On the eve of the release of War Room, I have written this piece to accompany my earlier review of that film. This article includes a listing of War Room’s many companion products, which have been made available through LifeWay Christian Resources. War Room has been heavily promoted by LifeWay representatives throughout the United States. Local Baptist missions association directors, in conjunction with LifeWay representatives, have encouraged churches to purchase blocks of tickets or even rent out entire theatres for showings of War Room. During the past few months, free previews of the movie have been offered to key leaders in local churches in order to create a buzz for the film. Tomorrow War Room will hit theatres. Its many companion products should appear at a church near you shortly thereafter.
There are two primary products which have been made available for sale to churches:
- A Church Campaign Kit – $34.99
- This kit includes a leader guide for planning a War Room themed Bible Study. It also includes Sermon outlines so that pastors can preach the theme of War Room from their pulpits.
- According to the product description, the Campaign Kit can “create awareness and re-introduce your church to the power of prayer.” It can also “Encourage participation in War Room (whatever that is) among church members.”
- The War Room Bible Study – $24.99 for the Leader Kit and $7.99 for participant study books.
- This five-lesson study claims to assist users to “Develop strategies to battle the real Enemy through prayer.” (Read Bible, fold hands, close eyes, talk to God. That will be $7.99, please)
Other products include a teen prayer journal, a “Battle Plan” prayer journal (which seems to be little more than a regular prayer journal which has been branded for the movie), the War Room novel, and the “Battle Plan for Prayer” book by Alex and Stephen Kendrick which is advertised as a “strategic guide to engaging with God, expecting His answers, and enlarging your vision of what He can do through someone like you.”
This product line doesn’t sit right with me. Certainly, toy companies aren’t sinning when they make Ninja Turtle and Transformer Action figures to accompany movies about those characters. Neither does Disney sin when it sells princess dolls of all its movie heroines. These companies are just doing what companies exist to do, selling products to make a profit. So, it’s not unusual to see a product line associated with a movie. However, unlike Star Wars action figures, the gospel and biblical principles are not commodities. Yet, there are so many things for sale in association with War Room.
Doesn’t it seem a little McChurch to offer sermon outlines for sale? Shouldn’t a local pastor already be equipped to preach on prayer from the Holy Bible? Does the local pastor need to spiritually lead his flock to the cineplex?
Coast to coast, local churches have been asked to give War Room a major push in theaters. Some churches are planning to buy block of tickets to sell or give to their members. If the movie is good, couldn’t consumers make the choice to buy tickets of their own volition? (Does your church tell you what brand of groceries to buy?) There is a clear message from the Evangelical Industrial Complex Associated with this movie: “You will see it. You will study it. Your church will buy the companion materials. We decide what’s cool and its War Room.”
Consider a church with 1,000 active adult members. If the church buys a campaign kit, fifty Sunday School leader guides, one thousand study books, and one thousand movie tickets, the total cash outlay for doing so will be somewhere in the neighborhood of $19,274.49 and War Room will be the in thing at the church for five weeks.
Could that money be better spent elsewhere, missions perhaps, perhaps hiring a youth minister who knows how to do more than play electric guitar and throw pizza parties?
Of course, most churches aren’t one thousand members strong but many are. Some are even bigger. There are thousands of churches, from as small as 50 to as large 10,000 who are currently in the market for War Room tickets and materials. These materials have been pushed on them hard by their local missions directors and LifeWay representatives. The potential companion product revenue that surrounds this movie is staggering.
Companion product revenue is needed because the evangelical movie market is a small one when compared to the general population. This is not a movie lost people, by and large, are going to go out and see. They will spend their money on rated R fare while the clear gospel presentation in War Room is preached to the choir. So, to convince secular movie distributors such as Tri-Star to invest in their movies, Christian Filmmakers must promise to deliver ticket sales and related revenue. Blocks of church-bought tickets will do just that, especially on their movie’s opening weekend.
Alex Kendrick seems to have become the Tyler Perry of the Christian movie industry. He writes movies, stars in them, and markets them to his niche audience. Again, there’s nothing sinful about doing this but I remember his first few movies and he didn’t seem like media mogul back then. Flywheel and Facing the Giants were made as ministry of his church and even starred church members, not professional actors. Now, he’s resigned from his church to run his own production company. Personally, I can’t imagine a 1st Century pastor leaving his church to produce and market Christian drama. Neither can I imagine a 1st century Christian being a gospel consumer. I certainly can’t imagine a 1st century Christian associating with the likes of TD Jakes and other Word of Faith Ministers but that’s exactly who Kendrick has been keeping company with since hitting the big time.
The gospel is a big time message but it’s not a big time product. Be discerning about War Room. Don’t be afraid to question the leadership of your church if they expect you to study it. As I mentioned in my review, there are serious and well-document problems with the people associated with this film: most notably Priscilla Shirer and Beth Moore (who is actually barely in the movie at all). Both have advocated the dangerous practice of contemplative prayer. Now, they are starring in a movie about prayer which is selling books about prayer. Does the guy at your church buying blocks of movie tickets know this?
Be careful Christians. Consumers usually get what they pay for. Maybe this weekend you should find a copy of Flywheel and sit down with your family at home and watch it. When it’s over, read the Bible and pray together. That will cost a lot less than $19,274.49.
*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.
Hey Seth. Thanks for your review of the movie and thoughts about financial agenda pushing this thing. Just out of curiosity, you wouldn’t happen to know what those sermon outlines look like would you? And no, I don’t want to preach them or give them to our preacher. I have a friend who’s church has bought into this mess lock stock and barrel. I cant help but wonder if the sermons in their “prayer focus month” might be cut and paste.
The value of knowing isn’t worth $34.99 to me.
If you find out, let me know.
Same here. I was thinking maybe Lifeway gave you a complimentary copy. 🙂
This movie (and any other “Christian” movie) won’t make any money from our church. We just teach the Bible line by line, and leave it at that.
We have a prayer room at our church; we had it for several years. As I was leaving this past Sunday, I noticed that a sign with the words “WAR ROOM” was covering the Prayer Room sign. UGH.
Have you ever paid to see a secular movie? Why is it when a Christian makes money, another christian bashes them. BTW if you answered yes to my question…you have supported a movie that probably made a lot of profit. At least War Room has a message to pray…and to the “real” God. Another point, it’s reaching far more than the first movie that was produced. The Word of God teaches that the “love of money ” is the root of all evil. Not money itself. I don’t follow the makers of these movies, I haven’t been to see War Room, but I have seen the other movies. It’s nice to sit down and watch quality acting and filming with a good message. It takes money to do that. Just my opinion. I respect yours. God bless.
War Room was an amazing movie, and it reminded me of the importance of having a good prayer strategy. Truth be told, the plot is rather convicting. In addition, I was able to take my wife and children to see it. It was well worth the money to see a family night movie that wasn’t filled with bad language, nudity, violence, etc.
Do you think local pastors should buy kits and preach sermons from it?
As a pastor, I will focus on God’s Word as my text for study, and His voice for what to preach and when.
I think it is important to point out that your numbers are highly exaggerated.
“The Barna group pegs the average Protestant church size in America at 89 adults. Sixty percent of protestant churches have less than 100 adults in attendance. Only 2 percent have over 1,000 adults attending.”
Was that number inflation to give more punch to the punchline? I don’t want to assume that I know your reasoning for that, so that is why I ask.
You’re correct about average church sizes. I think the average SBC church is ~70 people.
So, people could do the math with a 70 member church. However, I question how engaged a small, country church would be engaged with the latest gimmick.
When I think of larger, more “corporate” churches l, I think of Sunday School groups going to see the movie together and advertising the outing with the posters sold at LifeWay.
In my county there was a concerted effort by the local association to have local churches rent out a theatre.
What would be the issue with going as a church to see a movie with decent quality that teachers high morale standards? Wouldn’t it be an opportunity to invite guests and then spark a conversation about the power of prayer?
So let me gets this hypothetical straight…
The prayer life of a local church with the Holy Spirit, Bibles and compensated pastors is so anemic that the people need a movie outing to have a conversation about prayer and “invite guests”?
If a church wants to go to a movie together, that’s fine. But don’t we have opportunities to spark conversations everyday?
What other feature film releases by Sony cause churched to rent out entire theaters?
Can’t consumers decide which movies they want to see for themselves? Do churches need to rent out a theatre buy buying up all the tickets to a show?
That sermon kits are sold, tells me this is a product.
I went to a free preview. There were two in my county and all the local pastors were invited? Why? So they could go back and recommend the movie to their congregations.
I actually enjoyed the movie. I was entertaining, clean and had a good message (I said as much in my review).
So…to filter through your answer…it’s fine for a church to do a movie together. The issue is with the selling of a product.
To clarify, I never really alluded to the church not having other opportunities to spark conversations. And, I definitely didn’t suggest prayer anemia…
I also mentioned in the article that most churches aren’t 1,000 members.