Christopher Nolan’s Inception is one of the best films in the history of the medium. It’s a masterpiece operating on more levels than we even have time to cover in this article. But what if I told you if could completely change the way you approach church filmmaking forever? Follow me on this one for a moment.

(By the way, this article will be filled with spoilers. If you haven’t already seen Inception stop reading and go watch it now – we’ll wait)


Now that we’re all on the same page consider the central conceit of the film, the truth the drives the plot forward – it’s impossible to plant an idea into someone else’s head without them knowing the idea came from you. And once they know it was your idea, and not their idea, it’s a whole lot harder for that idea to take hold in the heart and produce life change.

Fortunately, the God’s Spirit can perform Inception flawlessly. But we’ll come back to that in a minute.

Often in ministry we’re asked to create a short film that promotes something (a promo). Or we’re asked to create media that reports and event (a recap). Or we’re asked to introduce an unfamiliar person, ministry or organization (a profile). Far too often the thinking behind thinking behind these goes something like this: ‘If people just knew what we know, they’d care as much as we do.’ But wishing something doesn’t make it so.

Far too often the thinking behind thinking behind these goes something like this: ‘If people just knew what we know, they’d care as much as we do.’

A short film designed to impart information simply cannot ‘Inception’ someone. Just because we’re using the language of film doesn’t mean we’re automatically bypassing the brain and moving the message right into the heart.


Which is why we employ storytelling. Well-crafted stories allow the viewers to imagines themselves as the protagonist. In the process of being entertained people let their guard down, experiencing by proxy the power, truth and emotions of the story.

In my experience, this is often where the God’s Spirit steps into the moment. He pulls off the Inception, moving hearts in the direction he wants them to go. Somehow ‘What a cool story’ becomes ‘I want to live a story like that too.’ ‘I love how they’re changing the world’ becomes ‘Maybe I can change the world too.’ Inception.

So how do we use filmmaking that opens hearts to these sorts of moments?

First, begin conversations with fellow leaders and artists about these ideas. Ask them about what it was that truly moved them to action in the past. I’m willing to bet it’s far more likely to be an inspirational story of someone who made an impact than it is an intellectual conclusion they reached in isolation.

Second, begin to apply the principles of story into your filmmaking. Don’t make a promo about a ministry; tell a story about someone deeply impacted by that ministry. Then tag it with a compelling next step to get involved.

Don’t make a recap about an event; tell the story of someone who came to a similar event in the past and experienced something powerful. Then make sure God is getting the glory for it all.

Remember, people are far more likely to move externally if they were first moved internally.

Have you and your church been wrestling with this? Have an idea about narrative filmmaking the rest of us could learn from? Share a Comment below and let’s kick it around…

What Inception can teach us about church filmmaking

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