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Could ‘Woodlawn’ be ‘catalyst’ to awakening?

DALLAS (BP) — “Woodlawn,” a movie about overcoming racial division through faith in Christ, could contribute to “the next spiritual awakening in the United States,” Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd said during a simulcast to promote the film.

Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, compared the potential effects of Woodlawn, which opens nationwide Oct. 16, to the Jesus Movement of the 1960s and 1970s.

“Tonight is more than just simply about a movie. Tonight is about a movement. A movement toward us seeing the next spiritual awakening in the United States,” Floyd said Oct. 14 at the Unify simulcast broadcast from Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas. “That movement began years ago in what was called the Jesus Movement, which literally became the Jesus Revolution. We pray that tonight will become the catalyst over the next several weeks to the next great Jesus Revolution in America.”

Woodlawn, which recounts the true story of spiritual awakening at a 1970s high school torn by racial tension in Birmingham, Ala., is produced and directed by Jon and Andy Erwin. The Erwin Brothers are also the makers of “October Baby” and “Mom’s Night Out.”

The Erwin Brothers say their purpose in releasing Woodlawn is to harness the power of the digital age to spread the Gospel. Data indicates it could be possible to make a faith-based movie a blockbuster if Christians from different generations and backgrounds would unite for a Kingdom purpose, the brothers say.

International Mission Board President David Platt said in a video aired at the simulcast, “I praise God for His grace and Jon and Andy Erwin, as I had the joy of pastoring these brothers and their families at the Church at Brook Hills [in Birmingham] and seeing their desire to use film and the gifts that God has so evidently given them and others to get the Gospel around the world.”

Platt said movie theaters in cities across the globe where missionaries are not welcome represent “avenues that are there for the spread of the Gospel to the nations.” Woodlawn, Platt said, is helping to “maximize those avenues toward the end that the Gospel would be more accessible to millions upon millions of people and God would be glorified among more and more peoples.”

The movie highlights God’s power and makes reference to the Jesus Revolution of the 1970s, including a call to salvation issued by one of the film’s main characters, Hank (Sean Astin). “I’m asking you to stand up right now and make a decision to change, to forgive, to choose Jesus,” Hank tells the Woodlawn football team.

Another scene in the movie shows a stadium full of people holding candles, reminiscent of the Explo ’72 event during the Jesus Revolution. “Look around you. We are not alone. This is what happens when God shows up,” a speaker says to the racially diverse crowd.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said “the movie is a reminder that today’s church leaders are in a very similar generation as the 60s and 70s.”

He continued, “But the fact is that the Jesus Movement changed them and it changed history. High school- and college-aged students were challenged to embrace Jesus and live counter to the culture. You know, Woodlawn really shows the choice that these young people and all of us have. It is a choice to live with a greater fear or reverence for God than for man. They had to turn their back on the ways of their day and embrace the truth of the Gospel of Christ.”

The simulcast featured other endorsements and testimonies as well as Prestonwood pastor Jack Graham interviewing one of the lead actors, Caleb Castille, about his call to be in the movie.

“What a movie, what a story, and the story is true — not only what happened in 1973 back home in Alabama, but what has happened in so many hearts and lives in this generation, my generation,” Graham, 65, said.

“We were a part of this Jesus Revolution. It rocked America,” he continued. “The revolution that took place in the ‘60s and ‘70s was a powerful movement of the Holy Spirit. We believe that God continues to work in the heart of His people who call out to Him.

“I personally believe that you, the generation of today, can be the next great movement of God in this world. We desperately need it,” Graham said before inviting those in attendance to commit their lives to Christ as Lord and Savior. Many appeared to respond.

Floyd urged simulcast attendees to “embrace fully the vision” of Woodlawn’s creators “because I’m convinced that God can do more in a moment than we could ever do in a lifetime.”

The simulcast will subsequently air multiple times on TBN. Check local listings or visit www.woodlawnmovie.com for details.