God’s Not Dead Review: Powerful yet Flawed

God’s Not Dead is a faith-based movie that, as of Easter Sunday, had made over $48 million dollars at the box office on a movie that cost around $2 million to make. So by all accounts, the movie is a massive success. The question is, however, is the movie any good? Is it a movie that has crossover appeal, or is it a movie that happened to make it to the big screen, and through a strong marketing campaign, pulled in a lot of Christian viewers?

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Like most faith-based films, there are many things to like about the movie, and many to not like. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, and it had me in tears several times, as my twelve-year-old son like to pointed out. However, there were plot lines that were both silly and exploitative, and will be a turnoff to anyone who goes to the movies to enjoy a good story. I’ll get into it more later, but at times, the movie tries to tell a message, and does so at the expense of a good story.

But the point of the movie is eternal, especially on this Easter Sunday. God is definitely not dead!!!!

The movie takes place on a college campus, where Josh Wheaton, played by Shane Harper, is challenged by Professor Raddison, played by Kevin Sorbo, to prove God is not dead over the course of three class periods. There are several other story lines that revolve around the campus, and all of them intersect at the end of the movie.

But the movie excels any time Harper and Sorbo are on the screen, and it’s because they are solid actors. Harper, especially, from the Disney’ kid’s sitcom, “Good Luck, Charlie,” does a great job as Josh, the student challenged to stick up for Jesus at the expense of his college career, his girlfriend, and his future. His debates with Sorbo are inspiring and the best part of the movie. After the movie, my son asked me if the actor was really a Christian in real life? I didn’t know, but Harper plays the part with conviction and passion, and had me convinced he was ready to risk it all for God.

There are other story lines, and most don’t fare as well. Radisson (played by Sorbo of Hercules fame) is dating a former student who happens to be a Christian, and his disdain for his faith makes their relationship unbelievable. There is also a Muslim student hiding her faith from her father. There is a left-wing blog writer trying to expose Christian public figures who finds out she has cancer, and is dumped my her money loving boy friend (Dean Cain of Lois and Clark in the 1990s.)

I need to make mention of this one plot line as an example of weak, almost harmful story telling. It is so silly and full of holes that any non-Christians might just be turned off by the poor movie making that they won’t take the rest of the movie seriously.

David White plays Reverend Dave and he is hosting a visiting missionary. The two are planning on taking a short trip. Rev. Dave feels like God isn’t using him to help people. So, when the get in the car to leave, it won’t start. They rent a car. Rev. Dave tries to start the rental and it won’t start. Then another rental, and it won’t start either. The car will start for others, but not Rev. Dave. The message of the movie is clear. God wants and needs Rev. Dave to not go anywhere because he will be needed later. This is true, and I also have no doubt God could make the car not start, but it just feels like a cheap gimmick in the movie to keep Rev. Dave in town.

Overall, the movie is a must see. The climax at the Newsboys concert was a lot of fun and offered a few twists as all the plotlines came together. This is an interesting time in the movie industry, with several faith-based films getting released like Heaven is For Real, God’s Not Dead, Mom’s Night Out, and of course there is Noah.

Yes I recommend this movie to all Christians or those interested in faith-based films. Is this a movie to show to people who are not Christians?  Sadly, I’m not sure. The core of the movie about the argument is definitely one you could share with non-believers, but the rest of the movie isn’t up to that standard.

How I Got my Publishing Contract

Everyone has a story of their first publishing contract, and here is mine. I won’t bore you with he details of my early writing journey, but just say it consisted of two novels and then a conversion of those novels into Christian novels.

A lot of this time was spent going to conferences, including American Christian Writers put on by Reg Forder, and then I took a trip to Mt. Hermon in 2006. I met a lot of great people on that trip and had a blast.

Soon I got hooked up with American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and went to my first ACFW conference in Dallas in 2008.

I wrote a business suspense novel called THE SOLOMON PROJECT and pitched it at an ACFW conference in 2009. Those conferences are a blast and also stressful as all the novelists try and find time to pitch their works to agents and editors. Through luck, or fate, or maybe even God’s grace, I was able to get an extra appointment with the agent Terry Burns. It was the last appointment of the day, and I’m sure he was exhausted. But we met, we talked, I pitched, and then we went our separate ways.

But, a few months later, I received an email from Terry offering to represent me.  That was probably to date the biggest thrill I had as a writer. All my hard work was paying off. Terry was great. He put a lot of time into working with me and preparing my proposal and then pitching it to the publishing houses he saw as the best fit.

Terry was all about helping his clients, and one of the things he did was set up a critique group. In this group, I got some great feedback on a novel I was working on called THE DAY SHE DIED. The group was active for about six months and I got feedback on probably the first 8 chapters of my novel. I ended up finishing THE DAY SHE DIED, and Terry tried to sell that book as well.

As the months went by and rejection emails piled up, life went on. Kids got super busy, and I started a couple of novels, and even got 25 thousand words into one. But my writing eventually stopped.

I still considered myself a writer, and always had plans to get back into it, but just hadn’t gotten here yet.

Then, out of the blue, last August, I get an email from Suzanne Hartmann. She was in the critique group and we had both read each other’s novels. She remembered mine, really liked it, and wanted to offer me a contract under her new publishing company, Castle Gate Press.

WOW!

I hadn’t given up on writing or getting published, but I certainly didn’t expect it to happen like that. I immediately thought of how God had worked to make it happen.

I got an unscheduled appointment with the hardest working agent in the biz, Terry Burns. The last appointment of the conference. I met one of his clients in a critique group. She liked my novel, and I’m sure this was years before she thought of starting her own publishing company. But, when Castle Gate Press was born, she remembered my novel.

So, that’s my story. My amazing journey up to this point. I’m right in the middle of making changes after receiving edits from my publisher. I’m really excited about these changes. They are truly for the better and will make THE DAY SHE DIED the best it can be.