Witnessing on the Job
February 1, 2002 - Making films is a thrill ride: intense, unpredictable and sometimes exhausting. On location the job often demands that the cast and crew work and live close together, becoming like family.
by John Shepherd
The cast and crew who are believers witness first in word. The Gospel is often clearly presented in the script; we'll work and read through it with each department, making sure that people comprehend the message of the movie and can communicate it using their gifts and talents.
But film is a visual medium, and people in the film industry respond to "action"—what they see us doing and how we treat one another in the process. Our witness is often seen in the way we handle conflicts, crises—or even such things as payroll. The cast and crew on a film set can be castelike, so we eliminate the "pecking order" each morning with scheduled prayer. The prayer time is optional, but we "hold the work" and pray, even using two-way radios, so that all can participate.
In a business with dangerous stunts and sometimes hostile environments, it's exciting to see grips and stars, executives and extras, start the day gathered in a circle. Holding hands, they pray for unity, favor and protection—and then watch as the Lord God reveals His "special effects."
On a film set there's a lot of down time as people wait for the next shot. Engaging coworkers in conversation, taking an active interest in individuals and their jobs, getting to know them and asking about their backgrounds invariably open the door for me to talk about my faith. Everyone has a story, and most are willing to tell it if we take the time to listen. When we do, many of them are genuinely surprised. I've yet to be turned down when I've offered a simple, "I'll pray for you."
I always carry a New Testament and a tract or two on the set. Once, when I was caught without either, I felt like an actor who had forgotten his script at home. Nevertheless, God brought a man to salvation that day.
We were shooting in Los Angeles, California, in a dangerous neighborhood. The atmosphere was tense. When we discovered that one of the stores we were planning to use for filming was actually an adult bookstore, we hastily changed locations.
Down the street was a self-service laundry. The owner spoke only Spanish, so, in our desperation to negotiate, we asked a tough-looking guy to interpret for us. Not only did he close the deal, but he heard a lot about our mission as filmmakers for Christ.
Later, in response to his questions, I told him about Jesus. He prayed to receive Christ right there on the street, and he has since consulted with us on several potential stories for World Wide Pictures, Inc. (the film ministry of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association).
God can use us no matter what our occupations. When we make it a point to listen to people and to pray with and for them, God gives us the opportunity to talk to them about Himself.