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NOAH – The Hollywood Movie

Post from Jon Bock

This may be the most exciting time in recent cultural memory to be a movie-loving Christian. That’s because all across the U.S. and around the world, people are talking about the Bible. Specifically, they’re talking about NOAH, the Paramount Pictures film opening nationwide Friday – a movie I’ve had the honor and pleasure to work on as a consultant to the studio and filmmakers for nearly two years.

I’m in the marketing business – the movie marketing business, no less – but I can assure you it is without hyperbole that I say I believe we are at the dawn of a new Renaissance. That moment we’ve all hoped and prayed for, when Hollywood would take seriously and treat reverentially the stories that form the foundation of our faith, is here.

As someone who has seen the film more than a dozen times already, I can assure you that Russell Crowe’s Noah is, at his core, a brilliant and unforgettable metaphor for God.  In Scripture, God sees His beautiful creation turn its collective back on Him and His anger is warranted.  But by the end of the Biblical account, God has chosen grace and love in the form of a promise and a rainbow. Throughout the film, Noah also wrestles mightily to balance justice with mercy. The question on his mind, the weighty decision that tests and torments him, mirrors what God had to decide just 10 generations after Eden: Is mankind, inclined as it is to evil against each other and rebellion against its Creator, worth saving?

Make no mistake, director Darren Aronofsky has masterfully colored outside the lines of rigid Biblical orthodoxy in crafting this story. This is no children’s ministry sing-along about animals marching two-by-two past a beaming old man with a white beard onto a wooden version of a Carnival cruise ship. Will you like every creative decision Darren made?  Very possibly not. But remember this: While God is precious, He is not fragile.  The world will not end because of this film and its creative license, just as it didn’t end when Michelangelo took liberties with his religious art during that earlier Renaissance. Far from it, in fact. Five hundred years later, we’re still being moved by the beauty of his artistic interpretations of our sacred text.

I believe beauty can spring from NOAH, as well – because it is gritty and challenging, insightful and inspirational, thoughtful and thought-provoking. The creative impulses that drove Aronofsky and Ari Handel, his writing and producing partner, to pore word-by-word through Genesis and to consult dozens of other historical and commentarial texts makes for a rich cinematic experience that tees up all manner of conversations about sin and redemption, judgment and forgiveness, and the nature and love of God.

So, Hollywood has done its part. They’ve taken one of “our” stories to make one of “their” stories — and they’ve done it on a grand scale. Now it’s our turn. If we want to see more movies like this in the years to come, if we want our culture to continue to be saturated with talk of God and His Word, we’ve got a grand-scale mission of our own to accomplish: going to theaters in mass this weekend and making NOAH a huge hit.  Box-office success is the language Hollywood understands, and then repeats. If NOAH does well, that new Renaissance we’ve so long desired will be in full bloom.

Let me leave you with this video featuring several well-respected Christian leaders – from Focus on the Family’s Jim Daly to radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt to National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference President Sam Rodriguez – offering their reactions to NOAH. Among the words you’ll see and hear are “brilliant,” “bold,” “spectacular,” “pro-God,” “amazing,” “powerful,” “artistic,” “profound,” “riveting,” “astonishing,” “path-breaking,” “deeply important,” “beautiful,” “visually stunning” and “a rare gift.”

jon bock mugshotJonathan Bock is a the Founder and President of Grace Hill Media. He began his career in publicity at Warner Bros. Bock serves on the board of Reel Spirituality at Fuller Theological Seminary and is a deacon at Bel Air Presbyterian Church. He is the father of two beautiful daughters and is married to his wife Kelly.

Urgent Prayer Requests

Urgent Prayer Requests from Venezuela and Pakistan


UnknownViolent anti-government protests continue in Venezuela, and the situation grows more intense every day. This is affecting leaders in different churches in Venezuela—many of whom are being harassed and tortured. Our dear friends in Venezuela have urgently asked us to please keep praying for them and the church there. Pray that they would have the strength and wisdom to know how to address the reality of this difficult situation.


Unknown-1Due to the growing pressure of the radical Islamist political parties in Pakistan, the Pakistani Taliban is gaining influential power. Pakistani authorities are already pro-Taliban, which gives the Taliban time and favor to gain even more power. Radical religious parties are forcing businesses to refuse to do business with Christians. One pastor, who has been using the same printing company for the last 22 years, is now being
refused services. Since there are limited printers in Pakistan, options for printing resources and materials are limited.

Our dear friends in Pakistan are urgently asking for prayer for this developing situation in Pakistan. Pray for their courage in the face of persecution, and their strength and wisdom as they face this difficult situation. The final GLS of the season is scheduled in Pakistan at the end of April. Please pray for their protection.

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10 Symptoms of an Inwardly-focused Church

Re-Post by Tony Morgan

Can you imagine a business that never focused on reaching new customers? Imagine Apple saying, “We have no plans to sell phones, tablets, and computers to new customers in the future. We’re going to focus solely on our existing customers from now on.

For a season Apple would likely continue to thrive because it has plenty of existing customers. But, over time, Apple would slowly lose it’s customer base until eventually everyone has either started purchasing products from other companies or passed away.

The thought of a business like Apple only focusing on existing customers seems ludicrous and a recipe for disaster, but the crazy thing is that I see churches embracing this “strategy” on a regular basis.

Let me help you discern whether or not you are part of an inward-focused church. Here are ten symptoms I’ve noticed in my interactions with churches across the country.

1. Your bulletin is loaded with announcements. Usually this is an indication that your church is focused on programs rather than people. Programs are competing for people’s attention rather that creating a clear path for new people to take next steps.

2. There are lots of meetings. The more inwardly-focused a church gets, the more board and committee meetings there are to talk about buildings and budgets. When people are on mission, there are fewer meetings.

3. You don’t hear and share stories of life change. Instead, you’re more likely to hear all about all the activities that are happening in the church.

4. There’s only one service on Sunday. Inwardly-focused churches are more concerned about knowing and seeing everyone. That becomes the higher value over reaching new people.

5. If you have more than one service, you have multiple styles of worship. There’s a traditional service, a blended service and a contemporary service. That’s an indication that the worship is more about the people who already attend your church.

6. The greeters are talking with their friends rather than meeting new people. If there isn’t an intentional strategy for guests services with people and signage, it’s a good indication that you aren’t expecting new people.

7. Change of any sort is resisted. It doesn’t matter how big or small the change. Service times. Paint color. Room assignments. Service order. Song selection. Inwardly-focused churches are more interested in preserving the past.

8. The church is led by people-pleasing pastors. The pastors are trying to keep everyone happy rather than prioritizing fulfillment of the church’s mission. The first question is probably not, “What does God want me to do?” Instead, decisions are made based on the perceived response of individuals in the church.

9. The church is attended by pastor-needing people. The “members” are consumers. They are expecting to be served rather than engaging the ministry to serve others.

10. People are not inviting their friends. And your gut may be to teach more on evangelism, but that typically doesn’t fix the problem. More likely, your services and ministries are not designed to reach people outside the church. When we intentionally create environments where life change happens, people want to attend and invite their friends.

Where does your church stand? One symptom may not be a strong indication of a serious illness. If you identify several symptoms in your ministry, it may be time to call the doctor.

The challenge, of course, is that even though your church is inwardly-focused, it could still appear to be thriving. Just because you have lots of people showing up doesn’t necessarily mean you have an outwardly-focused church.

tony-150x150Tony is the Chief Strategic Officer and founder of He’s a consultant, leadership coach and writer who helps churches get unstuck and have a bigger impact.

She’s not a megachurch. She’s my sister.

Re-post by Shauna Niequist

When I was three, we lived so close we could walk to the church my parents started. When the first building was being built, we’d walk over every evening to watch the construction. We had little hard hats, my brother and I, and we’d check every day what had been done, what new beams or walls, what new electrical or plumbing.

I know that my church’s name is shorthand for all manner of things—seeker movement, megachurch, modern evangelicalism, whatever.  But those words don’t tell you who she is.

She’s my sister. She’s less than a year older than me. Here in Chicago, we call that Irish twins. She was my playground, my safest place, my home more than the house I grew up in. I’ve worked there, cried there, stood in weddings there, witnessed funerals there. I fell in love there, working alongside the man who became my husband.

People ask what it’s like to be a pastor’s kid. I don’t know the difference. What’s it like to be anyone else’s kid?

What I know is that the church is my family every bit as much as my aunts and uncles are. What I know is that the very best parts of who I am today were nurtured along by that incredible community—by Sunday school teachers and junior high small group leaders and mentors and friends who walk with me still.

I know it’s a thing. I know people write about it, rage against it, have strong opinions about it. But I’m not talking about all that. I’m talking about who she is.

If I could reach through the computer and take you by the hand, I’d walk you through the hallways and tell you stories of confession and redemption. I’d show you where I learned to read God’s word, where I learned to listen for his Spirit, where I gave my life to him and to his purposes here on earth.

I’d show you where I got a concussion in junior high, and where I was standing when a boy reached to hold my hand for the first time. I’d show you where I was baptized, where I was when I watched the Twin Towers fall on September 11th, where I sat trembling just before I preached there for the first time, scared out of my mind.

I’d introduce you to Casey, who I met in 6th grade, who is one of my dearest friends to this day. I’d sit you down to talk with Dr Bilezekian, my Dad’s mentor, a man who’s been like a grandfather to me. I’d introduce you to men and women who’ve been volunteering there for more than thirty years, holding babies or packing up groceries in the care center or sweeping up, long after the services are over.

My church isn’t perfect. Sisters, of course, know each other’s faults better than anyone else. But being a sister also means you get a front row seat to the good, the beautiful, the fiercely loving and thoroughly grace-soaked best parts of it all. The view from here is breathtaking.

For a long time, I didn’t write much about my church. I needed, for a long time, to talk and write about other things, to make a way and a voice for myself that wasn’t only defined by the pastor’s daughter part of my life.

But this church of mine, this sister: it’s not only the church of my childhood. It’s the place where I pray, sing, confess, take communion now. It’s the community that shapes me, walks with me, instructs me, holds me now.

I’m not little anymore, and neither is she. But she’s still my sister.

You learn all sorts of things growing up the way I did. And one of them is this: the labels never suffice. The articles and blogs and books and outside opinions never will capture the real thing. They’ll reduce it to policy, numbers, data.

They fail to capture what a church actually is: real live actual humans, showing up day after day, year after year, building something durable and lovely over time, together, with prayer and forgiveness and love.

They forget that it isn’t an institution. It’s a family. She’s my sister.

Screen shot 2014-03-24 at 10.18.16 AMShauna Niequist is the author of Cold Tangerines, Bittersweet, and Bread & Wine. Shauna writes about the beautiful and broken moments of everyday life–friendship, family, faith, food, marriage, love, babies, books, celebration, heartache, and all the other things that shape us, delight us, and reveal to us the heart of God. (View her original post here.)

The GLS is a Turning Point

Stories from Hong Kong:

The GLS committee in Hong Kong displayed incredible leadership when they hosted the event this year. The team of committee members worked together to serve more than 500 guests in the new auditorium, which was almost filled to capacity.

“Very inspiring. It helped me see many areas to be improved. It was a tremendous help to both my church and myself. Many thanks! God bless you.” GLS attendee, Hong Kong.

“Excellent! It broadened our horizon to develop leadership in the church and spread the Gospel. I really hope for more of these training and learning opportunities for the churches in the Mainland.” GLS attendee, Hong Kong.

The Korean GLS in Los Angeles:

Nearly 1,200 leaders gathered at a Korean GLS site in Los Angeles last week, almost
filling the auditorium to capacity. First and second generations gathered together in unity,
worshiping and growing together through each session.

Stories from Nepal:

Through Christians are in the minority in Nepal, where only 2% of the country practices Christianity, the church is growing fast, even in the face of oppression. However, many pastors are facing burnout due to a lack of training, skills, and
resources to handle the growth, especially in the rural areas where there are very few resources available in the local language.
“I was on the verge of quitting when someone gave me a few of the GLS DVDs. And that was the turning point. The GLS has changed me, my working style as a pastor, and the way I look at every Sunday. I want to take this training to my colleagues who only speak the local language.”

Local pastors in Nepal have joined together, and are beginning the work it will take to hold a GLS there this year. They’ve formed a steering committee, and are in the
process of organizing the translation of the GLS into Nepali for the first time. God
willing, the first GLS will occur in Nepal in the Nepali language this year and in the Hindi language by next year. We are excited to see how the GLS will spread to pastors in the rural villages and the impact it will have on the church and their communities when the GLS is translated into local languages.

View more pictures and stories at

Women Step Up in Leadership

The GLS in Pakistan

The ripple effect of the GLS spreads to some of the most unexpected places in the world. Christian leaders in Pakistan face great opposition, often at the risk of losing their lives, for the sake of bringing the Gospel into their communities.

Our friends in Pakistan courageously host the GLS in order to train, encourage, and build up leaders in this difficult region. While all Christians leaders in Pakistan face opposition, women in leadership battle even greater challenges. But this does not stop them from pressing on to satisfy their hunger to learn and grow as leaders and women of Christ. One woman, moved by the GLS and the impact if had on her and her leadership, started a women’s leadership training program. “We will do all we can to get trained.” she said.

More than half of the 45 women who enrolled in the 11-month leadership program, were forced to drop out due to pressure from male leaders in their churches. Undeterred, 22 women (ranging in age from 18-72) continue with the program, learning from world-class GLS teachers including Bill Hybels and John C Maxwell. The vision of the program is to reach every woman in Pakistan with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and teach every woman how to read, write, and lead.

We celebrate these 22 courageous women who graduated from the Women in Leadership course, the first of its kind in the history of Pakistan. These women who lead as teachers, medical professionals, evangelists, church leaders, college students, and women’s rights activists have been encouraged and empowered by this program. The 2013 graduation was a celebration attended by many pastors, leaders, and citizens of the Christian community in Pakistan. Already 60 women have enrolled for the 2014 program! Pray for the impact this training will have on these women and their communities.

The GLS in Costa Rica

“Leadership training is what the Costa Rican church needs to grow and be relevant in a fast-changing society.” -GLS Leader, Costa Rica

350 leaders gathers from every corner of Costa Rica to attend the GLS. Participants were welcomed by an enthusiastic group of volunteers, among them a group or 10 women who have been freed from sex slavery, and are now a part of the Rahab Foundation. This organization is recognized for their work and focus on relief from from sex trafficking. Since becoming a part of Rahab, they’ve received protection, support, training, and even funding to start a new life. At the GLS, they also received leadership training. The collaboration between the Rahab Foundation and GLS organizers was a great blessing to these women who volunteered to serve food and were invited to attend the GLS sessions.

This is a great reminder that God redeems and restores the broken and continues to use us to further the Kingdom in the roles we can play. Everyone was stirred and impacted by all the sessions, including the ones focused on vulnerability, a healthy culture, and innovation. Many are already asking about the next year because they desired to continue to grow in their leadership for the sake of the Church and their communities.

View more pictures and stories at

I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4