At the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, the Windrider Forum sat down with Mark Burnett to discuss his new film, Son of God, and his vision for how a film about Jesus might serve as a starting point for conversations about Christianity.
Windrider Forum: Tell us about the movie. How did you get here and what does it mean to you?
Mark Burnett: This feature film is an amazing tool for churches to open up our hearts and let grace flow into ours. We actually get to see the story of Jesus in an epic, major motion film. The last time Jesus was on the big screen was 10 years ago with The Passion which just deal with three days of Jesus’ life.
WF: You are speaking to all denominations in Son of God. Talk about how you feel this film can transcend denominational differences
MB: For 2,000 years there have been various segments of Christianity, which have come to be called denominations. And there are differences in worship, but there are more things that unite denominations than divide them. And the central point of Christianity is the belief that, without sinning, Jesus is the Son of God and that God came to earth and died for us. God was willing to entrust himself as an infant to human care and to live in a human family. He loved us so much that he entered our experience and was brutally murdered for us. He then was resurrected and let us know how to proceed in the great commission. And that is what this film is. This film is part of the Great Commission. If Paul would have had movies and Twitter, he would have been using them! So we are just using modern tools to evangelize.
WF: Paul had to evangelize city by city, town by town. This film can go all over the world at once. Talk about the global reach of the film.
MB: This film absolutely can travel globally. Because in two hours, by making an emotional connection between you and the life of Jesus, this will be used in almost every country in the world as a tool to invite people in to hear the good news about Jesus. It is easy to invite someone to a film and say “look at this” and let them feel it in their heart and then maybe read scripture to explain who he is, why he died for us, and what we should be doing next.
WF: We are here in Park City as a group of seminarians, pastors, future ministers, and lay Christian leaders. And we are screening this film in the LDS church. This is part of one of the most popular classes at Fuller, where we come to Sundance and experience film and culture on its own terms. Talk a bit about the need for the next generation of Christian leaders that are coming out of a place like Fuller to understand image and the stories that are being told.
MB: Interestingly enough, probably the first meeting I had on the Bible series was with Dr. Richard Mouw who recently retired as the president of Fuller Seminary. He understood immediately. He gave one of the first endorsements for the film and advised us and saw the value of film and television to evangelize. And he really gave us encouragement. I’m hoping that me being here tonight will pass that on and encourage these seminary students to go out there and be the next generation of pastors. They can use film and video to explain and make people feel the message. Because it is not enough just to say the words of the bible. You have to explain it in a way so that you can feel something. What pastors do every week is take scripture and fill in the blanks. Pastors need tools to do this and one of those tools can be film.
WF: What do you think about Fuller and Reel Spirituality creating resources for pastors to take this film out and be able to talk about it in inter-faith contexts?
MB: Son of God can be looked at as a resource. In fact we have a resource site for pastors which is called Son of God resources. And on that resource site we have videos, clips from the film, and a 10 step plan for how to use Son of God in ministry. And it is leaders like Dr. Callaway and others who recognize the value of resources like film and images to enhance the ability to reach people and make them feel something and open their hearts up.