Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

God is everywhere. And next Thursday (2/27) that statement of faith will be visually evident at selected movie theaters across America. That’s when the religious epic Son of God (produced by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey) will take over several multiplexes nationwide.

Multiplexes in at least 10 cities nationwide will be  playing Son of God on ALL their screens on the evening of February 27, the day before the film officially debuts on 3,000 screens.

“It’s very interesting to see this level of excitement around the movie,” says James Meredith, VP, Head of Marketing & Communications for Cinemark.  “We’ve already scheduled a few large-scale theater buyouts for Son of God in theatres across the country.  The interest level for meetings, events, screenings and buyouts seems to be on par with that of major blockbuster, tentpole or franchise movies.”

Crossroads Church in Cincinnati is bringing thousands of people to their local Cinemark on Thursday where Son of God will be showing on 13 screens at the same time. “We’re inviting everyone to experience this historic film about the life of Jesus,” says Brian Wells from Crossroads. “Our church bought out every screen in the theater. If anyone comes to the theater to see another movie that night, they’ll be out of luck, unless we have a few extra tickets to give them!”

In California, mega-church pastor and New York Times bestselling author Rick Warren, is buying out screens in eight different theaters throughout Orange County. “I’ve seen most of the films about Jesus produced in the past 50 years, and Son of God is the best,” Warren says. “We’re excited Jesus is back on the big screen, and we’re going to fill the theaters. I want every other faith leader in America to do the same. Whether you can buy out a whole theater, or just one screen, now is the time to show up.” Warren is also supporting the film by creating his own curriculum.  Son of God: The Life of Jesus in You is due out today (2/15).  “This is a rare opportunity to bring the story of Christ into our mainstream culture,” Rick Warren declares. “We want to see Jesus in movie theaters where sight and sound can open up our senses and let grace come in. The message of the Gospel deserves to be on the big screen – and this is our chance to see it there.”

In Texas, Joel Osteen’s Houston-based Lakewood Church will distribute 8,000 tickets (paid for by an anonymous donor). In praising the film, Osteen says “Mark Burnett and Roma Downey’s feature film Son of God proves that when talent and passion collide, the outcome is spectacular.  Having spent time with them on the set, Victoria (Osteen’s wife) and I witnessed firsthand the deep and abiding passion they possess for God’s Word.  Every aspect of this production from the acting to the poignant storytelling is accomplished with excellence. Mark and Roma have succeeded in doing what few before them have done; they have produced an epic work that tells the Story of Jesus and touches the heart”.

Other churches and organizations distributing tickets for a “Theater Take-Over” include:

·         Craig Groeschel (LifeChurch) – Oklahoma City OK & Tulsa, OK – 18 Campuses. Weekly attendance of 60,000 and Bible application with over 100 million downloads.

·         Archbishop José Gomez (Archdiocese of Los Angeles) – Over 4 million members.

·         Miles McPherson (Rock Church) – San Diego, CA – Weekly attendance of over 10,000.

·         Unpolished Entrepreneurs Group (Crossroads Church) – Cincinnati, OH – Weekly attendance of over 10,000.

·         Jerry Falwell, Jr. (Liberty University) – Lynchburg, VA – Over 12,000 students.

·         Ray Johnston (Bayside Church) – Sacramento, CA – Weekly attendance of over 10,000.

In addition to pastors doing “Theater Take-Overs,” many others are buying out single screens at their local movie theater.

Also, the relief organization Compassion International has joined in the buy-out campaign by distributing tickets to churches in more than 40 markets. “Jesus has always been at the center of our ministry,” says Mark Hanlon, Compassion International’s senior vice president of global marketing and engagement. “His life story is the greatest story ever told. And this film tells it in a beautiful, captivating way. The Gospel account of Jesus’ life is a central part of our program’s curriculum. That’s why we’re working with churches throughout the country to make this film an opportunity for outreach.”

Broad religious support. Meanwhile, Son of God has been endorsed by many high-profile faith leaders from across the spectrum of denominations, notably including Anti-Defamation League head Abe Foxman who says “The story of the crucifixion and the way it has been used through the centuries has never been good for the Jews. Having said that, Son of God is the most sensitive, caring depiction of the story of Jesus that I have ever seen or will ever see. The producers have done everything possible to put the events into historical, political and psychological context. We at ADL value their efforts”

Other endorsements for the film:

·         Cardinal Wuerl (Archbishop of Washington DC) – “It is a joy to watch this film bring alive the pages of the Gospel and help us see what those who lived at the time of Jesus experienced. Personally, I would recommend to individuals, but particularly to families this wonderful story of the Son of God in order to be inspired all over again with the story of God’s love for us.”

·         Bishop TD Jakes (Potters House) – “I believe the audience will be enthralled encouraged and inspired by the movie “Son of God.”

·         Carl Anderson (Supreme Knight, Knights of Columbus) – “Whether you have known Christ for many years, or you are looking to meet him for the first time, Son of God is a movie that will speak to your heart and nourish your soul. This is a film that does not simply tell you about Christ, but puts you in the midst of his life, allowing you to see firsthand his public ministry, his love for humanity, and the death he suffered that we might have life eternal.”

·         Archbishop Jose Gomez (Archbishop of Los Angeles) – “Each one of us is a son or daughter of God. It is a wonderful, awesome reality. The movie Son of God is a very important movie because it gives us the opportunity to realize God’s presence in our own lives, and that we are children of God. The film is extraordinary for my ministry.”

·         Rev. Samuel Rodriguez (NHCLC, Hispanic Evangelical Association) – “Son of God fills the big screen with two catalytic elements; the passion of the cross and the purpose of the empty tomb, forgiveness and eternal life. This film informs, inspires and imparts not just a message but more importantly it contextualizes the quintessential “hope” narrative; Christ, the hope of glory. Accordingly, it is not just a production worth watching but even more, it’s a gift worth experiencing!”

·         Ro Chang Soo (Sarang Community Church) – “It is not easy to translate Bible stories into cinema. It can be difficult to capture the full impact and meaning of the scriptures onto a screen. This is what makes the movie, Son of God, so special. It preserved the meaning so now we can see, hear, and experience the bible. They will have an emotional connection to The Bible like never before.”

BTW, I’ll offer my own review Son of God on Thursday (2/27).

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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