Downton Abbey, popular culture: God’s gift to us (@soonguy)

Downton cast members

Downton Abbey – what will happen next? How ever can we wait so long to find out? Why do we care?

Because we are wired for storytelling. Because we actually feel we ‘know’ these characters, indeed we love them. (Dad’s Army is so enduringly popular because, essentially, we love Captain Mainwaring and his platoon.)

Leighton Ford has observed, “It’s been said that next to food and drink, our most basic human hunger is for storytelling.”

I marvel at the ability of children still too young to speak, yet who can easily discern the difference between a picture story or some make-believe (e.g. ‘eating’ food off a picture book), and reality. This hard-wired ability is displayed even more graphically in research with babies by Yale University.

Using popular culture as a starting point in evangelism

The beauty of this concept is that not only are films, books and TV programs a common language that we can share with not-yet-followers of Jesus, but they usually contain spiritual parallels or raise questions that can be used as starting points to illustrate the good news. Read more.

Two key books that will help you are: Focus: The Heart and Soul of Cinema, by Tony Watkins of, and Pop Goes the Church, by Tim Stevens. Happily, both are in Internet Evangelism Day’s November book competition.

You can also download a shorter book by Watkins at Internet Evangelism Day’s free e-book page. have just launched View Finder, a new resource to help churches reach the 18-30 media generation, using precisely this starting point:

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In our digital communication culture, storytelling is an essential component of almost any effective communication: learn more. And check Twitter for storytelling links and delve occasionally into Storytelling for Non-profits Daily.

Photo credit: KCTS 9 / Flickr / Creative Commons. Pictured: Michelle Dockery (Mary) and Dan Stevens (Matthew) in Seattle, August 2011.

About soonguy

Tony Whittaker is coordinator for Internet Evangelism Day | Team member, SOON Ministries, Derby UK. Contact him here.