published Saturday, June 22nd, 2013

Cooper: 'Sunday Morning' comin' down

Samuel R. Jackson is recommending a movie.

Not Samuel L. Jackson, the actor from Chattanooga, the one who's starred in a jillion movies.

This is Samuel R. Jackson, pastor of Union Hill Baptist Church, and he has your future in mind.

On Saturday, June 29, his congregation will host the Rev. William L. Sheals, pastor of Hopewell Baptist Church in Norcross, Ga., and executive producer of the movie "Sunday Morning Rapture."

The movie, made in the fashion of "Facing the Giants" and other films by Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., will be shown at Union Hill, 1800 N. Chamberlain Ave., at 5:30 p.m. Price is $10 for dinner and the movie.

The film is Sheals' passion, something he felt he had to do after 102 people joined his 20,000-member church -- which he grew from 200 members in 1980 -- after he preached a sermon with the same title, "Sunday Morning Rapture," in late 2010.

The premise is the second coming of Christ and the idea that it might happen on a Sunday morning. In his scenario, Sunday would prove to be "one of the worst days of the week" because among those left behind -- not "raptured" or taken to heaven by Jesus -- might well be those in the pulpit, pews and choir loft.

"They think they are [saved]," says Sheals. "They believe they are saved. But there are many who will not be."

That's what troubled him and, with a background on stage and in small movie roles, "got his creative juices flowing."

Sheals first created a storyboard, then finished a script, but he couldn't get backing for a film he knew would be impactful. So he sold property and took out a second mortgage on his home.

"I had to do it," Sheals says. "God says it would save 100,000 souls. I believed in this movie."

He hired a professional crew, professional editors, and a half million dollars later, the film got made.

"Sunday Morning Rapture" had a red-carpet premiere at Atlanta's Fox Theatre in 2011. When it was done, Sheals says, 46 people gave their lives to Christ.

Now, it's Chattanooga's turn.

Jackson, who was licensed to preach and ordained under Sheals' authority, says there's much to admire about the film, not even including its soul-saving theme. It touches on issues relevant to teens, singles, couples -- issues that any "church person goes through," he says.

Sheals says it features "encouragements" for a variety of people and "is not a black film," though Hopewell Baptist members are primarily black, but one that features black, white, Hispanic and Asian characters.

"It's contemporary," he says. "I think it even mentions the [2013 NBA champions Miami] Heat."

In the final analysis, Sheals says, its message is that "position and title in the church and role-playing and church duties -- none of these will save your soul. You must be born again."

The host pastor for next Saturday's film gives it his stamp of approval.

"It's quite well done," Jackson says. "It's a very riveting movie."

Check out the trailer on YouTube (Sunday Morning Rapture Extended Trailer.mov).

After all, it's recommended by Samuel Jackson.

Contact staff writer Clint Cooper at ccooper@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to his posts online at Facebook.com/ClintCooperCTFP.

about Clint Cooper...

Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...

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