Using entertainment to reach the unchurched is not a new notion and what is better than using a film as a vehicle to minister? With films like “God’s Not Dead,” “Heaven is for Real," "Miracles from Heaven" and "A Case for Christ," faith films are satisfying a need for the spiritually hungry nonchurchgoers.
People are reluctant to come to church or to get involved in organized religion and the trend is becoming increasingly worse, despite the efforts. A Barna study found that 33 percent of adults are classified as unchurched. The examination showed that the unchurched are becoming less responsive to churches’ efforts to connect with them as well. "For example, conventional wisdom says the best way to get people to visit a church is to have friends invite them," Barna found. Inviting people to church or to a movie like "A Case for Christ" is another tool to leverage to influence the unchurched. At least this is what author Lee Strobel hopes the film will accomplish.
Based on the book of the same name, the former award-winning legal editor of The Chicago Tribune and former atheist made it his mission to disprove God. "I didn’t have any patience for mythology, superstition or make-believe. 'Just give me the facts' was my motto," he said. Facts became Lee's world. But he started a journey into an another world after his daughter was saved by a nurse while choking at a restaurant. This good Samaritan became a lamppost to his wife, Lesli Strobel, who didn't believe it was just a fluke. Later, she accepted Christ. His wife's newly found faith went against everything Strobel believed. Yet, this was the start of his own faith journey. But on his way to disprove God, he found Him. He explained: "I set out to disprove her [wife] beliefs and rescue her from the cult of Christianity." Of course, he failed to do so and bombed miserably. Utilizing his story of unbelief, Strobel believes the film will be especially relevant to people sitting on the fence regarding their faith. "We live in this post-truth culture," he said. "We have the shifting sands of moral relativism and I think people are looking for an anchor for their lives. I think it is interesting that the Bible, specifically links hope in the resurrection and calls it an anchor. If the resurrection is true, it changes everything because it means that Jesus is who He claims to be."
This is important to those in our cultural switching beliefs every other week, depending on their feelings. Believing in the resurrected Christ helps people become more grounded, Strobel found. The church should be concerned, however. According to the Pew Research Center, Christians are declining, both as a share of the U.S. population and in total number. Between 2007 and 2014, the Christian share of the population fell from 78.5 percent to 70.6 percent. The vast majority of these religious “nones” (78 percent) said that they were raised as a member of a particular religion before shedding their religious identity in adulthood. Americans are also becoming increasingly secular in their beliefs and practices. "Overall, more than three-quarters of unchurched adults fall in the heavy-to-moderate range on the secularization scale. That compares to about one out of eight among the churched," Barna added.
People who discount Christ as just being a legend could change their minds from the secular if they start mining the evidence backing up Christianity. "We do have multiple sources in the New Testament and we have five ancient sources inside and outside the New Testament, confirming and corroborating His appearances. The resurrection really confirms His identity of being the Son of God," said Strobel who has authored 20 books on the subject of Christ. "Jesus not only claimed to be the Son of God but backed it up by returning from the dead. There were a number of eyewitnesses within months of the death of Jesus, too early to be a legend. I put this all together and thought it would take more faith to maintain my atheism than to be a Christian." Strobel once compared the experience to a "clown punching bags, I felt like every time I would hit Christianity with an objection, it would bounce back up.
Strobel is not naive to believe that skeptics are going to pick up his book or rush to see the film. Yet, he said thousands of people came to faith through the book A Case for Christ. The reason could be people are inviting others to examine the movie and lending the books to their nonbelieving friends. Since they trust their friend's opinion, they are more willing to take their advice to read a book. "I think the movie will be the same way," Strobel affirmed. "I think Christians are going to come to the movie and be encouraged. I think that they will be entertained on one level and be affirmed on another level. They are going to think of a half a dozen people who they can invite."
Since 35 percent of people who see a faith-based film are unchurched, movies can be a centerpiece for discussion and outreach. "I see this as a great opportunity for Christians to reach out to their friends who are spiritually curious. The most important conversation of the night will not be the movie, it will be the conversation in the coffeehouse afterward."