Exclusive Contracts
by Pastor George Van Alstine

Since we’re only twenty minutes from Hollywood, the movie business is automatically part of our world. Just about any day in Pasadena and Altadena, you’re likely to drive by a movie location in action. Of course, they love picturesque old mansions and traditional Gothic-style churches. But they’re also looking for average houses and places that look like Main Street USA.

Over the years, we’ve had lots of location managers for production companies stop into the church to ask about possible use for a movie shoot. As long as I’ve been here, however, these contacts have never panned out; the most return we’ve ever seen is a few dollars from rental of parking lot spaces.

Last year, some ACCC parents thought we were missing a great fund-raising opportunity. They put us into contact with an experienced agent by the name of Joseph Darrell. We arranged a meeting with some ABC Deacons and some ACCC Board members, and Joe sold us. We decided we had nothing to lose, so we contracted with his agency to represent us. He took about a thousand pictures around the property and put them all on line. It’s been about a year now, and the results have been nil, nada, not even a nibble.

Meanwhile, people still occasionally walk in off the street. This morning, a guy named Bob said he was a location man for a small movie that was using a large house on Mendocino Street for its primary location. They needed a commercial-looking space for some office scenes. He looked around the church basement and took a bunch of pictures. He thought this might work.

I told Bob we’d like to work with him, but he’d have to deal with our agent, because we had an exclusive contract with him. He asked the agent’s name, and when I told him, he said, “Oh, Joe’s a good guy; I like working with him.” But then he added: “Of course, you’ll have to pay him his percentage, when otherwise we could give the church all the money. It’s good to have an agent, but you should never sign an exclusive contract.”

I guess every business is different. In Bob’s world, agents want exclusive contracts, but it’s in their clients’ interests to avoid them. I thought about his advice: “You should never sign an exclusive contract.”

Some people try to deal with God this way. They’d like to sign a contract with him—for his blessings, for health and wealth, for protection from all life’s dangers, for after-life security. But they don’t want the contract to be exclusive. They don’t want to accept God’s lordship over their lives; they don’t want to submit to his will; they don’t want to give up their self-indulgent lifestyle. And they want to keep some other “godlets” around just in case. They may want to mess with Astrology, or Kabala, or various superstitions. It never hurts to have a little good luck on the side to supplement God’s grace.

There’s something within our willful spirits that tell us, “You should never sign an exclusive contract.” But the truth is, God never makes a contract that isn’t exclusive! This is the meaning of that declaration repeated often in the Old Testament: “I am a jealous God.” You might paraphrase this “I am an exclusive God.” He seems to be saying “I won’t share the affections of my people with anyone or anything.” Much of the unhappiness believers experience comes from their unwillingness to accept the fact that God’s contract with them is exclusive.

Bob may be right about the film-location business, but his advice just doesn’t translate into the spiritual realm. All God’s contracts are exclusive.