New Model Christian Movie Making

12 05 2008

Last night I was privileged to watch the first pre-release screening of Fireproof, which is the 3rd movie from Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, GA. While I’m not going to review the film at this time, I will say that it was great; funny and engaging. I really enjoyed it.

I was reminded of how Christians used to make movies, and the dismal failures they were. I can remember watching movies on film at church camp. One of my favorites was called “SuperChristian” which had a good message, but was just about as cheesy as you could get. Who could forget the Thief in the Night series? Great concepts but really lacking in funding to pull off a story like that.

The old Christian Movie Making Model consisted of someone having an idea, going out to raise funding, making the movie, and then dumping it to whatever little release they could, and taking their new idea back to the donors for more money. “What a success our last movie was, give us more money to make another one!”

I think that is one of the reasons that Christian film has been ignored by mainstream media. It is a foreign concept to think that anyone would sink money into a film with no hope of getting it seen, and no possibility of recouping the cost of the film production. The few Christian films that made it into theaters were not successful at all, by their standards. It’s great that a few people saw The Judas Project, The Omega Code, and Tribulation Force, but they were far from Hollywood successes.

But, this model is changing, and it is changing how people look at Christian film. While Mel Gibson was working on The Passion of Christ and getting ready to blow open the path for Christian film in Hollywood with it’s 2004 release, Sherwood Baptist Church raised $20k and made their first movie, Flywheel in 2003. It’s not the greatest movie ever made. It’s obvious they didn’t have a big budget. They tell a good story as best they can within their budget. As a result, the story is compelling enough to help you forget the acting and lighting. So compelling that it ended up being carried by Blockbuster across the country. I rented it while in NC.

The church made $100k from Flywheel. They took that money and spent between $80k and $100k on Facing the Giants. They hooked up with David Nixon Productions, and made a better film with another compelling story. That movie got picked up by Sony Pictures (via Provident Films). Last number I heard was that it made a little over $30 Million in tickets and sales. Sherwood did not get all that money by any means, but they did take $2 Million and use it to make Fireproof, which is due out in September.

Fireproof is a better movie. It actually has special effects, and paid actors, which help to tell another compelling story. I predict that it will do as good or better than Facing the Giants. I also predict that the money made from this film will be put back into another film, and the new model will continue, and many more people will see really good, compelling Christian stories.

Now, if we can just get more people to adopt this model.


Technology in Church

7 05 2008

Recently the Barna Group released a report about technology in church.

Because my career in church media has been in larger churches, I always assume that more people are using technology than are. Only 2/3s are using a screen in worship? That is only up 3% in 3 years! Is it any wonder we hear that 90% of churches are in decline?

Yes, I did just equate using a screen with reaching people. Let me explain.

I believe that media is a cultural language. The world lives and breathes media. We used to talk about modern vs postmodern, but now we should discuss literate vs post-literate. More people get their information through audio and video images than through print. As “people of The Book” that should frighten us, just a little. And we should ask ourselves how we reach a culture fluent in “media”.

Who is fluent in media? Every human being who lives in 21st century America and has access to any of the following: TV, radio, internet, print, audio CD, cassette, movie, DVD, VHS, theater, concerts, etc… They expect to find media used in all walks of life, just like I might expect a sales clerk to know how to ring up my purchase.

When they go to a church, see a stage and musical instruments, they expect to experience media. I mean experience it beyond the basic facilitation that a light bulb and voice amplification. They unconsciously expect to see a show. It is our job to engage them through the use of media, so that the message can transform their lives.

How should we use media within the church? We use it to speak to people in a language they understand, and expect. To be most effective, media within the church should have the same syntax as media in the world. Our media will not have the same message, but should be easily understood by those who are fluent in secular media.

So, when people keep talking about how the church is in decline, and I see reports like the one from Barna (which does give some hope because the use of technology is rising) I can understand how we are missing an entire generation in the church. no, it’s not just about the tech. You have to have a message that can transform, but that message won’t be heard by people who dismiss you as old-fashioned, out-of-touch, and behind-the-times.

Engage the culture, let your message, our message, transform it, and let God transform their souls!

Free Swag

1 05 2008

Great custom graphic design is ideal. But sometimes time, money, or skill limitations make it necessary to use premade graphics. And even when you have the time, money, and skills, there are still occasions when it is more efficient to not reinvent the wheel and to instead use and build upon a premade resource.

In either case, here are 15 of the best sites offering free church graphics and resources. And if you want to spend some cash, I have also included 6 sites that cost money but are worth considering for premade resources.

Free Church Graphics and Resources

    Offers free church graphics including logos, photos, vector art, projector slides, bulletins, sermon graphics, projector slides, templates, and more. The site also includes a social network for Christian artists.
  • Open
    Offers free sermon series resources that include message outlines, sermon graphics, videos, and more creative materials created by (Edmond, OK).
  • Muddy River Media
    Offers free illustrative videos, motion backgrounds, countdown timers, stock photographs, illustrations, small group resources, and more.
  • NewSpring Ministries
    Offers free sermon series resources (e.g., sermon graphics, audio, message outline, & service outline) as well as administrative forms and manuals created by NewSpring Church (Anderson, SC).
  • Northside Christian Church Creative Resources
    Offers free logos, posters, and other artwork designed by Northside Christian Church (New Albany, IN).
  • Nside Admin
    Offers free administrative documents from North Point Community Church (Alpharetta, GA) on church government, human resources, accounting, facilities, IT, and Web.
  • Seacoast All Access
    Offers free sermon series resources that include sermon graphics, motion graphics, audio, video, message notes, and small group questions created by Seacoast Church (Mt. Pleasant, SC).
  • Vine Resources
    Offers free sermon series graphics, postcards, countdown videos, and message bumpers created by the college ministry of Southeast Christian Church (Louisville, KY).

Free General Graphics and Resources

  • Adobe Exchange
    Offers free downloads to use with Adobe software including brushes, styles, gradients, custom shapes, and patterns for Photoshop.
  • BittBox
    A blog that regularly highlights free Photoshop brushes, Flash components, vector graphics, and more.
  • Brusheezy
    Offers free Photoshop brushes.
  • Flasheezy
    Offers free Flash elements.
  • PS Brushes
    Offers free Photoshop brushes.
  • Smashing Magazine
    A blog that regularly highlights free graphics, fonts, and more.
  • Vecteezy
    Offers free vector graphics.

Church Resources that Cost Money

  • Creative Pastors
    Sells sermon series resources that include sermon graphics, video, mind maps, outlines, audio, and more created by Fellowship Church (Grapevine, TX).
  • North Point Resources
    Sells logos, DVDs, sermon messages, conference messages, and more created by North Point Community Church (Alpharetta, GA).
  • Outreach
    Sells church graphics that include postcards, banners, bulletins, door hangers, invitations, brochures, logos, signage, and more.
  • The Church Box
    Sells sermon series resources that include sermon graphics, PowerPoint slides, and audio created by Four Corners Community Church (West Chester, OH).
    Sells sermon series resources (e.g., outlines, graphics, videos, audio, & scripts) and administrative resources (e.g., forms, documents, & manuals) created by Granger Community Church (Granger, IN).
  • WorshipHouse Media
    Sells mini-movies, motions, stills, software, and editables for churches.

Is God in control or not?

22 04 2008
by Bill Isaacs from

Sorry it has been a few days since I posted…but as they say…I’ve had things to do!

Today as I traveled to another meeting (?$%#), I began to pray and think about some future thoughts. Naturally, these thoughts war in their process to apply human logic and reasoning–after all we are human. Yet, there is also a spiritual component because I am a believer, a man who fully and completely believes in God’s divine work in my life, the things which touch my life and the steps of my future. As I considered the challenge before me this week, I remembered a wise man once giving me a pointed response to my pondering…”either the God you serve is in charge or He isn’t–you decide!” It was a strange but powerful wake-up call to my soul in the coming days. I began to reflect on how faith works in my heart and how I apply GOD THOUGHT to my life moments. Does that make sense?

I’ll admit it…I believe He’s in charge and the effectiveness of my spiritual leadership requires that I believe it, act like and lead like I believe it!

I’ve seen and witnessed too many moments to doubt His sovereign control over the affairs of my life…and yours! In ways that we will never know, the Sovereign and Holy God is at work in my life, setting the stage, enabling my heart to believe and causing me to find success in my heart’s desire to see Isaiah 26:8 be the reality of my whole life. The verse reads…

“Yes, LORD, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts.”

I’ve been reading feveriously this month the novels by Joel C. Rosenberg Last Jihad, Last Days, Ezekiel Option and finished Cooper Scroll on the plane today. If you like the Left Behind series, you’ll love these as they are written in the context of Israel and the middle east and end-time prophecy. It has got me thinking about the world and the things which seem to exasperate us in the world…sin, lawlessness, indifference to morality, crime, abuse, neglect, etc. and the question…does God care? does He notice?

He does and He is engaged…more than we know.

Men and women are in position to bring about His will upon the earth. The decisions and actions of our evening news are only signs to us that Sovereign God is in control of this world and all that happens. It brings peace to my spirit. I rest in the embrace of my soul to the value that God is in control. Do you?

Lest you think I so Calvinist that I think we are not participants of choice, let me tell you I believe I do choose every day…to believe…to surrender and to know that my life when fully surrendered to His calling, His assignment and plans enables me to be His voice and light in the darkness of this present world. I represent Him with joy like an ambassador in the presence of another land…as I wait for the fulfillment of His plans in my life and this world. I take comfort in the worlds of the Psalmist…

“Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat for he grants sleep to those he loves.” (Psalms 127)

On my shelf in the state office is a book by Ron Mehl and at a very critical point in my life and especially in my development as a young leader, it brought a powerful word of encouragement. I looked at just a day or so again and recalled the transformational message that came through reading it and how many times I have referenced it to people I lead. The title–God Works the Night Shift. While I’m busy sleeping and going about life in the Isaacs process, God is working, designing words, feeding hungry people, making grass to grow, keeping all things by the power of His might and often I never notice until the heat is on.

Today’s problems are smaller in the view of His surpassing Greatness!

What about you?

For the weekend – Stress Reliever

18 04 2008

If you’ve just had one of those weeks and you have had enough… relieve it like this – CLICK HERE

Crossroads to the World

16 04 2008

So the phrase “Crossroads to the World” came up in meeting today; I’ve said it before, but it seemed different today. Maybe because we are getting to that point in our church where the attenders are becoming followers. Each person at our church not only has a testimony to tell but they are hungry to voice it to others. So I pose this question, “If Orlando is the crossroads to the world, then how can we impact it?”. Most of our church’s are interested in the Disney workers, college programs, and other theme park warriors, but what about the thru-traffic? How do we touch them?

Please comment here and give some of your ideas on how we can reach the lost that come in and out of our city.

Video Quality and the YouTube generation – Part 2

14 04 2008

What do media ministers do when they are asked to show a video that needs to be rejected?

The worst thing you can do is just reject it without any explanation. While the quality of video presentation may lie on your shoulders, one of the biggest responsibilities of ministry is people. Whoever brought the video thinks it should work; rejecting it out of hand will not help them understand why there is a concern or help your relationship.

You may want to write up a set of guidelines for the various venues on your campus. For example, you might place a lower limit on resolution for an SD projection system at 640×480, or you may say 720×480. You could pick a level of compression that’s acceptable. The youth room might bounce down to 320×240 if the content is good enough. This makes you think through the various audiences in your church.

Above all, talk with the people making the request. Many may not realize the problem. If it’s not integral to the message, they may be able to do without it, or maybe they can point you toward a higher resolution version, or to a place you can buy a dvd.

Just make sure the content is not compromised by the quality of the video, and you should be OK.