Practice what you preach is the overarching message the creator of the upcoming Christian independent film “Courageous” is sending to audiences, speaking especially to himself as well.
Joining the many faces on iamsecond.com, a website featuring video stories of Gospel transformation and hope, Alex Kendrick of Sherwood Pictures shares his own personal story of how God held him accountable to the movies he created.
Enamored by movies like “The Raiders of the Lost Ark” and the “Star Wars” series as a young boy, Kendrick aspired to make his own films.
Though he started off with light, action-packed, humorous “chase-them-down-beat-them-up” movies, which he recorded with his home video camera, as he grew older he realized that a good story had a way of impacting audiences.
That, he said, was his wakeup call. “That God could say, ‘Alex, I can use your desire to do this for my purposes and do more with it than you ever thought possible if you trust me with it.’”
After much prayer and consideration, God gave him the first idea for a story. It was about a used car salesman who lived one way in front of his family and church friends and another way behind the scenes – a film touching upon the transformed everyday life of born-again Christians.
Co-written with his brother Stephen Kendrick, the first feature movie, titled “Flywheel,” ultimately grossed $37,000 theatrically and to both the brothers’ shock, was picked up by Blockbuster video for nationwide sales, opening doors to Christian entertainment.
Audiences responded positively to the film, able to relate to the struggling characters portrayed on screen. Many came away from the film saying things like, “That’s me.”
Kendrick’s then-pastor Michael Catt, now the senior pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church in Georgia, saw a perfect opportunity for ministry through the films, eventually leading to the creation of Sherwood Pictures, which Kendrick founded in 2002.
Leading to their second movie, “Facing the Giants,” Kendrick felt a strong urging from God to speak about dealing with faith.
“Everyone has a giant fear, sense of failure, struggling with inferiority or some ball and chain in their own life,” he shared on iamsecond.com.
“We asked the question – ‘Is God only worthy of being worshipped when He is doing good to you or is He worthy of being worshipped because He is God?’”
That soon became a question he had to ask himself as well, as the film, which he thought had potential, was tossed back and forth without any distributors willing to pick it up.
“No one was interested,” he remembered. “They said, ‘It’s a nice story,’ ‘Not really our cup of tea or something we feel like would work well enough to invest for a theatrical release.’”
Frustrated, Kendrick asked God why. “‘We did it for You and now it is sitting on a shelf. No one is interested, why?’”
“And God responded, ‘Alex, you made a movie that says God is worth worshiping and serving whether you win or whether you lose. Will you do that with this film?’” Kendrick said, answering what he and his team first sought to explore – God’s worthiness of worship in spite of the good and the bad.
“So we surrendered it to God and I died to a theatrical release,” Kendrick said.
But God was not quite finished with “Facing the Giants” just yet.
A music company, from whom they had asked permission to use a song in the film for, introduced Kendrick’s film to their parent company, Sony. The filmmakers had not even considered asking productions and distribution giant.
“God opened a door we could not have opened,” Kendrick shared. “We did not even knock on their door.”
“Facing the Giants” was released in several hundred movie theaters in 2006, and again, did better than any of his team expected. With a small production budget of $100,000, the film yielded a domestic total gross of more than $10 million.
“The response was incredible. People were saying, ‘This is my giant, that’s my giant.’ God had done the same thing in my life and watching him do it in so many other lives was so fulfilling.”
With more success came more difficulties, however, Kendrick, now an associate pastor of media at Sherwood Church, said. He had less and less time for his wife, Christina, and their six children, straining their relationship.
Ironically – or as he put it, providentially – throughout their marriage trouble, God began impressing upon his heart the idea to create a new film about a marriage totally surrendered to God, the premise of their most successful film “Fireproof,” which was the highest-grossing independent film of 2008.
During the making of the film Kendrick also began to write a book with his brother titled ,The Love Dare, also about a struggling marriage and the need to restore it.
“I was writing a book and making a movie about how to have a godly marriage and my own marriage was being stretched and pulled more than it ever had.”
Though initially frustrated that his wife could not be more supportive of his career, he and Christina agreed to attend marital counseling where God began to strip him down to the core and remind him that just because he knew the truth in his head did not mean he had it all figured out in his own heart.
“I needed [God] as much as anybody. I had to cling to His grace and His truth as much as I ever had.”
Having learned another lesson in and through his own movies, Kendrick began asking God again if He wanted him to make another film and if so, on what subject. After praying, God directed him and his team to the subject of fatherhood, hoping to encourage men to “step up” the way they needed to, and the way he needed to as well.
“It kind of freaked me out because I was thinking, ‘God, why are you making me live out the movies that we are presenting? You did it in ‘Giants’ and You did it in ‘Fireproof.’” And now with his upcoming film “Courageous,” which centers around four police officers trying to figure out what it means to be a great father, there’s no less accountability for Kendrick.
Affirming that God had given him the grace and strength he needed to tell another story, Kendrick’s prayer for the film was that it would reach into the hearts of Christian men and spark them to chase after God.
“We want to see God rock our culture with men stepping up, so I’ll carry that torch. My brother Stephen will carry that torch. If [God] helps me. And I am counting on it,” Kendrick proclaimed.
“Courageous” opens nationwide today and has already received much buzz. TriStar and Sherwood Pictures just announced that pre-sale tickets for the film have recorded more than $2 million in anticipation for today’s release, doubling that of “Fireproof,” which opened at $6.8 million.
For the Kendrick brothers, however, their concern does not lie in big box office figures, but changed hearts, specifically in fathers.
“We want men especially to walk out of the movie theater saying, ‘What kind of father am I being, have I been, what kind of father could I be?’ and realize the crucial and influential role they have,” Stephen Kendrick, director of the film, said previously. “We are not so concerned about the box office, but to grab the hearts of dads.”
“If the father is walking with the Lord and he is seeking God, you will tend to see the rest of the family following suit.”
In light of that goal, accompanying the upcoming release of “Courageous,” resources will be made available for families and congregations willing to further explore and discuss the themes of the film, which includes biblical fatherhood and biblical living.
Outreach.com, the church communication and marketing tool website, will provide a one-stop shop for all of the supporting resources created by LifeWay Christian Resources, Tyndale House Publishers, B&H Publishing and DaySpring.
"Courageous" Campaign Kits, as well as supporting books by authors like Priscilla Shirer and Michael Catt, will all be available for purchase here.
“Themes addressed in ‘Courageous’ make for a long-overdue discussion in pulpits and Bible studies about the vital role of fathers,” Eric Abel, vice president of marketing for Outreach, said in a statement. “Never before have dads been so essential to the family, yet many men need a wake-up call and guidance concerning the ever-changing challenges of fathers in today’s society.”
“These resources will greatly enhance a church’s ability to communicate essential biblical messages to families.”