If your aim is to provide an opportunity for non-Christians to consider the historical facts and evidence around Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, whilst confronting the misconception that science trumps Christianity, this film is worth a screening. It provides a connection and entry point for people who may not necessarily come to other types of “Christian” events. The premise of the film is intriguing, and movies are generally an unintimidating format that people are used to engaging with.
Another benefit of screening this film is that it equips church family members to grow in their knowledge and ability to communicate the facts behind the gospel and to explain why science and Christianity are not opposed.
Having screened this film at my church, All Souls Langham Place, in March 2022, we found it brought something different to our programme of Life ‘22 events and it was successful in drawing in people who might not have otherwise entered our church building.
In the film, Dr. John Lennox, an esteemed Oxford Professor, mathematician and philosopher of science, along with Hollywood actor, producer and director, Kevin Sorbo, journey from the university hallways of Oxford and Cambridge to the Holy Land to explore the intersection of science and Christianity, and to examine the evidence on which Lennox’s Christian faith stands firm.
Along the way, Professor Lennox recounts his experiences debating with prominent atheists including Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Lawrence Krauss and Peter Singer.
Our church family, along with many other Christians, has great respect and admiration for John Lennox, and he instantly brought credibility to the film. Despite a resurgence of COVID cases, a good-sized audience gathered and people enjoyed the evening. The content seemed to be interesting to all and some found it particularly thought-provoking, with at least a couple of people, that we are aware of getting into serious conversations about their questions afterwards. A nice piece of feedback we received was that a friend of a church-family-member, who never comes to any church-based things, came to this and afterwards requested that his friend always invite him to anything similar.
We suspect that, as Christians, we may overestimate how much unbelievers actually know of the information that was presented. “Well educated” Christians might not learn a lot of new facts from the film but that doesn’t mean that the non-Christians won’t. Christians will probably particularly value seeing the beautiful shots of the locations such as the Holy Land, and will be inspired by John Lennox’s life and his example of standing up for the gospel.
Here are some practical hints and tips learnt from our screening that may help you:
- Decide on the length of the film that you will screen. The original film length is 100 minutes on account of having been made for cinema showings (principally in the USA). We found the total length made it difficult for people to hang back afterwards to ask questions or have further discussions. We screened it on a Thursday evening at 7:30pm and most people wanted to head home soon after the film ended. The producers of the film recognise the value of offering a two-part version as an alternative, and this has recently been made available for web streaming at www.againstthetidemovie.com This two-part option facilitates having an interval midway, or you could even consider showing the two halves over two separate sessions. Showing a shorter length will probably increase audience engagement, so we would recommend that you watch it first and decide what you think will work best in your context and for the time slots you have available. Check out the optional study guide that the producers have prepared as well.
- Q&A. We didn’t have a formal Q&A session because it was getting too late once the film finished, but we did announce where people could find someone who would hang around after the film to chat about any questions. At least a couple of people took advantage of that. It may also be worth telling Christians how they can get hold of the film to screen at home if their friends can’t make the corporate screening.
- Promotion. The trailer is excellent, so do show it in your church services and have it on your event web page to help build the confidence of the church family to invite guests and to help those guests get an idea of what they will be seeing.
- Venue. Consider whether you would like to screen it in your church building or at a neutral venue. We held it in the church and offered refreshments and snacks both before and after, which worked well. We also put a lot of effort into giving the space a cinema atmosphere, with a bigger screen, some red curtains to cordon off empty space, and mood lighting before and after, which we think all helped to improve the whole experience.
- Bookstall. We had a selection of John Lennox books for sale and we sold more than we expected.
- Follow-up. Plan a clear follow-up route that allows people to explore further and discover the “so what” to the claims the movie communicates (we invited them to the guest service the following Sunday and also to a Hope Explored course). A card with the follow-up information placed on each chair is helpful and you might like to also provide a free copy of one of the gospels. We would also recommend refreshing members of the church family on how to use Bible-sharing resources like Uncover or The Word One to One, so that they can offer to look at scripture with their guest individually, rather than relying on the friend’s willingness to come back to church.
More information from the producers of the film, including a suggested study guide and how to arrange licensing for your screening, available here.