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We have been asked countless times, over the past 30 years since the JESUS film was released, why it has been so successful and versatile (in light of the more than six billion viewings and 220 million viewers that have indicated wanting to follow Christ). What would motivate more than 1500 other denominations and organizations to want to make the JESUS film part of their own evangelistic and discipleship strategies?

The first reason, inarguably would be that we didn’t make up lines for Jesus to say in the screen play–it’s taken straight from the Gospel of Luke. God says His word will not return empty, but will accomplish its intended purpose. That is enacted every time the film is shown. The Holy Spirit speaks directly to the heart of each viewer–and those whom He has prepared enter his kingdom.

Another reason would be the authenticity that was put into, not just the script, but the construction of each scene. Hundreds of hours of research were spent delving into what pottery looked like in 1st century Palestine, what dyes were used in clothing, etc. And of course, it would be unspeakable if one could see telephone poles and lines in the background of a set. Those had to be taken down in many places. Certain scenes had to be re-shot because of cars driving by in the distance.

The film is not perfect–if you look closely, you can see a wristwatch here, or extras smoking cigarettes there. But the JESUS film is as true to scripture as we could make it. And God has honored that.

Richard Yee, a Baptist pastor, was working among the Lahu people group, who are mainly Animists. He would provide medicine to the people and talk to them about the Lord.

In one village, the inhabitants would not accept the gospel because of their strong fear of evil spirits. They believed that if they accepted Christ, the evil spirits would give them many problems.

Pastor Yee then showed the Lahu version of the JESUS film to the people of that village. During the scene where Jesus casts the demons out of Legion, the people saw that Jesus was powerful enough to overcome evil spirits.

Everyone in the village was then ready to turn their hearts over to Christ. The day following the film showing, Pastor Yee baptized exactly 100 adults.

The tribes of the Kui people were known for still practicing human sacrifice. One former priest described how his village used to prepare a ceremonial feast for the one victim who was to be offered up to their gods for the atonement of their sins. After the feast, they would begin to beat him, and they would drag him outside the village and hang him against a tree where they would torture him some more and then slit his throat.

This was before a small team of men came to the village of this particular priest and showed them the JESUS film which had been dubbed into the Kui language. As the all the villagers gathered around the screen and projector, and then watched for two hours the portrayal of the life of Christ, this priest saw how the crucifixion scene bore a striking resemblance to his own tribe’s sacrificial practices. He immediately recognized and understood that this good Man, the Son of God, was the final and ultimate sacrifice. He said, “I prayed and received Christ as my own Savior because no sacrifice I offered up ever came back to life–but Jesus did.”

Along with him, more than 80% of the villagers answered Christ’s call to salvation that night. That has become the pattern in that area. Another priest in charge of three villages, in which everyone has received the Lord, baptized 420 new believers in one year.