Grace Unplugged – Movie Discussion


Johnny Trey is a former rock star turned Christian worship leader.  His daughter, Grace, is the “perfect” church girl—she works with kids, leads music on stage alongside with her father, goes to youth group…you name it.  Johnny and Grace look like the ideal father / daughter duo when they’re on stage, but there’s trouble behind the curtains.

Ultimately, Grace wants to become a pop star, and there’s friction when she brings her individuality and charisma to the worship stage alongside her father.  He’s been there, done that, all of that—and he doesn’t want her to be able to say the same.

She’s rebellious.  He’s judgmental.  She’s deceptive.  He’s constrictive.  She’s naïve.  He’s overprotective.

While they are both right about a lot of things, they are also both very wrong about the way they are going about it.  As my mom used to say, “Being right doesn’t always make you right.”

Grace is a lot like Eve.  You know, the Garden of Eden Eve.  Grace wants the forbidden fruit.  She is tired of her limitations.  Along comes a serpent in the form of a producer.  He whispers to her about how talented she is.  He tempts her with all the beautiful things that will surely be hers, just as soon as she compromises, forsakes her morals and her parents’ instructions and the Bible.  He says things like, “When you’re on spotify, i-tunes, Pandora…  If you’re lucky you’ll be opening for [Renae Taylor].  If you’re really lucky, maybe she’ll open for you.”  He guarantees her overnight success, promising her that the sky is the limit, BUT all that success was only hers IF…  If she let a photographer strictly known for his inappropriate photos do her cover shots.  If she quit acting like her “pathetic” father.  If she let go of “whatever’s going on inside your head” (i.e. any thoughts about right and wrong).  If she faked a romance with a famous heart throb to garner media attention, etc.

This serpent producer and his minions fed Grace’s ego.  All the more tempting when she was so desperate to earn her father’s approval.  He praised her talents and her beauty.  He told her that he saw what a treasure she was, even if her father was too dumb to see it.

For a while Grace began to eat of the fruit.  She left her home without telling anyone and moved to California to be a star.  She cut off her relationships with any who didn’t tickle her ears with flattering words—her parents, her best friend, her church.

In time, however, Grace, having been “trained up in the way she should go,” returned to it.  Thanks, in a large part, no doubt, to the prayers of her family and friends.  Not to mention, the provision of a new friend who prayed for her and encouraged her in her faith.  Grace began to see the lies, the flattery, the deception.  She began to hunger for the truth.  Conviction set in.  Repentance.  Her Dad wasn’t totally out to squash her after all (despite what her producer said).  He actually did know a thing or two about that world, and about whether or not she was ready for it.

That all happened, and Grace did return home, but not before her father did his own repenting.  He led the way for her by apologizing to her for his jealousy, his selfishness, his control issues when he should have been trusting God with Grace.  It’s not that he was particularly wrong about his concerns, but that he was very wrong in the way he expressed them.

The movie has a lot of good lessons and things to say, and you don’t have to look very hard to find them.  Perhaps though, the most interesting thing in this movie is the differing perspective it gives you of the two generations.  They want different things (or maybe the core is the same, but the expression of it is very different).  They value different kinds of worship experiences.  They want to live out their faith in very different contexts.  Those differences don’t lead them to greater appreciation, but to judgment.  So, in their worship, Grace values individual expression, artistry, creativity.  Johnny sees her as arrogant and unsubmissive.  He values humility and partnership and reverence. Grace sees him as stagnant and boring and uninspired.

These clashes aren’t just specific to their situation in Grace Unplugged.   It’s part of a larger conflict in the church, between the older generations and the younger, particularly the millennial generation.  A lot of millennials are leaving the church, for a lot of the reasons illustrated in Grace Unplugged.  The important question to ask is, what can we do about it?

I think the movie makes a good start at an answer.  Prayer, for one thing—trusting the new generations and our children to God, praying for their faith—that’s something that cannot be underestimated.  Raise them in the faith the best we can while we have a say and the opportunity to do it well.  (In other words, we have to build that firm foundation in the first place.)  We need to recognize when our value systems are different (i.e. maybe we all want a good worship experience, but what we think constitutes a good worship experience is different, because we value different qualities), and try to support, not just criticize those differences.  And, when we get that wrong, we need to ask for forgiveness from each other.  We need to confess and repent when we judge, when we assume superiority, when we belittle each other, etc.  And again, we need to pray—pray for reconciliation among the church and the different generations.

The Barna group put out a fascinating book about the millennials in the church today called You Lost Me.  It does a great job of pointing out some of the reasons why the millennial generation is exceedingly different from previous generations, along with what is so different.  It talks about the things they value, and their perceptions in and of the church.  It’s a book worth reading for anyone who hopes to understand the millennials better, whether it’s their children, the youth in the church, or the future of our nation.  Grace Unplugged illustrates many of the dynamics, and You Lost Me defines and explains them.  The reality is, much like the movie, both generations are right about a lot of things, but also very wrong about a lot of things, namely the way in which we go about being right about things.

Questions for Discussion:

  • Throughout the movie, Grace seems to be having conflict with her father, the church and God Himself.  Do you think those were separate issues, or was it one central conflict at the core of all the conflict?
  • Who do you relate to more, Grace or Johnny?
  • What do you think Johnny was right about?  What was Johnny wrong about?   How can you relate to those things in your life?
  • What do you think Grace was right about? What was Grace wrong about?  How can you relate to those things in your life?
  • Do you think Grace’s issues with her Dad were specific to their relationship as father/daughter, or were they symptomatic of issues with the millennial generation and older generations?
  • Being right doesn’t always make you right.  How do you see that truth in this movie?  How have you seen it in your life?
  • What do you think were the reasons for Grace’s frustration with her father’s faith?  Do you think those are common frustrations with faith among the millennial generation?  Do you think her frustrations had more to do with the Christian religion, or her father’s presentation of it?
  • Do YOU have frustrations with the Christian faith?  Why?  Do you think your frustrations with the Christian faith have more to do with the faith itself, or with the way people present it/live it?

By Stacey Tuttle

Click here to read a collection of Quotes from Grace Unplugged.