(Photo: Artists Resource Center)
Microphone in hand, Touré Roberts is at ease as he introduces each short film at his first film festival at the movie theater inside the Sherman Oaks Galleria. He invites selected filmmakers and actors to chat with him and tell the audience about their projects after each screening. On a recent summer evening, it's easy to see that this young pastor of a large church in Los Angeles is passionate about making a difference in Hollywood.
Roberts, 39, is the pastor of One Church International in North Hollywood where 2,000 people regularly attend. He is also the founder of the Artists Resource Center, a not-for-profit facility serving as a place where people making a go of it in the entertainment industry can come for help.
Ninety percent of his congregation are people who are either already part of the film or music business in some way, or who are interested in starting a career in Hollywood.
During, and for some time after planting One Church International eight years ago, Roberts said that although he learned that he has a heart for Hollywood industry types, support from the Christian community was slow in coming.
"I did feel very alone and isolated for awhile because as I have grown and mentored many in the industry, including very famous people, that became part of my community and so when I would [hear] the church badmouthing Hollywood I would actually personally get offended because they were not just talking about some random community, but they are now talking about a community that I am part of," he told The Christian Post recently. "So I had to actually pray through some hurts and some wounds for a period, but I think the word is getting out.
"Whereas four or five years ago there was not much support I think the heart of God is getting out and I think that we've realized that we missed a very key and vital mission field that will affect the nations," Roberts continued. "I feel a lot of people coming around and really getting God's heart and maybe realizing that we need to rethink this Hollywood-bashing thing and turn our cursing into blessing and see what that will get us because clearly the other way around didn't get us much."
In 2004, when Roberts moved with his family to start the church in North Hollywood, he began with just 13 people. At first, he did not know the reason he felt God leading him to plant a church in what's considered a major hub for the movie and music industry.
"When I looked at the congregation and thought about what their needs were beyond just hearing the Word of God because what was happening is that they would hear God's Word and then go back into their creative spaces and be beat up again, be influenced, and come back and pretty much need to hear the Word all over again," he said.
"I just looked at the church one day and heard God say that 'if you are going to steward this church well, then you need to activate them in their areas of expertise,'" he explained.
Roberts said that without any effort, people in the entertainment field became the demographic that was attracted to his style of ministry and encouragement.
When asked about the fact that some Christians in the U.S. have a habit of bashing the Hollywood film industry and calling for boycotts, he answered, "I can certainly understand sometimes a righteous indignation although sometimes I believe it is a self-righteous indignation.
"I can understand seeing things produced on the screen that are harmful. I'm grieved often, but at the same time we are still talking about people. When I look at Hollywood and the industry I really see the opportunity because for a long time the church has not been engaged in Hollywood and really there is no wonder why things have regressed the way they have. You take God or the church out of anything and it's going to go down," he said.
"I think that in many cases, because of the self-righteous and loveless stance that some of the church has taken by withdrawing themselves and essentially cursing Hollywood with their words, I think that we are actually partly to blame for some of the filth that we are complaining about," he continued.
"Jesus said, 'bless and do not curse' and so we could be – with our sharp words of criticism and judgment – could be thrusting the sword into our own guts and then wondering why things are getting worse."
Roberts considers the Artists Resource Center an outreach into the community although it is not designated as an official ministry. He said his church is a Bible-based church and makes no apology for being one.
"What we teach and what we are about is grounded in Scripture. One Church is not a place where we say, 'Hey world, come into the culture of the church. Come out of your culture that you live and breathe in and come into this new culture.' It's more so about becoming relevant. Not relevant in worldly ideology, but relevant in mutual interests like the arts," he said.
The church and the resource center are intertwined by members of the church serving in both. The services at the center, including classes, training, and production facilities, are offered for free. At the film festival earlier this month, volunteers served as greeters and ushers, and provided a red carpet experience fit for any Hollywood production.
"We just really believe that media and technology has to be in place for the Great Commission to be fulfilled," Roberts explained. "I don't believe the Gospel is going out into the nations without it."
On the Web: http://www.onechurchla.org/