I Support the “Son of God” Movie, So My Church Isn’t Buying Out a Theater

Son of GodThis weekend, all over America, theaters will be filled with people seeing Son of God, the new movie about the life of Christ. It’s expected to be a huge box office success.

Over half a million tickets have been pre-sold, virtually all to ministries and churches. In some multiplex theaters, every screen has been claimed by churches. Compassion International pre-bought a stunning 250,000 tickets.

My church won’t be doing that.

I don’t have a problem with Son of God being made. And I haven’t seen it, so I have no judgment on its merits. I’m also not saying that the churches that bought out entire theaters are wrong.

I just have a different take on it.

Here are two reasons my church won’t be taking over a theater this weekend.


1. We need to engage the culture, not reinforce the Christian subculture

Yes, we are called to be a holy people, set apart from the things of the world. But we’re also called to engage the world. That’s the message of the Gospel, after all – that God chose not to remain separate, but lovingly and redemptively interacted with the culture, warts and all, through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. 

In fact, it’s one of Mark Burnett’s stated purposes for making this movie. Not to create entertainment for believers, but to infiltrate the marketplace with the message of Jesus.

That will be hard to do when many theaters will be closed to anyone who hasn’t pre-bought tickets from a church. I’m concerned that in our enthusiasm to support this movie, we may be diminishing its usefulness. I hope it doesn’t end up being perceived as the movie for “those church people.”


2. Christian-themed art and media deserve the chance to stand or fall on their own merits

I have no idea if Son of God is a great, average or awful movie. Given the many public statements of faith made by its producers, I have no doubt it will be a sincere and devout one.

But Christian-themed media and art need to be more than sincere and devout. They should be able to stand on their own as legitimate works of cinematic art.

They need to be good.

Rather than being propped up by massive ticket buys from churches, Christian-themed movies need to face the same critical and box office heat that every other movie does. If it’s a good movie, it will survive and thrive. If it’s not a good movie, it won’t – and it shouldn’t.

I don’t think we do the world, the church, Christian movie makers or the Gospel a favor by propping up mediocre movies.

Again, I’m not saying this movie is mediocre. I haven’t seen it, so I don’t know. It may be great. I hope it is. But it may be almost impossible for people to make an objective judgment on its artistic merits in this atmosphere.


My prayers for the Son of God movie

Even though my church won’t be joining in, I appreciate the intent of the churches and church leaders who are buying tickets in bulk. I expect that many of the church people who bought tickets for this weekend will invite their unbelieving friends and family members. That’s a great thing.

So I have several prayers about this movie:

  • That it turns out to be a great movie, theologically and artistically
  • That it encourages millions of Christians
  • That it opens a door for those outside the faith to know more about Jesus
  • That it sparks conversations
  • That Christians will engage lovingly in those conversations, listening and responding, not just adding pre-packaged answers
  • That this movie and the conversations which follow it will lead people into a new and/or deeper relationship with Jesus

Lastly, I want to say a heartfelt thank you to Mark Burnett and Roma Downey for the risk they took with their finances and their reputations to make this movie and the TV series that triggered it. For that alone, they deserve our prayers and support.

Sure, they may end up making a ton of money on this. But that was never guaranteed. Most who try a project of this magnitude lose their shirts before it sees the light of day.


Let’s make some more!

I hope other believers follow in their wake, put their money and reputations where their mouths are, and make some really great movies.

If you do, I’ll support you, pray for you and probably see your movie. But my church won’t buy out a theater. If you make a movie worth watching, you won’t need us to.


So what do you think? Do you have a different take on how churches are using this movie?

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9 thoughts on “I Support the “Son of God” Movie, So My Church Isn’t Buying Out a Theater”

  1. Hey Karl, how come you’re always writing what I’m thinking? I will tell you what I would really like to see in the entertainment atmosphere. Regular Hollywood produced movies that accurately depict believers in a positive way rather than always negative. Or at least mostly always negative.

  2. We haven’t bought out a theater either. On the other hand, the closest theater to my town is about 25 miles away, and besides that we don’t have enough people to buy out the theater if we wanted to. But, I can imagine why I might want to. I agree with each of your prayer points, and I agree that good works of art ought to stand on their own. Unfortunately, they aren’t allowed to in the anti-Christian anti-goodness environment of the movers and shakers of the arts, entertainment, and media elite. I suspect that the only way the decisions makers will even consider a good wholesome project is if they see clearly that there is a huge potential financial upside. So, maybe mass ticket sales and the organized Christian push to make the movie a success is the only way we can influence the decision makers enough to get them to consider other wholesome projects.

    1. Ken, you are exactly right. Producing a theater-quality movie costs millions of dollars, and getting that movie distributed to theaters costs millions more. Hollywood won’t even consider getting involved in “Christian” movies until several of those movies start making significant profits. The vast majority of “Christian” movies are bankrolled by people who are willing to put their money at risk for a shot at getting their message into the mainstream. Usually, these are one-and-done ventures.

  3. Excellent! Thanks for expressing this so clearly. I’m with holding judgment on the movie. Was not too impressed with parts of The Bible series. Also I still wonder why the Jewish Jesus is always portrayed as a European “hunk” who speaks with a Brittish accent.

    1. Agreed on the British Jesus. I almost threw that into my post, but pulled it out since it might have distracted from my main premise. All I want is a Jesus who looks and sounds like a Jew. Is that too much to ask?

  4. First, Karl, I want to say what a blessing your website and book have been to me.Thank you for being such a help. I recommend you often!
    Second, I’m afraid I don’t have very high expectations for the movie. Though you seem to think that the producers are fine Christians, I have read things which lead me to doubt that they are Christians in the Biblical sense. One blog I read said that Roma had appeared on television with a medium in order to talk with her deceased mother, and that the couple leaned strongly toward new age spirituality. I don’t know them. I just recommend caution in recommending them. If they aren’t very Biblically grounded, perhaps that is why the Bible movies they produced weren’t very faithful to the scriptures. I don’t expect this new movie to be either.
    I know many feel that, in spite of the misleading nature of these sorts of films, they are still a good thing if they open dialogue about the real Jesus. I’d fell better about that assumption if I thought most viewers were going to “dialogue” with a Bible believing Christian about the issues. What do you think?
    One thing I do know, however, is that before this movie was ever made, the Holy Spirit has been dealing with people in their hearts to lead them to Christ. And after this movie is seen, the Holy Spirit will continue to deal with people to lead them to Jesus. I guess I am saying I have a lot more faith in the Holy Spirit than I do in a movie. So my favorite part of your blog was your list of prayers for the movie, to which I say a hearty “Amen.”
    May God lead many to faith by whatever means He chooses and May God bless you all!.

  5. While I did not buy out a theater, I did encourage our group to see it. For some reason these movies seem to spark conversation. And, there seems to be a residual evangelical punch to it, especially if it is good.

    What say I? The banners, the tracts, the powerpoint presentations and the private showings. While this might a bid campy or routine, it does seem to inspire some of the faithful to share what little they may know in the name of outreach. 🙂

    I don’t know the challenges of a large church, but I do know that for some of us whatever boots we can get, well Hurra! Or is it hurray? I forget..

    1. That sounds great, Leon. Your strategy and mine are right in sync. Encourage Christians to see it and to engage in the conversations that flow from it. I love it!

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