From conception to execution, the whole Long Hollow Baptist Church Easter program took nine weeks to plan. For Jason Dyba and the folks at Long Hollow, that was the longest they?ve ever had. Of course, every creative director would love a year of advance notice on special projects like this, but most are on a shorter schedule. The same?s true for the Long Hollow folks.
But that doesn?t mean they didn?t come up with a great idea and a great execution of ?The Fortunate Death of Phillip Randoll?.
The team normally does one big program each year on Christmas. Since their Christmas services bring in the largest number of people all year, they really want to capitalize on that. In 2011, the executive pastor loved it so much, though, that he approached Jason Dyba about creating an extra program some time in the middle of the year. So Jason went to work over the Christmas break, planning a program for Palm Sunday ? a program to finish up their two month series on Acts. The goal was to get people excited about living an Acts-type life, and encourage them to invite people to the Easter services.
A couple years ago, Jason started researching lives of well-known missionaries. He was always amazed by the lives they lived. They all had incredible stories and most of them died pretty gruesome deaths (sometimes their wives? deaths were even worse).
So in January, when he sat down to brainstorm, he was thinking of doing something on the life of Jim Elliott ? one of the men whom the movie ?End of the Spear? was about. But he realized staging a gruesome death on their church stage was going to be both difficult and perhaps a bit uncomfortable for the audience.
So with a cup of tea in hand in late January, he decided to create his own character. The character would die at the start of the piece, then the story would rewind through his life and show the impact he made. Jason really wanted to capture the feel of those great missionaries in this new character. He wanted people to be inspired.
Over the next couple weeks he sat down with a few people to work on the concept. He wanted to let some people in on where he was going with the idea and get some feedback on the feasibility of the idea, as well as elements he might be missing. His main goal for this story was that there be creativity, humanity, and evangelism.
Part of that human element for the Phillip Randoll character was a wife. He knew he wanted Phillip to experience her death, like the missionary stories he was so familiar with. He wanted Phillip to struggle with that element and make an emotional connection with the audience. Jason knew not everyone would connect with the Christian elements or the evangelistic elements, so he wanted the human element to be strong enough to reach the various types of people who would be part of these services.
Any time you try something new like this there are missteps or things that don?t go quite according to plan. One of their mistakes was turning it into a series. Jason and Long Hollow?s pastor got excited about this new idea and wanted to turn it into a 5-week sermon series.
Jason described it like repeating your favorite song over and over until you start hating it. Three weeks into the series, the pastor hated it. They realized they?d built an entire series on a fake person. Plus they felt like they killed a wonderful thing by repeating it too often. Just because one week would be good didn?t mean five weeks would be better.
It wasn?t a total loss, though. They did encourage many visitors from the Easter services to come back the next week for the sequel. It was a great way to hook people in to coming back.
Lesson learned: Take a risk. You might fail, but good things can come from failures.