Pastor Rice Broocks is the author of the book “God’s Not Dead: Evidence for God in an Age of Uncertainty.” His book is the inspiration for the film, “God’s Not Dead” that opens in theaters Friday, March 21. Pastor Broocks gave his life to Christ when he was in college and is committed to apologetics.
The pastor is also deeply entrenched within the African American community with a heart to reach young African American men. He also spends time speaking at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
PositivelyGospel.com spoke with Pastor Rice Broocks about “God’s Not Dead” hitting theaters this week, his thoughts on why some young people feel challenged to defend their faith, the importance of apologetics and his work in the African American community. What emerges is a man sold out for Christ and determined to show the world that God is definitely NOT dead.
RB: I travel and speak on campuses so I know the challenges that young people face in college with their faith. Three out of four young people will leave high school and when they get to college will abandon their faith. The main reason I would say is that they just aren’t prepared to handle the objections to Christianity. The book was written to do that; describing the campus drama that goes on.
Are you pleased with how the movie turned out?
RB: When they came back with the script I was really, really encouraged and I do think it does capture the basic challenge of what a young person goes through when they’re going to be a Christian and walk on a secular campus. I’m very excited.
What would you say to people who say there is too much commercialism of Christianity?
RB: Well, I think that the message that most Christians have tried to put in practice is taking Jesus beyond the four walls of the church. Why not in the movie theater; why not in the music business? I think we have a country that is based on that kind of commerce. To have Jesus in the discussion and have topics of the Bible in the movie theaters, on radio and television is right. The irony is that the footprint we have is very, very small, so it’s almost like ‘how dare you get into this space where we thought we had God blocked out; how dare you get in here and actually make a faith statement in what has been seen as kind of a secular zone? So, I think it’s fairly ironic that people say ‘well, you know church is irrelevant, nobody wants to see or hear about this’ and when you put it into the theater they actually go to the theater.
I think this is what Jesus would have done. He went into the places he was not expected to go and he communicated with people that did not expect someone like him to talk to someone like them. He did it in a way they could understand. He told parables, he told stories and that’s what we’re doing with these film; telling stories. ‘God’s Not Dead’ is a story. It’s a composite story; It comes from many, many stories where people are challenged in the secular world to defend their faith if their faith has any credibility to it.
In “God’s Not Dead” college freshman and devout Christian, Josh Wheaton (Shane Harper), finds his faith challenged on his first day of Philosophy class by the dogmatic and argumentative Professor Radisson (Kevin Sorbo). Radisson begins class by informing students that they will need to disavow, in writing, the existence of God on that first day, or face a failing grade. As other students in the class begin scribbling the words “God Is Dead” on pieces of paper as instructed, Josh find himself at a crossroads, having to choose between his faith and his future.
There was a study done by Pew Research that said a lot of young people don’t believe in God. Why is that an issue with young people today?
RB: The study you’re referring to basically says that 20% of the people will identify themselves as “none.” Like “none of the above,” so they don’t have any religious affiliation. The atheists try to market that and say that they don’t believe in God, but, really what that’s saying is they don’t have any real allegiance to a religious name or a title or denomination. I think the numbers of atheists in America are about 5%. Among young people it’s probably a higher percentage, but it’s not that high. But a lot of the reason is because the atheists have been writing their books.
They’ve been on YouTube and there’s this internet generation that’s getting their beliefs from social media and the internet has kind of the loudest voices out there and atheists have had that but that’s changing. The Christians and people like myself that are writing books and are now getting a pretty big presence and footprint on social media and on YouTube so I think that we’re seeing that bleeding stop and I think that now, what’s happening is that faith is on the rise.
You have done a lot of outreach to the African American Church about apologetics and also significant work on HBCU campuses.
RB: I started on a college campus at Mississippi State and met a young African American athlete. I just basically felt that the Lord had spoken to me that he, that this athlete had been praying for help and he said he’d actually prayed a prayer a few days before ; ‘Lord for real, send me some help.’ And so I walked up to him and I got this impression in my heart and said ‘look I think you’ve been praying for help for somebody to talk to you about God; sorry, it’s me. I’m the answer to your prayers.’ So here’s this white guy answering his prayer and he’d just prayed that prayer and so I ended up leading 7 of his friends to Christ.
We have a ministry to historically black campuses that is led by an African American named Shino Prater. Shino is the national director of AARM (African American Resource Ministry) and we have a counterpart in Africa, ARM (African Resource Ministry). Shino has built a footprint and connectivity in these campuses where I speak. I feel like God called me originally to minister to young African American men.
Pastor Rice Brooks reach into the community includes Bethel Outreach Ministries which boasts a diverse congregation.
RB: I do have a very diverse church here in Tennessee. We’re almost 50-50 African American and white. I turned it over to an African American, James Lowe. I thought that was important to empower leadership and not just be window dressing. I’m the Bishop overseeing several of our congregations. When people come into our church and they see diversity. When people walk in they see people that somehow they’ve touched something that’s very, very special and I think that’s giving them a little taste of what heaven’s going to look like.
How do you equip young people?
RB: We have a tool called the God Test and you can find it at the God test.org but it’s a discussion tool that simply asks questions. You ask the person if they believe in God if they say yes, there’s 10 questions for him. If they say no, there’s 10 different questions. We have training videos that gone around the world. We call it the S.A.L.T. message; you start conversation, ask questions, listen and then you tell the story. So we’re really helping young people , but people of all ages get into discussion about God. Many people just have a subjective experience. But, can we explain that to someone logically and give them evidence beyond our own personal experience. When you do that you fulfill what 1 Peter 3: 15: ‘Always be prepared to give a reason for the hope that’s within you, yet with gentleness and respect.’ That’s what we’re training people to do.
What are your expectations for the opening?
RB: The advance ticket sales are very encouraging I think that we are striking a chord. People want to see a movie that just doesn’t tell a Bible story, but gives kind of a support of why you believe that there is a God. It’s beyond just quoting the scripture and we do quote the scripture but there are other good reasons to believe in God. The Bible is one of them, but there’s scientific evidence, there’s philosophical evidence and ultimately historical evidence that Jesus was a man and he lived and he was resurrected from the dead that three days after his death in history in the city where it would have been so easy to disprove. I lived in Jerusalem for a season and I can tell you rarely anybody doubted that Jesus was a historical figure or even that he was crucified. The question was what happened three days later. In Christianity we put the entire weight of our story on that resurrection. No other faith says if this miracle didn’t happen and our faith is completely wrong. Our faith says that if Jesus had not been resurrected our faith is dead. I think we’re going to present good reasons.
“God’s Not Dead” stars Kevin Sorbo, Shane Harper, David A.R. White and Dean Cain with special appearances by Christian super-band Newsboys and “Duck Dynasty’s” Willie and Korie Robertson. (Watch trailer)“God’s Not Dead” hits theaters Friday March 21.
For more information on Pastor Rice Broocks and his ministry, visit www.ricebroocks.com