Watching a documentary on film maker George Romero last night, the thought came to me that, in many ways, movie directors can be a lot like ministers. All of the cast and crew of Romero’s production companies praise him: his willingness to listen to any and all ideas from anyone; the way he empowers actors to interpret their roles; and especially his creation of a family atmosphere on the set.
I particularly identify with Romero as an artist. For most of his films, Romero has overseen the creative process from start to finish. He writes the scripts, directs the filming, and then personally edits the final cuts. He even takes part in distribution negotiations, where oftentimes changes can be imposed on a film. I respect Romero’s commitment to creating an artistic vision and then fighting passionately for its unspoiled completion.
For instance, distributors wanted to cut a lot of footage from Dawn of the Dead that Romero saw as crucial to the film. So, he and his partners rented a New York theatre for a night and ran their own screening of the film. With a single one-inch ad in the New York Times, the movie showed to a packed house. A distributor who came to see the movie signed a deal on the spot to distribute the film without changes.
I see my ministry much like Romero directs movies. I work to create a vision of ministry and work from start to finish to see that vision realized. But, it’s not just my vision. A successful ministry empowers all congregants to contribute and own their religious community. Together, they can resist outside forces to compromise their beliefs or limit their actions.
Lastly, Romero makes horror movies and he definitely wants to scare you. But, every one of his movies also has a very up front socio-political message. Dawn of the Dead, for instance, is a commentary on the corruption of commercialization and how we can become trapped in the pursuit of “things” to the detriment of what really matters in life. My ministry will seek to inspire and motivate. But, underneath that will always lie a core of relevance to social justice and equality, and imperative to bring our religious convictions to action.