Jesus Revolution — Movie Review

Watching this film will give you a bit of evangelical history from the 1970’s. It is the true story of a hippie street preacher, Lonnie Frisbee, who joins forces with Pastor Chuck Smith to revive his small congregation called Calvary Chapel. The movement they set off led to an explosion of baptisms and enthusiastic conversions among young people who had been (in the words of Lonnie) “looking for peace and love in the wrong places.” It was also the genesis of much of the contemporary Christian rock music used in some churches today. One of the converts is Greg Laurie, who goes on to become a well-known evangelical church leader in his own right.

From what I have read, the film is fairly true to actual events, and it does not gloss over conflicts. Some members left Pastor Chuck’s church when he began ministering to “hippies” and eventually Lonnie and Chuck disagree and go their separate ways. The acting is well done. However, the theology is all wrong from a Lutheran perspective — based on decision theology and feelings, with a charismatic flavor.

VERDICT: 3 STARS. Watch it for the history, not the theology.

For more movie reviews see these posts:

Overcomer–Movie Review

Show Me the Father–Movie Review

In His Steps–Movie Review

Faith in the Big House–Film Review

This documentary film seeks to answer the question — do Prison ministries reduce the recidivism rate of convicts who have been released? There are snippets of interviews with the late Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries juxtaposed with comments by Barry Lynn, Executive Director of Americans for the Separation of Church and State.

Lynn, a UCC pastor, criticized statistics cited by Colson and others claiming that religious ministries were helpful in deterring released convicts from a return to criminal behavior. He did not, however, explain in any detail what was lacking in the studies — he simply claimed that statistics had been “manipulated.” Colson admitted that while recidivism rates were initially lowered, after ten years most inmates had relapsed. This indicates a need for continuing follow-up by churches with ministering to them.

Lynn also intimated that prison systems were turning to religious ministries as a “free” substitute for educational and vocational training which was more important in helping those released adapt to life outside the prison.

Most interesting to me were scenes from a retreat called, R. E. C. (Residents Encounter Christ), which took place in a Louisiana prison. The three-day retreat was obviously based on the Cursillo method used by Catholics, Lutherans (Via de Cristo), Methodists (Walk to Emmaus) and other denominations. There were talks, table discussions, letters from Sunday School students to the inmates, and other similarities.

VERDICT: 3 STARS. This is a topic which really couldn’t be covered in one hour.

For more about Lutheran Via de Cristo see these posts:

Via de Cristo

The Importance of a Team Member

A Spanish Birthday Song?

Father Stu Reborn–Movie Review

Based on the true story of Father Stuart Long, this film should have been inspiring, but somehow, for me, it fell flat. Stuart (portrayed by Mark Wahlberg) is stubborn and single-minded. When injuries end his boxing career, he decides to go to L.A., determined to become an actor. There he meets a devout Roman Catholic girl, who rejects his advances because he is not a baptized believer. Resolved to win her love, he attends catechism classes and is baptized into the church. Following a serious motorcycle accident and a near-death spiritual experience, he feels called to the priesthood. His girlfriend and parents are dumbfounded and unsupportive. He is admitted to the seminary only to discover that he has a rare degenerative disease that will cause him a host of physical problems and shorten his life. In spite of this, he becomes a priest and is able to minister to others, even when confined to an assisted living facility. His story is almost unbelievable!

However, very little time is spent on Stuart’s beliefs, spiritual development, or ministry. Most of the movie covered the life he led before his conversion. There were many unanswered questions — for example, how did he make it through the academic requirements of seminary? (I later found out the real Stuart had attended college — this wasn’t part of the movie and it led me to wonder what other things were omitted or inaccurate). His desire to be a priest seemed to be just one more example of his dogged persistence in pursuing a personal goal once he had set his mind upon it.

I’m pretty sure the real Stuart Long was an inspirational figure. He overcame many obstacles in order to serve God in a difficult calling. Unfortunately, the film spent too much time focusing on external events, instead of spiritual growth. None of the characters were well-developed. Possibly there was simply too much ground to cover in two hours.

VERDICT: 2 STARS. Disappointing.

For more film reviews see:

Billy Graham–Film Review

The Black Church–This is Our Story This is Our Song–Film Review

Film Review — The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

The Most Reluctant Convert — Movie Review

This short film (73 minutes) is based on C. S. Lewis’s autobiography, Surprised by Joy. It follows Lewis’s journey from atheism to belief in an absolute to acceptance of the spiritual component of life, and finally to Christianity. Max McLean does an excellent job portraying an older Lewis, looking back and narrating his own early life. Lewis’s wit, intellect and self-deprecating humor shine through the performance, as his own words are used. He was led to faith gradually, through conversations, experiences, logic and ultimately by God! There was no Damascus Road experience. As he puts it,

““I was driven to Whipsnade one sunny morning. When we set out I did not believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God, and when we reached the zoo I did. Yet I had not exactly spent the journey in thought. Nor in great emotion. “Emotional” is perhaps the last word we can apply to some of the most important events. It was more like when a man, after a long sleep, still lying motionless in bed, becomes aware that he is now awake.”

From Surprised by Joy, C. S. Lewis

VERDICT: 5 STARS. Well-done and engaging. My husband and I both loved it!

For more film reviews see:

A Hidden Life — Movie Review

Show Me the Father–Movie Review

90 Minutes in Heaven — Movie Review

In His Steps–Movie Review

This film is based (loosely) upon the novel by the same name written by Charles Sheldon. When a dying, homeless man accuses a Christian congregation of failing to follow the example of Christ, Pastor Henry Maxwell takes us his challenge. He and several members pledge to spend the next year asking themselves before every decision — what would Jesus do? Some of them find their lives irrevocably changed.

The acting was far from stellar, but the truths conveyed are important.

  1. True faith will result in Christian action
  2. Being a Christian is not always easy or comfortable
  3. Following Jesus will require sacrifices
  4. Not everyone in the church is truly converted

As an avid reader, I greatly preferred the book, which I read with a book club years ago. However, this movie would be a good youth group activity. There was also a song that I liked (but that will be another post.

VERDICT: THREE STARS. Watch this one with your teenager.

For more film reviews see:

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? — Movie Review

I Still Believe–Movie Review

Fatima — Movie Review

Show Me the Father–Movie Review

What’s your father story? We all have one. A good father is an extremely important figure in the life of a child. He provides, affirms, encourages, guides, blesses and leads. Those who are fatherless, or who have an earthly father who does not fulfill this God-given role, will face more difficulties in both secular and spiritual development. We all tend to see God through the lens of our earthly fathers. A poor role model may cause us to have low self-esteem and trouble in trusting God.

In this documentary film, you will learn the father stories of a number of Christian men. Some are good, and some are not. The good news is that, even if we have had poor fathering, we can choose to emulate our Father in Heaven. He is always there for us, and He will provide the blessing, affirmation and guidance that we all crave and need.

VERDICT: 4 STARS. Overall, this film was inspiring, interesting, and well done. One of the men interviewed was Tony Evans, a Baptist, so there will be some small, theological differences for Lutherans.

For more reviews of Christian films see:

My Brother’s Keeper–Film Review

The Chosen Season One — Review

The War Room – it’s all about prayer

Walking the Bible–Film Review

This documentary is intended to be a companion to the book by Bruce Feiler with the same name. I read it years ago. The author embarks on a 10,000 mile journey, visiting locations where some of the stories of the Torah (first 5 books of the Bible) took place. He travels to Mesopotamia to imagine scenes from Genesis; to Egypt to follow the path of Joseph; and finally, to the Sinai Desert where the Israelites wander for forty long years. Readings from the Scripture are interspersed throughout.

As part of his adventure, Feiler meets and consults with a variety of experts to gain answers to his archaeological and scientific questions. However, along the way his journey becomes more of a spiritual quest. Seeing the land brings the Bible to life for him, and he realizes that the important thing is not the destination — it is the journey itself, the opportunity to grow closer to God. The stories are not just ancient history, they teach universal truths that are still relevant to us today.

VERDICT: 4 STARS. Even if you know a lot about the Bible and the evidence of archaeology, you’re sure to learn something. I did!

For more movie reviews see:

I Still Believe–Movie Review

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood — Movie Review

Overcomer–Movie Review


The Chosen Season One — Review

There has been a lot of hype in Christian circles about this series, so my husband and I were eager to watch it. The acting is quite good, and the biblical characters come to life realistically — not as idealized heroes, but real people with flaws as well as strengths. Of course, in order to flesh out the story, events and people have been added that are not in the biblical account; I understand this is necessary in this type of production However, in my opinion, too much liberty was taken Things happen in the wrong sequence and the wrong location; the timeline is off, Biblical quotes are used in a different context and sometimes attributed to different people When depicting history I expect even a fictional account should stick as close to the known facts as possible–maybe that’s just me

I believe the creators did attempt to retain the spirit of the Gospel, but I was still disappointed and probably won’t watch Season Two. My concern is that this rendition will confuse many viewers, especially those who are unfamiliar with the Bible.

VERDICT: 3 STARS. You may enjoy this series, but be aware that it is far from accurate biblically.

For reviews of Christian movies see these posts:

Breakthrough–Movie Review

90 Minutes in Heaven — Movie Review

Small Group–Movie Review

My Brother’s Keeper–Film Review

Travis Fox, a soldier, returns to his home town after the death of his best friend, who was killed in an IED attack. Travis also lost his parents several years earlier in a tragic car accident. He suffers from PTSD and has lost his faith in God. Through the help of Tiffany, who runs a veteran’s ministry, and her pastor, his belief is restored, and he finds both love and a reason to continue living.

The film deals with some difficult issues, such as suicide, grief and gang involvement. Unfortunately, they are addressed in a way that is superficial and sugarcoated. Every problem is quickly resolved, and struggles are minimized. The characters are not well developed.

There are some theological issues for Lutherans as well. Travis is rebaptized by immersion, despite having been baptized as a child. During the church services portrayed, the congregation applauds at the end of the sermon! I don’t know if this is normal for some denominations, but I certainly haven’t observed it happening in a Lutheran setting.

VERDICT: 2 STARS. Predictable and unrealistic. It’s a feel-good Christian film, if that’s what you like.

For more Christian movies see:

Fatima — Movie Review

Overcomer–Movie Review

Unplanned — Movie Review

Billy Graham–Film Review

This documentary film is one of the PBS series, American Experience. Billy Graham has been called “the protestant pope” and “America’s pastor.” He died at the age of 99, a national icon.

The film focuses on his rise to prominence and how he came to influence both national politics and the evangelical movement. Many factors including his good lucks, charismatic personality, and gift for evangelism played into his success. Early on, William Randolph Hearst publicized his revival in Los Angeles, boosting attendance and turning him into a religious celebrity. He firmly believed that the United States was meant to be a positive influence in maintaining world peace, and that capitalism and Christianity were allies. To this end, he cultivated the friendship of politicians and encouraged church members to vote and elect moral leaders who shared their Christian goals.

The Watergate scandal left him deeply disappointed in President Nixon, who he had supported vigorously. After that, he became more cautious about endorsing particular candidates, and evolved a more global outlook, taking revivals to England and many other countries.. At one point, he was considered the most well known person in the world.

Many clips of Graham are used, as well as interviews with historians and family members. He is not presented as a hero, but a person who pursued the work he felt God had given him with persistence and confidence.

VERDICT: 4 STARS. It was an interesting perspective, but don’t expect to learn much about his personal life.

For more movie reviews see:

Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood — Movie Review

Harriet–Movie Review

Unplanned — Movie Review