Christians in the Media

 
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Bill Hendricks
Hi, my name is Bill Hendricks. I’m the Executive Director for Christian Leadership at the Hendricks Center at Dallas Theological Seminary. And I want to welcome you to The Table podcast, where we discuss issues of God and culture. It’s a truism that the people who tell the stories in a culture are the people who create the culture. And in our culture that basically means two main institutions. One are the universities and the other is the media and entertainment industry. And so today I could not be more excited to have Dan and Peggy Rupple with us to talk about what they do in the media and entertainment industry on both coasts and in between. Dan is the CEO of Mastermedia. Mastermedia International serves as a trusted voice of faith to the mainstream media leaders of today and an encouraging voice of experience to the media leaders of tomorrow. And I’m gonna ask him to unpack that a little bit more.

And Peggy is the Associate Director of the Windrider’s Forum. And, again, I’m gonna have her tell you about that really, really exciting thing that she’s got going on. But Rupples, thank you so much for being with us today.

Dan Rupple
Thank you, Bill, it’s good to be here.
Peggy Rupple
Thank you. Delightful.
Bill Hendricks
On The Table podcast. So, Dan, let’s go ahead and start with you. Tell us a little bit more about this idea of a trusted voice of faith both to the leaders of today and then a voice of experience to the leaders coming up.
Dan Rupple
Right. Well –
Bill Hendricks
Tell us a little bit about Mastermedia and how you got into it.
Dan Rupple
Right. Mastermedia was found in 1985 by Dr. Larry Poland. The media landscape, Bill, in 1985 was basically three TV networks and six film studios. So theoretically if you form relationship with those nine men, and it was all men, you pretty much canvased and influenced in the name of Christ the media industry. Of course that’s all changed. In 2005 when the digital revolution hit, we mark 2005 because that’s when YouTube was launched. Media changed – it was changed in all ways. Suddenly the high pyramid and the gatekeepers started lowering a little bit. And it democratized the industry. Where, you know, a kid in Des Moines with –
Bill Hendricks
With a camcorder.
Dan Rupple
Yeah. Could have a YouTube channel and be a cultural influencer because they reach 4 million followers. And that’s not an exaggeration. It’s commonplace. So we had to really redo a little bit of our strategy to reach it since it’s so widespread.

So the reason we say a voice of faith – and I’ll first address to the media leaders of today and then we’ll talk about the young people emerging – is because the media world has evolved from broadcast to narrow cast to niche cast. When I was young, you know, 60 million people watched Bonanza on a Sunday night ‘cause that was almost the only game in town. So it really was the, America’s campfire television. There was this unified messaging going on in the culture.

Well, cable came and that gave –

Bill Hendricks
That splintered off.
Dan Rupple
That became a little bit more narrow ‘cause there were more things. And now niche cast, because there’s a gazillion. So platforms, channels, whatever. But here’s where it’s at, Bill, is now the audience is so fragmented that if they get 700,000 viewers it’s like, wow, we got a hit, you know this is pretty cool.

So what happens is the industry is searching for communities that are underserved. They want to find an audience that’ll be loyal to their type of programming. And so they’re looking around America, and that’s why you’re seeing these niches of programming. It’s like, well, this is really to people who want to remodel their home or –

Bill Hendricks
Right. Or the people that are into vampires.
Dan Rupple
Yeah, yeah. They’re into vampires or whatever it is. And many times the community with the loudest voice in those rooms –
Bill Hendricks
Gets heard.
Dan Rupple
Is the one that gets heard. That gets represented on their screens. Their community gets reflected. Often the absent voice is the Christian voice. So we’re saying we want to serve the industry as a voice of faith. Sometimes the sole voice of faith, to these executives. I’ll break it into really two themes that we are hoping for. Number one, that we’ll have a cultural impact. That they’ll see the Christian community is a wonderful community. It’s the biggest community in America.
Bill Hendricks
Right.
Dan Rupple
Depending on how you define a Christian, it could be 240 million Americans believe in Christ. They need to know that and know the nuances of our community, the uniquenesses of our community. So we want to be that voice. But we also want to be that personal voice. That pastoral voice. They don’t have that kind of caring pastoral voice in their lives.

It’s not uncommon, Bill, I’ll walk in – the first time I meet with someone. They could be the CEO of a media conglomerate. They’re really high placed. And I’ll walk in. They’ll be a little guarded. And they’ll say, so what do you want?

Bill Hendricks
Right. What do you want?
Dan Rupple
What do you want?
Bill Hendricks
They know you have an agenda.
Dan Rupple
Yeah. They know I have an agenda. And I say, that’s a fair question. I mean, you sit in a powerful seat. You have a lot of influence. A lot of authority. And I notice outside your door you’ve got a line of people from 8:00 in the morning till Lord knows when you go home at night. And they all want something. They want you to greenlight their movie or whatever they might want. And I think that probably came at a cost personally to you. To have that kind of thing where everyone wants something from you. It takes a toll. And I want you to know, I don’t really want anything. I’m here. I care about you. I want to see if I can serve you in any way. And before I leave I’d like to pray with you.

And, Bill, they –

Bill Hendricks
They don’t know what to do.
Dan Rupple
They don’t know what to do. They’re a little bit puzzled. But immediately they’re disarmed. The arms go down. They lean in. And they start opening their lives because they realize, I can trust this guy. I’m not gonna tell him something and he’s gonna go put it on social media within three minutes. He’s not gonna leverage it to get ahead. But I really honestly care about them.

And then the next time I come back, you know they’ll give me 15 minutes, but then they’ll stretch it to an hour and a half. You know they really want to talk. ‘Cause they don’t have that kind of voice in their lives. And the other thing is it gets kinda funny because before I even bring it up they’ll say, you are gonna pray, aren’t ya? You’re gonna pray for me, aren’t you? So it’s a wonderful opportunity to serve that way. To be that voice of faith in their lives.

Bill Hendricks
Well, I think that Christians often forget people everywhere have what I would call pastoral needs.
Dan Rupple
Mm hmm. Yes.
Bill Hendricks
You know, they’ve got somebody in their life that’s troubled. They’re got stress themselves. They have a real concern over something. They have an uncertainty about something.
Dan Rupple
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
And those are all sort of moments to be pastoral. And those opportunities are always there. No matter – if they’re human, they’re always there.
Dan Rupple
They are. They are. And, you know the Me Too movement has fueled our conversations.
Bill Hendricks
Oh, I’ll bet.
Dan Rupple
Amazingly. Because, you know it’s – I’ve had two different executives call me at home and they say, I want you to know you’re gonna read in Variety tomorrow. I just got fired on Me Too charges. And I’d ask you to pray for me. So I’m able to pray for them.

But the more common response is, sometimes I’ll be in an office and they’ll go, Dan, I’m disgusted by my industry. How did we allow this – for decades – to go unchecked? And think it’s the norm. And they realize that they’ve been operating from a moral vacuum. They don’t have a true north. They don’t have a –

Bill Hendricks
An anchor.
Dan Rupple
An anchor. And it comes back to that God created us in his image and that we should have mutual respect in the innate value of all people. It’s respecting one another instead of leveraging them for our pleasure. You know, using them. That’s kind of the culture in Hollywood, often.
Bill Hendricks
So, Dan, how did you come by these, if I could call them, pastoral skills? I mean obviously God’s given you some gifts in that way. But where did you kind of cut your teeth on –
Dan Rupple
I’m a unique hybrid. I’ve spent 41 years working in Hollywood. I started in comedy. I worked in radio. I worked in television.
Bill Hendricks
You’ve been a producer.
Dan Rupple
Been a producer. I used to supervise The Price is Right and David Letterman and all these different shows. But I’ve also, I’m ordained, and I’ve been on four different pastoral staffs. So my heart has always been to minister within wherever God plants me. On The Price is Right I had 100 people on the crew under me. So I was able to serve them, not by being a jerk and not by being, you know, having John 3:16 on my t-shirt or shaking my Bible. But just living my life among them as Jesus did and showing each person I cared. And pretty soon the crustiest of stage managers would find me over by craft services and say, hey, you know, I just found out I got cancer. They would say, you know can you do what you do? Well, what I do is pray.

And I’ll tell you, one of the greatest compliments I ever received was – I actually left CBS to go pastor. It was an obedience to God thing. And I went into Bob Barker’s office and I said, Bob, I’m gonna resign from Price is Right. And he goes, oh, I hate to lose you. What are you gonna do? And I said, I’m gonna go pastor. And he said, he paused for a minute and he said, you know, Dan, that’s right. He says, I’ve always seen you as the pastor of Price is Right.

Bill Hendricks
Wow.
Dan Rupple
And that to me was good and faithful servant moment. It’s like, yes, that’s, you know, I did what God called me to do there. So that’s my heart behind it.
Bill Hendricks
Excellent. So we’re gonna come back to the leaders of tomorrow, but, Peggy, let me shift gears here and hear a little bit more about your background and Windrider and just your background.
Peggy Rupple
I have a very unique background in the sense that entertainment and the media world was never on my radar. It wasn’t a lane I was in. I just fell in love with this remarkable man that felt a call to media. And not only that, I say remarkable because – and we were young, 19 and 21. But that he had this – even then at that young age, this passion to say this is not just my life, this is our life together. And by that he felt like, I want to expose you to kind of what I’m doing. And it could simply have been to be on the same page together. To get to know him and his talent, his calling, but also for prayer support. The media industry is, you know, highs and lows. I mean, it’s feast and it’s famine. And this is really important for unity. You be in honest together.

So in that he’s exposed to me, and I think just to save money early days I toured with him to do sound, because we didn’t have to pay a sound man. So I learned that, the cadence of the show and different things. He brought me in on do voiceover on albums. And as well as radio shows. And cohosting. I helped cohost a few times for him on the radio. And then even with CBS to bring me in to understand studio production and operations more. Within the offices there, I would help out.

So these things, this eclectic experience, these little deposits –

Bill Hendricks
Well, eclectic is an understatement, Peggy. I think you’re the only woman that I’ve ever met who has been married to both a pastor and a Hollywood producer.
Peggy Rupple
Well, can you imagine how hard –
Dan Rupple
Without having two marriages.
Bill Hendricks
Yeah. That’s what I mean.
Peggy Rupple
It wasn’t easy asking for my hand in marriage, and my dad kept saying, what do you do? Well, I’m a comedian. Okay, now I wire houses ‘cause I’m an electrician, and you are?
Dan Rupple
I tell jokes on a stage and people give me money.
Bill Hendricks
And you get paid for that?
Dan Rupple
And I get paid for that.
Peggy Rupple
But he knew I loved him so that was that. But, you know what happened uniquely for me in my case is that I had not just an interest, but it really showed that I had an aptitude for it. So that I just kinda nosedived. I was a learner and a practitioner at the same time. That is unique. And what has been wonderful is that it’s really been a place of miracles for me in the sense that I have had to realize the fact that I’m continually asked to be at the table, sometimes by respected media professionals who want me to either be part of the process or to lead the process. And that I had to get past that voice in my head that said, inadequate, for whatever reason.
Bill Hendricks
Ah, yes.
Peggy Rupple
And realize that – God’s good plans in placing me there. And when I learned to silence that voice and then I learned to step into that, well, God began to open great opportunities for me. And part of that was, it ended up being valuable enough to where a film program at Biola University hired me to come in to be an adjunct there and to also manage their special projects. I got to know your Reg Grant very well as I directed the Biola Media Conference for years. And part of that process came developing a program called Windrider at Sundance.
Bill Hendricks
And what’s that program around? What’s the concept behind Windrider?
Peggy Rupple
Well, for the last 15 years it’s – we actually showed up with just two universities at the time, Biola and Fuller. So undergrads and seminary students, talking about kind of the intersection of faith and culture. And we went in there to see, well, you know, this is the flashpoint. There is where cultural dialogue is taking place. There’s nothing like independent filmmaking, where these are passion projects. You’re not gonna make any money usually on those.
Bill Hendricks
Right.
Peggy Rupple
So what is this unction? What does that say about the human condition? What are they talking about? Like Jesus, who do they say that I am? We thought this would be a holy conversation that we would unpack separately on our own, which is what we did. We watched these films and formed a bit of an apologetic response to them. And it really shaped them as storytellers. And actually advanced their sense of calling, because if the world is groping and talking about faith, God, marriage, all these things, and sometimes getting it winsomely beautifully close or right – sometimes horribly wrong. But there’s things to be learned about that –
Bill Hendricks
At least they’re talking about it.
Peggy Rupple
At least they’re talking about that. This could be a conversation we could maybe enliven. We came with respect that we were sitting in to be listeners and learners in the conversation. But then what happens? We began to take filmmakers, bring them back to our little forum classroom. And there we graciously honored their craft, asked about their stories. And, it was to their surprise sometimes, is that we would sometimes mention these thoughtful spiritual themes that we found in their films. And they would be so deeply moved. Because – and even say things like, I wish I could take credit for that. That my film did that in you. And sometimes have tears in their eyes.
Bill Hendricks
Oh, absolutely.
Peggy Rupple
Saying that is the most – of course as a director can you imagine that’s the –
Bill Hendricks
Well, you celebrated that deepest part of them.
Peggy Rupple
Yes.
Bill Hendricks
They’ve labored so hard to get this into some format that they could get it to you.
Peggy Rupple
Yes.
Bill Hendricks
And you were moved or touched or gained insight from it. And to know that they had made that connection. I mean it doesn’t get much better for a storyteller.
Peggy Rupple
No, it didn’t. So it’s just grown. We’re now 250 students and about 25 plus universities. Grad, undergrad and seminary students. DTS being one of them.
Bill Hendricks
I was gonna say, you mentioned Reg Grant, who is our chairman of the department in Media Arts and Worship. And every summer Tim Basselin, who’s also an associate professor there –
Peggy Rupple
And a dear friend to us at Windrider.
Bill Hendricks
Takes a group of DTS students up to Sundance Film Festival, and lets them sort of participate in that whole experience of watching films and reflecting and meeting people that make films. It’s a very – it’s really the only way that younger storytellers can begin to hone their craft.
Peggy Rupple
And these films are not as neat and tidy. Independent films.
Bill Hendricks
Yeah. Kind of like life.
Peggy Rupple
Kind of like life.
Dan Rupple
Kind of.
Peggy Rupple
And sometimes I think the best movies aren’t the ones that just answer all the questions but maybe ask, you know, provide answers but ask the best questions. Let’s put it that way. And so that’s –
Dan Rupple
I think that’s what’s so exciting about the independent film movement, and particularly the top one is Sundance. I always liken it to Paul in Athens. You know he –
Bill Hendricks
Acts 17.
Dan Rupple
What does it say? Yeah, Acts 17. He goes to the marketplace daily and he’s seeing, what is the cultural narrative? What are they talking about? What are they grappling with? And he’s slowly forming a response. And he uses their vernacular. Uses their unknown god statue.

But the Sundance Film Festival kind of feels like the Athens of today. The cinematic Athens if you will.

Bill Hendricks
It’s where the conversation is taking place.
Dan Rupple
It is. And what’s happening is it’s happening in its – as an incubator. It’s kind of forming that conversation that we have witnessed through the 16 years I think now that we’ve been there.
Peggy Rupple
Mm hmm.
Dan Rupple
It’s the conversation is what the general culture is talking about a year, two, three years down the road. It’s like forming there. And sadly often the church isn’t even forming a response until four years down the road.
Bill Hendricks
Right.
Dan Rupple
We’re trying to play catch up sometimes. On some of these topics. So we love the fact that there is a Christian presence, a vibrant Christian presence, at Sundance, and being part of that cultural conversation in the very beginning.
Peggy Rupple
And you’d be surprised to learn that Sundance is grateful for us as well. They approached us last year and said, we were asking this question amongst our own executive team. And where are the independent communities that we’re serving here at Sundance? Where’s the loudest one? Where’s that voice? And it was unanimously decided that it would be the Windrider Forum.
Bill Hendricks
How good is that?
Peggy Rupple
It’s a group of Christians and they brought our leaders in, our CEOs, and they talked with them. They said, you realize that you are our number one block ticket buyers. Not only that, you are – you have a very small footprint. You don’t take hotels for us because you have somehow galvanized the faith community at Park City, Utah to where you have people opening their doors, host homes, to students that are from every different denomination. First of all, that seems like a miracle to them.
Bill Hendricks
Right there. Right.
Peggy Rupple
But what was really sweet is that they said that, and we, for the last 15 years, have heard our own filmmakers come back in exit interviews and say, when we ask them what was their most transformative Q&A experience while you were here, and they say, who knew, it was a group of Christians at the Windrider Forum who asked the most thoughtful questions. And they’re the ones that would often say, well, we’ll give you 15 minutes, and then we’d be vacuuming around their feet because they wouldn’t leave.
Bill Hendricks
Right, right.
Peggy Rupple
So that shows you the power of faithful presence. And doing a community good. We haven’t changed anything about the ethos of who we are. And they’re not asking us to change. They said we’d like to come alongside. And now they’re an official sponsor of Windrider Forum. And they’re helping us in facilitating opportunity for us.
Bill Hendricks
So let me ask this question. I’m seeing an interesting contrast here. You’ve got this group of Christians in Windrider and so forth that Sundance Film Festival says, wow, we really like interfacing with you. You ask great questions. You treat us well. The filmmakers love what you’re about. They don’t get all of it but that’s okay. So there’s some Christians there.

And then meanwhile you have sort of the stereotype of, you know, the Christian in our culture. They’re loud. You talked about the loudest voice. Faith is usually not something we talk about in loud voices, and when we do we don’t do it well. Right?

Dan Rupple
Yes.
Bill Hendricks
And so there’s that whole stereotype over here. And it leads me to this question. Which y’all are in a perfect position – it’s really two sides of the question. One is, what do Christians most need to know about media leaders? And what do media leaders need to most know about Christians?

You know, in the main we’re talking past each other.

Dan Rupple
Yeah. Yeah. The media leaders, they need to understand the real heartbeat of why we believe what we believe. They don’t need to see the outer expressions that sometimes are really –
Bill Hendricks
Out there.
Dan Rupple
Way out there. It’s not uncommon, again, to talk to a media leader and you say, how do you see Christians? And they’ll say, well, I see them as a bunch of ticked-off people. They’re an angry mob.
Bill Hendricks
Right.
Dan Rupple
And I’ll say, ah, that’s heartbreaking. Why do you feel that way? And he’ll say, ‘cause I only have –
Bill Hendricks
‘Cause they got people protesting outside –
Dan Rupple
They’re protesting out my studio. They’re sending hate mail. They’re doing all these things. So we try to share with them that the heartbeat is love. You know Jesus said you’ll know us by our love. But, so they need to understand that we can be a friend. We don’t have an agenda. We can just talk to them like we were talking earlier as a pastoral voice, a friendly voice, a trusted voice. So we can – in Jeremiah, you know he’s talking about your exiles in Babylon and the Lord speaks to Jeremiah, saying, you know, go there for the good of the city. Plant. And that’s what we need to do. We need to let Hollywood know, we’re here to do you good. We’re not here to complain about you. We’re here to do you good. To bring good to your programming or what you’re doing.
Bill Hendricks
You know if I can just interject there for a second, Dan. If I understand you correctly, ‘cause you used the Daniel example and the exiles. That media executive that you’re talking with and you’re saying, I’m here to serve you, is there a way I can be useful to you? Can I pray for you? At the same time you may detest something that that media executive’s company has put out there.
Dan Rupple
Mm hmm.
Bill Hendricks
And you think, I would never show my kids that. I would never want people to watch that.
Dan Rupple
Mm hmm.
Bill Hendricks
But now we’re not dealing with that product. You’re dealing with this person.
Dan Rupple
Right, right.
Bill Hendricks
It’s a big difference.
Dan Rupple
A big difference. And you articulated it well. I’m not afraid to object to something. But I don’t do it out of anger. You better change it. I do it out of explaining why. You know, you had this. Do you really want our culture to be feeding on that? You shared, I think, Plato earlier about the storytellers lead our culture. Do we really want that out there? That kind of thing? And specifically with Christians. And it’s like what Christians need to know about them. They don’t know us. They don’t know us. We pulled out of Hollywood. Again, if you really know the history of the – Hollywood started with the church. The church embraced this new medium called cinema ‘cause they thought, this is a great way of getting the gospel message out.
Bill Hendricks
Well, theater itself started with the church.
Dan Rupple
It did. You go way back. Absolutely. And so they embraced the Christian _____. Of course we were totally a Christian nation and they knew that was their audience. But they also, you know, in the first – I forget the timeframe – of cinema, there were 100 biblical epics made. So they were doing so much towards the church.

But we pulled out. So what happens is, my MFA works in screenwriting. And one of the rules is you write what you know. Well, we as Christians often say, why are Christians always portrayed as hypocritical, puritanical, blah, blah, blah? Or why are they serial killers or maniacs, wackos, you know. Well, they don’t necessarily always know Christians. And the lazy writer will – they want to put a Christian character in so they’ll go to default and just, okay, what’s the stereotype. Okay. They’re this. I’ll put that in.

Bill Hendricks
Which they quite likely have already gotten from some other media form.
Peggy Rupple
Yes.
Dan Rupple
From another media source. Yeah. And maybe –
Bill Hendricks
And not an actual Christian.
Dan Rupple
And maybe it was reinforced by someone they did meet.
Bill Hendricks
That’s right. The ones they did know.
Dan Rupple
Yeah, that wasn’t the real deal. But the real screenwriter will say, I want to know their heartbeat. I want to really do a 3D authentic portrayal of a Christian. And we’re finding, as they find those and they’re friends with them it’s like, ah, wait a minute.

We had a film, I won’t go into the whole thing of the film, but we had a film at Sundance that portrayed Christians so well. And we watched the film. And a lady in the audience stood up and said, I’m a Christian. I just want to thank you for how you portrayed Christians. It was so wonderful. You really reflected who we are. And the filmmaker, who was not a Christian, said, I wouldn’t be doing right by the Christian community if I didn’t portray it that because on my journey every Christian I met, that’s what they were. They were kind to me. They supported me. Yeah, every human being has quirks, but at their heart they were so for my good.

Bill Hendricks
They cared.
Dan Rupple
They cared for me. So we need the creatives in Hollywood to understand who we are. And what our heartbeat is.
Peggy Rupple
I love with Mastermedia, Dan gets this remarkable, holy opportunity, I am telling you, to be in these offices. And just – and he does, he prays for God to give an onramp and help me to see it. Because God’s wooing this person. And so he steps into that. And oftentimes when he goes to prayer with these people, I mean, there is in a way an exchange that happens because as he prays for them, they’re serving under another kingdom. Right? They’re being driven, in a way. But he takes them, he ushers them into the kingdom of God.
Bill Hendricks
Exactly.
Peggy Rupple
And in that place they’re not receiving condemnation. But they’re also understanding that I’m a man or woman and I have feet of clay. And this is not something that I have nurtured at all. So it is all of a sudden this level place that you meet. And I’ve had the same thing with programmers at Sundance that we’ve worked together and we’ve gone out for coffee afterwards. And I had this one gal turn her chair to me, and so we had spent weeks building towards this program. We did it together with my colleagues. And then all of a sudden I get this moment with her that you would never get elsewhere. And she says, okay, so now there’s, either it’s the evangelicals or fundamentalists, I’m not really sure exactly where you guys are. I mean, I know I’m kind of over here… I said, no, no, you’re articulating this beautifully. I think that the far, far right doesn’t necessarily speak for me, or the far, far left doesn’t necessarily speak for you, right? She goes, yes. I go, those are polarizing voices. I said, but look at us. We found our place in the middle to meet within film where we can learn about the world of the other. And I told her a little bit about Jesus’ road and how he navigated these situations, reaching people’s perspective on what religious should be, and yet here’s this relationship I want to show you and demonstrate you. I got to give her the gospel in the most beautiful way. But it was through this faithful presence.
Bill Hendricks
Faithful presence.
Peggy Rupple
And, Dan, I think that’s what Dan brings so beautifully at Mastermedia. It’s a faithful presence. And then God opens these holy moments.
Bill Hendricks
So if I’m hearing you, you got these media leaders and then you’ve got Christians, and one thing that’s true about both of them is they have a heart and they have a story. And what you’ve done is to let those two hearts and those two stories begin to connect.
Dan Rupple
Right.
Bill Hendricks
And we’re not now talking about this big production and all these cultural realities about it and we’re gonna critique it. We’re down to the human level.
Dan Rupple
Yes.
Peggy Rupple
The human condition.
Bill Hendricks
The retail level. And it’s like you’ve got a job you’re doing and I’ve got a calling I’m called to. Let’s talk. Let’s understand each other.
Peggy Rupple
Yes.
Bill Hendricks
And if you’re the Christian in that relationship, of course you’ve got this relationship with God. And they begin to feel that. Sense that. They can’t even always articulate what is that.
Peggy Rupple
And the beauty is we’re working in an area where there is just the love of story.
Bill Hendricks
Well, that’s it.
Peggy Rupple
And then that is – I mean this is – God has a love of story.
Bill Hendricks
Yes, he does.
Peggy Rupple
You know Scripture, so much of it is story. And Jesus said – you know, we used to tell this to our film students all the time – the kingdom of heaven is like… And he’d tell a story. It is how God has wired us. And so, and it speaks to the human condition so easily. So we can meet in that place.
Bill Hendricks
Well, I have a saying I frequently use, which is that the best way to know somebody is through their story.
Dan Rupple
Yes.
Peggy Rupple
Yes.
Bill Hendricks
I have been told the Italians have a saying, I cannot know you until I have dined with you. I think the same would be true. I cannot know you until I’ve listened to your story.
Dan Rupple
That’s right.
Peggy Rupple
Amen.
Dan Rupple
That’s right.
Bill Hendricks
And until I really have done that, in a way I’m not even in a position to pass comment on where you ended up in your values, your beliefs, your product, or whatever.
Dan Rupple
Yeah. That’s absolutely right. You know, Peggy mentioned the world of the other. That’s what we love so much about story or film is when film’s at its best, it’s escorting us into the world of the other. A person that we’re not familiar with, that we haven’t ever met. Or an environment, a location that we’ve never been to. Or a situation that we just previously can’t relate to. And it puts us in that world. And then when we can kind of find ourselves in the world and say, I can understand. Man, if that was facing me I’d react that way, too, I think.
Bill Hendricks
Right.
Dan Rupple
And suddenly we kind of get this common narrative. And that’s that kind of holy place that you can meet in and really start talking when you understand one another. It’s like, maybe that guy’s bitter because of his story in the back. That’s why he, you know, and rather than just dismiss him, oh, that guy’s bitter, you know. But it’s like, maybe there’s a reason, if I understand his story and sit down, have a cup of coffee and talk it over with him.
Bill Hendricks
Well, one thing that occurs to me as well here is, you mentioned the word the gospel a minute ago, Peggy, and I think one of the unfortunate things we’ve allowed our Christian tradition to do is to somewhat reduce the gospel or to minimize the gospel into what I might call a transaction. In other words, I’ve gotta get you to the point where you say certain things to know that you’re over the line into the kingdom, right?
Dan Rupple
Yes.
Bill Hendricks
That’s my goal.
Dan Rupple
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
Well, that’s transactional.
Dan Rupple
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
And if I go into any conversation with that being the goal, what’s wrong with that? Well, the problem is human beings are not meant to be that, certainly in their heart and in their soul, transactional. They’re meant to be relational. When you look at Jesus and the gospels, every person he interacts with, it’s relational. He’s always speaking into their heart. And he’s not looking to – I’ve got to get you to say something here. Do something. Okay. I’m gonna throw something out and let you respond to it. And however you respond, then we’ll go from there and vice versa.
Dan Rupple
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
But that humanizes the thing.
Peggy Rupple
Mm hmm. Yes. Yes.
Bill Hendricks
And it seems to me what you’re talking about is bringing Christ into somebody’s office, somebody’s home, somebody’s situation, but doing it in a way that you’re incarnating the gospel. Not just confronting people with the gospel in that transactional way.
Dan Rupple
That’s exactly what’s happening when I was talking about being in that office and them saying, what do you want? See, it’s –
Bill Hendricks
That’s transactional.
Dan Rupple
It’s a shift. Because suddenly they see and understand that I’m not looking at the chair of authority they’re sitting in. I’m looking at who’s sitting in it. You know.
Peggy Rupple
Yes.
Bill Hendricks
Amen.
Dan Rupple
Because everyone else that goes in their office is seeing that chair of authority. I have a real close friend, he was at a real high level at a network. And he was everybody’s best friend. He’s invited to every party. He was, whatever. They let him go.
Bill Hendricks
He wasn’t their best friend. He was their best contact.
Dan Rupple
Best contact.
Peggy Rupple
That’s right.
Dan Rupple
Well, that’s what he discovered, you know. And no more invites. He’s the loneliest guy in town. But he realized they liked that chair. They didn’t like me and they didn’t care about me –
Bill Hendricks
The day after he was gone they were back there –
Dan Rupple
They were back there for the next guy. You know.
Bill Hendricks
Right. And that chair.
Dan Rupple
See, there’s another thing. You were asking, what do people need to understand about Hollywood, is there are those that really have an agenda against Christians.
Bill Hendricks
Yeah, sure.
Dan Rupple
There’s definitely that segment. There’s that segment in every area of life. You go to a plumber’s convention, there’s gonna be those, you know. It’s in every area of life. But for the most part Hollywood operates on profits. We always say –
Bill Hendricks
Right. It’s a business.
Dan Rupple
We always say there’s two words in show business, you know. And they’re there to make a profit. And right now because of the way things are and because movie budgets are now 2 million plus, there’s a lot on the line. It’s really risky. So what is created is there’s this spirit of fear that is all around the media industry. There’s this fear from executives that my next decision will be my last decision. If I greenlight a 200 plus million dollar film and it tanks, I’m gone. You know, pack the bag now.

Same with an actor or actress. They think my next role could be my last. My looks are fading. I’m getting too many wrinkles. I’ve aged out of what they want. Or I’ll never deliver that type of performance again. There’s this great fear and insecurity. Creatives are probably the most insecure people on the planet.

Bill Hendricks
Absolutely.
Dan Rupple
You know, we’re always looking for affirmation. Was it good? Was it good? Was it good? And –
Bill Hendricks
You’re always on that tightrope.
Dan Rupple
You’re always on that tightrope. So to have a loving presence, just to go in and say, it’s all right. It’s all right. You know. You’re good. You’re good. And affirm them. That’s a kind thing to do.
Peggy Rupple
And even help them with the – some of it’s identity issues. Can you imagine the rejection that these actors have to deal with constantly? And to come back and say that I am enough. So you’d be pleased to know that there’s about 10,000 professing Christians that are in Hollywood today. And one of the reasons, and part of what Mastermedia does is it invests in them as well, to help them see their job as missional. Dan can’t get into all the rooms that they’re at. But if the church, if believers who are in the arts can see their job as missional, they can do the same thing that he’s doing. And make change.
Dan Rupple
That’s one of the shifts. You know I mentioned earlier, Bill, that Mastermedia, when it was founded, there were nine people you needed to reach. Well, now there’s countless. And I can’t, and my team, I have a team in New York and a team in Hollywood, we can’t reach everybody. But you realize, okay, I can’t get in that person’s office, but this person who’s a Christian is in that office every day. They work alongside him. So let me pour into them, you know, it’s that ministry model. Let me pour into them and help them shift their thinking: I’m not here for fame and fortune. I’m here on assignment from God.
Bill Hendricks
Right.
Dan Rupple
Missionally to love on the media industry for the betterment of Hollywood. And pour into them. Let them talk to them and be that Christian presence.
Bill Hendricks
Well, I’m glad you clarified that because sometimes when people, Christians, hear the term missional, we can get back to that transactional thing.
Dan Rupple
Right.
Bill Hendricks
Oh, I get it. My job is really a platform for me to evangelize people. And of course in one sense it is. But it’s a misunderstanding of missional.
Dan Rupple
Yes.
Bill Hendricks
God calls people into media, say, and the arts and entertainment who are Christians because he wants them to go into doing art or doing media or doing entertainment the way Jesus would do art or media or entertainment were he living in their skin. Like the work itself matters.
Peggy Rupple
Yes.
Dan Rupple
Yes.
Bill Hendricks
God wants good art made. He wants good entertainment made. He wants good media done, right? Just like he wants the cobbler to make good shoes or he wants the doctor to do good medicine.
Peggy Rupple
Yes.
Bill Hendricks
The work itself has value.
Dan Rupple
Mm hmm.
Bill Hendricks
Because God’s gifted you and called you into that line of work. In the doing of the work, how you interface with other human beings is also all a part of it ‘cause that too needs to be an authentic presence of Christ in that place. That you’re, Corinthians says, an ambassador of the king.
Dan Rupple
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
I’m here doing this work, but I’m representing the king.
Peggy Rupple
Yes. Yes.
Bill Hendricks
I need to treat you the way that king wants you to be treated.
Peggy Rupple
We did a large event at CBS. It’s called Legacy. We did it for the National Day of Prayer. And we invited about 450 leading entertainment professionals. And wonderful, wonderful actor, David Oyelowo. Honey, tell them what David said. It was remarkable.
Dan Rupple
Oh, yeah, David Oyelowo, if you’re not familiar with him, he played Martin Luther King in the film Selma. Wonderful actor. Deeply passionate about the Lord. And he got up there and he was doing this call to excellence. If we’re gonna reflect our God, you know, let’s be excellent ‘cause our God is excellent. And he’s a God of beauty and detail. And he was talking about – he says, you know at the bottom of the ocean where nobody can see it, there are the most beautiful vibrant colors and shapes and all these things. He goes, that’s unnecessary.
Bill Hendricks
Exactly.
Dan Rupple
You know. God didn’t need to put it down there, you know, where nobody’s gonna see it. But he did. Because he’s a God of beauty. And that’s the same thing. You were talking about this excellence. And to get to the second part of our mission to be an encouraging voice of experience, as we’re going around to universities and talking to film students, we’re calling them to be Daniels in Babylon. And we look at three things that Daniel utilized to really thrive in Babylon. Number one was his commitment to excellence. It says two or three times in the book of Daniel, he did it with excellence. He did it the best of the best.
Peggy Rupple
And he stood out.
Dan Rupple
And Hollywood brings the best of the best of storytellers. And so you want to be excellent. Be more excellent if you can. So approach it with excellence.
Bill Hendricks
You certainly don’t want to do your best.
Dan Rupple
And you never want to say, it’s good enough for the Lord. You know, it’s good enough for a Christian thing. Don’t do that. Say, no, I want this to be the best film.

The other thing is he was strong in his convictions, uncompromising. Don’t go in there and play by their rules. You know, don’t assimilate into the culture where it’s like, oh, that’s what it takes to make it. Because one of the things that’s so wonderful, if you look at the history of all the great, great filmmakers, one of the things, among others, that set them apart was they had a unique voice. I challenged some film students, watch a great master filmmaker and turn the sound down. Just by watching what he does, you can probably tell me who that filmmaker is.

Bill Hendricks
Yeah.
Dan Rupple
You know, they have that unique style. You have a uniqueness in you that you’re walking in the kingdom. And your relationship with Christ brings a lot to the table that makes you a wonderful voice. So utilize that and be strong in that, uncompromising. But the third thing he did is he didn’t drink from the king’s cup. And you know, in Hollywood the king’s cup is fame and fortune. Don’t pursue that. It’s empty. I know so many people that, that was what they pursued, they didn’t get it, and they deserted Hollywood bitter. I know others that pursued that and got it and then they were empty. It’s like, man, it’s not what it’s called out – you know, it left them empty.

And so go in and say, this is my assignment from the Lord. I’m gonna bring that presence of the Lord joyfully and just be that loving kingdom presence.

Peggy Rupple
And we need the spectrum. We need – you know, there’s a space for overt messages, but there’s also really this remarkable space for where the power’s in the subtext, and there’s this – the conviction and all that emanates from who this character is as opposed to a process, the _____ process that he goes through. So things like a Chariot of Fire, so you have someone who is innately who they are and this resonates with this phenomenal story.

So we’re preparing students, we feel the onus to prepare them for it all, being older and having walked this road a bit. But part of why we’re on this 16-university tour, in a sense, is actually responding to something we see God going ahead of us. And that is, there are film programs everywhere that are burgeoning. The Lord is up to something. God is calling young storytellers in multifaceted, not just film, but in all sorts of arena in the digital space and designers and things. And because it’s one of the growing majors on every Christian campus. So we said, okay, God, is up to something. And he is, you know, priming the pump. And there’s this little thread we’re seeing that has been very helpful and encouraging. And that is that these students are – they want to be at their best and all of these things – but they also want to come and bring a wholeness in who they are in this process.

Bill Hendricks
Right.
Peggy Rupple
So they’re listening to the story of the road that we’ve taken, the fall – the struggles we’ve had where we’ve had – the margins we need to place on our life. The importance of keeping a Sabbath. And we’re just letting them know, listen, if you want to thrive in Hollywood, you’re gonna have to make these decisions. Make these choices. You know, find your tribe. You need to make sure that you are with likeminded people who have your calling, who get you.
Dan Rupple
Find your faith community. Put margins in your life. Build relationships. Build your family. Put your marriage first and your raising your children. Come in with everything at the table.
Bill Hendricks
Well, I couldn’t be more excited about that particular part of your work – the voice of experience to the rising leaders. As the father of a storyteller, I can tell you, all that you’ve said is absolutely the case. And I would say to our listeners who are not storytellers, you know they’re not those people, but Christians can come around those storytellers as they’re coming along and coming up and surround them with support. I think that you probably know this better than most, you mentioned creatives are some of the most insecure people in the world. So as they’re trying to put their life together, put their career together, you know, they need voices around them of support, encouragement, prayer, wisdom. Not condemnation. Not criticism. Not knocking what the calling is that God has given to them. I just can’t thank Dan and Peggy enough for coming to be with us. Rupples, thank you very much.
Dan Rupple
Our pleasure.
Bill Hendricks
This has just been an outstanding time. And we could go on and on. Thank you for your work. God bless your work out there.
Dan Rupple
Thank you.
Bill Hendricks
And again, both coasts. But thank you for being on The Table podcast today.
Dan Rupple
Thank you for having us. We’ve enjoyed it.
Peggy Rupple
It’s been an absolute blessing. Thank you.
Bill Hendricks
Well, great. If you have a topic you would like us to consider here on The Table podcast, just email us at thetable@dts.edu. And for The Table, I’m Bill Hendricks. Thank you for being with us.

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