Summer is the peak season for movie blockbusters. This week, we take a look at several movies that feature people who honor God in their workplaces through doing excellent work, making a spiritual impact on others, and blessing their communities.
Below, in alphabetical order, are short reviews for seven movies from different eras and in different styles, but with some connection to missional enterprise.
This movie is based on the true story of Pastor Michael Spurlock, whose job to shut down a dwindling church in Tennesee is interrupted by the arrival of a group of Burmese refugees (of the Karen ethnic group). Utilizing the excellent farming skills of the Karen refugees, they turn the church land into a farm in an attempt to keep the church from being closed and its property sold.
The four-minute clip below gives an overview of the story.
None of us are likely to have a job quite like that of William Wilberforce – he served as a member of Parliament for 28 years. Two years into his time as an MP, his life was radically altered when he became an evangelical Christian. His faith led him not only to seek to influence the moral character of the people of his country but to rid the country of its most despicable practice – the trafficking of enslaved African people.
The movie Amazing Grace tells the story of Wilberforce and features an amazing cast that includes Benedict Cumberbatch, Albert Finney, Ioan Gruffudd, Romola Garai, Michael Gambon, Ciarin Hinds, and Toby Jones.
The clip below shows Wilberforce (played by Gruffudd) interacting with John Newton (played by Finney), a former slave trader and the author of the hymn Amazing Grace.
In Dutch and French (with English subtitles), Babette’s Feast won the Oscar in 1987 for Best Foreign Language Film. It is a slow-moving film with deep and powerful lessons, based on a short story by Isak Dinesen. The movie tells the story of two elderly daughters of the founder of a pious Protestant sect, who spurned suitors in their youth, and now preside over a dwindling congregation.
A French woman named Babette appears at their door one night and asks to work for free as a maid and cook. The excellence of Babette’s work enable the women to live and serve faithfully, even as their aging congregation is beset by jealousies and discord. In the end, however, Babette serves the sisters and their fellow worshippers in a profound act of expertise and generosity that brings grace and transformation. The clip below features a toast by General Löwenhielm, one of the sisters’ former suitors, reflecting on the infinite nature of God’s mercy.
This Academy Award winner for Best Picture, depicting the stories of runner Eric Liddell and Harold Abrams is not technically about a workplace. However, as Liddel prepared for missionary service in China (where he would eventually die in an internment camp near the end of World War II), his work (albeit unpaid) was that of an athlete. Most of the movie is a depiction of Eric’s training for the Olympics, and how his convictions guided him and impacted others. It also features one of the greatest lines in movie history related to God’s calling (shown in the clip below).
The Hiding Place, based on a book by Corrie ten Boom, tells how the ten Boom family hid Jews in their home in the Netherlands after the occupation of the Nazis during World War II. The heart of the story is the harrowing depiction of the experiences and resilient faith of Corrie and her sister Betsy when they were later imprisoned in the Ravensbrück concentration camp. However, we also see how Papa ten Boom proclaimed Christ, blessed his community and discipled his own daughters while running a watch shop in Haarlem, Netherlands. The link below shows a flashback to Corrie’s childhood when her father taught her about how God provides sufficient grace for the moment.
Starring Ingrid Bergman, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness tells the story of Gladys Aylward, a British missionary to China. Despite significant license taken by the screenwriters and directors, resulting in numerous historical inaccuracies (Gladys Aylward herself reportedly disliked the film), it does capture many inspiring aspects of Gladys’s life and missionary service. Possibly best known for leading about 100 orphaned children out of China when Japanese soldiers invaded in 1938, Gladys also used her workplace to disciple others and transform the community. For instance, she used the platform of a guesthouse to teach the Bible, and the position of foot inspector to bring women freedom from the practice of foot-binding.
In the clip linked below, Yang, the cook in Glady’s guesthouse, tells Bible stories (with less than perfect accuracy) to the overnight lodgers.
It’s a Wonderful Life, directed by Frank Capra and starring Jimmy Stewart, has become a Christmastime classic that many families rewatch every year. If that is true of you, pay attention this year to the way transformation through business features so prominently in the film. While the movie does not include explicit Christian discipleship (despite the abundant Christian themes), it does depict how our choices, including how we run our businesses, impact our friends, family, and community. Instead of traveling the world, George Baily seems stuck in an insignificant position in a small town. In the end, he sees the impact his life made (by seeing what the world might have been like without him) and much of that impact came through the transforming influence of his business – a small savings and loan. This last clip shows a moment when George confronts greedy banker Mr. Potter.
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:9-11 (ESV)
Let’s pray together this week that God will cause our love to abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment.