Three Things I Learned From The Record Keeper Cancelation —  April 11, 2014

One thing that I learned to do early on as a parent is to ask my children for forgiveness when a mistake was made in my part. I was sharing this perspective with my congregation in a seminar and at the conclusion, a member took exception to it. He said that if parents apologized to kids, the kids would lose respect for them. I shared my personal experience, but it didn’t change his mind.

Last week, the Record Keeper Project was suspended. The reasons given were varied, but details were scarce. The response from the “creatives” in the church was clear: This was a painful episode. Both conservative and progressive websites questioned the decision, albeit for different reasons. These are my personal reflections and lessons, as a church leader, about this particular experience:

1. An apology would have great.

This is a key leadership lesson. At the other end of every decision, there are real people, with real feelings and real investments (emotional or otherwise). The ANN bulletin could have included at least a paragraph about the people making the decisions understanding the impact of their decision on the people who participated in the creation of the project. I believe that is still possible. Apologizing sends a better message.

2. An alternative production would be great.

I have not seen all of the 11 episodes, but it would seem to me (not being an expert, for sure) that the project can be edited, revised and improved, or outsourced, all better options than just cancelation. If there are some inaccuracies and theological misfires, FIX THEM. No one wants to present lies as truth. Was the project to deeply flawed it could not be rescued?

What I did see gave me hope for 2 reasons:

a. The effect it had on my kids. This project had visuals and a story line that interests and starts conversations with the younger generation. I was looking forward to showing the series for family worship with my own family.

b. I have a passion to reach Millenials (both of my kids are). I had conversations with a colleague who is planting a church in Portland Oregon for postmodern/postchristian which this project was tailored made for. He was planning to use this extensively. I hope he still can.

3. A graceful response by Young Adults would be great.

My prayer is that this experience does not become yet another reason to disconnect, disengage or depart from the church. When the church makes a mistake, treat her with the same grace God treats you. Rise above the hurt. Please hear me on this:

We. Need. You.

We. Want. You.

We. Love. You.

I apologize.

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29 responses to Three Things I Learned From The Record Keeper Cancelation

  1. Thanks for a balanced post on this. I’ll withhold my feelings as they reflect that I’m not to pleased with this decision.

    • You know, #3 above is an extremely loaded suggestion, which has grated on me for the last few days. This first comment about it being a “balanced post” just serves to underscore why it’s bothersome. I’m not at all saying those offended shouldn’t exemplify grace, but I have a great deal of contempt for the notion that those who are offended or oppressed, misrepresented or whose opinions/desires/needs are downright ignored should embrace the qualities of Christ that best support/benefit the offender. I don’t think the balance of admonishing the wrong and wronged is needed here. I did enjoy the post, though, and join in prayer that this doesn’t alienate young adults and creatives or cause them to lose hope in finding avenues to effectively serve Christ and live out the great commission.

  2. It’s a shame! What if the Sistine Chapel’s artwork was censored because it could’ve been seen as sacreligous to paint ceilings in churches? Whatever happened to creative right? Were the flaws to great to overcome or leave on the editing room floor? C’mon!

  3. Pastor Kelan Fielder April 13, 2014 at 5:57 pm

    Thank you for this article. I am a pastor in Md, and was involved with the project. As someone who has seen all 11 episodes, premiered the series at my church, used it in evangelism, had a special viewing for the community, and did a panel discussion with Dennis Hill, (Larus) I can say that the decision that was made to cancel the series was the wrong decision. We baptized 30 people using the series. After each episode we would preach BIBLICAL messages from themes found in the episodes. In all honesty, I can think of 1 edit that could be made. An edit that i know for a fact the production team is willing make. This series was vetted before the script was written, during the filming, and after production by a large number of pastors and laity. All this to say, I’ve seen it, I’ve baptized using it, I was involved in it, and I still support it. The GC is not infallible, and they simply got this one wrong.

    • I appreciate your perspective! Thank you for being balanced. I have the feeling that as a denomination that we are sometimes okay hiding our light or refusing to be salt.

    • Juan Rodriguez April 14, 2014 at 2:44 pm

      Wow! I wish I could have used it like you. Praise God you were one of the few that enjoyed it. As a pastor I loved what I saw and my teens sons were excited, especially the one that desires to be a film maker. Our whole family was sad and disappointed.

  4. Its very disappointing that this project is not going to be released. My Family and I were looking forward to seeing it. I hope that it does not turn into another lost opportunity to spread the gospel in a way which catches the attention of the world.

  5. My biggest concern is that the church spent all that money on producing it then decided it didn’t want it released. Why not make that decision after you read the script? Why raise everyone’s hopes then dash them on the rocks?

  6. I was dissapointed but I also have a lot of faith in the Biblical Research Institute. If they found theological problems severe enough to suspend the project then I respect their call. However, I would like to see a detailed statement about the issues involved.

    • If they saw biblical issues with it. Wasn’t it there in the script? wasn’t it there long before the $1 million price tag was finished?

  7. My question: Was this endeavor supposed to be seen as TRUTH? or an opportunity to engage people who are more visual/progressive? I think some of the issues that I keep hearing regarding the suspension/cancellation had to do with whether the church was on firm theological footing when allowing it to air. I don’t know that the SDA Church has to be. One of the greatest desires/wants/needs of this generation and the one coming behind is to be able to wrestle with what Scripture says and doesn’t say and not be condemned if they don’t agree.

    • Yeah, I don’t believe “the church” needs to ensure “firm theological footing” when supporting creative outreach that advances the gospel and leads to the unchurched, unchristian, and unsaved repenting and becoming disciples of Christ. Further, there’s no grounding for why bible-based literature can appropriately spread good news, but the theatrical/dramatic presentation of such is not acceptable.

      I have to also believe “the church” rather likes proclaiming itself as the authority on “TRUTH” to the extent that the church operates out of fear…fear that others may question their position of bearing “present truth,” fear of being judged, and even fear of having to relinquish judgment of others whose creative evangelistic efforts they don’t agree with. In short, the church seems more interested in preserving dignity than propagating deliverance.

  8. Thank you Pastor Hernandez. I am glad you have taken the time to wade in. Unfortunately after so many years and so many mistakes as a church we haven’t learned much. The GC’s leadership needs to do a better job at explaining their position. What did they find anti-Biblical? Don’t treat us like little children, tell us what it is they object and why. When did they figure that out?

  9. Elder Hernandez, you forgot to address the implications of dramatic productions as mentioned by the Spirit of Prophecy. While we are certainly looking for new and refreshing ways to share our message there are definitely some avenues we are best to leave alone. I do agree with the decision to suspend the project and some of my objections have been written out here:

    Are we to be unscrupulous with our evangelism methods as long as we perceive there will be results? Or are there certain methods that should be avoided as their long-term dangers can outweigh their temporary benefits? I believe the latter deserves much thought and is perhaps the reason the project has been suspended.

    Millennials do need to be engaged, but it behooves us to compare our methods with the scriptures and to search and see of there is anything in our proposed methods that would cause others to have a wrong impression of our faith.

    God bless,


    • April 15, 2014 at 11:03 am

      While we don’t agree, Lemuel, I do appreciate you taking the time to write.

    • Unscrupulous? ! Unlike you, I believe if Sister White were here today, she would tell you to look to the principles and NOT the particulars. She was much more progressive and open to change than we often give her credit for. Hence, her support of Jones and Waggoner at the 1888 GC, which landed her on the black list. She wrote many times following that of how God’s plans to lead were stymied by our church leaders. Unfortunately, I think the devil had the greater influence in this decision to cancel The Record Keeper! However, I too believe that God will bring blessings from this. Just praying, admonishing and waiting to see how He leads.

      • Dear Barbara,

        Thank you for your reply. You are right that Sister White was open to new light and new methods. However it is precisely because of principles that we are to avoid worldly methods of evangelism that is commonly seen in dramatic productions. While attracting people to Christ is our goal, how we attract people to Christ matters a great deal.

        “The world is full of projects to attract the people of God from their service to heaven. Men who claim to believe the truth accept propositions to advance the truth according to worldly methods; but our hope is in God, and we are to make this plain by importuning him for help, by refusing to be molded by the world’s plan. We are to look to Jesus, showing to believers and unbelievers that our dependence is in God.” – RH August 23, 1892, par. 8

        Other practical and theological reasons for my (and also perhaps the World Church’s) concern with the series are outlined in the article I linked to in my first reply.


  10. Dear Church,
    let’s stop being so uptight. Let’s not react from fear. Let’s be bold in sharing the gospel.

    Films are stories. They are not meant to portray truth about everything. Use the series as discussion starters and then share what the Bible says about it.

    I wish I could have used this series in my ministry. What I saw spoke to me and I’m no millennial!

  11. Yes! A redemptive response to a trainwreck of bureaucracy. I so, so, appreciate this approach.

  12. Disappointment or disillusionment? Which we experience depends on what preceded the cancellation, an “appointment(expectation)” or an “illusion.” One of the worst things you can do to morale and engagement in an organization is to raise hope falsely; it would be better to do nothing, because disillusionment takes us to a lower place than the starting point.

    For veterans like me who have long lost our illusions about the church, it’s simply a disappointment. Just another reminder that I belong to a church that has a love affair with the illusion that we know and have all the truth in our propositional theology, and that this will always win in a contest with the value of relationships or a conversation of discovery. (This was stated very clearly when the healthcare system I was in started a “Faith Discovery” conversation; we were told point blank “There is no point to this; it’s all been discovered already.”)

    For younger (or more persistently optimistic) folks, such occasions that raise hope are likely to be accompanied by illusions that the church is changing, that it will become a place where relationships, inquiry, relevance and conversation will be valued more than the status quo. That’s a setup for disillusionment.

    I have seen progress in pockets; I’ve seen fresh air and light streaming through small cracks in various locations. I now look for those places for my own refreshment; I have determined to make my life and ministry such a crack in the wall for the benefit of others. I make a better window than a door. But I no longer expect to see the walls crumble or the roof to open to the sky.

  13. I agree that a public apology is in order. At the same time, I thought it was refreshing that the church took a stand on something that involved principle. Sometimes the “children” need to accept the decisions of those in leadership even if they don’t fully understand, or for good reasons, not all the details are given. It’s up to us as adults to convey our ideas and feelings in such a way that our young people don’t “disconnect, disengage or depart from the church.”

    • “Sometimes the ‘children’ need to accept the decisions of those in leadership even if they don’t fully understand, or for good reasons, not all the details are given.”

      I’m sorry, but that is exactly why many of our young people are disconnecting from the church. There was a time when church leaders could essentially act like parents and tell young people, “Just do what we say without asking too many questions.” That day is long gone. Young people want transparency, honesty, and authenticity. If the GC has a good reason for suspending the project then they should explain it. We gain nothing by hiding the truth, but we do risk losing a great deal.

      “All who have the truth can afford to be fair in discussion, for truth will bear away the victory. This is the only way the word of God can be investigated with any success” (The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 46).

  14. I love the Spirit of this blog. However, if the Holy Spirit had to run His visions through the Biblical Research Institute He would never have gotten permission to show Peter the sheet of unclean animals. How easily that metaphor has been misinterpreted. Jesus would never have gotten permission to tell the story of the rich man and Lazerus. How often that has been misused. Metaphors are very powerful and very necessary to handle emotional stuff such as our relationship with God. But they do not relate well to those who are looking for neat propositional truths. The BRI does great work in its field. But creative arts are seldom any good when done by committee.

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