Turning the Bible into a magazine is becoming stale news for journalists, but turning a pastor into an actor? That's pretty sweet.
When Revolve, the Bible magazine for girls, hit newsstands, the media seemed wowed by the fresh approach to the ancient Scriptures, but now that Thomas Nelson has released Refuel its version for boys, Time magazine only mentions it alongside other products of the consumer spirituality genre. "Sacred motifs are turning up on everything from face creams to T shirts," Time says.
Thomas Nelson's Laurie Whaley explains Jesus' popularity. "[I]f Jesus was here today, he'd be hanging out at the Clinique booth with teen girls. He went where the people were, and that's the message of the Bible—it's about understanding the connection between the Bible and the world that we live in."
So Thomas Nelson took the Word to the magazine rack. But it's got to be easier to make the New Testament cool by packaging it as a magazine with headlines like "Girls spill it all!" than it is to turn a pastor into a movie star.
For many who liked Jim Caviezel as Jesus in The Passion, the recent release of Bobby Jones, staring Caviezel, was a must see. But they may not have known the pastor who played Jones's instructor. Alistair Begg, the 52-year-old pastor of Cleveland's Parkside Church, made his unexpected acting debut in Jones. Begg played the cursing and liquor-drinking Maiden, Bobby Jones's Scottish golf instructor. How's that for relevance?
According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Begg was speaking at a conference that included Chuck Colson and the two began talking about golf, a sport Begg knows well from his native Scotland.
In the audience that day was movie producer John Shepherd, who was looking for someone to play Maiden to actor Jim Caviezel's Jones. Shepherd later called Begg and offered him the role. Begg, who had no acting experience, had a scheduling conflict and turned him down. Three months later, Shepherd called Begg again. This time, he was desperate because the actor cast as Maiden had visa problems.
"The whole thing was so stinking crazy, I just agreed to do it," Begg said. "If I'd had a long time to think about it, to weigh it over in my mind, I most probably would have passed on it. Acting in a movie was never a dream of mine or something on my wish list."
For those who think Hollywood is morally bankrupt, how's that for hanging out with sinners? In fact, the language in Begg's first lines made him nervous about what he had gotten into.
"I hadn't seen a script until I arrived on the set for the first day of shooting," he said. "When I read the first line, I said to the director, 'What have you done to me?' He had assured me it was rated G or PG and was a family film. But in the end, I was playing a real person and being true to that person's character. Most of my lines were exact quotes from Maiden."
"It's an example of a small man having a big influence," he said. "There would have been no Bobby Jones if there hadn't been this rather blunt and taciturn Scotsman to guide him. The national flower of Scotland is the thistle. It's beautiful, but when you grab it, it grabs you back. The smallest of actions can have profound effects on others, for good or ill."
Begg, who likes to use Oasis and Simon and Garfunkle lyrics in his sermons, should have plenty of pop-culture illustrations for a few years to come.
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