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Celebrities use videos to say why they put God first

9:21 AM, Dec 7, 2012   |    comments
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The 83 videos at IamSecond.com are simple but compelling.

In each video, a person dressed in a black T-shirt sits in a plain, white chair, lit by an overhead fixture.

One by one, they tell stories of heartbreak and the struggles of life, and how faith helped them make it through.

The videos, with celebrities ranging from Michelle Aguilar of "The Biggest Loser" to Brian "Head" Welch, the tattooed former guitarist for the metal band Korn, will be featured in an upcoming $750,000 ad campaign.

Other notables who have participated in the campaign include Olympian Scott Hamilton, former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungee, bestselling author Anne Rice, actor Stephen Baldwin and shark-bite survivor Bethany Hamilton.

Organizers say the videos will help people connect with God in a nonthreatening way.

"We are trying to inspire people about hope, about life and about love," said Casey See of Franklin, Tenn.-based nonprofit e3Resources, who is one of the organizers of I Am Second Nashville.

Nashville organizer Angie Clawson has been working on the project since first hearing about I Am Second from a friend in Dallas.

The ads also have run in San Antonio, Orlando, Kansas City and Evansville, Ind.

Each ad points to the website, Iamsecond.com, where people can view black-and-white videos, each six or seven minutes long, telling how God is present even when things go wrong.

"I want to reach the person with a hardened heart," said Clawson, "the person without hope."

Mark Marshall, pastor of ClearView Baptist Church in Franklin, said in the past, churches have used big events to connect with people outside the faith.

I Am Second is different, he said.

"It's not a big arena event," he said. "It's really to get masses of people into small groups."

Part of the appeal is the low-key approach that I Am Second takes, he said. Using a celebrity gets people to click on the videos, but the stories keep people watching. So far, more than 24 million people have either visited the website or seen the videos, according to IamSecond.

"Everyone connects to a story," Marshall said.

Olympian Hamilton recounts the grief he felt in losing his mother to cancer and his own ordeal of surviving a brain tumor. Michael W. Smith, a Christian artist, talks about struggles with drugs after moving to Nashville as a young man.

In his video, Josh Turner talks about writing his hit song "Long Black Train," which warns that temptation is appealing but destructive. Turner says that money and fame don't always lead to meaning in life.

"There's no song that I can write, there's no record that I can make, that will save me," Turner said. "I do need a savior."

Each video ends with the phrase "I Am Second." For participants, that means God comes first in their lives.

Nashville Christian radio host who uses the stage name Wally said filming an I Am Second video was uncomfortable at first.

Some of the celebrities in the videos talk about dealing with crises, such as drug addictions or major failures. Wally said his struggles were with more commonplace issues such as anger and disappointment.

He said the idea of putting God first and himself second isn't easy.

"My biggest problem is that I am not second," he said.

"I put myself and my needs before my relationship with God. If you look at all sin, it comes back to selfishness."

He hopes the videos will connect to viewers on a human level, rather than being seen as a marketing ploy to get people to come to church.

"You really get to look into someone's soul," he said.

By BOB SMIETANA
The Tennessean

 

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