Grammy Award-winning singer Kirk Franklin has produced what is believed to be the first-ever gospel Christmas film — an unprecedented cinematic venture.
The Lifetime film, “Kirk Franklin’s a Gospel Christmas,” will air this Saturday at 7 p.m. CST and stars Demetria McKinney, Chaz Lamar Shepherd and Jen Harper.
“The film will show how much gospel music can live and survive outside of just Sunday morning, [and] that it can be on TV, on Broadway and in movies,” Franklin, one of the film's executive producers, told Christian Post reporter Jeannie Law in the video interview below.
“It will be a great moment for the genre, the community and Lifetime.”
The romance story is centered around the journey of a young female pastor who receives the position of lead pastor of a church a month before Christmas.
The pastor fears that she won’t be able to handle her new leadership role as Christmas and the town’s annual winter jamboree approaches. As she prepares the church’s choir for the jamboree, she both finds church community and falls in love.
“The agenda should be that, whether it’s male or female, that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is being preached and that it’s being shared with the world,” Franklin said. “I don’t want to get into doctrine. I just want to be able to tell stories that align with the totality of the Gospel and the truth. And I think there hasn’t been enough honest conversations about identity and value and the esteem that we don’t have to be cookie-cutter.”
The 51-year-old said there is a lot of talent among gospel musicians today and he hopes that the movie will inspire many more gospel-influenced films, TV shows and other media content.
"Gospel music has always influenced American music, from your biggest pop stars, their musicians and their band of singers — [who] are all from the black church," he said. "And so, we see that influence is all over pop culture for years from Elvis Presley to Kanye West. … This is an opportunity to just showcase the viability of the genre [of gospel music]."
“It’s been fun. It’s been great," he continued. "I’m looking forward to people seeing the film.”
The film will also touch on a number of issues faced by many Christians in Church culture.
“A lot of times — especially when I was growing up in the Church — if you didn’t sound, look and act the way that the seasoned saints wanted you to, you didn’t have a voice. And so, you always had to look like other people,” Franklin recalled.
“There’s a lot of simulation which has happened in Christian culture, and so hopefully this movie does show the story of the come-as-you-are. It’s a very true lens to see all the sheep, to see all of us at the foot of the cross needing this incredible story of amazing grace.”
Another theme explored in the film is church hurt.
Franklin said he believes "church hurt" should be rephrased as "people hurt."
"I think sometimes we make the building or institution this magical kingdom … which is the mistake of the culture to create this misnomer that there is a spirit of protection that has to be implied," he said.
For those who have been hurt by the Church, Franklin said he hopes the film will remind them that every person is a sinner saved by grace.
“When you have a canon of sacred writings that showcases winos, murderers, adulterers, prostitutes, liars, connivers and schemers, but then we want the tangible Church to look like this ivory snow place of worship ... this gives the true story of why the Son of Man came. Because on our own, we are a mess.”
Franklin stressed that the movie is "not a pulpit" or a "Wednesday night Bible study."
"People can’t say, ‘They didn’t even have an altar call during the credits,’” he emphasized.
“This is why I want to deconstruct what we think 21st-century evangelism is. Some things are just for fun. When you go roller skating, you don’t get Christian roller skates. You just get roller skates. … I feel that every opportunity is a moment to point people vertically, but to have this overshooting attempt to make everything a suit, and tie, a Bible and an altar call is missing the opportunity to also be light in the world.”
The film is produced by Swirl Films and Big Dreams Entertainment. Along with Franklin, it is produced by Leslie Greif, Eric Tomosunas and Ron Robinson. The director is Erica Sutherlin.