The book of Revelation is the focus of a unique approach to outreach. See the Lamb in the Center of Revelation
See the Lamb in the Center of Revelation
By Gerald A. Klingbeil
Imagine you are walking in a large forest. Surrounded by huge trees, you try to find your way through the woods. You see a majestic oak tree; then you recognize a massive fir tree standing next to a slim beech tree; a smaller birch tree is right next to an imposing maple tree. As you look around, you notice more and more trees, and they begin to look very similar. In fact, there comes a moment that you don’t see the forest among all the trees anymore.
You know where I’m going, don’t you? We all face moments when we miss seeing the big picture by concentrating exclusively on the details. We get sidetracked by the particulars and miss the grand perspective.
This very typical human tendency led the team of the Inter-European Media Center (Stimme der Hoffnung) in Alsbach-Hähnlein, Germany, to consider developing a creative approach to the study of the book of Revelation that is relevant for people living in secular cultures. They called it ARNION, Greek for “lamb.” The two faces of the German version of the engaging 10-episode series on Revelation are Judith and Sven Fockner, whose conversation-style segments in the approximately 30-minute programs present the big picture of Revelation as you have never seen it before.
Evangelism can be challenging in those parts of the world where secularism and postmodernism have become the dominant way of looking at life. Whether Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, North America, or—increasingly—many of the major urban centers of the world, there is little space for God and the Bible in the public square. The concept of studying the Bible on TV, and, more specifically, the often-challenging book of Revelation, doesn’t excite most people living in these regions.
The question How can we reach secular people who have no idea about the Bible and no notion of the prophetic book of Revelation? was high on the agenda of the Inter-European Media Center team as they thought about creative ways of communicating the gospel and the unique prophetic message of Revelation. ARNION was born out of the realization that postmoderns listen to big-picture narratives, and are intrigued by what is applicable and relevant to their lives. Put some tantalizing video segments shot in various international locations (including Bolivia, South Africa, and Germany) into the mix, and you get an engaging video series that introduces viewers to the center of the Apocalypse—Jesus Christ—and the cosmic conflict between Christ and Satan.
One of the key elements of the series is to highlight the personal and existential dimensions of ARNION. Simply put: every episode asks the real question about the relevance of the particular topic from Revelation presented in the episode: What does this address in my personal life?
In episode six, for example, the focus is upon the Lamb found in Revelation 5. In the opening scene we see a man struggling through what appears to be a harsh and unforgiving wilderness. Haunting music communicates desolation. Sven Fockner begins the narrative recalling moments in his past when some of his “clever” comments hurt people around him.
We all recall how we have hurt people around us—consciously or sometimes unconsciously. If God is the Creator of all, then we become guilty when we damage or hurt His creation, Sven reasons as he looks into the camera. Guilt requires outside help, something we often struggle to accept.
As with hurtful comments, we soon realize that guilt cannot be easily remedied. What has been said will always stand. What has been done will always leave an impression and affect other people. Dominoes begin to fall; hurt gets propagated; pain gets duplicated.
As Judith and Sven Fockner talk about the throne room scene of Revelation 4, they are interrupted by flashbacks to the opening scene of someone wandering in the wilderness. Then they turn to Revelation 5 and its focus on a scroll that nobody can open. The solemnity and glory of the throne room scene is replaced by desperation and tears: Who will be able to open the seals that keep the scroll closed? As Judith puts it: John searches for the mighty Lion, and finds a small Lamb. The Lamb is God’s way of dealing with the great rebellion engulfing this planet.
Familiar texts suddenly gain new significance in this interplay of commentary, music, and video sequences that function as visual illustrations. Viewers of the German version of ARNION reacted very positively to the series. “Finally, something that interests me on Hope Channel,” a 17-year-old told the Hope Channel team.
People liked the authenticity and personal nature of the series, as well as the application to real life. Reactions varied from “super, but too short” to “wonderful videography and great illustrations,” even though some felt that the changes from narrative to video sequence were at times distracting. This impression was shared by a number of older viewers, while younger viewers often felt excited and engaged, suggesting that the media has to be tailored to specific audiences if we want to communicate effectively.
A representative of the German Bible Society that had partnered with the Inter-European Media Center by providing a newly designed German Bible translation reported that the format of the episodes was a great hit.
Another viewer wrote this personal note to Sven Fockner: “I am thrilled! . . . I often feel discouraged by many programs offered in our churches; at times I feel provoked; many times just sobered. . . . However, if my church can agree to something like this, if this represents the Seventh-day Adventist Church, I want to stick around.”
Simret Mahary, a pastor in Germany, noted that “camera work, production, music, silence, close-ups of the speakers, and the balance between the two narratives felt in tune and just right.”
We live in an interconnected world. Social media, Hollywood, and instant news updates all connect us globally, whether we reside in Buenos Aires, Bangkok, Berlin, Cairo, or Cape Town. While our cultures and languages may vary, we still sense the basic human need to find answers to our deepest questions. Where do I come from? What’s the purpose of my life? and Where am I going? ring true in most cultures. ARNION is an attempt to address these existential questions and look at them through the lens of the book of Revelation.
Right from the beginning it also included a global perspective. Collaboration became an important guide as scripts were written and video locations were selected. Bolivia, South Africa, and Germany represent vastly different regions; and by anchoring the film scenes in different parts of the world, ARNION became a global project. Funding came from different entities and sources, and contextualization to different cultures has been built into the project.
The results have been impressive, as demonstrated by the increasing number of language adaptations. However, the film scenes did not aim only at an international audience. The unique mix of engaging background music and stunning videography of each episode functioned as an illustration of the key topic and helped the viewers to connect on an emotional and aesthetic level. In fact, says Sven, “these images function as metaphors,” expressing the basic message of each episode.
The Lamb Is the Future
ARNION reminds us that the Lamb must be at the center of everything we do, including also the way we interpret and communicate the message of the book of Revelation. Looking at the big picture of the cosmic conflict between Christ and Satan represents a unique way of connecting God’s view of history to our human need for answers to existential questions.
So—with the Lamb.
Gerald A. Klingbeil is an associate editor of Adventist World.