Lead ’em to the Water

ABC is hoping to replace Lost which has been a very successful series and will soon come to an end. It looks like they’re hoping FlashFoward will fill the gap. I have to admit, I haven’t seen Lost but I did watch the pilot episode of FlashForward and I liked it.The premise is that at a specific time, everyone in the world goes unconscious for a little over 2 minutes and during that time they all get a glimpse of what they’ll be doing six months in the future. There is a lot of confusion and chaos that results from the blackout but the FBI starts piecing the events together. One of the lead characters played by Joseph Fiennes saw himself at his office and got a good look at the bulletin board where he is piecing the puzzle together. After his boss is convinced that something is indeed going on, he and his partner start making notes. At one point, Fiennes tells his partner what he saw on the board and his partner writes it down on a 5×7 card and pins it to the board. Finnes tells him, “No, not there. In the middle.” After the card is moved, the two look at each other for just a beat and then continue.

This seems to me to be an excellent story telling method. That one beat between these two spoke without words. That’s something unusual for TV networks to do. They usually assume their audience are idiots and will need to be spoon-fed. But not this time. The silence between the two kind of sucked the question they didn’t ask each other but made us ask it: Did that card wind up there because of what was just said or would it have been there anyway? FlashForward is playing with the rich theological and philosophical questions of free will and predestination. And it isn’t doing it in a stupid, heavy handed manner either. I like that.

I think there is a lesson here in storytelling that Christians should listen to. Nope, nothing to do with predestination, this has more to do with the art of storytelling. And when we tell the gospel, we do tell a story. A true story, the greatest story in the history of the world and really, the story of the history of the world. But it is a story.

A long time ago, I shared the gospel with a very intelligent co-worker. Instead of hitting him with “you’re a sinner and you’re going to hell” I thought it would be better to lead him to that. So we started talking about God’s holiness and our sin. Eventually, the conversation lead to the point where he said “Well, then everyone goes to hell!” I agreed and the explained what Jesus did to solve that problem.
I left a gap that he was force to fill in. I let him reason from the statements I was making and left him to ask the question. That’s just what FlashForward did for us. It can be an engaging way to communicate when handled with care. You don’t want to leave too much out so the person might wind up asking the wrong question. And you don’t want to include too much so they don’t ask. If you’re careful you can tell the truth in a way that they’re not rejecting a statement as much as a conclusion. For most thinking folks, it isn’t sufficient to leave a conclusion rejected without a reason. They’ll have to review the case you’ve made that lead to that conclusion and figure out where they disagree.

This is not meant to be a guarantee of success. Nor do I intend to say that this is the only way to share the gospel. That kind of talk is utter foolishness. All I’m saying is that this can be a useful approach. Though my coworker didn’t come to faith, I did see my pastor do a similar thing with a highly educated man in Asia. A few well placed questions and philosophical observations and we watched the man talk himself into faith. It was pretty amazing.

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One Comment

  • Why is network TV so obsessed with world-shattering events? What ever happened to situation comedy? Thanks for the insightful post.

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