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Filmstrips

Does anyone remember filmstrips? In case you’re too young to have seen them, these were still pictures usually projected on a rickety fold-up screen, with recorded narration and a bell or bong or beep telling you when to advance the frame.

When I was a kid, filmstrips were going to revolutionize the field of Christian education. I know because my father was one of the pioneers. He formed a company called Church Screen Productions, rented an office in downtown Nashville (next door to The United Methodist Publishing House), and went to work producing filmstrips.

His first productions used black-and-white photos. Guess who his models were. We have family photos that show us doing everything from reading the Bible to conducting a stewardship campaign.

I remember my dad, barely able to contain his excitement, describing the wonders of the new medium. Years before the term multiple intelligences was ever used, he pointed out that people often learn more effectively from pictures than from words.

He was a filmstrip evangelist, and over a forty-year career he reached thousands of people. In his enthusiasm for the work, however, he may not have realized one important fact: The success of his productions had less to do with the medium than with the passion he felt for educating adults and young people in the values of Christian life. God was alive in those black-and-white photos, because God was alive in my father’s heart.

As we seek to make use of our new technologies—the Internet, the computer, cell phones—we can be sure that in another fifty years they will seem as outdated and silly as the filmstrip does today. Then, as in our time and my father’s time, it’s the faith and love behind the production that counts.

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