Many churches across the country have been anticipating Friday's premiere of “Son of God,” a feature-length film made by the producers of History television's 2013 hit miniseries “The Bible.”
The movie, which chronicles the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, was produced by actress Roma Downey, best known for her role as an angel in the TV show “Touched by an Angel,” and her husband, Mark Burnett, Emmy-winning producer of reality shows including “Survivor,” “The Voice” and “Shark Tank.”
Some churches are buying out theaters on Thursday so their congregations may see the film the night before the premiere, while others are encouraging their members to support the film Friday and throughout its run on the big screen.
The movie is being backed by some of the most well-known clergy leaders in the country, including Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, T.D. Jakes and Miles McPherson. Oklahoma native Craig Groeschel, the founding senior pastor of Edmond-based LifeChurch.tv, also has helped promote the film among members of his megachurch.
The Rev. Bobby Gruenewald, pastor-innovation leader at LifeChurch.tv, said Downey and Burnett have a long-standing relationship with the church, and they recently visited Oklahoma to share their passion for the project.
“We are partnering with the ‘Son of God' movie in several different ways, including offering previews and video clips inside our free YouVersion Bible App and sharing about the film with our congregation,” Gruenewald said. “It's a strong visualization of Scripture, and we're excited to share it with our community.”
In Norman, Echo Church, 1370 N Interstate Drive, is hosting a screening Thursday at Regal Cinema in Norman.
In Edmond, the Rev. Clark Frailey, senior pastor of Coffee Creek Baptist Church, 1650 NW 220, said his church also has rented out a theater to show the movie Thursday.
Frailey said he saw “Son of God” at a special screening for area clergy, and he thought it was one of the best films on the life of Jesus that he has seen.
“It's clearly the best movie since ‘The Passion of the Christ' a few years ago,” he said.
“For a lot of people, what they know about Jesus is tidbits they picked up here and there. The movie appears to be a lot from the book of John, which focuses a lot on His character and what He did.”
Frailey said he is encouraging his congregation to attend the screening at Quail Springs AMC Theater. He said the church will subsidize half of the ticket price for any visitors church members bring along with them.
“This gets the conversation started about Jesus,” he said of the movie.
Travis Rutland, director of communication for the Bethany-based International Pentecostal Holiness Church, said the denomination's presiding bishop, the Rev. Doug Beacham, hosted a screening of the film in January. Rutland said a reception featuring Downey and Burnett was held afterward.
He said IPHC leaders have been encouraging churches within the denomination to support the film by renting out theaters, buying advanced tickets and making sure congregation members are aware that the movie is headed to the big screen.
Meanwhile, the relief organization Compassion International is distributing tickets to churches in some cities around the country. Also business leaders and philanthropists, including Mart Green of Oklahoma City, have purchased tickets to donate to churches and nonprofits. Green is CEO of Mardel and chairman of the Oral Roberts University Board of Trustees.