Director Calls Upcoming Faith-Based Thriller a ‘Love Letter to the Church’

Photo from Brett Varvel’s Instagram

Director Calls Upcoming Faith-Based Thriller a ‘Love Letter to the Church’

By Movieguide® Contributor 

Brett Varvel, director and star of the upcoming dystopian Christian movie DISCIPLES IN THE MOONLIGHT, aims to bring more than a powerful story. He wants to inspire a renewed love of the Bible. 

“I believe this movie could be the start of a movement in our culture — to awaken people to treasure the Word of God and boldly proclaim the name of Jesus, no matter the cost,” Varvel told Billy Hallowell on CBN.  

DISCIPLES also stars Todd Terry and Micah Lynn Hanson and will be released in over 1,000 theaters on July 24. 

“In the not-too-distant future the Bible has been outlawed in the United States of America and replaced with a government approved bible,” a synopsis reads. “A group of seven Christians from Indiana, are asked to smuggle the true Word of God to underground churches in Kentucky, Illinois, and Ohio. With Homeland Security hot on their trail, the smugglers must be willing to risk it all for the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.” 

Varvel, who won a Movieguide® Teddy Bear Award® for the faith-based film RUNNING THE BASES, said that it is a passion project over ten years in the making. 

It started with an image that writer and long-time friend Josh Strychalski had of people with Bibles running through cornfields as they are chased by dogs and police. 

“That was all he shared with me and I said, ‘Can you develop that?’ Because I had chills running up and down my spine. That’s exciting. That’s not a normal type of story that you get to experience. So he went away and kept chewing on the idea and started developing it,” Varvel recalled on the Godly Excellence Podcast. 

Once Varvel read the completed draft of the story, he said it was “an easy yes” when Strychalski asked him to direct the movie. 

“It was one of those…vivid, visual experiences for me where I could see the color, the texture, the lighting, I could see it all,” the AMERICAN UNDERDOG actor said. 

But the main impetus for wanting to make the movie was out of a conviction of asking himself how he would respond if the Bible was illegal in America. 

“We have freedom, religious freedom in this country…I can go to church and openly worship the Lord, but what if that wasn’t the case?” Varvel asked. 

He shared with Hallowell how he was touched by a YouTube video of Chinese Christians “kissing,” and “hugging” a shipment of Bibles they received. 

“And that was something that just really stuck out to me from the beginning of this exploration of this idea — ‘Do I treasure the Word of God as absolute hope, absolute authority, absolute truth?’” he said. 

Religion as well as the publishing of religious texts, including the Bible, are tightly controlled in communist China. According to Open Doors, at least 10,000 churches — mostly house churches — were closed in 2023, 14,766 churches and Christian properties were attacked and a reported 4,998 Christians were murdered for their faith last year, with most of the deaths occurring in Nigeria. 

Varvel sees the movie “as a love letter to the church of Jesus Christ” as well as a wake-up call that he hopes will bring the American church out of apathy. 

“And, so, for me, it was this exploration of why is that the case — why is it in a land where we have so much freedom, we take so much for granted? Why are we not bold in our faith? Why are we ashamed of the Gospel? Why are we ashamed to even pronounce the name of Jesus as our only hope and our Savior?” Varvel said. 

He recently posted photos on social media of the premiere of DISCIPLES IN THE MOONLIGHT where he wrote: 

“Celebrating the completion of a 10 year journey is one thing. Celebrating it with the people you love and the people who helped you bring a dream to life… simply overwhelming. These folks and so many others gave me their time, talent, and treasure to see @disciplesinthemoonlight become a reality. I praise the Lord for all of you and can’t wait for the world to see your work on the big screen July 24! 1 love you Disciples fam!” 

Movieguide® previously reported on how God helped Brett and wife Christina through the challenges of making their 2014 movie THE WAR WITHIN: 

“The spring of 2012 is when it really got busy….The stress was building. I could feel this production schedule breathing down my neck….I had replaced my ministry for Christina with my job….Where is the line between ministry and family?….We were looking for satisfaction in the wrong places. I was hoping she was going to be able to support me no matter what the cost. I was demanding Brett to be pretty much everything, and when he can’t be everything, Jesus Christ is the one who is everything and all sustaining. We reconciled that tension and grew closer together as we drew closer to Jesus Christ.

In 2013, Grace Films told the Varvels that money for the film was running out. Later, Christina’s second child, was born through an emergency operation that shook the family to its core. God saw them through and the husband and wife continued to pursue the film project to its end, despite the personal sacrifices that it was necessary for them to make. They conclude:

God was literally stripping my job away from me to shake me and make me realize that He’s the provider….I’m so thankful for what God allowed to happen to my son, because every day that I see him…and I look down at that scar on his belly, I’m reminded of my own salvation. I’m reminded that Jesus Christ is enough….The irony of the matter is that, while creating a movie called The War Within, I was experiencing my own war within. And now I will boldly be able to say for the rest of my life, that God truly is enough.

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