In the book of Romans, the apostle Paul gives readers the most in-depth, comprehensive explanation of the gospel in all of Scripture, showing us what it looks like to live according to the good news. And this good news is better than we could have imagined.
We sent a film crew with pastor J.D. Greear to Rome, Italy to film The Book of Romans: Part 1 and Part 2, a series examining one of the most important books ever written on the Christian faith. In this series, J.D. helps us see just how good the gospel really is. It exceeds all our expectations.
While filming, our team asked J.D. a few questions about preparing for this series and his hopes for small groups.
J.D.: One distinctive thing I think I re-learned as I was prepping for this series is just the distinctive message of grace that the gospel offers. The power of grace to transform our lives. Especially being on location here in Rome where you’re associated with so many different symbols of religion, and all the works-righteousness that goes into religion, and people doing things to try to earn God’s favor. Paul’s message in Romans is [righteousness] is a gift. Righteousness is not a standard that we obtain to; it’s a gift that God gives us. And then in response to that, out of love, we serve God, and we serve others. The power of the gospel, it was renewed in me, rekindled in me, not only as I studied and prepared for this but as I actually taught through it as well.
J.D.: One of the things I think I’m hoping—I’ve been hoping and praying for out of this study—is that this study of the book of Romans, which is one of the deepest and richest looks at the gospel anywhere in Scripture, would have this effect of not only getting us excited about the gospel and transforming our relationships but just burning in our hearts until we have to tell others. The gospel is kind of like a spiritual tornado, it never pulls you in without also wanting to thrust you back out. And so, I think just pressing into the beauties of God’s grace, it just does something to you that changes you so that you not only treat people differently and think about yourself differently, you just find yourself having to talk to other people about the things that you’re learning.
J.D.: So, the most memorable moment, spiritually, is probably going to be down in Paul’s prison. When we’re pretty sure it is the actual cell he stood in before he was executed, and just to think about that—that was amazing. I loved filming from there. You know, always my favorite memories with this are slow walking with Will (Senior Producer at RightNow Media). Just to follow me around with a camera, and just to kind of zoom in on my feet and to make me really self-conscious about my posture, "Am I walking crooked?" So, that definitely is what I’ll take away. Will’s got a special place in my heart.
In Matthew 5, Jesus begins his most famous sermon with a list of characteristics, commonly known as the Beatitudes, that offer us a glimpse at what it looks like to live “the blessed life.” But they’re not exactly what we might expect.
We sent a film crew with author and pastor Matt Chandler to Big Bend National Park to film The Beatitudes, an eight-session series examining Matthew 5:1–12. In this series, Matt teaches us what a blessed life really looks like. It may not look the way we imagine, but it’s better than we could ever hope.
While filming, our team asked Matt a few questions about his preparation for and teaching of this impactful series.
Matt: Going into the series, I was familiar with the Beatitudes. I mean, I’ve been a Christian for thirty years. I don’t know that I’ve ever explicitly taught through them but certainly understood them to be Jesus unpacking what the kingdom of God would look like. So, the thing that was in plain sight that really ministered to me as I prepared was that the Beatitudes aren’t a list of things that I need to work on, but rather the kind of person that Jesus is turning me into. And I think that was the big thing that stood out, that Jesus doesn’t show up looking for this kind of person, like “let me find the man of peace” or “let me find the meek.” But, rather, he’s saying, “my people that I’m going to work in, that the Holy Spirit’s going to—this is the kind of person they’re going to become.” So, it’s not eight different people, right, but eight characteristics of the same person. So, it honestly gave me a lot of confidence that God is working these things in me and that I will continue as long as I’m here.
Matt: If I think about people in living rooms or in church rooms and buildings, and watching this, the thing that I most want them to walk away with is a confidence that God is at work in their lives. I don’t want them to listen to a single one of these episodes and feel crushed by it or feel that it’s impossible. That by episode after episode after episode that they would grow in their deep and earnest belief that God is at work in the mess of their lives. That God’s patience is there, that his shaping power is there, and that he has not forgotten them, but is actively turning them into this kind of person.
Matt: So, the thing that always stands out when I get to shoot these things is it’s always done in just stunningly beautiful places. So, there is the team, of course, that you laugh with, and you have a good time with. But you’re getting to . . . I said to somebody, I think it was early this morning, “Can you believe we get to do this?” We’re up early, everything’s new, the sun’s coming up, everything’s beautiful, and then we get to talk about the creator God of the universe. We get to point toward the gospel. We get to marvel at his goodness and grace. I think that’s the thing, and really, through all my shoots with RightNow, that’s been the thing that always has stood out as I head home or as we wrap up, that in these really beautiful places, these really privileged spaces, that we get to just talk about and point towards the king of the universe.
The Bible begins with God. In the book of Genesis, we see his power, creativity, and splendor in what he made. But we also see his mercy, love, and redemption through the flawed people he has made. While Genesis sets the stage for the rest of the Bible, it also helps us see God’s glory in his creation and teaches us that he can make something out of imperfect people like you and me.
Last year, our team traveled with Dr. Charlie Dates to the redwood forests of Northern California to film a series on the book of Genesis. After speaking at the 2021 RightNow Conference, Dr. Dates spoke with us about his experience on that shoot and his hopes for this series.
Charlie: Preparing for Genesis is very different than preparing to teach other books. Genesis is a genre of history that doesn’t really fit the Psalter, Judges, or the prophets. It doesn’t have to be decoded like apocalyptic literature. I learned about the genre sensitivity of the study—that is, wrapping our minds around what the point of Genesis is—is really the best way to see God’s activity so we can teach and preach it.
Genesis could tell us about dinosaurs, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and all that kind of stuff but it doesn’t. It has a view toward chapter 50, getting the scene set for a savior who is going to come. That’s something I came to appreciate while working through the book of Genesis.
It’s different. The Bible gives us varying shades of color in different sections. It’s not monochromatic. When we study the genre, we get to see God’s Word in the fullness of his color—it comes alive. Is there anything better than 4k resolution? If there is, I don’t know. God beats that high-def stuff. Genesis helped show me that.
Charlie: I want viewers to be like, “Man, the Lord is amazing, and Charlie Dates works for Jesus.”
[laughs] Okay, seriously, I want viewers to walk away with a bigger picture of God. If God really did create time, space, and matter and if he did choose one family, and through that family wove this wonderful narrative, then surely he can work through the matters of my life. Surely God can bring something out of nothing where I live. I hope when you see Genesis, you feel the power and presence of God.
Charlie: When you film with RightNow Media you need to do, like, four weeks of yoga. We were in the middle of nowhere—in the Redwoods with trees that looked like they were out of a Narnia book—and I climbed on a [fallen] tree and was walking on it, balancing. I was thinking, “If I don’t get home safely, my wife’s not going to be happy about this.” [laughs]
They go to great lengths to capture the most epic and beautiful scenery to match the picture of the text, so they can deliver what I think is the highest quality video content.
Now, here’s what else I learned: I’m jealous. I didn’t think I was jealous, that I was envious. But the fact that they don’t live in Chicago and don’t work for us at our church . . . I had to repent of some of that. Other than that, it was great. It was fantastic.
It’s no overstatement to say that we are more distracted now than we’ve ever been. The “chaos machine” in our pockets constantly diverts our attention away from what matters, gluing our eyes to the things that don’t. And with our attention goes our focus.
Addressing this very topic, New York Times bestselling author and speaker Jon Acuff recently filmed a new series with our team entitled Focus: In a World of Bottomless Distractions and Endless Opportunities. We caught up with Jon to hear what he learned while preparing this series and his hope for those who go through it.
Jon: One thing I learned is how distracted we all are. I like to say that our distraction technology has outpaced our ability to focus. Think about how fast distraction has scaled. I mean, twenty years ago the only distraction I had on my phone was a game called snake. I don’t know if you’re my age, but it just was a line that went “doot, doot, doot, doot, doot.” Now, you have every movie ever made, every book ever written, and every podcast ever recorded in your pocket. You have a chaos machine in your pocket. So, it was really interesting to learn—that’s part of why it’s challenging. You shouldn’t feel bad that it’s hard to focus; the odds are stacked against you because of our technology. But there are some really simple things you can do, and that’s what was so fun about filming this series.
Jon: I want viewers to walk away with the idea that you can learn how to focus. It’s not a personality trait. It’s not something that some people are good at and others are bad. When you talk to people about, “Is it easy for you to focus?” or “Do you ever get distracted?” sometimes they make identity statements. They say, “I’m a really distracted person. I can never focus,” as if they can’t learn. But the one thing I want you to walk away with is you can learn, and there’s some very practical things you can do that are actually really fun. And you get to see pretty quick progress. So I want you to walk away with the idea that you can do it and that there’s things you can do.
Jon: My most memorable moment of any series—we’ve done because we’ve done three together (so, I know I’m talking about Focus, but we’ve done Soundtracks and Finish)—my most memorable moment was where I got to the shoot and there was a cliff. They had set up the shoot on the edge of a cliff that was three-hundred feet high, overlooking a river, and there was a rock that was, in my opinion, very close to the edge of the cliff. And they said, “Hey, we just want you to stand on this rock, it’ll be an amazing shot.” And I said, “What’s your second idea?” Because I talk with my hands, I move around a lot, I’m very animated. So, I said, “There’s no way I’m getting on that rock.” So, if you watch that video, I’m perched on the rock. I’m sitting on the rock, that was our compromise, but I’m kind of looking over my shoulder. That was the most memorable. The second was, we filmed in Nissan Titan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee, where I live. And it was an amazing shot, and they had a drone, and it was just gorgeous. So, I love partnering with RightNow because they always do such beautifully well-thought-out work.
It can be tempting to think of the Bible as a list of rules and old stories, far disconnected from our everyday lives. But when we read the psalms, we find the entire spectrum of human emotion: grief, rejoicing, despair, melancholy, anxiety, hope, and everything in between. In this book of songs, God has given us permission and words for our deepest feelings.
Author and speaker Mary DeMuth recently filmed a daily devotional with our team, exploring the psalms in all of their beauty and emotional range. We caught up with Mary to hear her heart behind this devotional and hope for everyone who goes through it.
Mary: It was super peaceful. I really enjoyed getting to know all of the people on the team and learning about their roles. One of the things I just love is people! So having a bunch of people there was super helpful. What I loved is that they were very professional and very intentional about getting the right shots. And there was no stress, like, “Oh you made a mistake.” I was definitely more hard on myself while they were giving me grace. It was great—I had a really good time!
RightNow Media: What is one thing you learned while preparing for this series?
Mary: One of the topics I talk about in the series is the importance of lamenting. Every time I have taught lament psalms to a group of people, I have seen God do amazing work in their lives. So, relearning and reacquainting myself with the rhythm of lament was really helpful for me in my own lament journey. It allowed me to move beyond some grief I was holding onto.
RightNow Media: What is one thing you want viewers to walk away with after watching this series?
Mary: I guess I just want them to know that they are normal. To feel pain, grief, despair, or rejoicing is totally normal. The psalms exist to give words to whatever they are going through.
Click here to check out the Prayer and the Psalms devotional with Mary DeMuth on RightNow Media today.
We live in a time where isolation feels more comfortable than living in community. We are used to living alone, running errands alone, and not sharing our hopes or fears with many people. But God never intended us to be secluded from one another.
Author and speaker Jennie Allen dug deep into God’s vision for community while writing her book Find Your People, which she recently developed into a series with the team at RightNow Media. We caught up with Jennie after filming to hear her hope for the series and how living in community has changed her life.
Jennie: The RightNow Media team—they are my people! So many of them are my good friends. We’ve worked together for many, many years. I feel like I can call Phil (VP of Production) with any idea and he’s like, “Let’s go, J!”
Phil has put together such an amazing team of people. Mark (Video Producer) has spent so many hours on my stuff; Courtney (Senior Producer) is awesome—I just feel like everybody has been so gracious and kind to let me build with them.
RightNow Media is a family and I feel like I’m the adopted member of that family (laughs). I’m really grateful that they create with me. I hope that the series we make causes you to love God more—they hope that too. It’s really special and fun that we get to be creative in a way that helps people get to know God better.
Jennie: Wow—it has been a two-year journey for me, which is how working on a book or Bible study goes. But this one has changed every single thing about me—the way I live, the way I think about friendship, the way I eat, the way I run errands. Everything about me is about pulling people in and not doing anything alone.
Even this project, I feel, was a big group project. Being on set with the big locations felt like being with family. Some bad things happened to me that week, and we were all crying together in a bowling alley, praying for my family. That is the way we were meant to live. We aren’t meant to cry alone. We’re meant to cry in each other’s arms and in each other’s presence.
My hope for this series is that it will cause you to rethink hiding anything, that you will live fully known, seen, and connected to others.
Jennie: I hope people walk away from this series with friends. I think we are doing life in a more isolated way than we ever have before. The scary part of that, as a generation, is we were already doing life more isolated than any generation before us. We already had a problem, then COVID-19 and the last couple of years exacerbated the problem.
I hope that viewers don’t feel any pressure when they watched the series. I hope that when you are working through the series a desire rises up within you—a vision and a dream for the way God meant for us to live. This series is all about building a foundation in your life for community that is different from the way we live right now in America.
This study has changed my life. I can’t imagine living any differently. I have a village; I have my people. It’s messy and imperfect, but it is a better, more rich and full way to live.
The Christmas season is full of light, joy, and beauty. At the center of our celebrations and family traditions is a vulnerable baby in a feeding trough—Emmanuel, God with us. As Christmas approaches, the season of Advent offers us a chance to reflect on our savior, his purpose, and the surprising ways he invited people near to him.
To help you and your church reflect on the coming, or advent, of Christ, pastor Derwin Gray spent time with our team filming Advent, a five-part series exploring the ways the birth of Jesus changes everything. We caught up with Derwin after he preached at the RightNow Conference to hear about his experience making this series and his hope for everyone who watches it.
Derwin: Filming with the RightNow Media team is not only fun—because they are all hilarious and we have good chemistry because they are great people—but also, they have professional expertise. The way they are able to take content and match it with locations and editing encourages me in my faith. I am excited about this Advent series because they make me better than I am!
Derwin: The biggest thing I learned about Advent was a greater awareness of God’s heart. Advent means “arriving” or “coming.” In the beginning, the Father had already determined that Jesus was going to come and reconcile all things to himself. The way he goes about that is beautiful, mysterious, life-giving, and powerful.
Derwin: I want them walking with Jesus more. Jesus is not just a Sunday friend; he is an all-week, all-the-time companion. He’s Lord. He’s Master.
The beauty of Advent is that we see the beauty and vulnerability of God entering into humanity in a fragile state and form. We see God use people to do incredible things! You don’t have to be the biggest or the best. Mary was just a teenager. Joseph was just some guy! God takes ordinary people and does extraordinary things.
So, I want people to be overwhelmed with God’s grace and the gift of his Son this Christmas.
The book of Hebrews can be intimidating. It is long, theologically dense, and full of cultural references that feel distant from our everyday lives. So, sadly, many of us keep our distance from this rich and encouraging book. But not Dr. Derwin Gray.
Derwin spent time with our production team in North Carolina filming our new series, The Book of Hebrews, an eight-part series walking through the thirteen chapters of Hebrews. We caught up with Derwin Gray after he preached at our recent Men's Conference to hear about his experience making this series and his hope for everyone who watches it.
Derwin: Filming with the RightNow Media crew was awesome! Not only are they professional, they are genuinely good people who love Jesus. We worked hard, but we had a lot of fun. They also helped me find some new fishing spots to catch bass. I enjoyed being around them—I feel like I made friends [working on this study]. It’s always a good thing when you can make friends and talk about Jesus while making content that helps other people make friends and talk about Jesus as well.
Derwin: Hebrews is a pensive, beautiful book that calls us to the ancient way of following Jesus in the midst of circumstances that are not going your way. There was a great deal of persecution and a great deal of suffering [in the ancient church] and the Holy Spirit led the author of Hebrews to communicate, “Trust his grace.” Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the radiance of his glory. While preparing for this study, my picture of Jesus got bigger.
Derwin: I want people to walk away from this study saying, “I had no idea Jesus was so lifegiving, powerful, near, and present.” I want people to understand that we can approach his throne of grace and mercy in our time of need. Jesus’s grace is infinite—it never runs out.
Our production team holds themselves to a high standard of excellence. They work hard to find the best locations, the best teachers, and to film exciting and insightful content for your church and small groups. But every shoot has its own unique challenges and, sometimes, things don’t go exactly to plan.
While filming our upcoming series The Acts of the Apostles, our team and pastor Louie Giglio had to deal with unexpected weather changes and rogue tow trucks during a marathon two days of shooting. We caught up with Louie Giglio to learn about his experience filming this study, what God taught him while preparing his teaching, and his prayer for everyone who goes through this study of Acts.
Louie: It was your typical “I am doing something that is going to make a difference in the kingdom” experience. We recorded in an old factory in Atlanta—metal roof, open spaces, and open-air in many ways. The temperature inside was the same as the temperature outside and the beautiful weather we had the week before had turned into forty-nine degrees and pouring down rain. So, for two days, the amazing RightNow Media team shot this thing under not-the-best conditions.
We got one shot going, it was happening, we were rolling, and a guy comes driving up through the shot! His headlights were shining behind me right into the camera. A tow truck—because some people who had been at the building a few days before left a rental car there—came driving through the shot. I was talking about how the gospel is going to go to the ends of the world and he stops in the shot and starts to back up! BEEP BEEP BEEP. It was like, “Cut. Let’s start over. Hey, can you get your car and go, please?”
But that’s what it’s like when you are shooting one of these Bible studies. When you’re watching it, it’s so put together; the team does an amazing job! But it is a hustle to shoot because the enemy doesn’t want this message to get out. And we’re shooting this in the wild, so you never know what the next distraction will be.
It was like that for two straight days, but props to the RightNow Media team! They’re the best, they did a fantastic job. We had a bond like a family after going through a book like Acts. It was a family event. God was in it. I felt like I had run a marathon after the second day, but it was worth it!
Louie: I love the story of Acts because it’s our story. We are still living in the story of Acts. One of the things that really stuck out to me was as Paul was on his way to Rome—there was a shipwreck, a storm, they were wrecked on the island of Malta—the Bible says everyone was accounted for. Luke, who was writing this, says there were 276 people and they were all accounted for. God is writing a big global story, but he also knows every single one of us. We are all accounted for, and we all have a role in taking the name of Jesus to the ends of the earth.
Louie: You know, the place where we filmed this series was a working factory about a hundred years ago. On either side of the factory was a huge building with multiple train tracks going into it. Then there was another huge building on another side with lots of tracks leading into it. A small channel with a single set of tracks connected all the buildings. I don’t know what they made at this factory, but a train came into one building, a cart took something from that train across to the factory. Then, whatever they made, was taken from the factory to a departing train and sent away. Everything was connected.
As we shot, I thought, “That’s Acts. We are standing in Acts!” God brings the gospel to us in multiple tracks and stories, the gospel changes us, then he takes us somewhere else in the world to people who need to hear that story.
The takeaway from that story is that you are in Acts. It is not just about Peter, Stephen, Paul, Lydia, or all the churches that were planted. The Acts of the Apostles are still in motion taking the story of Jesus to all people. The gospel spread from Jerusalem to Judea, Samaria, and now to the ends of the earth. We are in Acts.