Helping pastors understand what’s behind the upcoming Mel Gibson film, The Passion of the Christ, apparently is creating a groundswell of support not just to see the film, but also to drive revival.


About 15,000 pastors have participated in film previews across the United States, and many have responded with special Easter outreach projects. The pastor events included distribution of a DVD video recording of a Mel Gibson interview by Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church and author Lee Strobel. In the interview, Gibson discusses his purpose behind the film and what he would like its impact to be—one result would be religious revival.

 

Massive Outreach Planned

 

As a result, one Texas church reportedly has rented an entire 20-screen theater for the first weekend following the Feb. 25 film release. Other churches also are renting out screens and planning pre- and post-screening activities and events—including witnessing and tract distribution.

A youth ministry reportedly is exploring a system to gain parental permission for older teens to see the movie. The film’s graphic depiction of Jesus’ death has earned it an “R” rating (restricted to viewers over 17 years old without parental permission).

Industry marketing groups have conducted pastor events during recent months focusing on “Reclaiming Easter” and outlining how pastors can use the upcoming Passion film release; a Lee Strobel satellite conference related to his book, The Case For Easter; and cooperative projects with local churches to refocus Easter on its Resurrection origin and God’s plan of salvation through Jesus Christ.


The January/February Worship Leader magazine included a special pull-out section as a pastor’s guide to the film. The section includes a film review, and several articles to help pastors and their congregations plan for outreach and film reaction—both from their congregants and non-Christians—because of its graphic nature.


Multiple simultaneous strategic initiatives are being developed to promote the film—and they all could impact Christian retailers.

 

National Promotion

 

Joe Battaglia of Renaissance Communications is heading up a national Christian-radio effort that could see interviews, soundtracks, and special music projects related to the Passion film, such as one by Integrity Music, and emphasizing what Easter is all about being discussed on local radio stations.

Several suppliers have developed special product relating to Easter and the film. Tyndale House Publishers, Bob Siemon Designs, and Carpentree are cooperating on a special in-store display of licensed film products, for example.


Newmarket Films, the film distributor, plans a major media campaign with TV and billboard ads, and other promotions. BuzzPlant is partnering with film-producer Icon Films allowing the film trailers to be used in a “viral marketing” initiative, where people can forward the trailer and other film information via e-mail to friends and relatives.