“You’re missionaries to Hollywood,” the Holy Spirit said to my wife Sherrie and I. We were shocked.
We met and married at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University in 1984, a fundamentalist college in which we were forbidden to attend the movie theatre and taught that Hollywood was Sodom and Gomorrah. Deep down, we knew Jesus was a friend of sinners, and He never met a city He couldn’t change.
After Sherrie and I graduated Liberty, we returned to my hometown of Pittsburgh to preach and plant churches. For many years, I suppressed by creative instincts and worked solely as a pastor and healing evangelist.
Our ministry grew to healing services that drew thousands of people, but the flames of our marriage and ministry died when I began suffering from depression that stemmed from childhood abuse. I was trying to heal the world without healing myself, and became powerless and burned out.
I had resentment towards God. When people said, “God really uses you,” Contesté, “I’m tired of being used.”
I experienced a rise and fall that landed me into a restoration process which included going to Healing for the Nations, a ministry in Atlanta that restores burned out leaders. I also enrolled in a twelve step program that continues with my participation in several recovery meetings a week.
Believing in God’s redemption for ourselves and others, we packed our belongings in a U-Haul. With our two children in tow, we made the three thousand mile journey west on a wing and a prayer, with no job or ministry position awaiting and $500 to our name. Little did we know, Hollywood would minister to us just as much as we would to Hollywood.
Sherrie and I felt led to read the bible cover to cover praying for insight into how to reach out to a culture of bohemians. From the opening pages of Genesis, God spoke to us as we read.
“I am the Master Artist, and I love to support other artists. As My Spirit hovered over creation in the beginning, I hover over you as you create today. Creativity shows you are made in My image. Your creativity is a part of My creativity.”
We discovered a spiritual hunger in Hollywood. On a prayer walk up Beachwood Drive leading to the famed Hollywood sign, the Spirit said, “I am transforming Hollywood into Holywood. My Son Jesus is the Bright and Morning Star, and His light can reach the stars.”
Soon actors, artist, producers, porn stars and painters began meeting in our small apartment to discuss their spiritual journey. Some were agnostic, some New Age, and some from Christian backgrounds that they felt suppressed their creativity.
We read the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25, learning that God gave each of us talents and we must take the risk to follow where those talents lead. After praying for each other and our creative callings, we shared a potluck dinner.
A woman with prophetic gifting prayed and spoke. “The movies that will come out of this gathering will be a movement of My Spirit,” she said with fire in her eyes. “A city on a hill cannot be hid.”
We returned to God together. As part of my amends, I determined what God was doing would be built on Christ, and not my personality.
When God directed us to make movies, I played catch up and educated myself on film history by borrowing films from the local library and taking film classes at the community college. The European masterpieces of Bergman and Fellini gave me an idea: I could make a film as an allegory for my experience to share the gospel with others.
I began writing and directing a movie entitled “Sister Aimee: The Aimee Semple McPherson Story” about the 1920’s famed female evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson. The film came out of my brokenness, and the brokenness of others who were drawn to help.
We made the film on a shoestring budget of five thousand dollars, but it was honored at the Screen Actor’s Guild with a special screening that sold out within twenty four hours. When I stood before the 500 members of the guild who came, I spoke about God’s ability to work through broken, wounded people. I was speaking as much about myself as I was Sister Aimee.
I identified with Sister Aimee, because she was a conduit for healing for others, but struggled to get healing in her own life and relationships. When I was in the healing ministry, the higher I was up on the pedestal, the more isolated and depressed I became.
Sister Aimee was nominated for Best Film in Milan, set an attendance record at Quentin Tarentino’s New Beverly Cinema, and was the first of a half dozen films to come out of the Hollywood house church network Sherrie and I started to reach artists. Made by our members, these movies are now distributed worldwide in Blockbuster, Netflix, and Amazon.
Art is an eternal seed, reaching not only multiple countries but multiple generations. Those who work together artistically form a natural bond built around the three C’s: Christ, Creativity, and Community.
A high percentage of our participants are unbelievers drawn to the love of God that treats all people equally. A celebrity sits on the couch at a house church gathering beside the homeless person. The only difference is we let the homeless person use the shower and take the food in the refrigerator, and we protect celebrities by keeping who attends confidential.
Our gatherings of artists meet house to house, confessing our sins to each other and praying for healing, but we break from this sometimes to create new work. The film set then becomes the church.
We serve artists by allowing them time to process the injuries afflicted on them by religion and guiding them to relationship with the Great Artist. We use our collective creativity to share the gospel.
We call our Hollywood ministry Eternal Grace, because the theme of our outreach is grace. Grace saves us and gives us hope.
Some Christians wanted me to edit out of my film and my new novel the struggles characters go through, like Aimee’s divorce, breakdown, and morals trial. Because we chose to show God’s grace working in her weakness, the film reached many outside the church who are tired of preachers presenting a facade that Christians are perfect.
My new novel “Stick Man” tells the story of a young artist’s journey from legalism to love. I wrote it for my own catharsis and healing after my Dad died.
I prayed that Stick Man would bring healing to others who have experienced loss in life or in love. God has answered prayer, as I am receiving letters and e-mails from fans of the novel who have been touched by it.
Like my characters in Stick Man and Sister Aimee, I’ve discovered through my participation in recovery and therapy an eternal grace that is perfected in our weakness.
We are recovering from religion, reclaiming our creativity, and creating new work to share our faith and experience with others. Production is now under way on our latest film “Baseball’s Last Hero: The Roberto Clemente Story.”
Abre tu corazón al gran creador y su creatividad. Una aventura que le espera ministerio que hará una diferencia en el mundo, y está más allá de sus sueños más salvajes.
Richard Rossi is a multi-medium artist. He works as a writer, an Academy Award considered filmmaker, an actor, a singer-songwriter, guitarist, and visual artist. Richard lives with his wife of twnety-seven years Sherrie in North Hollywood, with their two children, Karis and Joshua. His novel “Stick Man” and his film “Sister Aimee: The Aimee Semple McPherson Story” are available at Amazon.com You can connect with Richard at http://www.facebook.com/richardrossiactor