'Hey Jesus, I'm looking for you'
What would happen if a skeptic of Christianity spent a week living with believers who shared all of their possessions?
The first of a four-part documentary released yesterday seeks to answer that question (scroll down to watch). The 8-minute film follows Jake Warren, 23 as he lives with a group of Christians in Leeds and attends their church, Mosaic.
Jake says on one level the documentary was a personal project to see if he could become a Christian.
"But on another level, I wanted to take an impartial look at Christianity, because people associate university students as binge drinking, scruffy, not providing any benefit to society, whereas these are a group of students who live an unusual life and give back a lot to the community."
The experience made the University of Leeds graduate think a lot about life's big questions.
"I had quite a few what I would call wobbly moments along the way when I'd find myself in my own thoughts," he recalls.
The self-described agnostic says he had "no context or experience" of religion or Christianity before making the film.
Jake's interest in Christianity was first sparked through his friend Christian.
"He used to go out drinking and perhaps chasing girls. But then he made the conscious decision to become a Christian and suddenly became very religious and very evangelical.
"He was one of the leaders of a group in Leeds that promoted shared living and shared property and goes out and does good things in the community".
During the week that Jake stayed with the students – who share everything from laptops to clothes to food – a 24-hour prayer room was in full flow.
"They had a big canvas on the side of the wall where you could write a quote or a message to God. In the second part of the film they invited me to write something. Off the cuff I wrote 'hey Jesus I'm looking for you, love Jake'. It stuck and we thought it was a good title for the film."
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Contrasting his experiences with The Alpha Course, Jake argues Alpha is a "pre-planned… show".
"…Whereas if you're living with someone there's almost nowhere you can hide! It's very hard to be putting on a show 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. You're throwing yourself in at the deep end. You can step back a bit and say 'how do these guys actually live?' Not just a one hour taste of Christianity but how does it affect their lives as a whole?"
Was the Christianity that Jake witnessed, attractive?
"It was two-sided. On one hand I found a group of people who are some of the kindest, caring and genuinely good people I've ever met. I think the Christian code and moral life is a great way to live your life and I'm envious of it in a way. Here's a group of people who are so sure that when they die there's this paradise where they're going to meet with God. They're so selfless and I find that appealing.
"On the other side, the way I've been brought up is I look for quantifiable or empirical evidence and for me, you either ultimately have to have an experience that turns you religious, or you need a leap of blind faith. I could see the benefits but at the same time … it's not tangible to me."
Amy Williams, 22 has been living in an intentional Christian community in London for four years.
"It's not without its challenges, but it's definitely worth it," she says. "One of the things I love about community is being able to be a wider family, inviting others into that, people who had nothing, or who were from broken families can be welcomed into a home and a family.
"It's really exciting to watch a video that documents this fresh new expression of Christian community. I'm looking forward to viewing part two."
Reaction to the film has so far been unanimously positive. Dave Griffiths, Director of Chaos Curb said: "Like a window into Evangelical Christianity, this film is vulnerable in it's honest questions and observations and involving enough to make you want to know what happens."
The second part of the series is due to be released at http://www.youtube.com/user/filterview on Monday
Watch part one here: