While thousands point to Set Free as the starting point of their salvation, others readily call it a "cult" that ultimately gave birth to a "biker gang" known as the Set Free Soldiers. Founded in 1982 in Anaheim, California, the church quickly grew because of its unorthodox outreach style including rap, hip hop, low-riders, and a motorcycle club. Find out what really happened!
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TBN, Calvary Chapel, The Vineyard, Melody Land, Crystal Cathedral, Saddleback. Orange County, CA has produced way more than its fair share of globally influential Christian ministries. But perhaps none of them have been as storied, controversial, unique, or ground-breaking as Set Free. It was a treat watching this film, as it filled in a lot of the history and gaps in my own experience with Set Free as a young minister in training in the Orange County area in the early and mid 1990's. The background for Pastor Aguilar's journey into Christian faith and ministry was all new to me. It was also great to learn about what became of his ministry as I myself moved out of Evangelical circles in the late 1990's and lost track of such things. I had heard that the early days of The Dream Center/International Church involved Set Free, but until this film, I really had no idea that the Aguilars were so instrumental to the foundations of that work that have led to its continued to success today. By the time of the Set Free Soldiers and their troubles with the law, I was entrenched in progressive Christian circles and only casually was aware by virtue of news reports. And, finally, I had no idea that in the end Set Free has become so involved in addiction recovery. So, this film was very illuminating. I appreciate the way the filmmaker captures the narratives at work throughout the history of this movement, this man and his family, so that we can appreciate their own honesty about the ups and downs of the Set Free story. The filming and editing really allow the viewer to journey with the Aguilars and, whatever our own conclusions about them and their ministry, arrive at a place where we can be comfortable (perhaps even familiar) with their authentic humanity. Other than his fully Christ-like commitment to helping people, I share very few theological assumptions with pastor Aguilar these days. But I resonate with "the warts and all" honesty of his journey as a follower of Jesus, a minister, and a human being.
I knew Phil in the 80's, and attended Set Free on Anaheim Blvd. He was a character then, and obviously, still is. If you were one of the thousands of people whose lives were touched by Phil (either for better or worse) you will enjoy this movie. The movie tells the truth--the good, bad, and ugly, much more than I expected it would. A lot of people have stories to tell on Phil, but you can't get anything important done without making a few enemies. I believe Phil really does love Jesus. He may be crazy, but even in his old age, he's still out there trying to serve God.
Reviewed in the United States on December 16, 2018
Highly recommend because GOD LOVES EVERYONE ESPECIALLY PEOPLE LIKE PASTOR PHIL and to prove my point..... ummm oh wait! No need. Jesus did when he was here, remember HE went to the whore, lowest of lows. So WE’RE SPECIAL
Reviewed in the United States on November 28, 2017
My introduction to Set Free came years ago through their rap album ministry, featuring Chill and MJ, both of whom are featured in this film. I was not sure what to expect when I pressed Play for the DVD, but it definitely blew me away. Very rarely do you find believers, true legit recovering sinners, so open and honest about the personal highs and lows of surrendering all to Jesus Christ, and how so often God quietly speaks to our hearts and equips us to do great things in service to Him, all the while we continue to wrestle with our own demons of pride and vice. Pastor Phil Aguilar holds nothing back in this. His life, success and failures and everything in between, is candidly put on display. We end up encountering an individual with great humility and compassion and conviction, and through him we encounter the God who is Love. The God who forgives and restores. It is a truly powerful film. And so many people, from family to friends to pastors to supporters, are featured with their own take on the Set Free story. I loved the sincerity and honesty that is presented, and the film most certainly is an inspiration to any recovering sinner or prodigal son that is searching for their way back home. It deeply moved me, and I will recommend it to friends and family (perhaps even enemies). Pastor Phil is proof positive that all of us are always in need of God's grace, and that God can use any of us as His instruments to bring fallen souls to the path of peace and healing. May our Lord Jesus continue to watch over and guide Pastor Phil and the Set Free ministry. May this film be a powerful means for believers to grow in faith, hope, and love; and may it be a vehicle to reach the most hardened hearts. Look at what Jesus has done and continues to do in the hearts of Phil, his wife, his kids... imagine what Jesus can do through me and you.
Reviewed in the United States on September 8, 2017
I have watched many documentaries but this one, which tells the story of the Set Free movement through the transparency of Phil Aguilar, caused me to do some deep introspection. To watch Phil's life story unfold, one filled with a radical transformation through Jesus with some opposition from other Christians whom should have been his biggest supporters, was incredibly inspiring. If he could, by God's grace, stand back up on his feet again after so much has been thrown his way, we should all be able to stand up again by that same grace!
The unsung heroes in the story are Phil's wife Sandra and Phil's kids. His wife's patient support and love for Phil shines through as she has remained by his side through the many trials, which included infidelity, arrests, and a insatiable drive to success often at the expense of his family. The story shows how thousands of lives have been touched and are still being reached by this one man's life. It should compel us to ponder that even in all of our messy and painful lives, we too can make the choice to love and to forgive and through Jesus live a set free life!