As long time readers of this blog may know, a few years ago I wrote my first book “How to Start A Riot” about the early Christians in the book of Acts. It was a book that I’m still fond of, and still go around talking about at churches and conferences.
But it’s also a book with ideas that are hard to capture with words on paper. So….
Last year, I went with a producer for Leafwood Press to Israel, and we went all over Jerusalem to the places that were central in the book of Acts. We wanted to talk about what these early Christians did, and how they did it.
Our hope was that we could make a quality small group/Bible class resource for people who were interested in hearing these revolutionary stories and seeing the places where they happened.
And today, I’m very happy to announce that readers of this blog get the first opportunity for a sneak peak at this, and I’m pleased to get to offer you a special 30% off discount as readers of this blog.
You need to know that, while this was shot, edited and scored by professionals, it is not slick.
The producer and I walked/hiked/climbed (and occasionally took a taxi) all over Jerusalem. We were filming in the heat of July, and in July the Holy Land is as hot as….well…the not Holy Land.
Since last July, I haven’t thought much about this project, but I got to sit down and watch these videos for the first time a few weeks ago and I’m proud of what we put together. I hope these videos can help equip churches and Christians to be able to see the book of Acts in a new light.
Because making them certainly did that for me.
The Bible Made Strange Again
One of the great things about doing a project like this, is that it can make you see your own story from a new perspective. It can help you see again just what a revolutionary and compelling and controversial thing we are doing when we follow Jesus.
One of the days that we were filming there, we chose to film a segment in the Jewish Quarter, right on the Temple Mount. And as we were shooting the video, a small crowd started to gather around us. Mostly the crowd was composed of men wearing yamakas and they were intently listening to what I was saying into the camera’s.
The problem was that I was reading from the book of Acts, in the section where Stephen, the first Christian martyr is saying stuff to the Jewish religious leaders that would get him killed.*
Here’s the passage I was reading:
“The Most High does not live in houses made by human hands. As the prophet says:
49 “‘Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool.
What kind of house will you build for me?
says the Lord.
Or where will my resting place be?
50 Has not my hand made all these things?’
51 “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him, you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.”
Suddenly, as I was reading this, I noticed there was a crowd gathering. And I had a few different thoughts flash into my mind.
One is that there’s a reason that Stephen was killed after saying these words. They were offensive then, and suddenly I realized that they are still offensive and provocative.
I began to realize that it is one thing to read the book of Acts, from a church stage in Texas, and another to read it where these stories actually happened with people similar to those original cast of characters.
As soon as we had finished filming, one of the Jewish men who had respectfully waited for us to wrap, immediately came up and with a raised voice said, “What you believe is a bunch of Crap-ianity” And then proceeded to tell us that Jesus was actually able to perform miracles because he had sold his soul to the devil.
You know, just like the last time you preached at your church.
We found out later that it’s a common occurrence for people to have rocks thrown at them for filming in the Jewish quarter on the Sabbath, something we failed to notice. And I’m not telling you this to make you think we were particularly brave (I had no idea that this was a bad idea), or to make the Jewish people seem hostile (they were mostly very kind to us during our stay), but because we set out to film “How to Start a Riot’ on location, and we almost accidentally did just that.
Because these little ideas were revolutionary in the day these stories happened, and they still are today.
If you’re interested in this DVD for your church Bible class or Small group, or just would like to study Acts more in-depth on your own, I hope you check out this resource.
This is a 2-DVD set and it includes 12 segments filmed in Jerusalem. Each segment is 12-15-minutes, and it explores what it means to belong to the community of God and how to Support Your Local Revolution. The series also includes access to an online companion booklet to guide and enrich discussion.
The 30% off discount is available through the ACU Press website for a limited time and the code to enter at checkout for the discount is: StartARiot
Once again, I don’t get any money for this. All my proceeds go to the Highland Church of Christ, and specifically our vision for “A Restoration Movement”
*To be clear, Stephen was himself a Jew, critiquing the Jewish leaders as an insider working toward a prophetic reform. That’s what got him killed.