`Good Samaritan’ series hopes to kick-start Christian action

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(RNS4-MAY19) Andrew Sheneman, senior producer/editor for The C2 Group, talks about a church curriculum DVD project his team is working on, “Start Becoming a Good Samaritan.” For use with RNS-ACTION-DVD, transmitted May 19, 2009. Religion News Service photo by Lori Niedenfuer Cool/The Grand Rapids Press.

(RNS4-MAY19) Andrew Sheneman, senior producer/editor for The C2 Group, talks about a church curriculum DVD project his team is working on, “Start Becoming a Good Samaritan.” For use with RNS-ACTION-DVD, transmitted May 19, 2009. Religion News Service photo by Lori Niedenfuer Cool/The Grand Rapids Press.

(RNS4-MAY19) Andrew Sheneman, senior producer/editor for The C2 Group, talks about a church curriculum DVD project his team is working on, “Start Becoming a Good Samaritan.” For use with RNS-ACTION-DVD, transmitted May 19, 2009. Religion News Service photo by Lori Niedenfuer Cool/The Grand Rapids Press.

(UNDATED) The camera follows Steve Jones as he walks along an alley in Grand Rapids, Mich., just as he did one early December morning singing “O Holy Night.”

He came upon a man sleeping in the snow that morning, Jones tells his interviewer. But he kept on walking, like the two travelers Jesus spoke of who passed a half-dead man on the road to Jericho.

“The story of the Good Samaritan was really beating me up inside,” Jones says on the video. The man haunted his mind until he returned to the alley, picked him up and carried him to shelter, as the Samaritan did in Jesus’ story.

“The Holy Spirit was beating in my chest so hard,” says Jones, the volunteer coordinator at a local homeless mission. “It’s like, this is exactly what we’re supposed to do.”

Watching the video in his office at The C2 Group in suburban Grandville, graphics designer Chad Gast says, “It’s an honor just to hear these stories.”

Gast and his co-workers are editing more than 100 interviews such as this for a DVD series they hope will kick-start viewers into social action. “Start Becoming a Good Samaritan” will be a six-part video curriculum, workbook and Web site designed to help everyday Christians find ways to combat poverty, pandemic diseases and other social ills through the stories of others.

Andrew Sheneman, senior producer/editor for The C2 Group, calls the DVD project “powerful and moving.”

“You realize you have talents and resources that can bless other people’s lives,” he said.

From South Africa Archbishop Desmond Tutu to Prison Fellowship founder Chuck Colson, the program brings together diverse voices calling on Christians to get involved.

Due out in August, the series is the brainchild of Mike Seaton, owner of the C2 video production and Web development company. After 20 years of producing materials for corporations and churches, Seaton got the itch a few years ago to break beyond the comfortable Christian life.

After a conversation with best-selling author Philip Yancey, Seaton conceived of a project involving many authors — activists and pastors who were living out the Good Samaritan story. Through their interviews he would create a “quilt of what it means to be the hands and feet of Christ today.”

“The church has become like (a) football game,” says Seaton, 56. “We sit on the sidelines. We can have our fish bumper stickers and all this stuff, but if we’ve lost the joy of participation, and Christ is the quarterback with nobody to throw the ball to, he’s just got a bunch of fans.”

By filming the stories of about 60 Christian leaders and dozens of lay volunteers, Seaton hopes to show churches, adult education classes and small groups how to take the field.

“We have to have average people showing us, `Yes, in spite of my hurried life and the economy, God still prompts me to go out and share my faith by helping other people in need,”‘ Seaton says.

His vision resonated with Zondervan, the giant Christian publishing house. Zondervan will produce the DVD series, workbook and a subsequent study book in partnership with C2 and the evangelical aid organization World Vision. The program also will be marketed through ONE, the anti-poverty organization co-founded by the rock artist Bono.

Planned topics and speakers include:

— Who is my neighbor?: Eugene Peterson, Philip Yancey and Tony Campolo

— Caring for the sick: Kay Warren, Francis Collins and Bishop Horace Smith

— Justice and reconciliation: Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Zach Hunter and Gary Haugen

— Serving the poor: Jim Wallis, Shane Claiborne and John Perkins

— Tending creation: Matthew Sleeth, Gerald Durley and Shirley Mullen

— Loving the forsaken: Jim Cymbala, Joni Eareckson Tada and Chuck Colson.

The series is the first time Zondervan has collected so many of its authors for a single purpose, says John Raymond, vice president and publisher for church engagement.

“Instead of people being frustrated that they don’t think they can do anything, we hope this curriculum will spawn enough interest that people will see, `I can make a difference,”‘ Raymond says.

To find those who are already role models, C2 producers flew or drove more than 85,000 miles across the U.S., to London and South Africa. They interviewed people about a wide span of issues: Tada, a quadriplegic artist and author, about disabilities; Wallis, CEO of Sojourners, about serving the poor; Tutu about reconciliation.

In Wilmore, Ky., they talked to Matthew Sleeth, an environmental activist who wrote “Serve God, Save the Planet.” Sleeth spoke of scriptural commands to care for the Earth, and of how he serves God by taking shorter showers and drying clothes on a line.

“A lot of people know what Christians are against,” Sleeth said. “What we have that is winsome is what we are for. I believe that is going to be the real power of this curriculum.”

(Charles Honey writes for The Grand Rapids Press in Grand Rapids, Mich.)

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