Let me get this out of the way–I’ve been prejudiced against mainstream Christian movies.
In the old days, these movies were often poorly made, and I always felt an embarrassment for the cause. Christians advertise a better way to live but make crappy movies! The two don’t go together, right?
Well, something changed along the way. And I think we can pinpoint it to Sherwood Baptist Church in the town of Albany, Georgia. There, their visionary Senior Pastor Michael Catt found that only a small percentage of high school-aged boys and girls actually attended church. It became clear that they needed to be reached another way–through the culture.
And Sherwood Pictures was born.
Click the link above to read more about this amazing, inspirational story. Sherwood Baptist Church’s venture into Christian filmmaking began in 2002, just a few years after hiring Alex Kendrick as Associate Pastor of Media and his brother, Stephen as Associate Pastor of Preaching and Prayer. The brothers created videos together to support ministry needs at Sherwood but also desired to fulfill a dream of making Christian movies.
The church’s first movie, Flywheel, was made for just $20,000 and used church volunteers for everything including acting. They approached their local theater and asked if they could show the movie there! The owner agreed, and Flywheel unexpectedly sold out multiple show times as the week’s second-highest grossing movie of the cinema’s 16 screens. The movie was extended for six weeks due to the overwhelming response. Wow, that’s a story in itself.
Sherwood offered Flywheel on DVD and sold all 1,000 units on the first day. Christian bookstores, Blockbuster Video, and movie catalogs requested Flywheel for their inventories. The movie later aired on five television networks and garnered seven film festival awards including the Gold Crown Award for Best Screenplay from ICVM.
From there, the rest is history, as they say. While Flywheel continued to expand, the brothers Alex and Stephen Kendrick asked God for another movie plot, and so the movie Facing the Giants–about a high school football coach facing fear with faith–was born. Facing the Giants was made for just $100,000–quite a step up from their first film’s budget of $20,000–but still small potatoes in the world of cinema. It went on to earn $10.1 million in theaters and sold more than 2.5 million units on DVD.
I saw Facing the Giants on video and liked it. Moreover, something about it told me that these guys were serious Christians. I began to see Christian movies in a new–less judgmental–way. I began to stop nitpicking these movies for every single thing I did not agree with theologically or otherwise, and just began appreciating them for what they did contain of positive value.
In the past, I have been so forgiving of secular movies–so willing to pull out the value from a movie filled with sex, drugs, violence, and profanity. Why couldn’t I pull the good out of Christian movies? Well, now I can!
From there, the Kendrick brothers kept making a string of successful Christian movies through Sherwood Pictures, including Fireproof and Courageous. One of those movies was War Room, which rose to be the NUMBER ONE movie in the U.S. during its second week of release in 2015.
Jesus Revolution represents the next step of the journey for Christian films. I haven’t been to a movie in theaters in a long time. COVID killed movies for a while, and older folks like myself easily lost the movie habit.
As I said at the beginning, I had also been prejudiced against Christian movies, particularly “event” movies or series like The Chosen.
I thought the actor who played Jesus, Jonathan Roumie, just didn’t have the presence of someone like Robert Powell, who portrayed Jesus in the classic Jesus of Nazareth. Well, perhaps I was right, but Jonathan Roumie’s portrayal in The Chosen was certainly more approachable, and I’ve come to recognize that that counts for a lot, in terms of engaging modern audiences.
I found out that Jonathan Roumie also played a “Jesus”-like street preacher in The Jesus Revolution named Lonnie Frisbee. My prejudice against the man would have kept me from seeing the new movie, but I saw that the movie was NOT another Jesus remake, but instead, a story about the start of the “Jesus” movement in California during the 60s.
As someone who was born and raised in the 1960s in California–my interest was piqued.
But the real selling point was the connection the story had to the hippie movement. I have often wondered about this movement, and believe that there was something good in it, at least at the start, before it was corrupted by sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll. Many young people saw the hypocrisy of their parents and an increasingly “plastic” world swirling around them in the Vietnam era. Unfortunately, many reacted in a negative, self-destructive manner.
I was one of those.
The last confirmation for me was when I looked up the Jesus Revolution on the Rotten Tomatoes review site–it got a 99% positive rating from the audience! Wow, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a score that high. Yes, it could also mean that the Christian message was massively diluted in order to get such a high popularity rating among today’s “unwashed masses.” Critics gave the movie just 62% approval, but that’s actually pretty high for a Christian movie–today’s critics are typically quite hostile to anything with God in it!
Okay, I wanted to see this movie, and did indeed go to a theater too–I’m so glad that I did. I don’t want to say too much, which could color your expectations, but I highly recommend that you go to see this movie too. You can go to this link for theaters and showtimes. I also recommend that you don’t wait long–the movie has already been out since February 24, so it may not be in theaters much longer.
If you have seen the movie, or do see it, please let me know what you think about it.
I now recognize that my Christian life has come full circle: from relative innocence to corruption, blindness, hypocrisy, exposure, and now a sense of being “born again” in slow motion. Day to day I do not seem to see much change, but over time I am slowly returning to the innocent boy I once was, augmented with a hard-won shield of experience. Finally, a man is emerging in my sixties (thank God!).
A big part of this journey is being able to stop judging everything and everybody, including perhaps most importantly, my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. The Jesus Revolution has this theme as well. It’s a lesson we can ALL benefit from.
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