I like action movies just like the next guy, but they never make my Top 5. I prefer an entertaining film that inspires me & moves me -- something that is going to have a lasting stay.
This fall, a lot of moviegoers -- particularly fathers with children -- are going to walk out of the theater saying to themselves, "That's one of the best movies I've ever seen." And they may be crying, hopefully moved to action.
The movie is "Courageous," and it was made by a church, the same one that made "Facing the Giants" and "Fireproof." I enjoyed Facing the Giants and was moved by Fireproof. But after seeing a screening of Courageous -- which spotlights four cops trying to be better fathers -- I was floored.
The church, Sherwood Baptist in Albany, Ga., is like the budding-star athlete you watch in junior high, and then high school, and then college. It's fun to watch them improve, and after a great game you wonder, "How can they top that?" If Fireproof was a double, triple or even a home run, then Courageous is a grand slam.
Moviegoers who enjoyed Fireproof -- I was one of them -- were amazed at how much better that movie was than its predecessor, Facing the Giants. I walked away from Fireproof unsure if Alex and Stephen Kendrick, the movie-making brothers and staff members at Sherwood, could "top" Fireproof.
Courageous, though, isn't just better than Fireproof. It's in another league. Gone are the weaknesses you saw in Fireproof. I struggled to come up with a serious critical comment watching Courageous.
The acting is stellar, the storyline is amazing, the cinematography is wonderful, and the movie's ending makes you want to run out of the theater and scream to a thousand strangers, "I want to be a better father!" And it was made by a church for approximately $1 million -- leftover change by Hollywood standards.
It is a movie that takes you on a ride from the get-go and touches on so many father- and family-related issues -- fatherless children, deadbeat dads, gangs. Perhaps the movie's greatest strength is its diversity, spotlighting outstanding fathers among an African-American family and Hispanic family.
Our society needs this movie.
I knew the film was probably going to be good a few minutes before the screening, when I asked Stephen Kendrick and Jim McBride -- Sherwood's executive pastor -- to compare their level of satisfaction with Courageous to Fireproof.
"Two thumbs up," McBride said. "... But we know it's not us to begin with ."
"It's the Lord," Stephen Kendrick said
"It's the Lord's movie," McBride added. "We're excited to hear the feedback coming from people."
During the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting, I overheard a conversation between two middle-aged, hard-working men who were part of a local union. The topic: Father's Day.
"I'd give anything to have a Father's Day again with my dad," one said.
"I'd give anything to have one with my son," the other responded.
I didn't know the context of each situation, but I didn't need to. The exchange was powerful.
Stephen Kendrick, the producer, said people who have seen the film are telling them, "This is exactly what the body of Christ needs to hear."
The stats on fatherlessness in America are sobering. Children in fatherless homes are more likely to commit crime, more likely to do drugs, more likely to be sexually active, according to government stats.
Fatherlessness is a problem that impacts all of society. That knife-toting high school bully who made the 6 o'clock news probably didn't have a father in the home. Neither did the gang member who held up the convenience store down the street.
But stats don't tell the whole story. There are no stats for the number of dads who are physically present, but mentally and spiritually out to lunch.
There's the work-obsessed father whose children aren't doing drugs or carrying guns, but they're not learning anything about the Gospel at home, either. He goes to church every now and then, but his wife carries the spiritual load most of the time.
Courageous, Kendrick believes, is what many women have been wanting.
"I heard a statement years ago that we don't have godly nations because we don't have godly churches, and we don't have godly churches because we don't have godly families, and we don't have godly families because we don't have godly fathers," Kendrick said. "This movie is going after the jugular in calling men in the body of Christ around the world to step up to spiritual leadership over their own lives and their wives and their kids. What would happen around the world if men stepped up and grabbed the steering wheel again and said, 'As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord'? It would impact the next generation in a huge way."
Three years ago, churches got on board with Fireproof, buying out hundreds of theaters and urging couples to go watch the film. On Sept. 30, they need to do something similar with Courageous, and get every man in the neighborhood to go.
And with the Lord's help, those men will begin a journey to be the man Scripture has called them to be.
Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press. Learn more about Courageous and watch a trailer at www.courageousthemovie.com.
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