Just how powerful can a story be?
Argo is a movie released last weekend directed by and starring Ben Affleck. It is based on the true story of the rescue of 6 American embassy workers from Tehran during the 1979 Iran Hostage Crisis. In order to rescue the 6 Americans, the CIA developed a cover story for Ben Affleck’s character – exfiltration expert Tony Mendez – to get into Iran and bring them back: they would all pretend to be Canadian filmmakers who were on a location scouting trip for a science fiction movie called “Argo” and were looking to shoot in “exotic, middle-eastern” locations. The movie itself was fake, but their cover story had to be thorough enough to be believable.
So, Mendez got Hollywood involved. To give “Argo” a greater air of credibility, Mendez flew to Hollywood and, with the help of some industry professionals, began promoting his film as if it were real. At one point in the film, the group’s cover story was tested by a disbelieving group of Iranian soldiers. In order to help the soldiers believe them, the group had to show them storyboards from “Argo” and also tell them its plot. Once the soldiers heard and saw the story that the movie told, they were more inclined to believe the group. They let them board their flight, which led to their ultimate salvation.
While I was watching Argo, one thought kept resounding through my head: films have a unique power to communicate ideas which words alone cannot. The same is also true for other forms of art: paintings, music, dance, poetry, images, architecture, plays – all of these have the ability to express ineffable truths. Yet, if art is such an effective and unique means of communication, why do we not use the arts more in the church to help communicate the truths found in God’s Word?
The Apostle Paul knew that the Holy Spirit could help spread the gospel through the use of more than just words. In the 1 Corinthians 2 he says, “[M]y message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit….When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths.”
A story – rather, any form of art – can be an incredibly powerful tool for communication, especially when combined with the power of the Holy Spirit. The church should never lose sight of this truth, for it can help provide salvation for all to whom it ministers.
Gary Ingle is an MDiv student at Fuller, pursuing an emphasis in Worship, Theology, and the Arts. He currently lives in Pasadena with his amazing wife. He is a also a sports fan, TV & film buff, amateur musician and huge nerd.
*Since when is The Town more memorable than Ben Affleck’s name (who directed The Town)? The Burner is very confused by this marketing decision.