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‘I Can Only Imagine’ Director Explains How His Movie Is Spreading the Gospel to China

(Image credit: NRB/Facebook)
(Image credit: NRB/Facebook)

The biggest faith-based movie of last year was, without a doubt, the film adaptation of MercyMe’s classic track, “I Can Only Imagine.” The drama, which was based on the life story of Bart Millard, the artist who penned the hit Christian song, took in over $85 million at the box office despite a budget of just $7 million. All in all, it was a roaring success.

However, this movie wasn’t only popular among American evangelicals. Its missional influence continues to expand across the world, as Director Jon Erwin explained at the recent National Religious Broadcasters convention.

“When a movie is a hit in America… it goes on global autopilot,” Erwin explained at the popular convention. “So all these countries around the world begin to pay you for the right to translate and distribute your movie. So it’s the Gospel on for-profit autopilot.”

Almost unbelievably, Erwin noted that China, which has been home to some of the most fierce Christian persecution in recent years, actually funded the movie’s translation.

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“I find it very interesting that in the same year that China actually restricted … Christianity, they paid for ‘I Can Only Imagine,'” he said. “They paid for the right to translate it and distribute it to their people. That’s happened in over 100 countries around the world with our films.”

Erwin explained that, when an American audience throws its support behind a movie, you can pretty much guarantee it will be viewed across the globe. With the release of faith-based movies, he said, this presents a wonderful opportunity to spread the Gospel through the medium of film.

“What happens is, when you watch a movie in America, and you buy your ticket, and that movie becomes a hit, you’re pretty much guaranteed that 10 people around the world are going to see it on your behalf because of these incredible things called output deals,” he said. “And, in fact, there’s a lot of places around the world where you can do more in a movie theater than you can do openly on the streets. It’s incredible how far the message gets.”

Off the back of their movie’s staggering success, Andrew and Jon Erwin now plan to form a new movie production venture called “Kingdom Studios,” which will work alongside Lionsgate to distribute well-produced faith-based movies into the mainstream.

“We’re here to dream,” Erwin told the crowds at NRB. “We’ve been dreaming of this for a long time.”

The brothers have a number of titles in the pipeline, including “I Still Believe,” which will tell the story of Christian singer Jeremy Camp, who lost his wife to ovarian cancer less than a year after they married.

Camp announced the movie’s production earlier this month, asking for “prayer for purity in this whole process.”

“Pray that God uses this for healing and restoration,” Camp added of the upcoming movie, which is named after his hit song of the same name. “I want God to be glorified in all that happens.”

The movie is set to release in March 2020.


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