Tag Archives: Religion and Spirituality

Progress report on The Prodigal Project

The Prodigal Project continues, step-by-step, inch-by-inch, closer to reality.

Last week we finished the second draft of the screenplay. Calling this the second draft is somewhat misleading. We essentially started over, so perhaps we should call this the first draft of the second version.

If you’d asked me a year ago if we’d be working in this genre, I’d have said, “no way.” But here we are. It’s a movie about a church making a movie about Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son. It is a comedy with a heavy dose of satire, designed to attract a distinctly non-church audience… but with a message for both Christians and non-Christians.

We’re processing feedback from several readers. No doubt we’ll rewrite several times between now and the time we begin production.

The church’s Communication Team has initiated the process of establishing a separate entity – Bell Tower Pictures – to produce the movie. It will be an LLC (Limited Liability Corporation) under Virginia law, and will seek certification by the IRS under section 501c3 of the tax code – which means that it will be a non-profit corporation that can accept tax-deductible contributions.

We believe this project provides an opportunity for cooperation among many individuals, organizations and churches. So we’ve initiated conversations with some of these potential partners about joining us by providing money and in-kind support. So far, the response has been positive and enthusiastic. We’re also seeking support from our own church, of course. This morning we presented our request in a meeting of church leaders considering priorities for the 2013 church budget. Next week we have the opportunity to ask for support from the First Baptist Church Endowment Fund.

We’ve been working on the legal incorporating documents for Bell Tower Pictures. That includes a clear, concise and accurate description of who we are: Bell Tower Pictures is an independent, non-profit corporation focused on producing, promoting and distributing high-quality Christian-themed film, television and web projects. Our mission is to entertain and inspire, telling great stories that reveal spiritual truth.

Next week, we’ll begin production of a promotional video, which will be a key part of the Bell Tower Pictures website.

These are busy, exciting days as we see the vision begin to take shape.

Rick & Kim Peters feed the homeless


Here’s one of the stories we’re telling about folks who are helping bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia – KOH2RVA. Rick and Kim Peters prepare and serve a home cooked meal Saturday mornings as part of First Baptist Church’s Community Missions.

KOH2RVA is a year-long, every-member mission trip sponsored by Richmond’s First Baptist Church. For more information, check out the KOH2RVA website.


We quibble over words and fail to tell stories

I was inspired and challenged this week through a blog post by Gary Furr, pastor of Vestavia Hills Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.

He was commenting on a recent decision by Lifeway Christian Stores to remove the movie “The Blind Side” from its shelves because it contains profanity and a racial slur.

Read his entire post. It’s worth the time and effort.

What struck me between the eyes was his challenge to us creative types in the church.

Furr talks about UVa professor James Davison Hunter’s 2010 book, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World. He says, “Hunter surveyed the Christian landscape and concluded that not only is Christian impact on the culture waning, the Christianity that wants to affect it is weak and superficial. While we make great impact on individuals and meet many needs, it does not tend to move the influence makers of our society.

“Nowhere is this lack of depth and power more evident than in our engagement with the arts. Those who tell the stories, produce the art and who debate world changing ideas are not, by and large, among Christians. This is not a problem, he says, that can be overcome by forceful politics, organizing or by withdrawing into the artistic ghettos of our churches where terrible or, at best, mediocre art is produced to satisfy the internal audience but which makes virtually no impact on the larger culture and particularly those who are the shapers of culture.

“The antidote is not to somehow regain some imaginary lost control of the culture but to think more brilliantly, achieve more truthfully, and to produce more beautifully the genuinely great ideas, art and cultural expressions that will, finally, draw by their intrinsic and persuasive superiority.”

Dr. Gary Furr

He says this is most often not the path we choose. “In short, we quibble over words and fail to tell stories. We are horrified about avoiding improprieties, all the while serving, supposedly, a gospel whose book tells unflinchingly disturbing, violent, cruel, and even vulgar stories about adulterers, philanderers, thieves, and every other kind of human with a failing. In the telling of those stories, the artistic power of it continues to help us talk. Our Savior is a man hanging naked on a cross, surrounded by blasphemies and lies.”

Furr’s prophetic words come at a crucial point in the development of The Prodigal Project.

There’s nothing sanitized in Jesus’ story about the young man who wished his father dead, and then went off to squander his inheritance on prostitutes and wild living. Nor is there anything appropriate about the outburst of his older brother when the young prodigal returns home with his tail between his legs. It is in contrast to those earthy, despicable, yet all-too-real characters that we gain a better understanding of a loving, forgiving Father who goes out to invite both sons to the party.

I pray that, in retelling this most beautiful of Jesus’ parables, we will, as Furr exhorts, “think more brilliantly, achieve more truthfully, and produce more beautifully” so that younger and older sons of our culture will be drawn to a portrait of the Father who embodies grace, love and second chances.