I’ve always thought that putting the word “Free” next to “Methodist” was strange. I mean, isn’t there a touch of the oxymoron in saying “Free Methodist”? How can you be essentially methodical and yet modify yourself with an adjective that is essentially not methodical? It has always reminded me of other strange word pairs like “Led Zeppelin,” “civil war” and “airline food.”
But (you’re ahead of me here, aren’t you?) the word “Methodist” doesn’t really mean “methodical.” It goes way beyond that. It goes beyond methodical to “intense,” “intentional” and “ferociously single-minded.” The mental image (another oxymoron) I have is of 5-foot-3-inch John Wesley (the first Methodist) bravely riding into English towns on his horse knowing there was a drunken mob waiting to beat him to a pulp. That’s the heart of a Methodist: braving a beating to tell the mob’s members that Jesus loves them.
I also think of Wesley in 1771, standing in the Bristol New Room, calling for missionaries to go to America; being heard by young Francis Asbury who left England never to return, nurturing Methodism across the American colonies.
Asbury was a bishop but didn’t have an office. He didn’t have a staff. He didn’t even have a home. He just had that same fierce desire, the Methodist heart, to tell folks that Jesus loves them like crazy.
Free Methodists have that kind of Methodist heart, not dull hearts that rely on a methodical ritualism. And then, just to make it clear who we are, we preface it with “Free.” Our hearts are on fire, and we’re Free!
But wait a second. Is that really it? Is the freedom really about us? Is that what the “Free” means; that we are free? Like we’re free in the Spirit to worship how we wish? Or is it that we’re Methodists who believe the Good News is free for all and freely shared? Or is that we’ve been freed from the strands of sin and habits that shackled us to the perpetual cycle of sin and forgiveness? Or is it that this movement is freed from politics and ecclesial heavy-handedness? Or is that slavery doesn’t belong among us in any of its forms; that every person should be free?
Yes, that’s it. It’s all of those. That word “Free” means “free from,” “free to,” “free for,” “free of,” “free within” and “free without.”
Does a movement like that sound too good to be true? Sure it does. We all know we’re not always that great. But this is what we aspire to be … Free Methodists. The fact that we’re sometimes less than we aspire to be doesn’t mean we’re going to quit aspiring! And the fact that we’ve immortalized our aspiration in our name helps us keep on track.
Like a lot of teenagers, my parents would sometimes admonish me before I left the house, “Remember you’re a Roller.” The subtext was “live up to your bloodlines.” Remember you’re a Free Methodist!
Free Methodists have a peculiar name, and it’s fitting, because we’re different. We’re not like the church down the block or the preacher on the TV. Oh, yes, we share the core beliefs of all Christ-followers, and we celebrate the other streams of Christianity. But without demeaning any other tradition, we really like the peculiar kind of people we are … a people free, freed and freeing; a people ferociously, single-mindedly passionate about the deep and wide work of the grace of God in our lives and available for everyone, everywhere.
Bishop David Roller served for 17 years as a Free Methodist missionary in Mexico and then for 10 years as Latin America area director for Free Methodist World Missions. He was first elected a bishop in 2007.
My daughter hates to comb her hair. A simple question every morning — “Did you brush your hair?” — elicits such response that you might think I asked her to jump off a bridge, poke her eye out with a fork, or enter a swarm of angry bees.
Some days (they are seldom, I pick my battles), when it is important that Brianna look a little better than just barely presentable (she is beautiful but some circumstances require not looking like you have just hopped out of bed, pretty as you may be first thing in the morning), I do her hair for her. Much to her chagrin, I do the necessary things to mold her hair into something attractive rather than its daily look that leaves a person wondering if she rolled through a field of burrs. I wet it down, spray it with detangler and gently move the brush through small areas until all tangles are removed and it rests smoothly and silkily on her head. Occasionally (maybe once a year), I will blow it dry and curl it or straighten it to remove any more imperfections or inconsistencies.
On these occasions when I do my daughter’s hair, I can guarantee one of two reactions and oftentimes both. One, she will move. As she jerks this way and that (and sometimes screams and cries too), or walks away from me, the process is more painful as the tugging of the brush becomes more, or the hot straightener touches her skin by accident. Not only is it more painful, it takes at least twice as long. If she would just stand still, the deed would be done in no time at all. Two, she tries to do it on her own. She is convinced she can get those tangles out as well as I can or without as much pulling. She angrily grabs the brush and goes at it with so much gusto that, like every other morning, she does not get all the way through. She is not doing anything wrong (apart from her attitude) by brushing her hair. She just cannot get it like I can. I have more experience and better perspective. After she is done, I have to take the brush and do it all over. Again, time would have been saved if she would have just trusted me to do the work I do well.
Does this sound familiar? It does to me. It sounds an awful lot like how I respond as the Lord tries to mold me.
I move. Gentle, compassionate and full of grace, Jesus comes to turn my mess into something attractive. He wants to redeem my wounds and make me a beautiful representation of Himself. While He is gently trying to do His work, I fight. Sometimes I might even scream and cry. I argue. I say “but” a lot and hold onto the lies that have become such a part of me. Instead of staying close, I move away. The process of becoming like Jesus hurts more and takes longer.
I take over. I think, “All right, let’s get this done. I can make myself who God wants me to be!” I pour myself into Bible study. I follow rules. I serve. The trouble is that even in all the good things I am doing, I do not see myself from Jesus’ perfect perspective. I do not have the experience that Jesus has at cleaning up hearts and making people holy. I can do some good things, but I am going to miss some spots and Jesus ultimately is going to have to come in and do it over.
I don’t want to be the little girl fighting the brush or trying to do it myself when I cannot do it well. I want to be surrendered to the One who can take my tangles and turn them into a testimony, who can take my snarls and sanctify me, who can change the reflection in the mirror from a mess into a message of love and grace as I look more and more like Him.
In the middle of a hair-inspired meltdown, I often tell Brianna that it would not be so bad if we did this every day, if she took more care or let me take more care regularly. The tangles would not build up over time, but just be those formed by a night of sleep. In the same way, letting Jesus take the proverbial brush in our lives is not just a onetime deal. There is a first-time (big-time) salvation where He does quite a job with us, forgiving our sins and making us new by His shed blood, but we must also be available for regular maintenance. We need to give Him the brush daily. Sometimes without warning we fall into old habits, moving away and fighting or trying to do it all on our own. In those times, do not give up hope. Do not succumb to the feelings of failure. Do not assume the tangles are back to stay. Give back the brush. He is faithful, and His mercies are new.
Kristyn Woodworth is a conference ministerial candidate in the Southern Michigan Conference.
- Can you relate to the author’s perspective?
- How can you see yourself from Jesus’ perspective?
By Jim Burns
Why is it that some marriages die while others thrive? I’m convinced that the reason is really quite simple.
Relationships die along what I call the “path of protection,” while thriving relationships flourish along the “path of growth.”
Now, any relationship might seem fine on the outside. But introduce a little conflict to the mix, and you’ll find out in a hurry which “path” your marriage is on!
When confronted with a problem, the dying relationship is only interested in one thing–protection against pain. Both parties involved avoid personal responsibility for their feelings, behavior, and the consequences they bring.
This avoidance leaves both parties with only three alternatives–compliance (giving up out of fear of conflict or disapproval); control (an attempt to change the other party by instilling guilt or fear); or indifference (resistance or total withdrawal). Thus, the relationship is damaged.
Not so with the thriving relationship. When presented with a conflict, both parties choose the path of growth, intent to learn more about what the other is going through. As a result, each assumes personal responsibility for their own feelings, behavior, and consequences.
In learning about each other, both parties also learn valuable lessons about themselves, leading to a season of exploration and understanding–ultimately resulting in a deeper intimacy in the relationship–a greater sense of well-being and love, more fun, and joy, and also a greater capacity to bear each other’s pain.
Now, what about your marriage? How open and honest is it? Well, let me suggest you take the “Truth in Relationships” quiz and find out.
When confronted with a problem in your relationship, ask yourself the following questions:
1. What’s the “story behind the story” of what just happened?
2. Are we being honest with ourselves and with each other about what’s really going on here?
3. Are we willing to seek counsel and get the help we need to rectify this situation?
by Karl Vaters
Our churches are filled with normal people.
Normal to us, that is. Normal like you and me.
The church is also filled with freaks and weirdos. Some churches are filled with freaks and weirdos sporting tattoos and piercings. Others are filled with freaks and weirdos in suits and ties. Or overalls and work boots. The list goes on.
One church’s freak is another church’s normal.
Welcoming the Stranger
The Bible tells us frequently to welcome the stranger among us.
Most churches say we welcome everyone. But what would happen if the freaks and weirdos who aren’t our freaks and weirdos started to show up?
That question came up during a recent chat with another pastor. The pastor’s response was “sadly, we’ll probably compromise on their sin in order to welcome them in.”
My reaction to this pastor’s statement was so automatic and visceral that I surpised myself.
by Rick Nier
Hey Parents. I’m going to be a little blunt today. This post may sound self-serving, but there’s a truth you need to hear.
I was reading Barna research today. You can see the article here.
They have done their homework and found that 73% of us Americans identify as Chistians. Woo Hoo, let’s celebrate! That means 3 out of every 4 people in American are professing to follow the commands of Jesus. Never mind that most of us can turn on the evening news or look at our newspaper and readily see that 3 out of 4 people are certainly not following the commands of Jesus.
73%. That’s a lot. Even if that many people were simply trying to be like Christ, we would have a pretty good thing going on.
Oh….wait a minute….
Barna doesn’t stop with asking people what they profess to believe. They ask them how they are practicing their professed beliefs. So Barna defines a ‘practicing Christian’ as someone who identifies as a Christian and attends a church service at least once a month.
Once a month?!? The rant you are about to read is not against Barna. They have to set the standard somewhere, but can we all agree that if people who say they love Jesus are only able to drag themselves to a community meeting of Jesus-followers once every four weeks, then we are clearly not expecting much? And certainly not enough??
We, as Christian adults, are expecting children to grow up and live out the principles taught in the Bible. How are they supposed to do that when they have only been to church once a month?
By the way, when Barna factors in the once-a-month attendance, the number of practicing Christians in America drops to 31%. Does that sound a bit more like the America you know?
So parents, I don’t mean to sound harsh, but kids can’t drive themselves to church. They don’t dictate the family calendar. But they can rise up to match our expectations. My children haven’t complained about going to church in years. They know it’s expected. And if you’re muttering to yourself that pastor’s kids would obviously have no choice, let me tell you that my good habits were instilled in me by my parents, neither of whom were pastors. (By the way, thanks Mom and Dad!)
We can’t expect to train up a child in the way they should go by exposing them to training once a month.
I’m not sure I want to even know how low the percentage would get if we knew how many professing Christians were attending every week? So parents, what can you do?
1. Make church attendance, as a family, a priority.
Lionel Richie told us this would be easy like Sunday morning. Anyone who has a kid knows that Lionel Richie wasn’t talking about wrangling kids in the car to go to church. But make it a habit. You get them to school, sports, dance and a few meals every day. Just make this a priority.
2. Schedule something during the week for the kids.
Most likely there is a church in your area with some sort of kid’s club. Get them there! They’ll have fun with other kids and receive training they’ll need later in life to defend their faith.
3. Talk about it at least twice a week during a meal.
I know, this means making sure you have meals together. That’s another good habit. But take time to read a verse or two and discuss how it applies to your family.
Some of these things may be small things, but they will add up to big things in your family’s life. And it’s a pretty good percentage chance that it will all be for the better.
The Christian church has been a cornerstone of American life for centuries, but much has changed in the last 30 years. Americans are attending church less, and more people are experiencing and practicing their faith outside of its four walls. Millennials in particular are coming of age at a time of great skepticism and cynicism toward institutions—particularly the church. Add to this the broader secularizing trend in American culture, and a growing antagonism toward faith claims, and these are uncertain times for the U.S. church. Based on a large pool of data collected over the course of this year, Barna conducted an analysis on the state of the church, looking closely at affiliation, attendance and practice to determine the overall health of Christ’s Body in America.
Most Americans Identify as Christian
Debates continue to rage over whether the United States is a “Christian” nation. Some believe the Constitution gives special treatment or preference to Christianity, but others make their claims based on sheer numbers—and they have a point: Most people in this country identify as Christian. Almost three-quarters of Americans (73%) say they are a Christian, while only one-fifth (20%) claim no faith at all (that includes atheists and agnostics). A fraction (6%) identify with faiths like Islam, Buddhism, Judaism or Hinduism, and 1 percent are unsure. Not only do most Americans identify as Christian, but a similar percentage (73%) also agree that religious faith is very important in their life (52% strongly agree + 21% somewhat agree).
When I was 20 years old, I was an aspiring gospel singer, and I traveled with a preacher five years my senior. At the time, we were both single.
In spare moments the subject of qualities to look for in a lifetime partner came up. This was back when marriage meant one man and one woman in covenant for life, and when young men and women were typically more ready to marry by their early 20s.
By his repetitions, the list was fixed in my mind so I believe I can reproduce it accurately, before adding my brief comments.
First, he would ask, is this person a committed Christian? According to the Scriptures, Christians are to marry only Christians (2 Corinthians 6:14–16). So one should ask: is there evidence that he/she loves the Lord and manifests that love in lifestyle, attitudes and habits?
Christians who ignore this requirement relative to marriage go contrary to clear scriptural teachings. In doing so, they disobey the Lord and deprive themselves of a spiritual dimension to their marriage that God intends to be unifying and enriching.
Second, is this a person of good character? In the early stages of a relationship, one looks for such traits as honesty and trustworthiness; a vision for life that includes serving others; respect for parents and little children; a strong work ethic; and empathy for others. Also, do friends and family give off cues and comments of affirmation or reservation?
Third, what about disposition? It’s true that parties in a marriage have down days for which their mates make allowance. But prominent and frequent pouting, grumpiness, anger or me-first behaviors even in a person of great charm should be noted because such traits will dissipate a lot of the life force that could otherwise be turned to positive, outward and even Christian ministry purposes.
The Proverbs warn against a “quarrelsome and nagging wife” (Proverbs 21:19). If the Proverbs were being written today for our culture, they would have cautionary words against choosing a “quarrelsome and nagging” husband also.
Fourth, what about family background? Marriages tend to be stronger and more fulfilling when a bond between the two families also forms. Cultural and family similarities are certainly not absolute prerequisites in our multicultural society, but they can be helpful if present. If very different, they will require extra effort to bridge.
It is family values, character traits and disposition that, of course, trump all else. However, one question to shed light on this issue is: Do I want this prospective mate’s brothers and sisters to be aunts and uncles to my children?
Fifth, (a modern adaptation to my preacher friend’s fifth question): if two vocations are represented in the potential union, is the success of the marriage more important than the full achievement of either partner’s vocation? For example, one partner wants to teach in Minnesota and the other in Florida. It is possible that a relationship could even be dissolved by unyielding differences.
While it might not answer the specifics between Minnesota and Florida, the couple in which each individual values the marriage above where to live will be more likely to survive this kind of modern-day dilemma.
Some may feel the above questions are too plodding for something so enthralling as love that points toward marriage. Passion is very much a part of the love that God gives to bind a man and woman together for a lifetime. But while passion may be sufficient to get a relationship started, it is not by itself enough as a foundation for a wonderful marriage. And, generally speaking, it is better for the mind to lead with questions like those above and the heart to follow than for the emotions to take over and the rational mind to be switched off until after the wedding.
And so, for the young person wishing to follow the path of wisdom to the altar and to deep satisfaction beyond, both clear judgment and romantic passion should have their appropriate place and contribution.
Christian young people must never forget to bind all this together with a strong cord of prayer. Pay attention to the answer to the above questions (and others); seek godly counsel if perplexities arise; ask for wisdom from God; and you are likely to experience the kind of love that blesses you and your spouse, survives all vicissitudes, and lasts a lifetime.
Donald N. Bastian is a bishop emeritus of the Free Methodist Church and the author of multiple books, including “The Pastor’s First Love,” “God’s House Rules,” “Give It a Rest,” “Belonging: Adventures in Church Membership,” “Leading the Local Church,” “Beer, Wine & Spirits: What’s the Big Deal?” and “Sketches of Free Methodism” — all of which can be ordered from Wesleyan Publishing House. This article is adapted from a post on his Just Call Me Pastor blog. Greenville College will formally launch its new Donald N. and Kathleen G. Bastian School of Theology, Philosophy and Ministry in October.
- Why should a couple care about “little issues” in such areas as faith, character, disposition and family if they are in love?
- What other advice would you give a single friend who is searching for a spouse?
There’s been plenty of debate about teens and their social justice “slacktivism,” but how much truth is there to the claim that young people are only taking action with 140 characters or less? A new study from Barna shows that teens are actively engaged in service and volunteer projects and youth ministry is a primary channel through which they serve. In partnership with Youth Specialties and YouthWorks, Barna conducted a major study on the state of youth ministry in the United States, which included a look at service and volunteering trends among teens. Here are some of the key findings:
Teens Are Active Volunteers
Teen Volunteering Focuses on Church Service and Poverty Alleviation
The Church is Central to Teen Volunteering Efforts
Parental involvement and encouragement seems to be a key factor in teen service. Teenagers who attend church with their parents are more likely to participate in service with their church (60% of teens who attended church with their parent participated in service projects, vs only 16% of those who did not).
The Goals of Service Are to Love and Serve Others
Debriefing and Follow-up are Important After a Trip
It’s clear youth pastors believe service and mission trips are an important element of youth ministry and teen discipleship, but do these experiences offer long term transformation? Parents seem to think so—among those whose teenager participated in a trip, their belief was that it made a lasting impression. Three-quarters (74%) say it definitely made a lasting impression, one quarter (24%) say it probably made an impression, and a small 2 percent say not really. Parents also feel the youth leader or pastor adequately prepared their teen before the trip (65% definitely, 31% somewhat), and adequately debriefed their teen after the trip (55% definitely, 40% somewhat).
What the Research Means
“The church, and youth groups in particular, have a unique opportunity to stand out as an authentic example of love through service by being the hands and feet of Jesus to those in need,” Hempell continues. “Parents and Youth Pastors alike know the importance of this, and many find service and missions trips more engaging to youth than trying to compete for being “the coolest place to hang out on a Friday night.” Further, through these experiences, teens learn first hand what the Gospel is and have tangible life lessons to reflect on in the weeks, months, or years that follow. It is clear that service is an important element to any successful teen discipleship effort.”
About the Research
The study of parents was conducted online and included 606 surveys among a representative random sample of adults 18 and older with children ages 13-19 within all 50 states and was conducted March 29th through April 7th, 2016. The sampling error for a sample of this size is +/-4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. The response rate for the online study was 20%.
A total of 381 senior pastors of Protestant churches within all 50 states were surveyed online March 15th – June 7th, 2016. One method was using an online panel of Protestant senior pastors from a panel maintained by Barna (n=299). The second method was a random representative sample of Protestant pastors obtained from an outside list provider (n=82). The total sampling error for the total number of senior pastors is +/-5 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. The response rate for the panel maintained by Barna was 37%, and the response rate for the representative sample from an outside list provider was 20%.
A total of 352 youth pastors of Protestant churches within all 50 states were surveyed online March 15th-June 15th, 2016. One method was using an online panel of youth pastors from a panel maintained by Barna (n=51). The second method was a random representative sample of youth pastors obtained from an outside list provider (n=301). The total sampling error for the total number of youth pastors is + / -5 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. The response rate for the panel maintained by Barna was 47% and the response rate for the representative sample from an outside list provider was 8%.
If our methods aren’t producing new disciples, we need to recalibrate. Here are 11 signs recalibration is needed:
- You become more in love with your method than you are with His mission.
When your liturgy becomes more important than your effectiveness or fruitfulness, we need to recalibrate. Europe is full of empty cathedrals reminding us that following a method meant more than bearing fruit. When our liturgy gets in the way of the Great Commission, we need to recalibrate.
Build traditions that keep church members looking forward for them to stay impacting and relevant. Build traditions that are redemptive in nature.
Developing a culture of constructive assessment is vital. Every year, our churches should conduct an audit on what’s working and why it’s working, and what’s not working and why.
- People are not getting your vision.
Your vision may not be clear, compelling or communicated often enough. Your structure may not support your vision.
- You are doing all the work.
If you are doing all the work, you are not doing His work. Equip other saints to do the work too. Otherwise, how do you expect your church to multiply?
“Pass on what you heard from me … to reliable leaders who are competent to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:2 MSG).
- We don’t understand the culture we are trying to reach.
As we minister in a postmodern or post-Christian culture, we may be answering questions nobody is asking. We may produce people who do not know how to navigate culture or address their identity in Christ within the cultural context.
Biblically literate Christians who are culturally illiterate create their own subculture. Paul knew the nuances of his surrounding culture before he introduced Christ (Acts 17:16–34).
- You are not being intentional about reaching the next generation.
The church has a holy responsibility to actively target, instruct and nurture our young and established families. Our children’s spiritual, emotional and physical well-being are the foundation to societal health. “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
It also is imperative to respond with a Spirit-led, all-out effort to reach teens. “We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done” (Psalm 78:4).
We must also reach young adults and singles. Millennials are on the verge of reshaping the foundation of American culture. We pray that a demographic known for their hunger for authentic community, their desire to be mentored and their causal/activist nature will experience an encounter with the Creator.
- You are either afraid to change, not willing to change or don’t know how to change.
The person afraid to change is often a people pleaser, lacks faith to bring about needed change, has been wounded, or is not in a safe environment to change. They need to be encouraged and empowered.
- You are afraid of metrics.
Metrics serve as a platform for improvement, not a weapon to hurt you.
- You mistake community service as evangelism.
Offering a cup of cold water will quench a person’s physical thirst, and then you can introduce the One who quenches their spiritual thirst.
- You think deep, but not out.
Jesus walked 3,200 ministry miles during his active ministry. The gospel is an interval sport. You burn calories ministering. You pray, rest and then burn more calories.
God has equipped us all with the ability to think deep thoughts, but He has called us to actively burn calories reaching out to neighbors, colleagues friends and enemies. Most of our churches mistakenly believe people will come to us if we open the doors.
- Nobody comes back or visits.
Prayerfully and intentionally assess why people are not attending. Invite a recalibration coach to visit and help you assess why people are not visiting or staying.
- The senior pastor quits praying with church staff and/or the congregation.
Leadership that doesn’t model dependency on God produces people who don’t depend on God.
Nothing a pastor does is more important than communicating and modeling our need for God. Communicating clever sermons to the church body is great. Praying with the church body is vital.
Here are the first steps toward recalibration:
- Get away and ask God to create a white-hot sense of mission.
- Recalibrate your structure to drive your vision
- Understand and love the people you are trying to reach.
- Get coaching.
- Commit to change or re-launch.
1. Do our methods, liturgy and traditions bear fruit?
2. What do we need to keep, lose and recalibrate?
3. Is your vision clear or compelling enough?
Even if the name Hillsong isn’t familiar to you, you’ve probably spent part of a Sunday morning worship service singing “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail),” “Shout to the Lord,” “From the Inside Out,” “Cornerstone,” “Mighty to Save,” “Hosanna,” “Lead Me to the Cross” or another song that originated with the Australian megachurch’s musicians.
What do we actually know about these musicians and the church to which they belong? Moviegoers will have a chance to learn more about them when “Hillsong: Let Hope Rise” debuts in theaters Sept. 16.
“You’re really talking about the people who are writing the soundtrack to hundreds of millions’ Christian faith,” said Jonathan Bock, the movie’s producer in a telephone interview with Light + Life. “Do you know that five out of the 10 biggest worship songs of all time were written by Hillsong?”
Hillsong Church is affiliated with the Australian Christian Churches, the Australian branch of the Assemblies of God, but the Hillsong movie wouldn’t have been possible without the work of people from other denominations. Bock is a Presbyterian elder, and his Grace Hill Media team includes Suzanne Niles, an author, publicist and former Hollywood actress who worships at Timberview Church — a Free Methodist congregation founded by Bishop Matthew Thomas in Mead, Washington.
While at Hillsong in Australia to promote another movie, Bock asked Hillsong Senior Pastor Brian Houston about the possibility of making a film about the church and its music. Bock said that Houston humbly responded, “Who would want to see a movie about us?”
Bock offered to pitch the potential movie to studios to see if they had any interest. When he returned to Los Angeles, Bock quickly received offers from four studios and raised the money to make a Hillsong motion picture.
The film provides a close look at the church’s Hillsong United band as the members write their next album. Their story is told by experienced director Michael John Warren, whose diverse work includes popular rapper Jay Z’s “Fade to Black” movie and a documentary about a beer company. In a statement on the Hillsong movie’s website, Warren said, “I’m not a religious person, but I learned things from working with and becoming friends with the members of Hillsong United.”
Bock and his colleagues interviewed both Christian and nonbelieving directors before ultimately selecting Warren based on his experiences shooting concerts with multiple cameras and his skills interviewing musicians. As an outsider to Christianity, Warren asked more probing questions than a Christian director might have asked.
“He wouldn’t just let them get away with the typical Christians answers,” Bock said. “He ultimately pressed them and forced them to explain their beliefs and their theology and the reasons they are motivated to do what they do. … Out of that, we got a film that is really deeply theological.”
The movie was delayed a year when its original distributor declared bankruptcy, but unlike most of the distributor’s films that remained in limbo, “Hillsong: Let Hope Rise” was eventually released from the bankruptcy proceedings.
Initial screenings have resulted in even more audience enthusiasm than filmmakers anticipated.
“When we started to test it with audiences, people were singing along in the theater. People were putting their hands up. In some cases, we even had people standing up,” Bock said. “We realized that we had actually created an entire new genre of movie, which we’re calling the theatrical worship experience.”