This week, The Gospel Coalition promoted a new short film series from the Acton Institute called “For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles.” On Monday, July 7, The Gospel Coalition offered a coupon to watch the first film in the series for free (normal rental price is $1.99 for a three-day rental) and will continue to offer a coupon for each subsequent film in the seven-part series for the next six Mondays (July 14, July 21, July 28, Aug. 4, Aug. 11, Aug. 18).
“For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles” is a kinda quirky, extremely hipster, theologically rich, artistically beautiful documentary which primarily asks the question, “What is our salvation for?” The series should especially appeal to the millennial generation in its format, look and quality. If you’re a millennial Christian (or younger), watch it. Even if you miss the “free Mondays” this summer and have to fork over the buck ninety-nine, watch it. It’s worth it. If you’re a bit older and not in touch with the millennial generation, it’s still definitely worth watching for what the series says. Just be warned: You might think the format’s a little goofy. Like I said, it’s extremely hipster.
The series host, Evan, starts off the documentary with a voice over, as if he’s writing a letter: “Dear Everybody, I have a confession to make. I’m sick of how we Christians deal with the world.” In the rest of this first episode, Evan talks to two theology experts, Dr. Amy L. Sherman, co-director of the Program on Faith and Generosity at Baylor University, and Dr. Steven J. Grabill, director of Programs at the Acton Institute for The Study of Religion and Liberty, and new idea developer Dwight Gibson, the chief exploration officer for The Exploration Group.
They all agree that Christians too often relate to the world like we’re being invaded, and we react in one of three ways: fortification (putting up walls and shutting out the world), domination (fighting those culture wars as loud as we can), or accommodation (blending in and losing our identities as Christians). Evan very astutely recognizes that we all know we’re supposed to be “in the world but not of it,” but he’s not sure any of us really know what that means.
The film does a great job of presenting the “seek the welfare of the city” missional philosophy in a way that’s easy to understand and especially appealing to millennial hipsters. It’s Tim Keller theology in a NOOMA-for-the-next-generation format. If you are asking yourself the same question — “how should Christians relate to the world around them?” — or even want to start thinking about it, it’s a great use of 20 minutes of your time. If you’re a pastor, Christian educator or small group leader, this series of films would be a great discussion starter for a small group or larger class (each episode is around 20 minutes), especially one for millennials who wear skinny jeans or those who want to understand them.
Kathy Larson is the director of Christian Education and Creative Arts at Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, N.C.