Unlikely as it seems, Richard Dawkins was the inspiration for Olive Tree Media’s new 10 part Christian DVD series, ‘Towards Belief’, which was launched this week at Sydney’s St Philip’s York Street Anglican Church.
Speaking at the launch, host and executive producer Karl Faase said: “I’ve watched Dawkins being interviewed a few times on Q&A on Monday nights and realised that there was a real need to present a Christian, alternative view to his book, ‘The God Delusion’,” said Karl.
(Q&A is a weekly current affairs TV program that features guests answering questions from a live audience.)
A well known atheist and strong opponent of Christianity, Dawkin’s book challenged Karl. “I knew there was plenty of evidence for the truth of Christianity – it wasn’t a delusion to me, as I had experienced God myself,” he said.
Call from God
Karl Faase’s daytime job (as he calls it) is Senior Pastor of Gymea Baptist Church in Sydney’s south. Trained at Morling College, the New South Wales Baptist theological college, Karl has served in three previous churches in New South Wales and Victoria.
In his final year of his four-year ministry degree at Morling, Karl Faase took part in a two-day retreat. As part of the retreat, students were asked to do a reflection exercise.
“At the end of the two days I had a very real sense that God was giving me a clear and personal vision to impact Australia for Jesus,” said Karl. “I didn’t understand this as a promise that would happen nor did I think this was something that only I could do. Rather it was just a very clear call that the decisions I made in my life should be aligned with this vision from God,” Karl continued.
“As I look at what God has enabled me to do since those two-days of retreat, I get a very real sense that I am moving towards the goal that God placed on my life all those years ago,” said Karl.
Think-tank and research
Karl called together a group of experienced Christian media professionals and theologians to look at how best to answer Dawkin’s claim that God was a ‘delusion’.
Karl had been involved in hosting and producing a number of DVD and TV series. They include two, eleven part series, ‘The Men’s Series’ and ‘The Family Series’ and a one hour documentary on the impact of Billy Graham’s 1959 Australian Crusade.
“I am a firm believer in using media to communicate the Gospel message,” said Karl. His company Olive Tree Media was established in 2009? to do just that.
In 2003 Karl chaired a similar think-tank which led to the prime-time media campaign ‘Jesus. All about life’. The campaign ran in five Australian states from 2004 – 2009, sponsored by Bible Society NSW. (Now Bible Society Australia).
“The research we did for the ‘Jesus. All about life’, campaign showed me how important it was to find out what the market thought before committing to the cost of a major campaign or TV series,” Karl said.
McCrindle Research were commissioned to discover what the issues were that stopped people from considering Christian faith as a logical and rational belief system.
“McCrindle identified ten key ‘blockers’ to Christian belief. Once we had those, we knew we had the structure for a 10 part television documentary series,” he said.
(Episode titles, based on the identified 10 blockers are: Suffering; The Bible; Supernatural; Religious Violence; Exclusive Faith; Church Abuse; Science and God; Homosexuality; The Church; Towards Belief.)
The next step was to find expert Christian authors, speakers and apologists to address each issue,” he said. “Director Simon Hunter came on board and together we set out the creative direction of the series, which was to let each of the interviewees address the issue without much in the way of linking commentary from me,” Karl said.
Towards Belief features high profile speakers such as John Lennox, Nicky Gumbel, Erwin McManus, Dale Kuehne, Craig Keener, Amy Orr-Ewing and Stanley Hauerwas.
“We travelled to the United Kingdom and United States on two filming trips,” said series Producer Jane Faase (Jane is Karl’s wife and works as manager of Olive Tree Media).
“Whilst we had a wish list of interviewees, we had a quite narrow window to film them all. We saw some amazing answers to prayer as we juggled schedules,” she said.
Towards Belief is presented as a 10 part DVD series and includes a study guide. “We want churches to study the series in small groups and in neutral venues where people can invite their non-Christian friends who are interested in faith.
We’re also looking to make individual episodes available for renting or downloading over the Internet,” Karl said. Like Olive Tree Media’s previous series, Towards Belief will also be shown on cable TV networks around the world, including Australia, USA and the UK.
“I want to get to the end of my active ministry and look back and believe that I took and created as many opportunities as possible to impact Australia for Jesus,” he said.
“Whether that actually happens will not be for me to judge. Jesus, through his Spirit, makes the impact and others in the future will judge as to whether my ministries had any lasting impact. My task is to live a committed life of grace and integrity,” said Karl.
“One of my mottos is taken from the words of legendary Australian Rugby League coach, Wayne Bennett. A few years ago, He was watching the Queensland State of Origin team train and noticed some players stopping short of the designated finish line. He told them not to finish ‘three steps short’. ‘The team that finishes their training three steps short, will finish behind in the game,’ Wayne said to them. That’s my goal – never to stop three steps short,” said Karl.
Karl Faase can be contacted via www.olivetreemedia.com.au/ Full details of ‘Towards Belief’ are at: www.towardsbelief.org.au