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Getting Personal

with Alex Kendrick, Stephen Kendr...more | September 28, 2011

Pastor, author, filmmaker, actor, husband and father--those are just some of the many hats worn by Alex and Stephen Kendrick, producers of the popular films Fireproof, Facing the Giants, and now the highly anticipated movie, Courageous.

Pastor, author, filmmaker, actor, husband and father--those are just some of the many hats worn by Alex and Stephen Kendrick, producers of the popular films Fireproof, Facing the Giants, and now the highly anticipated movie, Courageous.

Getting Personal

With Alex Kendrick, Stephen Kendr...more
|
September 28, 2011
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Bob:  It would have been bad.  You are right.  We are all pretty excited because this Friday night is the opening of the new movie, Courageous, from Sherwood Pictures.  I am a little surprised—I am wearing my shirt.  It says “Courageous”—

Dennis:  I noticed that.

Bob:  “Honor Begins at Home.”  You are not wearing your Courageous shirt.

Dennis:  Bob, I don’t have a Courageous shirt. 

Bob:  Well, they handed these out on the set for those—Oh, that’s right, you didn’t visit the set while they were filming.  (Laughter)  I forgot it was just me who was down on the set when they were filming the movie.

Dennis:  This is true, Bob.

Bob:  It just slipped my mind there for a second.  (Laughter)

Dennis:  Well, they did ask me to come; but I had little scheduling conflict.  I am thrilled you could get the shirt and get to be there.  Alex and Stephen Kendrick join us.  These guys are the makers of all four of the Sherwood Pictures movies that have been created.  Guys, we want to welcome you back to FamilyLife® and to FamilyLife Today.  Say, “Hi,” to our audience.

Alex:  Hello, audience; we are glad to be here.

Stephen:  Good morning!  (Applause)

Bob: And I am just curious—I know a lot of our staff is Sherwood fans, Sherwood Pictures fans.  How many of you have seen the first movie, Flywheel?  Clap your hands.  (Applause)

Alex:  Oh, wow!

Dennis:  Wow.

Alex:  That’s great.

Bob:  How many of you saw the second movie, Facing the Giants?  (Applause)

Bob:  How many of you saw Fireproof?  (Applause and whistles)

Bob:  I was watching because you get fired if you didn’t see Fireproof.  (Laughter)

Dennis:  That was a required meeting.

Bob:  That was, yes.  Give us one-sentence, kind of a tweet, about what each of those movies was about.  Can you do that?

Alex:  Yes.  Well, in short, Fly Wheel is about Lordship:  Jay Austin, the car dealer, that turns his life over to the Lord and does things God’s way.  At first, things get worse—kind of a “detox”—and then the Lord rebuilds his life, his family. 

Facing the Giants, obviously, is about faith and how we face whatever giant is a part of our lives:  fear, failure, some addiction—and how Grant Taylor, as a coach, a failing coach, turns his whole philosophy over to the Lord as he coaches these boys. 

And then Fireproof, obviously, is focused on marriage.  “How can a man love his wife like Christ loved the Church?”—which is no easy task—but with the Lord’s help, he can love her the way he is supposed to. 

And then, of course, Courageous, by its very name, “How can we walk in courageous faith and do what God calls us to do?”—specifically as fathers and men—but of course, it is an attribute for women as well.  So, we are excited about the theme of all of them.

Dennis:  You know, you guys co-wrote and co-produced all these movies and there was a little piece in your bio that said as you grew up as boys, you both were actors and you were producing all these movies.  Can you let us in on the greatest one you produced for your family that is not ready for primetime?

Stephen:  When Alex was in high school, instead of doing a health paper, he shot “The Better Take a Shower Body Odor Hour.”  (Laughter)  That’s true.

 

Dennis:  Hold that.  Say that again.

Stephen:  “The Better Take a Shower Body Odor Hour.”  (Laughter)  That was—

Bob:  That exists somewhere, right?

Stephen:  That exists.

Alex:  Sadly.  I got an “A” on it, though.  (Laughter)

Dennis:  You guys, I think are tapping into something that God is up to in our country.  It seems like all of a sudden, in the last few months, there have been a number of books, videos, and now this movie coming up calling men to be courageous.  You guys really believe that this is the battleground for the soul of our nation.

Stephen:  Absolutely.  When God calls Joshua to leadership, he hears seven times, actually Moses said it a few times before he died, then Joshua hears it over and over again—the same phrase, “Be strong and courageous.”  We see right now—there is a huge vacuum of leadership in our homes.  The men are not leading; their wives are not leading their kids. 

As we prayed through, “How can we call men out?”  There is something inside of us as men that longs to be strong and courageous.  If you look at all the epic movies, the Brave Hearts and the Gladiators, there is always this speech of a man standing up in front of other men; and he is calling them to courage.  We wanted to do that—like Joshua experienced.

Bob:  Take us into the process because I know when you were done with Fireproof, then the next question was, “Okay, what’s next?”  How do you determine, “What’s next?” after a successful movie? 

By the way, Fireproof was the highest-grossing independent film in the year it came out.  I mean, all of the independent films from Sun Dance and every place else came out.  Fireproof beat them all at the Box Office.  You come off of a success like that—  (Applause) 

Dennis:  Yes. 

Bob:  You come off of a success like that—How do you decide what’s next?

Alex:  Great question.  For us, we have learned the difference between a good idea and a “God idea.”  We feel like we got great ideas all the time; but what we do is:  We go through what we call a “season of prayer.”  We will pray on a continual basis, “God, what do You want us to do?  We ask You to open the doors You want us to walk through, You would shut the doors you don’t want us to walk through.  Give us the counsel; direct our hearts.” 

Usually, at the end of that season, which sometimes is a year-long between films, God makes it very clear.  It is almost like He douses us with the theme, the plot, the ideas, the creativity, and the humor.  He does it in a very brief window at the end of the season of prayer. 

What we have learned is, “God loves to be sought.”  He loves it when we chase after him.  We say, “We want your ideas God.”  When you do that and you are diligent with that, He is pleased and He will reward you with that direction at the very end.  So far, when we followed his direction, it's worked.

Dennis:  The sub-title of the movie is “Honor Begins at Home.”

Alex:  Yes.

Dennis:  I love that; and instead of going directly to talk about the movie, I thought about you guys and I thought about the shooting, the intensity, all that’s wrapped up in that.  Was there a time, Alex, in the midst of you starring in this movie—trying to remember all your lines, the heat, everything going on—when you went home to your six children and you said, “It's time to be a courageous at home,”?

Alex:  Constantly through the shoot.  Stephen and I joke about the fact that working on this movie and the book, Resolution for Men, was like self-surgery.  In many ways, we feel under-qualified because, like most men, we want to do what God calls us to do, and when we are not seeking Him or we are not obedient to Him, we usually don’t do all that He has called us to do. 

Making this movie, I remember being out—there is a scene at the end of the movie—it is a climactic scene where this is a shootout.  When we were shooting that scene—it took us a week to shoot that scene, it was between 110 and 114 degrees—and when we are out there, there was no shade where we were shooting.  I remember being totally exhausted and going home and feeling like all I had was leftovers for my family.

Well, most men operate that way.  They give their best to their job and to their friendships or their hobbies.  They give their families the leftovers.  We cannot exist that way.  Now, when we are shooting a movie, that’s only a brief season of shooting a move; but I was reminded, “Lord, I have to have Your energy, Your strength and Your wisdom to know how to do what You have called me to do and still give my family my best and my children my best because whatever I am giving them, they will emulate that as they get older.

Bob:  As you zeroed in on the theme for this movie—and I remember hearing you guys had come back from a time of prayer with the pastoral staff at Sherwood Church—and the only news we were getting was that the movie wouldn’t start with an “F” this time. 

Alex:  Right.  That’s right.

Bob:   Fly Wheel, Facing the Giants, Fireproof—this one was going to start with a new letter.  (Laughter)  Breaking new territory!  (Laughter)  As you zeroed in and said, “We really believe God is calling us to speak to men and to call men to being men,”—once you had that big concept, what were the sub-points that you zeroed in on and you said, “These are the things we want to be the takeaways from this movie.  Here is what we think God wants to say to the men of America,”?

Stephen:  Wow.  One of the concepts that kind of was birthed out of that was this idea for a resolution.  At the end of the book of Joshua, Joshua stands up in front of the nation of Israel and he says, “You can choose who you are going to serve; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”  He threw down the gauntlet and said, “This is where I am standing.”  He was resolved in his spiritual leadership.  We wanted that to happen; so we knew there was going to be some kind of resolve, a resolution moment, somewhere in the middle of the movie. 

The other thing is, Alex and I are so indebted to our father because he was a chain-breaker in our family.  His father and grandfather were wild—alcoholism, immorality—those things were in their past.  Our dad surrendered his life to Christ; and he said, “The buck stops here.” He was the one who said, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” 

We wanted that to happen in men’s lives.  We wanted them to experience what we have—this next generation of children.  We wanted men to say, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”  “How do we bring them to that place?” was part of that journey.

Alex:  Can I add to that?  You see in the movie this scene where these men are taking this resolution.  We desire, and pray, and hope that that idea, at a grassroots level attached to nothing else, catches on with all of the churches because—if you think about it—when you and I stood before our family and friends to get married, we made a vow in God’s sight and then our family and friends’ sight.  But when a man becomes a dad, what do we do as a culture?  We don’t do anything.  We throw a shower for the mom and the baby.  We don’t do anything for the dad; but that is a milestone in his life, and it’s unbelievably a point of accountability in his life.  We said, “When a father becomes a dad, we need to do something in our culture that illustrates to him the importance of this role that he has.” 

We did this resolution, and it's done with respect.  You know, they dress up just as if they were dressing up to go to a wedding; and he says this resolution.  At the end of the day, we are hoping that men form accountability groups and that they take that role seriously across our nation—again, attached to nothing—no other product or anything.  We have resources for them, but it's not attached to any of that.  We want them to do that on their own.  It would be phenomenal to see that kind of movement across our culture where men begin to step up and do that.

Dennis:  And I think it’s going to happen.  The movie is titled Courageous.  What is courage?

Stephen:  I believe courage is doing what is right when your feelings and your circumstances are contrary to it.  Everything about you is saying, “Don’t move forward,” and you chose to do what pleases the Lord and to do what you know to be right.  Sometimes our feelings are so overwhelming—fear can grip us and cripple us.  I think the Lord calls us to still move forward in the face of that.

Dennis:  All this week, we are going to be chatting with you guys about the movie; and again, it’s starting this Friday night, September 30th.  I am going to give you a shot on this question later on, Alex; but I want to come back to you because last night we had dinner together, and when I asked you this question, you were ready for me. 

In all of your life, Stephen, what is the most courageous thing you have ever done as a man?

Stephen:  I went through a season in my life of depression, where I was battling with the Lord.  I was so overwhelmed that I felt like the God I was serving had abandoned me.  In the midst of that, I came to the place where I chose to the cling to the Lord when I felt like He was my enemy. 

It was very difficult during that time, but my dad sent me something; and he said, “The greatest test of faith is when you feel like God has abandoned you.  Will you cling to Him then?”  Job did that.  He said, “Though God slay me, yet will I trust in Him.”  When you feel like God is against you and He is turning on you—you know, we look in Scripture and He has promised us He will never leave us nor forsake us, but He will allow seasons of our lives when He is silent or He backs away.  That is our test of faith. 

It’s easy to have faith in the Lord when He is showing up, and He is providing, and He is involved in your life; but when you feel like He is a million miles away and He doesn’t care about you, you have to cling to Him then.  Jesus was so loyal to the Father, you know, at the point of going to the cross.  He said, “Nevertheless not my will, but Yours be done,” and, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” We hear—we know He said that on the cross; but a few moments later, “Into Thy hands I commit My Spirit,” to the same One that He felt like was forsaking Him.  I just tell people, when I look back, I don’t know anything that was more difficult than that.

Dennis:  And you believe that the man God uses is first broken?

Stephen:  Absolutely.

Dennis:  Before he ends up becoming a vessel that is fit to be used, whether in his home, at church, in the community.  It’s that relationship with God and his commitment to Jesus Christ that makes a man a real man.

Bob:  I was reading this past week in Luke 22, where Jesus tells Peter, “Satan has demanded you—to sift you like wheat.”

Stephen:  That’s right.

Bob:  And then Peter says, “Well, I will never let you down;” and Jesus says, “In the next few hours, you are going to let Me down.”  And Peter blows it; he fails.  Yet, Jesus said, “but I will be praying for you.”  Peter fails, but he is restored by the Lord.  Then you look at how God used Peter throughout that.  It is not that we do it perfectly, but that God restores us and in that time of sifting, God does a work in on our own hearts that prepares us for the next season.  Doesn’t He?

Stephen:  When He breaks us, He leaks out that pride.  We all have it bottled up in us.  He wants us to come to a place where we realize we are nothing and He is everything, but He has to crush us first to do it.

Bob:  It was not a fore-drawn conclusion as you guys zeroed in on this theme that you would be the lead in this film, right.  So how did you come to that conclusion as you were writing the film?  Did you start to go, “That’s me.  I need to do this;” or how did you determine?

Stephen:  Let me answer that question.  With all the movies, we write the script and then we cast and we say, “Lord, we need You to send the people that will be the right fit for each one of these roles.”  We have learned that the blessing of the Lord is our greatest asset.  If God takes His hand of blessing off of us, we might as well call the movie Ichabod, and go home, and quit making movies.  We have talked about keeping God happy as a high priority.  So when people come and they audition, we say, “Is there anything in your life that would cause God to take His hand of blessing off this movie if we put you in it?”  There are people that have backed out because the fear of the Lord sets down on them when we ask that question; but after we cast, if we don’t find what we are looking for, then we go to Alex and we say, “You have to fill this role.”  (Laughter)

Bob:  Do you want to give your answer to that question?

Alex:  Well, I think wisely—you know, Stephen and I do write.  I direct; Stephen produces each film, but I cannot cast myself.  That’s one of our rules.  No one that is from Sherwood—that is in the movie—can cast themselves, even though we have a team of people that watches the auditions. 

Stephen is correct.  When you ask that question, “Is there anything in your life that would prevent God from blessing your work on this movie?”, that’s a very sobering question.  Most people that we asked that to, especially those that were not from Sherwood, they kind of get this “deer in the headlights look;” and they say, “I have never been asked that before.”  Then they start thinking; and some people that are honest say, “Yes.” 

Now, we are not looking for perfect people.  There are no perfect people, but we are looking for people who realize the platform that they are being offered—that in a sense, they become an ambassador by default.  They are an ambassador for the message of this movie.  So we don’t want people who are only treating this as a gig or only treating this as, “Hey I just want to be in a movie.”  No!  That’s not what this is.  You are responsible for the influence that you are given, and I am responsible for the influence and the platform that the Lord trusts me with.  I take that very seriously. 

When we do these movies, I recognize that spiritual warfare goes along with that.  Satan hates what we are doing:  for marriage and the love there and Fireproof and calling dads to step up in leadership.  He hates it.  So we know there is going to be spiritual warfare. 

It’s not with joy that I embrace these things and say, “Hey, this is going to be a blast!”  I know that there are going to be things that are hurdles and speed bumps that go along with this; but, again, it’s a very sobering but fulfilling thing if you chase God and do what He has called you to do and then watch what He does that blows you away.  There is nothing more fulfilling for me than watch God do something phenomenal with these movies.

Dennis:  I think I know the answer to this question, but I’ve seen a lot of sibling rivalry in my days, having raised six children; and I know how the Bible begins.  There is a little sibling rivalry at the beginning.  How do you two guys work together in writing a movie?  I mean, “How do you keep egos in check?”  Has there ever been a breaking point?  Who is the guy who calls the final shot if there is a disagreement, other than God, obviously?

Stephen:  Well, we had a breakthrough in our teens when we were at a party.  I was embarrassing Alex in front of his friends by talking about what he did at home in front of the mirror, flexing or something like that.  (Laughter)  He pulled me off to the side after that and he said, “Stephen, we have to be a team.”  He said, “We have to make the decision that we are going to work together as a team.”  He said, “I know the same things about you, too; but I don’t share them.”  He said, “I am trying to be a team player and make you look good in front of other people.”  He said, “You need to do the same thing for me.” 

We made the decision that we were going to start working together.  God has planted us together consistently in ministry.  Alex is my best male friend in the world.  We love one another, but the Lord has bonded our hearts together.  We serve one another.  We hold each other accountable.  We pray for one another.  We laugh and cry together.  God has done something unique there.

Alex:  I want to add to this, too. Stephen and I learned a valuable lesson from some other dear friends who are brothers in North Carolina.  What we learned—Stephen has some God-given strengths that I do not have and vice versa.  So we work off a point-man mentality.  I am more of a storyteller and Stephen is an exhorter. 

When we do the books—The Love Dare, The Resolution for Men—were primarily written by Stephen, even though we are both putting hours and hours into it.  Stephen has a strength there.  Therefore, he is the point-man when we are writing the books.  And the movie—I am a little bit more visual and it’s no problem for me to come up with the angles and things like that.  So I am the point-man as the director for the movie.  Stephen supports me making the movies; I support him when both of us are writing the books.

Dennis:  Earlier, you quoted the last verse of the Old Testament—Malachi Chapter 4, verse 6.  It says, “He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with the decree of utter destruction.”  One translation reads, “a curse.”

Alex:  That’s right.

Dennis:  As I said, in your movie, I wept because I say for—not the first time, there have been some other great movies made that have done this—but you guys have tapped into what I believe is the curse on America—the lack of male leaders submitting to Jesus Christ and to push back against evil in their own lives, in their marriages, in their families, in their communities.   I sat there crying because I said, “Finally, somebody is using the medium for a message, a message for the soul that doesn’t destroy boys and girls, and children, marriages, and families; but someone is using the medium for the glory of God.”

Stephen:  Amen.

Dennis:  I want to encourage our listeners not merely to go to the movie, not merely to take people to the movie, not merely to take your sons and your daughters and go experience the movie and to weep your way through it with us, but I want to encourage them to pray.

Alex:  Yes.

Dennis:  Pray that God—His favor might fall upon men to start becoming the men that they know they need to be.

Bob:  Well, this kind of goes without saying, but we ought to let folks know, “If you can go this weekend, this is the weekend to go.”  Opening weekend is huge in movies being released.  Everybody will be looking and saying, “How did it do this weekend?” and then the determination, “Do we open more screens, more theaters for Courageous?”  So if there is any way you can go to a matinee on Saturday or after church on Sunday, this is the weekend to go. 

You guys, as we said, have put together resources.  You wrote a book called The Resolution for Men.  You teamed up with Priscilla Shirer to write a book, or actually, she wrote the book, The Resolution for Women.  The resolution that’s in the movie is also available as a framed piece that folks can bring to their home.  We have some of these resources in our FamilyLifeToday Resource Center. 

You can go online at FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about how to get these resources.  It’s FamilyLifeToday.com; or call us toll free at 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word “TODAY.”  Someone on our team can let you know how you can get these resources sent to you. 

Now, I want to encourage our listeners—tomorrow we are going to visit more about the resolutions theme as we talk with Stephen and Alex Kendrick.  They are going to be back with us.  Hope you can be back with us as well. 

On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I am Bob Lepine.  Thanks for joining us.  We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLifeToday.  (Applause)

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