Christian Legal Centre lawyer, Michael Phillips, suggests five sites you can visit during lockdown for family entertainment over the Easter period.
The chances are that if you are a Christian parent, you may well have come to the end of ‘acceptable’ viewing on BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, and Netflix for your children or as a family. You might now be looking into the expanse of months with the kids at home and wondering where to turn to.
The good news is, there is a lot more Christian viewing available online than you might have imagined. When you think Christian media or the Christian film industry, you might think of Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ or ‘Veggie Tales’. In fact, over the last 10 years, the industry has grown to rapidly so that now faith-based films released in cinemas in the US has doubled since 2012 to about 12 a year.
During this period of lockdown, and with Easter holidays about to kick off, many parents are wondering how they are going to keep their children entertained while there’s no schoolwork to do. That’s why I’ve created a list of my family’s top five suggestions for online family entertainment during lockdown:
1. RightNow media (for everyone)
This website was introduced to us 3 years ago by an American friend and has since proved invaluable for those times you just don’t quite have enough time to prepare for house group!
RightNow Media describes itself as “an online video streaming service that provides churches with on-demand biblical content to share with their members. When churches subscribe to RightNow Media, their members gain access to over 20,000 biblical videos that can be used for: – Sunday school – Home groups.”
RightNow is great, firstly because they produce much of their own material, often using well-known Bible teachers who expound on a book of the Bible for about 10 minutes, usually with the backdrop of an American national park. Their teachers include many speakers and evangelists such as Francis Chan, JD Greer, and Tony Evans.
There is also a vast array of children’s programmes that our children have yet to tire of, including ‘Superbook’, ‘Veggie Tales’ (and other Phil Vischer programmes), ‘Torch Lighters’ (cartoon animated stories from church history), and Kingstone Bible animation (you might remember the action Bible – here, the author turns it into film, ‘The Action Bible’).
2. Ray Comfort and Livingwaters.com (for teens and above)
Ray Comfort is street preacher from New Zealand and latterly moved to Los Angles. He was the man that Richard Dawkins mocked as ‘banana man’ (which resulted in him becoming a lot more famous than he would otherwise have done). He now has a website and releases videos pretty much daily, usually focusing on evangelism and apologetics.
There are also 14 full length feature films which are a must see for anyone engaging in evangelism. I would start with ‘180 Degrees’ (5.8 m views), where Ray speaks to ordinary people on the streets of LA about abortion, many of whom have changed their minds by the end of the video. His second most popular video is ‘Evolution v God’ (3.7 m views), where Ray takes apart a number of unsuspecting ardent atheist scientists.
Ray’s style is to ask questions which centre on the 10 commandments and by the end of the cross examination, show how it leads to the cross at the centre of the gospel message. After watching these videos with my 10-year-old, he asked, “dad, do Christians always manage to make non-Christians look silly for believing in atheism?”
When scratching your head on a Saturday night wondering what to watch, if you had a relatively liberal upbringing, as I did, then there are certain films that you might think are suitable for the kids. Before you decide to put one on, stop! Before you click on ‘buy it now’, I would recommend visiting this website.
It reviews just about every film that is released and it gives it a moral and movie making rating and gives a brief description of the film from a Christian perspective. If you don’t have time to read the description, then skip to the bottom and it summarises whether the film has any of the following: Nudity, Sex, Profane language, Violence, Vulgar/Crude language, Drugs/Alcohol and Occult.
4. Christian entertainment groups on YouTube (for young boys)
In the last few years, there have been an ever-increasing number of groups appearing on YouTube, some of them Christian, doing absolutely ridiculous things and attracting millions of subscribers and followers.
The best-known troupe are Dude Perfect. Posting every week a video not more than 8 minutes long, along the lines of a someone throwing a Ping-Pong ball down some steps, the ball bouncing around various self-made contraptions, and eventually landing in someone’s mouth with great howls of ‘yeah’ as only seen in America. They hold more Guinness World Records than you can shake a stick at, have had over 10 billion views on their YouTube channel, have 50 million subscribers, and are the 11th most subscribed channel in the world. Not bad considering they only started in 2009. That said, you won’t be able to pull your 10-year-old boy away from watching their videos for the next year. On the positive side, all the members are Christians and do talk about the faith, albeit on other videos.
This trend has led to the creation of many similar groups – to name but a few:
- How Ridiculous – a trio of Australian Christian guys who drop items from a high tower in the Australian bush and film the hapless object smashing.
- Team Edge – three Christian friends giving each other silly challenges, failure usually results in one of them falling a bucket of water.
- Dangie Bros – two Christian brothers, who make box forts, do experiments and perform other challenges.
5. Christian Films
It is not possible to properly give credit to the increasing number of good Christian films that have come out in the last 10 years. Don’t be put off by the bad reviews in The Guardian! I tend to find that there is an inverse relationship between the quality of the film and what The Guardian says. These films can be accessed from Apple TV and Amazon Prime. We would recommend starting with the following:
- God’s Not Dead: the film follows a Christian college student whose faith is challenged by atheist philosophy professor, who declares God a nonsense. This film and its sequel could be the dramatisation of many cases that I have been involved in over the years. (Recommended 12 and above.)
- Wesley: the story of John Wesley starts with him as an irritatingly self-righteous Oxford instructor who is then offered the chance to go and do mission work in Georgia. The story then follows his romance with Sophy Hopkey, the beautiful niece of the local magistrate, his arrest for defamation of her character, and his escape and return to England in failure and shame. Back in London, he finally experiences the peace he longed for. The film then follows him and his brother as they begin revolutionary social ministries to better the lives of the poor while also preaching transformation of the heart. (Recommended 12 and above.)
- Breakthrough: tragedy strikes when Joyce Smith’s adopted son, falls through the ice on a frozen lake in Missouri. Trapped underwater for more than 15 minutes, rescuers bring John back to the surface and rush him to the nearest hospital. On the point of being pronounced dead, his heart starts beating again following his mother’s prayer. The film then follows the story of his struggle to remain alive. (Recommended 12 and above.)
- Pilgrim’s Progress: released last year, this is a family-friendly animated version of John Bunyan’s book, which follows the book closely. Although suitable for any age, the film has a couple of depictions of demons that younger children will find scary. There is a special introductory message from Kristyn Getty on the importance of inspiring the imagination of children in building their faith. (Recommended any age.)
- War Room: Tony and Elizabeth Jordan have it all—great jobs, a beautiful daughter, and their dream house. But appearances can be deceiving. Their world is actually falling apart under the strain of a failing marriage. Tony has professional success and flirts with sexual temptation, whereas Elizabeth resigns herself to increasing bitterness. But their lives take an unexpected turn when Elizabeth meets her newest client, Mrs Clara, who challenges her to make a “war room” for prayer. As she fights for her family, Tony’s struggles come to light. (Recommended 8 and above.)
- Hansie: this is based on the true story of the disgraced South African cricketer Hansie Cronje. It asks the question, “How do you start over once you have betrayed a nation’s trust?” The film tells the story of his involvement with Indian bookmakers and his subsequent public confession, which shock the international sporting community to its core. An unprecedented rise to glory was followed by an equally unprecedented fall. His bravest moment was his confession. (Recommended 12 and above.)
- Unplanned: this is the true story of Abby Johnson, recounting her journey from being a Planned Parenthood clinic manager to pro-life activist. It is a powerful and, at times, shocking film exposing the practices and greed of the largest abortion provider in the US. There have been numerous testimonies of people leaving the pro-abortion industry since seeing this film, which ultimately is a film of hope. (Recommended 15 and above. Warning: Contains graphic scenes.)
- Mully: This charts the incredible story of Charles Mully, abandoned in Kenya at 6 years old, who went on to become a self-made millionaire to then give it all up, including most of his wealth, to support the large orphan community in Kenya. It is a powerful story about what one man was able to accomplish and the lives that were transformed by him. (Recommended 8 and above.)
- Knox: This BAFTA Scotland-nominated documentary commemorates the life and legacy of Scottish reformer John Knox. This is an excellent film to learn about one of the key figures in the reformation and his legacy today. In this time where we are facing opposition from within the Church, there are some vital lessons for us to learn from Knox today. This film has been made available for free temporarily during the lockdown, go to vimeo.com/ondemand/knox and use the code “LOCKDOWN” (Recommended 8 and above.)
- The Riot and the Dance: Join Dr. Gordon Wilson in these two (Earth and Water) documentaries as he shows us how we can understand God and his nature greater by basking in God’s masterpieces found throughout creation and the animal kingdom. If you have wanted to see a nature documentary through an explicitly Christian worldview then you will love these. (Recommended any age.)