‘Risen’ Gives Faith-Based Films Hope as Pastors Prepare for Easter

It isn’t often that a movie about Jesus goes head to head with a superhero and a film about witches. But that’s exactly where Risen, starring Joseph Fiennes and Tom Felton found itself this past weekend.

To no one’s surprise, Deadpool continued its box office reign and Kung Fu Panda 3 sat steady at number two. But Risen had a respectable showing at number three earning $11.7 million dollars, beating out Satanic Temple endorsed, The Witch. Its earnings landed it in a list alongside The Passion of the Christ, Heaven is For Real and God Is Not Dead, all faith-based box-office successes.

Much has been written about the viability of faith-based films. The range – and quality – varies from film to film. But Risen’s director Kevin Reynolds wanted people to experience the story of Jesus and the profound impact He had after his resurrection.

The story centers on a Roman centurion, played by Fiennes, investigating the rumors and reports of the resurrection of Jesus. While not plucked straight from the Bible, the film plays on themes of belief, doubt, and Jesus’ identity.

This also isn’t the first time Joseph Fiennes has found himself in a faith-based role. He played Reformation leader Martin Luther in 2003’s Luther. Later this year, he’ll portray Olympic Gold Medalist and missionary Eric Liddell.

In an interview with Alissa Wilkinson, Christianity Today’s chief film critic, Fiennes declined to share too deeply into his own belief system. However, he explained the impact Clavius had on how he interpreted Liddell:

[But] playing Eric Liddell followed onto playing Clavius. Maybe I looked at Eric Liddell with greater intensity because of where I had just come from with Clavius, so I felt a greater receptiveness towards it, and to the story of Eric. That episode did have an effect on me. I felt very connected.

Backed by Sony, the film was shown to faith-based circles, shown at the RNA conference in August and to the Pope. Risen isn’t a perfect film. But it is a solid effort by a major studio. As these films are released, audiences are showing big studios they are hungry for this kind of fare.

Many pastors are planning to incorporate clips from Risen in their upcoming Easter sermon series. Outreach.com has partnered with Sony to provide everything leaders need to leverage the success of Risen this Easter. Learn more about the five-sermon sermon kit at Outreach.com.

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Carrie Kintz
Carrie Kintz is a freelance writer and communication strategist. She works with ministries and individuals across the country, helping them figure out what to say and how to say it in the digital space. Carrie has also spoken at conferences such as the Best of Social Media Summit and That Church Conference. When she's not writing (or tweeting), she enjoys hiking, time with friends and a good cup of coffee