In the fall of 2008, Caleb Larson and I attended Oak Hill Lutheran Brethren Church in Bloomington, Minnesota for the first time as husband and wife. There we discovered a renewed desire to serve in our church, not just as individuals, but now as a unified couple. Our pastor, Rev. Nick Mundis, encouraged us and came alongside us. We dove headlong into ministry by meeting the theater arts need in the church. We directed, produced, and acted in various productions, and we encouraged others to do the same. Pastor Nick, too, found himself taking to the stage. Two years later, as Caleb and I looked to seminary and an inevitable return to Fergus Falls, I considered pursuing a second phase of involvement with a theater arts ministry already existing in Otter Tail County, MN, called Redeemer’s Song Ministries. This ministry was in a process of revitalization, as it needed fresh vision, new goals, and renewed momentum.
Before Caleb’s and my transition back to Fergus Falls, however, I sat in a pew at Oak Hill Church one Sunday listening to Pastor Nick speak about the prodigal son. At that moment, I remembered an experimental project I’d created with Redeemer’s Song Ministries years before, a 1932-inspired film adaptation of the parable of the prodigal. As I listened to Pastor Nick, witnessed how carefully and intentionally he engaged his audience, how sincere and devoted a father he was, how intensely and unashamedly he loved his own dad, I realized this truth: here’s the man, here’s the father, this is the project. Now is the time.
Before Caleb and I left Oak Hill, I proposed the idea to Pastor Nick that he play the role of the prodigal’s adoptive father in our adaptation. I was already pounding away at the keyboard developing the first draft of the script and was more excited than I’d ever been about any ministry-related project. Pastor Nick was hesitant about becoming a screen actor, and he transparently said, “I don’t know if I can memorize all of these lines… but I’ll try.”
That’s all I needed to hear. In the summer of 2011, a cast of over thirty-five individuals shot the first official RSM independent film, a story titled He Leadeth Me. When it premiered in Fergus Falls on Father’s Day, 2012 to a packed theater, more than one individual wept, more than one community member noted that “the father was excellent,” and we all walked away remembering how deeply our heavenly Father loves us and to what great lengths he went to adopt us as his children.
Redeemer’s Song Ministries, now officially a non-profit organization, will soon celebrate twenty years of theater and film ministry. To highlight this milestone, we will be shooting an updated, revised, anniversary edition of He Leadeth Me. In June of 2018, Pastor Nick will return as Judge Ethan Evan Carter and take on a much more intense, defined role. This time we intend to incorporate many new individuals in the pre-production process: the congregations of our actors, the families of our financial supporters, and the community of Worthington, MN, as we transform their historic George Dayton house into the home of the most important man in our story: the father. But this time, Pastor Nick, now lovingly and respectfully known as “the judge,” has a much bigger job to do.
Since the year 2000, we’ve invited hundreds of individuals to participate both on stage and on screen, behind the curtain and behind the camera. Yet, some of the most vital and needed participants in this ministry have been and always will be our communities’ pastors. Redeemer’s Song Ministries continues to undergo a revitalization of vision and mission. No longer is our primary focus of ministry the audience; it is rather the participants.
We’ve seen an influx of artists who have been disillusioned and disappointed by religion, question the existence and importance of Jesus, and don’t have a church to belong to. When they spend time with other artists, artists who love the Lord, and when they participate in the teaching and preaching of Scripture, eyes are opened. These individuals start asking questions. They begin to engage and wrestle with the truth of God’s Word. They inevitably develop relationships and love for their fellow cast members. Without realizing it, they find themselves surrounded by the Church, the one Body that Jesus Christ calls us to be (Romans 12:1-5). The pastors who become involved directly and indirectly provide biblical wisdom, spiritual guidance, intuitive support, and leadership in prayer. Serving as actors, technical support, producers, and chaplains, pastors have the unique opportunity to bring their ministry-related experience to the table, to support the professional work these actors and crew members are doing.
In 2011, Pastor Nick had little to no experience in screen acting. He now says, “This was a real stretch for me, to not live in the freedom and flexibility of monologue… I grew simply by doing something in God’s Kingdom that went well beyond my comfort zone.” Nick was and is fully equipped to do what he’s been called to do: to minister. He faithfully stepped out of the pulpit and into our creative and artistic lives.
Many pastors since have intimately tied themselves to the arts ministry of Redeemer’s Song and have become some of our most valued sounding boards, prayer warriors, and cheerleaders. We need them. We depend on them. And, we are so very grateful for the calling of these servants and for their obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ. Nick adds, “God has always called us to be people who translate the Word of God to other cultures and languages. This is a way that God is delivering his message to our culture today through us.”
Sarah Larson is the Executive Director & Producer for Redeemer’s Song Ministries.
To learn more about Redeemer’s Song Ministries, or to get involved, contact Sarah at: [email protected]
Visit Redeemer’s Song Ministries on Facebook or online at: www.redeemerssongministries.org