Lindsey Bahr
March 28, 2014 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Three weeks after Son of God did so-so business, God’s Not Dead came along and banked grosses of biblical proportions. The indie, about a Christian college student at odds with his atheist professor (Kevin Sorbo), opened at No. 4 with an inspirational $9.2 million from only 780 theaters — the best debut ever for a faith-based film in limited release. Christian production company Pure Flix relied on grassroots marketing, including concerts, a robust Facebook campaign, and screenings for pastors and church groups. “We felt good going into it,” says Pure Flix cofounder/producer David A.R. White (who also appears in the movie). “But it certainly exceeded our expectations.”

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