Michael W. Smith, one of Christian music's most popular artists, is known for his sensitive heart. He's long been a spokesman for Compassion International, bringing many donors and sponsors on board. He ministered to victims' families—especially Cassie Bernall's—after the Columbine High School shootings. He's an active voice—with his friend Bono of U2—in the fight against AIDS and Third World debt.

But now, in his first leading role in a motion picture, he's a different man—or at least his character is. Smith plays not quite a jerk, but certainly a cocky, comfy suburbanite who's clueless about the plight of the down-and-out in the inner city.

In The Second Chance, directed by Steve Taylor and opening in limited theaters on Friday, Smith plays Ethan Jenkins, an associate pastor and music minister at The Rock, a wealthy—and mostly white—suburban megachurch. On the other side of town, Jake Sanders, played by jeff obafemi carr, is the street-smart African-American pastor of the urban Second Chance Church, where he ministers to gang members, teen mothers, and drug addicts.

Ethan's father had founded The Second Chance Church in the 1960s, then moved to the 'burbs to plant The Rock—leaving Jake and the Second Chance congregation feeling a bit burned and left behind. Early in the film, Jake makes a financial appeal from The Rock's pulpit, ending his pitch by saying that if the people are unwilling to offer their hands-on help, "then you can keep your damn money." After the gasps, it's no surprise that Ethan's and Jake's worlds would soon collide—and that hearts and minds would be transformed in the process.

We recently talked with Smith and carr (who spells his name with all lower-case ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.