Posted by: Billy Marsh | August 14, 2007

Why Watching Movie Series Is Like Expositional Preaching

Star Wars Trilogy

For the past month or so, Kim and I have been progressively watching the various sequels, trilogies, and movie series that we own in order to save money since the price of living and dating seems to go up every summer. This method of spending time together is something that we have been practicing for a while, and it has become a warm and delightful time which we look forward to sharing with one another. Kim and I both have a love for movies, and enjoy taking advantage of the technological and creative capabilities that the Lord has given to our generation of movie-makers. About a week ago, we finished up all six Star Wars which was the first time we had watched them all together at once. We began with the older ones and made our way to the new prequels since the recent episodes were especially made with the original Star Wars story in mind. Right now, we have about 1 1/2 hours left of The Return of the King in The Lord of the Rings trilogy which we started last week. We always run through these movies at least every couple of months. Next, we are planning on watching The Indiana Jones trilogy which should be a great experience since Kim has never seen them. Harrison Ford rarely disappoints. In the past, we’ve watched the Superman movies, Pirates of the Carribean sequels, The Bourne Identity sequels, and yes, I will admit, the two Legally Blonde movies. I must say, Kim has been more than an answered prayer as a wife who is willing to watch Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, and so forth with me, so I am willing to subject myself to some of her more candy-coated theatrical tastes.

Mark Dever

But, just how does watching movies with your spouse in this manner relate to expositional preaching? Well, one obvious way that it doesn’t relate is that the text or source material is not the same. I am not intending on placing expositional movie-watching on the same level of significance or importance as expositional preaching. However, as potential expositional preachers, we must not be ignorant of the fact that “exposition” is not exclusive only to preaching the Bible. So for those of you who are looking for ways to string together various date nights with your spouse that creates anticipation and cohesiveness, here are a few examples taken from the benefits of preaching expositionally:

  1. Cultivating a Thematic Structure: Whether we want to admit it or not, all movies carry a worldview and communicate a message. Only those who desire to be ignorant will see even the silliest of movies as merely entertainment and eye candy. However, movies come from a previously written text which has an author who has written his or her own intended meaning into the characters, plot, and solution. Thus, watching a set of movies which was intended to build upon one another or draw off of one another for a fuller meaning behind the events allows for Kim and I to wrestle with certain themes consistently allowing them enough time to set in and for us to respond and evaluate what we have seen clearly and justly. For instance, in expositional preaching, when a pastor plants himself in a particular book of the Bible week in and week out, this allows for the congregation to dwell upon the major themes, truths, commandments, and propositions of that book or letter long enough to become familiar with its overall meaning; thus, leading to a proper interpretation of the material and appropriate application.
  2. Removes Restlessness and Stirs up Anticipation: Watching a set of sequels or trilogies back to back prevents you and your spouse from having to come up with something new and fresh every night to pass the time. It’s already planned out! And, if you’re going through Rocky or Star Wars, that’s a whole week pretty much set in motion. Believe it or not, spending about $30 bucks on a Smallville season really saved us money since there are about 20-30 episodes in a season. We lived off of the adventures of young Clark Kent for a solid amount of time. Also, so long as the movies are worth watching, this creates an atmosphere of anticipation nightly. For instance, once you finish The Two Towers and Gandalf clues you in on the fact that the Battle for MiddleEarth is about to begin, how can you possibly not look forward to the following night when you will see Aragorn take on the Black Gate in utter hopelesseness as Sam and Frodo literally climb up Mount Doom on their hands and knees? This helps Kim and I know what we’re doing each night and also forms a bond between us that assists us in enjoying spending some purposeful, leisurely time together. Likewise, in expositional preaching, as a preacher takes his congregation through a letter of the NT, say Ephesians (Redeemer crew), not only is the burden on the pastor to plan anew each Sunday what to preach removed, but also the congregation is expectant as to what the next message entails based upon what they have already learned from previous connecting sermons. Moving from glorious messages from Pastor Tim on marriage in Eph 5 has created in me an eager anticipation as to what he will show us from Eph 6 on parenting.
  3. A Wholistic Approach Allowing for the Full-Effect: Very simply, this point is meant to convey that sequels, trilogies, and series were not intended to be watched out of order or in isolation. For example, only watching Star Wars Episode I would leave a clueless movie-goer completely out of whack as to what was going on in this story. Or, a similar consequence would be wrought if one pratices as has one of my good friends has by watching only The Two Towers and The Return of the King without seeing or having knowledge of The Fellowship of the Ring. This has led to his low regard for the story which was the best-selling book next to the Bible in the 20th century due to the fact that he had no clue as to what was going on at the end of the story (You know who you are; shame, shame). Watching movie series all at once creates a cohesiveness to your nights and provides opportunity for better understanding of plots, schemes, characters, quotes, and so forth. It encourages us to watch the movies with the intention of deciphering and discovering its meaning and purpose instead of just checking our brains at the door and wasting two hours on what could be beneficial but rather becomes mindless entertainment. In similar fashion, in preaching, taking one verse here and there, and never teaching an exhaustive study on a book of the Bible, a major theme of the Bible, or even the main story of the Bible, leaves the congregation with only bits and pieces of understanding as to what God’s full redemptive plan looks like along with what the eternal significance was of the many characters and plots that he included in the biblical text through divine authorship. This is where I would fall in the camp of those who see every sermon as an opportunity to teach from Scripture a part of the story in light of the whole of God’s redemptive drama (Yes, I’m drawing off of Vanhoozer here a little).

(P.S. You say you can’t afford that many movies? Well, maybe not. But, you must know that Kim and I rarely spend full price on dvd’s. There are just too many used dealers such as Half Price and Movie Trading Company that provide new and old, good quality movies at a very reduced price. These places and more are the main locations where we purchase our movies.)


  1. Watching movies canonically, I like it.

  2. […] Billy Marsh explains why watching a movie series is like expositional preaching. […]

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