To date, some 500 first responders -- sworn law enforcement officers, certified firefighters and emergency medical personnel -- from 16 Richmond metro jurisdictions have claimed their pair of free tickets to see the movie at any of four local movie theaters.
In one case, the funeral of a 25-year Henrico County firefighter was opened by his widow to share the Gospel and an opportunity to see the movie, which is playing in 1,100-plus theaters across the United States -- the fourth and latest in the line of movies produced by Sherwood Pictures, the moviemaking ministry of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga.
"Knowing this man was a believer, his widow said she knew her husband would have wanted the Gospel to be presented and an invitation given during his funeral," said Jerry Daniel, minister of spiritual growth for Grove Avenue Baptist in Richmond. "Not only did that happen, the widow permitted flyers promoting 'Courageous' and the free tickets to be inserted into the notice at his funeral, attended by 250 to 300 first responders from the Richmond area."
The free ticket outreach in Richmond was made possible with financial support from the North American Mission Board's "Love Loud" ministry.
"This Love Loud pilot project is designed to see what we can learn when we encourage local churches to build relationships with first responders and find creative ways to serve them, love them and lead them to Christ," said Al Gilbert, executive director for the Love Loud initiative.
In addition to Richmond's Grove Avenue Baptist Church and Parkway Baptist Church, several other Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia (SBCV) churches are involved, along with other Richmond congregations.
The 10,000 invitations printed as part of the initiative were not branded for any one church or denomination so they could be used by all Richmond churches, Daniel said.
"We think the people who go and see this movie will receive such a clear Gospel witness that there are people who will come to know the Lord through this movie," Daniel said. "We hope churches will follow up and realize that first responders are people in our community who serve all of us, and that will make our churches more sensitive in ministry to these folks.
"We want church members to go to their local fire and police stations, or to neighbors they know are first responders, and invite them to see 'Courageous.' It's to say 'thank you' to them for how they serve the community," Daniel added. "These are people who work in difficult circumstances, and have a lot of stressors in their personal and family lives. We think the movie is going to impact them greatly."
Because first responders work such a variety of shifts, an 11-day window was set up so they could go online, reserve a pair of tickets for the movie, and see it at one of four different theaters at a time that fits their demanding schedules, Daniel said. The free tickets are available at www.noblewarriors.org, the website for a seven-year-old men's ministry network in Richmond.
"Churches will follow up with first responders who participate," Daniel said, adding that participants will be asked if they would be interested in establishing small groups of responders -- as depicted in the movie -- to discuss the issues and challenges men face in their everyday lives.
"We think this is also a real ministry opportunity for first responders who are already believers," Daniel said.
The churches and the Richmond Baptist Association are working closely with Mike Young, executive director of Noble Warriors.
"'Courageous' came along and is right down the center of the barrel of what Noble Warriors is doing in its ministry for men," said Young, a member of Parkway Baptist. "We're trying to stay in the background and let the churches be out in front. Our long-haul goal is for churches to become intentional in reaching out to first responders, and then have follow-up ministries, like the small 'Courageous' Bible study groups."
According to Young, the "Courageous" campaign in Richmond would like to achieve several things, including ensuring that first responders hear the Gospel, some for the very first time; enable first responders to come face-to-face with how to live as a godly husband and father; and create a demand for the type of first responder small groups depicted in the movie.
"Somehow, we need to use this opportunity to get churches to once again be the Body of Christ," Young said. "Sometimes it takes a rallying point like this so churches can get excited and rally around a cause, instead of just hunkering down in their own buildings. Hopefully, this will be an example of the Body of Christ at its best."
Mickey Noah writes for the North American Mission Board.
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