Ever listen to a riddle being told when you already know the answer?
That’s a bit what it felt like to watch the powerful new movie The Case for Christ. The film depicts the life of Lee Strobel when he was a hard-core atheist who wrote for the Chicago Tribune. Strobel’s world was turned upside-down as Jesus wheedled himself into the heart of his wife, Leslie.
Strobel “honestly felt Leslie had been invaded by body snatchers,” says Brian Bird, the film’s screenwriter and co-producer, and a longtime friend of Strobel’s. “He saw these Bible-thumpers called Willow Creek Community Church coming. His whole motivation was to try to save Leslie from what he thought was a cult to get her back into their atheist marriage. From his vantage point, this was a deep love story.”
Strobel sets out to use his award-winning reporting skills and sharp, Yale Law-educated mind to disprove Christianity. As he shares in his bestselling book The Case for Christ: “To be honest, I didn’t want to believe that Christianity could radically transform someone’s character and values. It was much easier to raise doubts and manufacture outrageous objections than to consider the possibility that God actually could trigger a revolutionary turn-around in such a depraved and degenerate life.”
This striking film is overlaid with tensions that form a beautiful mosaic that’s attractive to both believers and skeptics alike. Bird addresses four themes: the evidence for Jesus Christ, the love story between the Strobels, a complementary story that tests Strobel as a journalist, and a deep father-wound that produces another pathway for God to work.
How does this play out for this next generation?
Before addressing that question, I must admit some bias: I used to clean Lee Strobel’s office. Years ago, I came to Christ through Willow Creek’s student ministry, and I worked there as a third-shift janitor after high school. (For the record, Strobel’s desk looked like what you’d expect a former reporter’s desk to look like!)
Ironically, this was also when I started questioning my own faith. Although I’d been involved with one of America’s most incredible youth ministries, as an emerging adult I wasn’t sure if I fully bought into everything. Hearing Strobel’s messages and reading the books he recommended were powerful steps forward. But knowing what had happened in the real life of a real guy who made a real mess I had to clean up at night really cemented what I was processing.
This movie can have the same impact on audiences of all ages. Unlike Christian films with a one-dimensional plot, The Case for Christ is richly written, masterfully directed, and surprisingly dignifying. Followers of Jesus will better understand the evidence for their beliefs, while skeptics will see their deep questions honored and addressed on-screen.
Here’s the game plan I’d suggest:
- First, watch the movie in theaters with a team of youth workers and parents. Afterward, have an honest, adults-only conversation over dessert. Form a rooted community ready to invest in students.
- Next, take students to see the film—ideally in a theater. Although watching on DVD will still have an impact, the theater environment helps draw viewers into the story.
- Consider doing an apologetics series in your youth group, I recommend LIVE Apologetics
The average parent and student might not be able to quote research and statistics afterward. Viewers may react by simply saying, “That was a good film.” But don’t worry about needing to add extra hype. The Case for Christ is modern apologetics lived out in the flesh.
Bird says we shouldn’t expect the movie to do all the work for us; instead, its purpose is to nurture what’s happening in real-life relationships. “We’re made in the image of the Author of the universe,” he says. “And God was a writer. God wrote the universe into existence. How did he leak his revelation to us? In a big, fat novel that was more than a novel—’In the beginning was the Word…the Word was made flesh.’ Right? Which means he jumped up off the page to live among us. This is a deep, deep theology in the DNA of our universe, but also in how God designed us to worship him with our skills and our gifts.”
You know the answer to the riddle: Jesus Christ is real, and his story is our story.
Instead of keeping that to yourself, let The Case for Christ riddle others along on that journey.