LOS ANGELES (Christian Examiner) – Producer Karen Covell has a vision: to transform the way Christians view Hollywood so that they see it not as source of evil and debauchery, but as a mission field that can impact and change the world.
She knows it's a tall task, but she also has seen progress in recent years.
Covell is the founding director of the Hollywood Prayer Network, a nonprofit ministry based in Hollywood that seeks to impact the industry through prayer —supporting professionals who are Christians and reaching out to those who are not.
"The church sends missionaries all over the world," Covell told Christian Examiner. "But when a Christian comes to Hollywood, people say, 'You're not going to make it. You're going to lose your faith.' My heart is for the church to recognize that sending a Christian to Hollywood is similar to sending a Christian to a tribe in any other country, where they're using their gifts and talents, and they share the Gospel along the way."
Hollywood, Covell said, is a "people group who is closed to outside influence and who offers a creative lifestyle that can express the heart of God."
Many Christians may be skeptical about Covell's goals, but she said non-believers in Hollywood "are starting to be more open about their hunger for God."
"Conversations are becoming more regular and more frequent on spiritual things," she said.
Covell doesn't know exactly how many Christians there are in Hollywood, although her organization is in contact with about 10,000 believers. That number involves actors and actresses, as well as people behind the scenes: from directors to makeup artists to costume designers.
"And I keep meeting more each day."
The Hollywood Prayer Network, in fact, is involved with about 15 active ministries in Hollywood.
"We have found that one of the biggest gaps in our culture today is between the church and the Hollywood entertainment industry," Covell said. "Here's what I thought: If you pray for someone, you can't hate them. ... Our heart is to work side by side with non-believers to create products that people from across the spectrum will go and see, and to do it from a Christian perspective."
The Christian Examiner asked Covell about the Hollywood Prayer Network and the feedback she gets from industry professionals and Christians. Following is a partial transcript:
Christian Examiner: Do you find that people wonder why you do what you do?
Covell: Seemingly everybody does. A lot of Christians who are here get it, because they have the same vision that I do. Christians on the outside think, "Can you really make a difference in Hollywood?" There's a question of: "What's the purpose?" The industry thinks, "Why is this God so important to you?" But what I am seeing more and more is that the Christians are becoming more aware that everywhere in the world is a mission field, and so they're getting more open to not only the power and influence of the media, but the fact that it really might make a difference with more Christians here. And we're witnessing that through films that are coming out. The non-believers are starting to be more open about their hunger for God. Conversations are becoming more regular and more frequent on spiritual things. We want Christians here to know Him more fully. And we want non-believers to embrace Him. You can't do that from the outside, sending hate letters. You can only do that by praying for people and then by becoming friends and building relationships.
CE: What do Christians get wrong about Hollywood?
Covell: The Christians think Hollywood is Sodom and Gomorrah. They think it's evil, that people are here for their ego and the content is dark and awful and sexual and full of swear words and that it's wrecking our culture. That's the extreme of what Christians believe. What the Hollywood professionals believe about the church is that we are judgmental, finger-pointing, homophobic people. There's a middle ground we should reach, where we respect each other and understand each other even though we may not agree. I believe that happens through prayer.
CE: You call Hollywood the world's most influential mission field. What do you mean by that?
Covell: Everything that comes out of Hollywood impacts every people group across the globe. I've traveled the globe and I've talked to missionaries. The people that they minister to believe America is what they've seen on television. Even the poorest huts in China have a TV. What comes out of Hollywood impacts the world. We have a responsibility and a privilege here to create content that is uplifting, that celebrates the human spirit, that has Christ's values in it.
CE: Some Christians would say, "What do I pray for?" So what do they pray for?
Covell: We don't pray against anybody. We only pray blessings for people. We pray for people to have their hearts melt for God. We pray for salvation – for people to find hope and joy. We struggle a lot in our industry with isolation and depression and discouragement, so we pray that the Lord will give people hope and fill their lives.
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CE: A lot of people would agree with what you just said, but they would also want to pray for the product – that a director or writer makes a movie that has a worldview similar to a biblical worldview.
Covell: We get that question a lot. You can't tell someone to create something different than what is coming out of their heart, so the only way the content of Hollywood is going to change is if the hearts of the people creating it change. So if you have people here creating objectionable content, it's because it's what they know.
For more information, visit HollywoodPrayerNetwork.org