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Erica Galindo
Celebrating Food, Faith and Family
Last edited on: July 6, 2018.

The uplifting story demonstrating the power of forgiveness and redemption through its strong performances, I Can Only Imagine, is the highly popular, number one inspirational movie of the year. The film tells the story behind the highly successful song by that same title is now available on digital download, on demand, and Blu-ray™ Combo Pack and DVD o from Lionsgate and Provident Films. This uplifting story shares the power of forgiveness and redemption through strong performances.

This engaging movie is directed by the Erwin Brothers (Woodlawn) and written for the screen by Jon Erwin & Brent McCorkle. It tells the amazing true story behind Christian band MercyMe’s iconic, history-making song I Can Only Imagine. Starring in the film are up-and-coming Broadway star J. Michael Finley (Les Miserables) and Golden Globe® nominee Dennis Quaid (2011, Best Actor – Limited Series or Television Motion Picture, The Special Relationship; 2003, Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture, Far From Heaven), as well as Trace Adkins (The Lincoln Lawyer, Traded), Priscilla C. Shirer (War Room), Cloris Leachman (The Last Picture Show, Spanglish), and Madeline Carroll (Flipped).

Dennis Quaid and Trace Adkins star in this inspiring true story behind MercyMe’s beloved hit song. Dennis Quaid gives one of his most powerful performances on screen in this movie.

Running from a troubled home life and a broken relationship, Bart Millard (Finley) found escape in music. Hitting the road in a decrepit tour bus, Bart and his band MercyMe set out on an amazing journey none of them could have ever imagined, in this uplifting, music-filled movie that beautifully illustrates the power of forgiveness and God’s love.

Now Bart Millard has also written a book, I Can Only Imagine: A Memoir by Bart Millard, which W Publishing Group has released.

Bart Millard's memoir about his past and success. 'I Can Only Imagine' MercyMe frontman's

Bart Millard’s memoir about his past and success. Photo Courtesy Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions

Bart Millard, best known as the front man of award-winning Christian group MercyMe, is an acclaimed songwriter and artist. The iconic song I Can Only Imagine, written solely by Millard, made history in 2014 as it surpassed 2 million digital downloads, making it the first song in Christian music to go platinum and double-platinum in the digital domain. A major motion picture titled I Can Only Imagine depicting Bart’s story behind the song has been released, as well as a book based on this story.

In 2009, Billboard named MercyMe’s “Word Of God Speak,” co-written by Millard, the No. 1 Song of The Decade in both the Christian Songs and Christian AC Songs categories. The songwriting talents of Millard and his fellow band members have made MercyMe a radio mainstay, yielding 28 No. 1 multi-format Christian radio singles and four consecutive mainstream hits. Not only has MercyMe won numerous GMA Dove awards, several American Music Awards, and received multiple GRAMMY® and Billboard Music Award nominations, but Millard himself received a GRAMMY® nomination for his solo project Hymned Again, a follow up to his first successful solo outing, Hymned. MercyMe released their ninth studio album, Lifer, in March 2017 which includes yet another chart-topping hit “Even If.”

'I Can Only Imagine' stars Broadway star J. Michael Finley.

‘I Can Only Imagine’ stars Broadway star J. Michael Finley. Photo Courtesy Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions.

Sonoma Christian Home had the privilege of sitting down with Bart Millard. SCH Editor at Large Dr. Diane Howard reports.

SCH: Your song, I Can Only Imagine, and the movie that tells the story behind the song, have both been highly successful. What have been the keys to the success and popularity of your song and movie?

BM: Timing that God could only orchestrate is key. The song went mainstream after 9/11. It is authentic, real, vulnerable and resonates with people who want something better. It meets people on an innocent, heartfelt level. The song was popular, preparing the way for the movie for 18 years. It has been like a perfect storm in terms of timing.

SCH: Was it hard to be vulnerable and real?

BM: It was very hard to vulnerable and real, not only for me, but for my wife and my other family members. My wife and I have had to go through some therapy in the process.

SCH: What have you learned about relationships with family members?

BM: I have learned that it is not just my story but that of my family.  I now have a great relationship with my mom, who left us when I was young. God’s redeeming work continues. Over time we have been allowed to talk and heal.  God continues to work, and our family story continues. My grandmother has been key to helping me buffer storms.

SCH: What have you learned about hope for family members?

BM: God can reach anyone. I did not believe earlier that God could reach my dad.

SCH: What are keys to a song, a movie, and a book reaching audiences to transform, motivate, empower them?

BM: Vulnerability, honesty, authenticity in telling and staying true to a real story of what God has done and how someone has been transformed by the Gospel are keys.

SCH: What have you learned about God and how he works through personal life journey?

BM: It has been as my grandmother used to say that the things you will remember are those that almost killed you and bumped you in another direction.

SCH: What has God taught you about relating to others outside of the church?

BM: Growing up in the church, I had an us against them attitude. God has deprogrammed me in a way. I have learned that others who don’t necessarily believe in God as I do are no different than I am in that God is working with them and I can trust them to God.

SCH: How does God have a life-story for each of us to tell?

BM: We all have a unique fingerprints and audiences. Our stories are in process, still being written. I encourage others to be what God has called them to be to the audiences He gives them.

Bart Millard (John Michael Finley) performs "I Can Only Imagine" in public for the first time in the film I CAN ONLY IMAGINE

Bart Millard (John Michael Finley) performs “I Can Only Imagine” in public for the first time in the film I CAN ONLY IMAGINE. Photo Courtesy Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions.

The story of the song, I Can Only Imagine, as well as the movie and book have brought ultimate hope to many … often in the midst of life’s most challenging moments. Amazingly, the song was written in mere minutes by MercyMe lead singer Bart Millard. However, the reality is that those lyrics took a lifetime to craft.

Although he found faith at a young age, life wasn’t easy for Bart. He developed an active imagination and a love for to escape from a troubled home life. As he grew older, Bart turned to football in hopes of somehow connecting with his abusive father. But a career-ending injury—combined with the vision of a teacher who saw unlimited potential—set Bart on a musical pathway.

Chasing a dream while running from broken relationships with his father and Shannon, his childhood sweetheart, Bart hit the road in an old, decrepit tour bus with his new band MercyMe—named for his grandmother’s favorite expression. With the guidance of a grizzled music-industry insider, the band began a journey none of them could ever have imagined.

As gripping reminders of the power of forgiveness, the song, movie, and book I Can Only Imagine, beautifully illustrate that no one is ever too far from God’s love—or from an eternal home in Heaven.

Bart Millard’s hit song I Can Only Imagine went double-platinum and became the most-played Christian single in history; Bart also tells the true story behind the song, the abuse from his father, and his story of redemption, in his new book. In this portrait of faith, love, and family, Bart Millard puts pen to paper for the first time to share the story of his abusive father and how faith saved his family.

An aged photo of Arthur Millard (Dennis Quaid) and young Bart Millard (Brody Rose) from the new film I CAN ONLY IMAGINE.

An aged photo of Arthur Millard (Dennis Quaid) and young Bart Millard (Brody Rose) from the new film I CAN ONLY IMAGINE. Courtesy of Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions.

Bart recalls the challenges he faced throughout his childhood as he lived through unimaginable horrors. From the debilitating sports injury that destroyed his dreams of becoming a professional athlete, through the oppression he experienced at the hands of his own father, to his eventual journey to music, Bart recounts how he found a way, through Christ, to healing and grace. I Can Only Imagine delivers a message of hope for those who seek reassurance in the face of the insurmountable.

I Can Only Imagine © is a family movie rated PG for thematic elements including some violence. It is most appropriate for older children through adults.

The home entertainment release of I Can Only Imagine features over 3 hours of extras including 7 deleted scenes, 7 in-depth featurettes, an audio commentary, and more! BLU-RAY / DVD /DIGITAL SPECIAL FEATURES include the following:

  • 7 Deleted Scenes
  • “MercyMe: The Early Days” Featurette
  • “Imagine Forgiveness with Bart Millard” Featurette
  • “Casting I Can Only Imagine” Featurette
  • “The Power of the Song” Featurette
  • “Creating Imagine” Featurette
  • “The Music of Imagine” Featurette
  • Dennis Quaid: “On My Way to Heaven” Featurette
  • Audio Commentary

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