An increasing cultural shift in recent decades has been for some churches to use film as a tool to bridge the gap between abstract spiritual thoughts, to inspire, and to engage culture. Personally, I have been to a religious film festival, and church services where film clips have been shown. (Further thoughts on these things also came out through the many who participated in the Film + Faith blog-a-thon last November).
One of the film clips that I feel like has made the church circuit on a number of occassions is the clip from Sam Raimi's Spider-Man when Ben Parker (Cliff Robertson) tells Peter Parker (Toby Maguire), "Remember, with great power comes great responsibility."
(This quote is usually connected to the verse "To whom much is given, much will be required" from Luke 12:48).
The popularity and usage of a films clip or quote to convey a spirutual message seems to be based upon certain factors...
1. Did people see this film? (if the point is connecting then an indie or unpopular film is usually not an ideal fit)
2. Is this film generally accepted as an appropriate film to quote or mention? (movies like Breveheart are, movies like Magnolia or Nightmare on Elm Street are not)
3. Is the film clip compact enough to make the point? (usually an over arching character change or complete story is not ideal...I once sat through a very long film clip from The Last of the Mohecians, that in many ways became a mini-train wreck becasue the clip was too long, with too much back story needed to understand the clip, for a point that wasn't quite big enough to warrant the film clip)
4. Is the message in the clip relevant to a popular message theme? (for example, the spider-man clip is relevant to the message many churches would want to teach on)
5. and finally does the character apply the message in a redeeming way? (Many people give great advice to bad/evil characters, but because the character doesn't take the message and use it, it suddenly voids the conversation).
I believe Iron Man will fit the bill in popularity, general acceptance by Christian viewers, and there is the perfect compact point on a relevant message that the character applies in a redeeming way.
The Easily Recyclable Scene From Iron Man I Expect to Be A Part of Church Messages:
In the movie Iron Man, Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) is captured in a secret military terrorist camp. Instructed to make a deadly weapon called the Jeherico he fools the terrorist with the help of another kidnapped scientist named Yinsen (Shaun Toub). Yinsen sacrifices his life to save Tony Stark and give him enough time to escape.
In Yinsen's final moments of living the two men have a moment for Stark makes his final escape.
Tony Stark looks down at the dying Yinsen and says, "Thank you for saving me."
In response Yinsen replies in his final breath, "Don't waste your life."
It's a beautiful scene in the film that signals the completion of the change and transformation in Tony Stark's life.
How This Clip Might Be Used:
For Christian services, and messages, these lines are perfect. In the Christian life, our worship is largely focused on giving thanks for God for the salvation that has come through is death on the cross, at which point our only response back to God can be to praise him and say thanks.
Personally, as a Christian, the struggle past this point is often what would God ask of my life? What should my response be?
Obviously, there can be a lot of application and implications of a line like "Don't Waste Your Life," and for many people that will look differently.
My first thoughts upon hearing this line is actually a John Piper book by the same title (Don't Waste Your Life) or Bill Hybel's book Holy Discontent, about developing a personal vision for the things in this world that bother us.
The fact of the matter is, this simple clip could be used to inspire any generic action-oriented charge that a pastor/minister/teacher would want to inspire from the biggest things (go to Africa to fight AIDs and poverty and tell people about Jesus) to smaller things (give a little extra financially to help buy food for the local shelter).