ACFW 2016 Afterglow – Kung Fu Panda is a Sermon

ACFW Conference, 2016

During the ACFW Conference this year, I attended a workshop taught by James L. Rubart on innovation.  As a graphic designer, the most important thing about my career is innovation in a visual sense. But how can I bring that same innovation to my writing?

Innovation is defined as acting out or implementing an idea. Of course, there’s nothing like telling someone “just be creative” (writer’s block, anyone?). Thankfully, Mr. Rubart shared some ways to help us discover our unique creativity:

  1. Ask ‘what if?’
  2. Look at the world in a different way
  3. Put two unexpected things together
  4. Find your sermon

All of these suggestions are great ways to spark something within you. Asking unexpected questions, listening to other people, reading broadly, merging your interests and hobbies, taking an unfamiliar route, and trying new things are all great ways to feed your imagination. So what about that last one?

Did you know that all people have one message— one sermon, that has been placed within them? Despite genre, age range, fiction or non-, if a writer has remained true to their sermon, that theme should be apparent in all of their work.

Mr. Rubart has a special talent. He can tell you what the sermon inside of you is based on your Top Three Favorite Movies. This has nothing to do with the genre, the age range of the targeted audience, or how many explosions there were. The themes in the storyline are what will reveal the sermon that has been put on your heart. Now, I didn’t get a chance to speak with Mr. Rubart after the workshop was over, but my conference buddy is a very perceptive woman, and shares this skill, so I asked her to help me discover my sermon.

My Top Three Favorite Movies:

  • Howl’s Moving Castle
  • Kung Fu Panda
  • Megamind


It’s true, you might look at this list of movies and say “kid’s stuff”, and while it’s true that I’m primarily writing Middle Grade fiction, we’re not looking at the genre here. We’re looking at the themes. And based on the common themes from these movies, my sermon is Undiscovered Hero.

The themes in the storyline are what will reveal
the sermon that has been put on your heart.

As soon as I heard it, I knew it was a fit. It didn’t take long for the pieces to click together as I thought about what drew me to the characters in those three movies, my unfinished manuscript waiting at home, and several lurking ideas for stories that I haven’t begun to plot out yet. All of them (much to my surprise) have an Undiscovered Hero!

Does that mean all of my stories are going to be the same? Will the heroes and heroines all start to sound and seem similar because they all have to be an Undiscovered Hero? No. But you’d better believe I’m going to be incorporating this theme very intentionally into my stories. Why? Because a message has been given to me and I now get to use my creativity when approaching it. Weaving a story around this common theme will help me to become more innovative in my story telling because the ultimate goal is to make sure that I am sharing this sermon with as many people as I can. Across genres, across ages, and perhaps with the help of an explosion or two.

Weaving a story around this common theme will
help me to become more innovative in my story telling.

So, what is your sermon? If you can’t find the common ground yourself, try taking this exercise to a discerning friend and see if they can’t help. Yes, it’s highly personal, but knowing your sermon is an important step in understanding your writing and the journey it will take you on.

2 thoughts on “ACFW 2016 Afterglow – Kung Fu Panda is a Sermon

  1. hopeperch says:

    Love this :). ACFW conference was amazing! I didn’t make it to that particular session, but it sounds like it was so much fun. On the topic of sermons inside of movies, have you seen Kung Fu Panda 3? (I have 3 little ones so of course I’ve seen them all :P) My favorite quote is when Master Shifu says, “I’m not trying to turn you into me, I’m trying to turn you into you.” If you haven’t seen it, I recommend it! It calls out undiscovered heroes in an entire group of characters. On that note, I think I’ll go on a hunt for my inner sermon :).

    • Elza Kinde says:

      I agree! It was my first conference, but I learned so much from all of the speakers, plus meeting new friends and supporters has made me feel a little braver about facing my work in progress again.

      That’s what I love about Kung Fu Panda (and a lot of other Dreamworks films, really). They do a fantastic job of creating characters with great qualities and likable personalities. It’s not so much about character building as it is character discovery.

      Good luck finding your sermon! I hope it will be as helpful to you and your writing as it was for me 😀

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