gospel around the globe. 

If you’re interested in using film to share your faith, download the free Jesus Film Project app. You’ll find hundreds of free feature-length and short films—most in several languages. 

Also, please consider how you can support the work of Jesus Film Project as we strive to ensure that everyone everywhere has access to the good news of Jesus.