ALBANY, Ga. (BP)--The movie-making church that filmed "Fireproof" and "Facing the Giants" announced its next release Sunday night -- "Courageous," a movie about fatherhood that the church hopes will convict men to rise up and be spiritual leaders of their children and families.
Alex and Stephen Kendrick, associate pastors at Sherwood Baptist Church, said the script -- which the two brothers have not finished -- will focus on the lives of four policemen and their struggle to be better fathers. Not all of them succeed. It will be the fourth movie from the church, which saw its last two films, Facing the Giants (2006) and Fireproof (2008), surprise movie observers and gross $10 million and $33.5 million, respectively, despite relatively small budgets by Hollywood's standards. Fireproof was the top grossing independent film last year. The church gets only a small slice of the revenue and puts it toward various ministries.
The target date for filming Courageous is spring 2010, with release likely in early 2011. A budget has not been set, although it probably will be more than it was for Fireproof, which cost $500,000 to make.
The movie is being filmed at a time when 36 percent of all children live without their biological fathers and 40 percent of all births take place outside of marriage.
The announcement -- attended by a large contingent of Christian and secular media-- would have gone largely unnoticed if not for the success of its recent films, particularly Fireproof, which spawned a New York Times best-selling book, "The Love Dare" and also launched a marriage movement. The church, affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, is praying that Courageous sparks a fatherhood movement.
"The media often portrays fathers as weak, selfish, often immoral," Alex Kendrick told church members. "But we know the healthier home is when a father is engaged and involved with a purpose.... It is our desire that when men walk out of the theater, they will ask themselves what kind of man they are and -- if they are a father -- what kind of father they are."
He added to a standing ovation, "Is this likely to be controversial? You bet. But are we going to back down from what the Lord has told us to do? No way."
The controversy, Alex Kendrick told Baptist Press, cannot be avoided in a movie that tells men they should be the spiritual leaders of their families.
"We want to say, 'Fathers, it is your job to nurture and to lead your children in the admonition of the Lord. The steering wheel of your family is supposed to be in your hands, not your wife's, not anybody else's. This is your job.' Your job is to serve and protect and to teach about the Lord."
The movie has already impacted Stephen Kendrick's marriage. He said in writing the script he became convicted so much that he started leading his family in evening discipleship, reading the Bible to his wife and four kids, and leading in discussion. The effect on his children, he said, has been "incredible."
"My heart's desire is if we can call men to spiritual leadership in their homes and to be praying over their kids and their families and to be feeding them the Word ... there's no telling what God will do," Stephen Kendrick told BP.
The movie will spotlight one of the officers and how he is led to be a better father following a tragic event in his family. At one point the policeman tells his friends, "I do not want to be a good enough dad. I want to be a good dad honorable to God." He searches the Bible and writes out a "code" for what kind of father he wants to be, and he asks his three police buddies to hold him accountable. All of them are inspired by watching the change in his life, but not all of them end up being godly fathers.
The movie's theme and title were decided after a year of prayer by the Kendricks, senior pastor Michael Catt and executive pastor Jim McBride. Even before the church shot its first film, Catt said, it was decided that the four must be in agreement over every major decision.
"We don't do any of this with a 3 to 1 vote," Catt said. "We have to be in harmony and unity because we believe that God blesses unity."
Courageous, Alex Kendrick said, is not a "Fireproof Part 2."
"Fireproof was centrally focused on marriage. This one is not," he said. "It will have aspects of marriage but this one is centrally focused on men living with integrity -- especially in light of their role as fathers. We're going after the hearts of men with this movie and calling them to take God at his Word."
The film's script, McBride said, "will dictate the budget," which they hope to know in about two months.
"But we're making decisions like, does the car skid to a halt or does it blow up?" Stephen Kendrick said to laughter.
The budget for the first film, "Flywheel," was $20,000. Each film after that increased in budget five-fold: Facing the Giants to $100,000 and Fireproof to $500,000.
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.
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