"And said to them, 'This is what is written: the Messiah must suffer and must rise from death three days later, and in his name the message about repentance and the forgiveness of sins must be preached to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem."'
— Luke 24: 46-47
DALTON, Ga. — The 1979 film "Jesus" based on the Gospel of Luke has been seen by more than 3 billion people worldwide, according to the Jesus Film Project, the organization that produced and distributes the film.
Now, a group of some 40 churches from across Whitfield and Murray counties are looking to get a DVD copy of the film to every one of the 60,000 households in the area.
Bill Bright, founder of the evangelical group Campus Crusade for Christ (now known as Cru), came up with the idea for the film and it was funded by one of the donors to Campus Crusade for Christ.
"The Jesus film was produced in 1979 and released in theaters in 1980," said Bill Sims, a Dalton native and regional representative for the Jesus Film Project. "The goal was to get an accurate portrayal of the life of Christ, from the (biblical) book of Luke, so that we could translate it into all of the languages of the world and take it across the world. Since 1980 it has been seen by more than 3 billion people worldwide. It has been used by more than 1,500 other ministries worldwide."
He says Christ for All Peoples, an organization that helps churches reach people with the Gospel, is an illustration of that.
"It is not Campus Crusade, but the founder of Christ for All People is on the board if the Jesus Film Project," Sims said. "And they are trying to distribute before the end of 2020 a copy of the Jesus film to 60 million households across the United States, along with a Gospel tract and information on local churches."
That effort is called Saturate USA.
Sims, a member of Dalton's Fellowship Bible Church, said for the past three years several local churches have been taking part in an effort called One Cry.
"It was basically a revival type thing. When we came back this year, I'd discovered (Saturate USA) and brought this back to the leadership of One Cry and said 'Why don't we share this with the community?' and they agreed to do that," Sims said.
The goal is to get a copy of the DVD along with a Gospel tract and information on local churches to every home in Whitfield and Murray counties. The idea is that each church will take responsibility for one area and distribute the packets.
Ernesto Mendez, pastor of Dalton's Iglesia Bautista Nueva Vida, says that church will distribute about 1,500 copies of the DVD.
"We have around 50 people going out. We plan to do it seven Saturdays in a row to cover all of those homes," he said.
Darey Kittle, pastor of Dalton's Salem Baptist Church, says his congregation was very enthusiastic when presented with the idea.
"This gives us an opportunity to tell people about Jesus, to take part in something larger than us," he said. "We will be handing out about 7,000 copies of the DVD. We will start on Sept. 14."
"This is a special DVD with three versions of the film has been produced by Christ for All People," Sims said. "It costs the local churches nothing. The only cost to the churches is whatever they print to put in the packet with it. The packets are placed in a a door hanger bag that they'll place on door handles."
Sims said the three versions are the "classic" version of the film, a children's version and a women's version
"A few years after the original release, we decided it would be good to do a shorter version and focus on reaching children," he said. "It takes 45 minutes from the classic film and new footage with five children following Jesus throughout his life and resurrection."
Sims said the idea for a women's version came from a Jesus Film Project representative working in the Middle East where it is hard to reach women.
"The women's version was produced about 10 years ago," Sims said. "We took footage from the original film and told the story from the viewpoint of Mary Magdalene and we emphasized the times on the Gospel of Luke where Jesus encountered women."
There are audio tracks for all three films in eight languages on the DVD: English, Spanish, Arabic, French, Hindi, Mandarin, Urdu and Vietnamese.
If someone doesn't speak one of those languages, there is a QR code on the back of the DVD package they can use to stream the movie in more than 1,600 languages including all of the major languages of the world.
Mendez says he has seen what the film can do during a recent mission trip to Mexico.
"We brought 4,000 of these DVDs to seven little towns and showed the film on the street in the plaza," he said.
He said they showed the version aimed at children but attracted not only children but people of all ages.
Bret Yaeger, senior pastor at Dalton's Temple Baptist Church, calls Saturate Northwest Georgia a "great opportunity for all of us."
"We'll not only be able to get to share this movie with people," he said. "But if people are at home when we visit, we'll ask if there's anything we need to be praying about for those homes. It's rare that something is made available to churches like that that we can make an effort like this without a major expense."
Yaeger says Temple Baptist will distribute the DVD to about 900 homes and will start on Sunday.