Some 4500 pastors were invited to an advance screening of The Passion of The Christ at Willow Creek Community Church in January. The screening was sponsored by Outreach Marketing, which billed the film as an effective evangelistic tool. Each pastor received a promotional kit suggesting ways they can use the film as part of their church's outreach efforts.

We asked some of them for their reactions to the film. The pastors we interviewed were:

  • Jeff Ahlgrim, executive pastor, Heartland Community Church, Normal, IL
  • Rob Bugh, senior pastor, Wheaton Bible Church, Wheaton, IL
  • Frank DeLuce, solo pastor, Unity United Presbyterian, Pittsburgh, PA
  • Mo Hodge, senior pastor, The Bridge Community Church, Decatur, IN
  • Steven Usry, lead pastor, Harvest Point UMC, McDonough, GA

Do you think the film deserves its R rating?

Bugh: "Yes. There will be church people who will question endorsing R-rated movies, but my response is, 'Look, we don't endorse R-rated movies, nor should we. But this movie is an exception because the crucifixion was an R-rated event.'"
DeLuce: "Yes, because it is very graphic in the violence related to the crucifixion, but this film shows what is necessary."
Usry: "I would compare it to watching the horrors of a torture take place on the screen. I will not let my oldest child (9) watch this film, and I will strongly persuade parents within my congregation to go watch the film first before letting their teenagers view it. They can make the judgment themselves."

What were your overall observations of the film?

Usry: "The best movie I have ever seen. It was graphic and faithfully stayed with the Gospel texts. The neck of my shirt was soaked with tears during the scourging, and I felt like a softball was lodged in the back of my throat ...

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