The JESUS Film has been viewed by more than 201 million people, in some 950 languages and is used as a powerful evangelism tool by over 1,500 Christian agencies.
Jim Green, executive director of the JESUS Film Project, spoke to The Christian Post on Wednesday about the film’s effectiveness in transcending barriers, and about the new JESUS Film initiative to send 3.6 million videos and audios to Asia.
CP: What about this project makes it so effective?
Green: The Jesus Film is a movie on the life of Jesus taken from the Book of Luke. It is really the Word of God and the Bible says of itself that it is alive, powerful, sharp and impact people’s lives – so certainly that is the foundational reason.
The other day I was thinking and asking myself the question ‘Why has this film been so powerful over the years?’ Actually, I came up with ten different reasons.
Certainly, the first one is the power of the Word of God. Second is the power of seeing Jesus and his life and word. He said of himself that, ‘When I am lifted up I will draw all people to myself.’ It is the power of hearing it in one’s own ‘heart language;’ it has been translated to probably 950 languages to date.
It is also the power of story; we all relate to story. When you stop and think about it, when we were children, our parents didn’t put us on their knees and give us a three-point outline, but they told us stories. So we all love stories.
Fifth is the power of media. The film engages people with sight and sound and they can replay it over and over in their minds. Sixth, is certainly the power of the Holy Spirit. God is the one who impacts people’s lives and convinces them of the Truth as they hear stories of His love and His Word. Also the film is effective because of the power of personal testimony, because the film is being used by people who are followers of Jesus all over the world. So the film is being used in the context of real life followers of Jesus who have a quality of life that impacts people as well. Then it is the power of follow-through because it is used in a situation of following through to help people grow in their faith, planting churches, and small groups.
There has been probably more than 40 films made on the life of Jesus but why does the Jesus Film have such a great impact?
I think another reason is because it has been used by many, many people – so the power of mobilization of the body of Christ. We know over 1,500 different mission agencies that are using this film. So this is really a mobilization and multiplication of many people using this film. Then finally, I would say it is the power of prayer because people who are using it are praying and asking God to touch people’s heart and He does. So there are probably ten different reasons why it is being used in such a powerful way.
CP: How and by whom is the film being used? In particular, what are some of the mission groups that have used the film for evangelism
Green: The list is so long so in one sense I am hesitant because I don’t want to marginalize anyone and make people feel left out. But certainly some of the groups I could mention are the International Mission Board of the Baptist Church, the Church of the Nazarene, many different denominations such as the Methodists, Anglicans, Presbyterian – virtually every major denomination have used the film in many ways.
I personally lived in Africa and I’m aware of people from all those particular denominations that I’ve mentioned who have used the film - so certainly mainline denominations.
Also mission agencies such as Wycliffe, Bible Translators, Africa Inland Mission, Mission Aviation Fellowship, JAARS; I could go on and on and I am leaving out a whole bunch of groups but those are some.
Also, it is not just mission agencies but mainline denominations, national churches, and independent churches like Christian Missionary Alliance and Evangelical Free Church.
You will see a wide spectrum and I think that is what is so interesting about the film – you would see Pentecostal groups using it as well as more traditional groups. So there is a wide spectrum of groups using the film that in other sectors might have difficulties cooperating, but because the film focuses on the life of Jesus you see a broad spectrum of people using it.
CP: Can you explain the meaning of the phrase “The New Orient Express” in terms of the Jesus Film Project?
Green: We continue to have projects around the world and the bottom line is we want everyone, everywhere to have the opportunity to hear and know Jesus. To do this we desire to share stories of Jesus with people in Asia. Asian leaders have asked the Jesus Film Project to send 3.6 million videos and audios of Jesus tools to assist the growth of the church in Asia.
So we call this ‘The New Orient Express’ initiative and it is like the famed train of old that delivered people from Europe to the doorsteps of Asia. The New Orient Express will help equip Christians in Asia to fulfill their vision for everyone in every Asian country to have the chance to learn about Jesus. It probably represents one of the largest distribution efforts that the Jesus Film Project has undertaken.
In the last ten years, more than a million churches have been planted worldwide. These are not our figures, but researches tell us that 75 percent of those churches use the Jesus Film to build their congregation. With this in view, we have the vision of working with the body of Christ to reach all the people in Asia. Working in partnership with Asian believers, Asian leaders; working to send 200,000 missionaries to 23 different countries. So the Jesus films and audios will be instrumental as they strive to share the message of Jesus with people in a language they understand.
CP: How does the translation process work?
Green: Our goal is to translate the Jesus Film into every language of at least 100,000 speakers in the world today. So it is a moving target, but it is around 1,400-1,500 languages and right now we are at 950. We are doing a new language every 3-4 days and certainly languages in Asia would be included in that figure.
CP: How do you decide which language to translate first?
Green: We are working together with members of the body of Christ in all of these countries so they would tell us, ‘Here are the ones we would like to work on now.’ So it is a cooperative effort with the members of the body of Christ to determine what would be the most needed. But ultimately, we want to see all of the languages translated so it is just a question of what is happening in a situation that would encourage us to say, ‘Let’s do that now and do the other ones later.’
CP: So you work with natives in each of these countries to translate the film?
Green: Yes. In fact what happens is dialogue directors who are native speakers of each of those languages are found and they are the ones who find local speakers of the language who would be the voices for that particular language.
We work on this very closely with Wycliffe Bible Translators; if they don’t get the language translated then we are in deep trouble. So we work very closely in partnership with them and actually as they are able to finish the translation of these languages, at least the Book of Luke, it enables us to make the Jesus Film available.
For more information visit: sendjesusnow.com and jesusfilm.org