This week, I got a pre-release screening of ‘Light in the Darkness’, a new documentary about Christianity in India from ProChurch, thanks to my friend Trent Cornwell, who was one of the film’s producers.
The preview for this film is available as of today. Please go to their page, check out the preview, like it, share it, and consider making this film part of your next missions conference or meeting. I for one am very thankful for the appearance of a film like this, and think you will enjoy it greatly as well.
Here’s a few things that I thought really make this film unique and a refreshing change from most of what we hear from the realm of missions in general, but especially concerning a place like India.
1. It depicts a continuing need for evangelism in India
It seems all we ever hear about India is that the numbers of new believers and churches are exploding all over the country. These reports vary in trustworthiness, but even if the majority of them are true, India is still in great need of Gospel proclamation! Count however you like; there are still hundreds of millions of people in India who have not heard the Gospel. Let me say quickly that I understand why the reports we hear tend to be full of good news. A missionary or organization is excited about the progress they’re seeing (or imagine they’re seeing – it doesn’t matter for this point). So their report goes something like this: ‘Here’s the need in India, and here’s how our organization is meeting that need, and finally, here’s what you can do to help us finish the job.” I get that from a missionary’s standpoint. But the unfortunate, by-product takeaway for many believers is that the spiritual condition of a place like India is steadily improving! The urgency of putting boots on the ground in India is diminished somewhat. Thus, ironically, missions education may at times blunt missionary resolve! Light in the Darkness, perhaps because it does not feature or endorse a particular ministry in India, escapes this problem nicely and leaves the viewer with a sense of the scope of the waiting harvest in India.
2. It highlights individual portraits instead of invisible movements in India
Again, the usual missions news from India is full of big numbers. It’s India, so nothing sounds impressive unless it ends in ‘million’! Generally, we hear the sensational testimonies of a mega-leader who tells of networks of thousands of churches and hundreds of thousands of believers. I still remember when I was in high school, an Indian missionary came to my home church and talked about the million or so people who had been converted under his preaching. The problem with these sorts of reports (thrilling though they may be) is that they are incredibly difficult to substantiate, and equally hard to appreciate. It is hard to imagine a million of anything! For that reason, I thought the decision on the part of the filmmakers to highlight a handful of individuals and their stories to be a wise one. You won’t listen to a larger-than-life personality regale you with astounding, exotic tales (that would raise suspicions if they didn’t take place in India). Instead, you’ll meet Indian brothers and sisters whose very reality and familiarity will prove most striking to Western believers.
3. It makes no mention of poverty or social ills in India
For those of you who didn’t know, India can be a rough place. Abysmal living conditions for many. Huge numbers of street children. Disease, abuse, corruption, etc. It is surely impossible for a child of God to walk the streets of India and not be moved by these tragedies. That is undoubtedly why the great majority of Christian missionary efforts in places like India tend to slide toward the alleviation of these ills, even those that begin with Great Commission goals. Which is what makes this film’s passing over these topics so significant. My producer friend told me that one of the hardest decisions made by the film crew was what not to show. There was some incredible footage that was left on the cutting-room floor simply because it was so clearly detached from Gospel ministry. Thus, India’s problem as portrayed in Light in the Darkness is clearly: “many people in India have not heard the Gospel of Christ.” I don’t want to take away from the film’s most powerful moments, so suffice it to say that one of the most poignant vignettes in the film is a story of glorious salvation! I know this is radical missiology on their part, and I’ll not defend it here. But it was very refreshing to watch a film whose burden was unapologetically evangelistic. As the film does not document a particular ministry, there is simply no hook besides the Great Commission.
4. It carves out a place for the foreign missionary in India
As I said, there is no particular ministry featured in the film. But there are some snippets from an interview with an American missionary. A missionary who is learning Hindi and planning to plant churches. That may very well be the most unconventional part of the film. Everyone knows that missionaries aren’t needed in India. And everyone knows that if foreigners do decide to go to India, they ought to be facilitators for existing national workers, not church-planters themselves. Well, apparently the filmmakers don’t know. And I’m glad they don’t. Now, the film gives no heavy-handed support to a particular ministry philosophy. But they clearly see validity in an American moving to India, learning a difficult language, adapting to another culture, planting Indian churches, and training Indian pastors. Popular missions thinking increasingly calls foreigner involvement in Great Commission ministry into question. For example, I know an American missionary who is raising support to go to India to participate in church-planting ministry. He was recently at a church that also was hosting an Indian missionary. The Indian missionary explained to the pastor that there was no reason to send American missionaries to his country. In such an age, this film dares to call upon Westerners to consider going! Missions media with such an emphasis are unfortunately rare.
I know, I’m a missionary to China, not India. But many of the missiological trends at work in India are just as prevalent in China, if not more so. I can only hope that eventually a film like this will be made in China. But for now, I am thrilled for the message of ‘Light in the Darkness’.