Being Courageous Where It Matters Most
About the Guest
When is a movie more than just a movie? When it's a tool that God uses to impact lives. That's the hope of Alex and Stephen Kendrick, the brains and brawn behind the soon-to-be-released movie, Courageous, the fourth release of Sherwood Pictures. Alex and Stephen talk about making the film and about the changes they've made in their own lives as they've come under a deeper conviction to love and lead their families spiritually.
When is a movie more than just a movie?
Bob: What does it mean for a man to be a courageous husband and father? For Alex Kendrick, the writer, director, and star of the new movie, Courageous, here is what it meant for him.
Alex: Deciding that I will be the one who calls out the man in my son, the woman in my daughters. I will be the one that has the hard talks with them. I will be the one to lovingly discipline them. I will be the one to take all that responsibility; and I am not delegating it to the youth minister, to my church, to my Christian school or to anybody else. It doesn’t matter if it's uncomfortable for me or if I didn’t know exactly how to phrase it. I figured it out. I said, “God would You help me take the mantle for my family?”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, September 29th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We will talk today to Alex and Stephen Kendrick about the new movie coming out, a movie designed to help men understand what it means to be courageous.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition. Actually, there is a website I have—it's bookmarked on my computer. I go there from time to time just so I can keep up with what’s going on in popular culture. It's a website called boxofficemojo.com.
Dennis: Chatter about movies.
Bob: It gives you the rankings. It lets you know what the total take from last weekend was, what the projected take from this weekend is. I mean, it kind of keeps you—because I want to at least pretend like I am a Hollywood insider. (Laughter) So I go there and just—I can pretend for about three minutes on a Thursday morning that, “Boy, I’m one of the big moguls from Hollywood.” You know?
Dennis: And the reason you are looking at it right now is?
Bob: Because tomorrow night the movie, Courageous, is opening in 900 theaters on about a thousand screens. That’s a pretty decent roll-out for an independent film like this. Most independent films—they are going to roll out 400-500 screens. This one has doubled that; but when you are talking to the guys who made the independent film that beat all others back a couple of years ago, the theater owners know that they got something good on their hands here.
Dennis: Yes, the guys who wrote Fireproof are here; and they have written a new movie called Courageous. Are you guys nervous? First of all, let me introduce you to our listeners. Stephen and Alex Kendrick join us on the broadcast. Welcome back, guys.
Alex and Stephen: Thanks. Glad to be here.
Dennis: Are you guys nervous? I mean, be honest.
Alex: No, we gave the movie to the Lord upfront. It's His movie, and He can do whatever He wants to with it. We are just going to watch and see what He does.
Bob: But you will be checking boxofficemojo on Saturday morning, I bet.
Stephen: We will call you, Bob, and see since you are the mogul. “What’s your opinion on it?”
Alex: Yes, “Bob, what you are finding out?” No, obviously the better it does, that means the more people that are seeing it. You know you want as many people as possible to see it.
Bob: Right, but over the weekend, will you be getting calls three or four times from people saying, “Hey we did this; we did that.”
Alex: I am sure, yes, because there is generally—it's like when you have a child that is born. You want to make sure that he is healthy and everything is looking good. So same thing when a movie premieres.
Bob: Will you go Friday night? Will you go to your local theater to watch Courageous?
Alex: I will take my kids to the local premiere. Yes, that will be fun.
Bob: Yes, and get popcorn?
Alex: Yes. Absolutely!
Dennis: All six of your kids.
Alex: Right, all six of my kids.
Bob: Who are going, “Dad, do we have to watch it one more time? We have already seen it so many times.”
Dennis: Yes, really. I bet that’s the case. That really raises a question because the movie was rated—
Dennis: And you are going to take all your kids because—?
Alex: Well, they have already seen it— (Laughter)
Stephen: Because it's clean. It is an intense movie. It is a roller-coaster of emotion, but there is no profanity in it. There is no immorality in it. You see powder in a bag, which is supposed to be drugs in the movie; but there is no drug use or anything like that.
Bob: So why did it get a PG13 rating?
Stephen: Because of the action—the police action that is in the movie.
Alex: Thematic elements
Stephen: Yes, the thematic elements. You have the gang elements that are in it as well. There are some intense moments in the movie.
Dennis: This is a movie calling men to be courageous where it matters most, doing their duty at home. There is a lot of emotion in this movie. You guys really battled this out because you really reach into a man’s soul and you call him up; but you are touching men around some of the most, I think, the most intimate areas of a man’s life—how he relates as a father to a son—he is reflecting back on what his dad did in his life. Talk to us about the emotional aspect of this movie.
Alex: Well, first of all, whenever anybody goes to see a movie, they want to see a good story. They hope it's very engaging, and they want to be entertained. But by the end of the movie, Stephen and I—it's our hope that they walk out, and they are impacted and changed as a person.
So for us, yes, we want the movie to be very entertaining and an emotionally well-rounded experience as you would hope to have in any film—laugh, you are intense at times, you are on the edge of your seat at times—but at the end of the day, it is a way for us to impact lives; and everybody likes a good story. Jesus told parables to engage people and impart truth to them, but it's emotionally speaking. At the end of the day, we know if we can get to a man’s heart, if we can identify things that he deals with and are true in his life, then we can speak truth into that. If he is emotionally-engaged, it's more likely that he will receive that truth.
Bob: Both of you grew up with a dad who was a picture for you of what godly manhood was supposed to look like.
Alex: He was. Larry Kendrick, our dad, grew up with a sense of inferiority, with a sense of struggling with his own self-confidence, his own identity. Our grandfather, his dad, was 7 feet tall. He was a huge man!
Stephen: We would hug his knees.
Alex: Yes, and he did not come to Christ until late in his life. By that time, my dad, who was getting older—but it wasn’t until my dad was in his college years—he said, “You know what? The junk that has come into my family up to this point is not going to go to my generation. It's not going to go to my children.” So he said, “The buck stops with me. I will be faithful to my wife. I will be faithful to the Lord—no alcoholism, no drug use.”
So Stephen, I, and our older brother, Shannon, grew up in a home that was a void of all those types of issues. Instead, we saw a dad striving—he is not perfect—we saw a dad who was striving to walk with God, obey Him and live a life of integrity. That incredibly marked our lives.
Stephen: But he became a man of resolution, and that was the key thing. He followed Joshua’s example in Scripture, saying, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” We saw that modeled with our own dad.
Bob: As you look at characters in the movie and how the story of the movie got fleshed out, where are the scenes where you would say, “Dad was like that,”?
Stephen: I think Nathan in the movie is a picture of a chain-breaker. His father abandoned him. Right now, in America, one out of three kids is abandoned by his dad. Twenty-four million kids now, across our nation, don’t have their dads involved in their lives.
Nathan is a picture of that in the movie. You see him having to wrestle through that father-wound where he was deeply wounded by his father not being there for him. And there is that scene—I don’t want to give too much away—where he has written a letter to his father. He reads it aloud about how, “I have always tried to prove myself to you. I have been wounded by you, but you were never there for me.” But he forgives his dad, and you see him resolve to be the dad he wished he had. That’s what our dad had to do with our family.
Dennis: And as I was listening to you answer that about your dad, I was thinking, “Your dad demonstrated courage on a battlefield that nobody saw except three boys growing up and his wife.”
Stephen: That’s right. Our dad was in ministry, and there was a lot of junk in ministry. We saw him still being faithful to the Lord. We saw authentic Christianity lived out at home.
Dennis: He was an Overcomer, though; he didn’t shrink back in the day of battle. He pressed forward and said, “I am going to be a chain-breaker.” I really like that concept.
You guys have caught that courage in your own lives. And earlier Stephen, I asked you what was the most courageous thing you had ever done in your life; and I told you, I was coming back to you, Alex. Out of everything you ever done in your life—again you have just written a movie about courage—what was the most courageous thing you have ever done?
Alex: Two things come to mind. The first is when I first felt the call to go into making motion pictures for the Lord. It didn’t make sense on anybody’s scale. I did not study this in college. I had no funding for it. I had no prior script-writing experience. We had nothing.
So to take that step of faith and to say, “We are going to do that,” was scary. I mean, we even had some of our extended family members say, “Alex, don’t do this. You don’t want to embarrass—there are enough corny movie out there. You don’t want to embarrass anybody by doing that.” But I felt the Lord’s prodding and Stephen joined me wholeheartedly; and we began making Flywheel, which turned out—it sold over half a million DVDs. And that’s the one we didn’t know what we are doing.
The other thing is deciding that I will be the one who calls out the man in my son, the woman in my daughters. I will be the one that has the hard talks with them. I will be the one to lovingly discipline them. And I will be the one to take all that responsibility and I am not delegating it to the youth minister, to my church, to my Christian school, or to anybody else. That is my responsibility, and I am going to do that.
So I have been having those conversations, some of them hard conversations. It doesn’t matter if it's uncomfortable for me or if I didn’t know exactly how to phrase it. I figured it out. I said, “God, would You help me take the mantle for my family?” Those were things that most men don’t do. So then that’s something we are going to raise the banner and say, “This is what Scripture calls us to, and this is what we have to do as men.”
Bob: And you feel the tug as a man to kind of want to just shrink back and say, “Oh, I don’t want to mess with this,” right?
Stephen: That’s right. And most men do, they say. You have to talk with your sons and daughters. When you admit mistakes to them and ask them to forgive you, it's a process of swallowing pride, pointing to the Bible and saying, “This is the standard for all of us. I am still learning myself; but Son or Daughter, because I love you, I am pointing you to the One that is the way—that is the route to forgiveness, which is the route to fulfillment. That is the Lord.” You point to Scripture.
Bob: I am curious. Were there times in writing the screenplay for this movie—and the two of you have worked together on that, is that right?
Alex and Stephen: Yes.
Bob: Did you start with the draft and then Stephen got involved, or how does that work?
Stephen: We both kind of pray through it for a while. What usually happens is God will give us scene ideas. You know, Alex had a scene idea of the father dancing with his daughter, an emotional scene that you see in the movie. And then we were talking about this whole issue of Jesus throwing out the seeds of God’s Word in different kinds of soil. So we said, “What if there were different kinds of fathers, and they are coming from different home environments?”
So when you watch Courageous, you are watching these different sheriff’s deputies. They are fighting the gangs in town—they are dealing with drugs—that they are trying to stop and stuff—but they are also realizing that almost 100 percent of the people that are involved in jail don’t have their dads involved in their lives. They are so busy; they are not involved in their own kids’ lives. But these men—one of them comes from a home where his parents were divorced; one of them, his parents had had an affair; and another one, his dad had never been there for them.
And so we started with that concept of these soils. We said, “Let’s reach men right where they are, and then let’s take them where God’s Word is taking them.”
Dennis: So as you are writing out scenes, and writing dialogue, and creating the fabric of the movie, were there times when in the midst of the writing process, the Spirit of God taps on your shoulder and goes, “Alex, Stephen, how about you in this situation?”
Alex: Oh, we have used the term writing this movie and this book The Resolution for Men as like self-surgery because you look in the mirror and say, “Is this true of my life?” So I talk with my wife about it. Even though she is extremely supportive, she reminds me, “Hey if you are the spokesman for this type of theme, then you have to be applying it to your life.” I would say I was applying it 70 percent to my life already—but Dennis, your book Stepping Up—talk about stepping up. I am like, “Man, I have room to step up.”
Bob: Well, where is the area since you have written the movie that you have recognized—you have said, “This is the place where I think I probably need to step up the most?”
Alex: Alright, you are touching on a raw nerve now! (Laughter)
Dennis: Let’s keep it objective with the movie.
Bob: No, no, no, no.
Dennis: You are going to answer that?
Alex: I am going to answer the question.
Stephen: Let’s go there now when we are on air.
Dennis: It's getting ready to come to you. So you can listen to Alex’s answer and you can—
Stephen: Be strong, Alex. Be strong.
Alex: Okay. A little over a year ago, I decided, even though I pray with my children, even though we have our meals together, even though I drive them to school and pray with them in the car, I am the spiritual leader of my family. There is no greater method than teaching your children the Word of God.
What we began doing as a family, me calling the family together in the evening when I am home, which is most of the time. When I am home, I call our family together; and we would read a chapter or two of God’s Word, talk about it and pray together as a family. We are, as a family, going through the entire Bible, my six children and my wife. I am the leader; I must do that. It doesn’t take a seminary degree.
So in the evenings, I am reading—we are in First Samuel right now. We are reading about David and Saul. And so we talk about what kind of character, “How did they depend on the Lord?”, “How did God speak to them?”, all of those things. “What happens when you don’t walk with God?” My children are picking up all this stuff and it's just because as a leader, I am leading them to God’s Word—reading it, talking about it, and leading them to prayer. Any father can do that.
Bob: And that’s something that has come out of—?
Alex: Oh, yes. I was convicted to do this a little over a year ago, which was when we decided to focus on fatherhood. That’s right.
Dennis: Bob, can you imagine—first of all, writing the script and the story, which took how long?
Alex: About three or four months.
Dennis: And then how long for the shooting?
Alex: Three months.
Stephen: Everything happens in about a quarter.
Alex: Yes, everything happens in three months. It takes three months to edit a movie. So everything happens in three-month sections.
Dennis: I mean, so you create the message; you act out the message; then you edit the message.
Alex: That’s right.
Dennis: You are getting the message!
Alex: Yes, I better! Because see, here’s the deal—this is not just a movie. The Lord is saying, “I trust this platform to you. You must be faithful with this platform.” That is why we are so careful about who we cast in the movie. We know they are going to be ambassadors for this theme. This is not a gig; this is not a job. This is a platform the Lord is trusting you and the influence of this movie to speak in other people’s lives.
Bob: So what about you, Stephen, as you were involved in this? Did God convict you of areas where you were doing 70 percent but there were still 30 that needed a little work?
Dennis: You can't leave a studio; come back here! (Laughter)
Stephen: I am not going anywhere. Well, it was interesting. Alex and I both began to do family devotions with our kids about the same time, where we began to pour God’s Word into our kids. It's interesting—I am pouring God’s Word over my wife and my children in the evenings and there is no preparation—it's just open up God’s Word, pray for God to speak to us, read a chapter out loud and then discuss it as a family. It has bonded our kids now.
At first, it was a little bit weird, you know. “Why are we doing this?” Now, they love it; and we miss it when we don’t do it. But the second thing was chapter four of The Resolution for Men marked me. It was one of those all-night prayer kinds of experiences, seeking the Lord. It was a definition of manhood. A part of manhood in Scripture is embracing your masculinity. Well, I remember growing up—not knowing, “When do I become a man?” and, “When I do become a man, what does that mean?”
Robert Lewis touched on this in Raising a Modern Day Knight—he did a great job on that. In chapter four, I was studying masculinity. The attribute that goes along with masculinity is strength. Dennis just read that verse in First Corinthians that a father is to call his son to be strong. He is to challenge him throughout his life to be strong; and that’s what God called Joshua to do in his leadership because every role that God gives a man to do, he has to be strong. When the pressure is against him, when his marriage is struggling, he can't give up and be passive. He must be strong in this situation.
So as we were working on this movie with spiritual warfare coming after us, with a lot of the pressure that was around us, the Lord kept whispering in my ear, “Be strong! Be strong!”
Alex: What I want to add to that is most men listening to this right now, “Okay. I believe that physically I can sit down and read the Bible with my family, but I don’t feel qualified. I feel like my wife is going to look at me and say, ‘You know what? You have got some issues in your own life.’”
Guys! We all have those issues! You have to deal with them. You have to take them to the Lord and step up and start being a leader. And yes, that uniform as the leader is going to feel too big for you. But so what! God gave it to you. So whether you feel qualified or not, this is when you step up and take the reins because by not doing it, you are giving it over to your wife or somebody else. That’s not what God calls you to do. Step up, and take the reins, and be the spiritual leader for your family, whether you feel qualified or not.
Dennis: Yes, and some guys who are listening right now are saying, “I can't read this because I just yelled at the kids at dinner.” Well, what you are going to find—what I found in my life—as you read the Bible, you get convicted and your life, instead of spiraling downward out of control, the Spirit of God applies it to your life. And you find that He helps you control that emotion. He helps you control the critical tongue or maybe an undisciplined spirit. So just the reading of the Bible—I commend both of you for bringing that idea to all of us here and to our listeners—they need that.
Your dad’s how old?
Dennis: Sixty-nine and has struggled through a number of things to raise his sons to be in ministry. I am going to ask you to give a tribute to him, just as though he was seated across the table from you. Honor him as a man, as a husband, as a father.
Bob: Go ahead and take a minute and think about what it is that that you want to say. And while you do that, let me remind our listeners that the movie, Courageous, opens tomorrow in theaters. We hope that you will make plans this weekend to get out and see the movie. Opening weekend is very important for movies like this because a lot gets decided in opening weekend about whether to expand it to additional screens and it can catch the attention of people if it does really well in opening weekend. So we hope you will go out and support the movie this weekend. We also want to encourage you—get a copy of the book that Stephen and Alex have written together with Randy Alcorn called The Resolution for Men.
I think men are going to be inspired after they see the movie. This is a book that helps you, not just be inspired, but gives you some practical steps you can take to be the man God’s called you to be. In fact, it's a great compliment, Dennis, to the book that you have written called Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood. Those two books together would be a great couple of books for men to read.
Go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, for more information on how you can get a hold of a copy of the book, The Resolution for Men, by Alex and Stephen Kendrick and how to get a hold of a copy of Dennis Rainey’s book ,Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood. I will just mention that there is a companion book for ladies as well called The Resolution for Women written by Priscilla Shirer, and she is going to be our guest next week. So I would encourage you, get more information about all of these titles when you go online at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call us toll free at 1-800-FLTODAY. That is: 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” When you get in touch with us, we will let you know about the different resources that are available and make arrangements to have the ones you need sent to you.
I should also mention that FamilyLifehas teamed up with Stephen and Alex Kendrick and their pastor Michael Catt to help produce a 4-week, small-group Bible study series for men based on the principles featured in the movie, Courageous. The Bible study is called Courageous Living, and we are making that study available this week to anyone who can help support the ministry of FamilyLifewith a donation.
All you have to do is go online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Click where it says, “Donate;” and then type the word “STUDY” into the key code box on the online donation form; or call 1-800-FLTODAY and make a donation over the phone. Ask for the Courageous Living Bible study. Again, we are happy to send it out to you. We appreciate your financial support of this ministry. We couldn't do what we do without folks like you stepping up from time to time to help invest in this ministry. So thanks for your financial investment; and we hope you put the Bible study to good use, either on your own with your sons, or with other men from your church, or in your men’s small group.
And, again, you can make your donation online at FamilyLifeToday.com or call us at 1-800-FLTODAY. When you get in touch with us, make sure to request a copy of this study. And that’s all I got, but I know we are not all done yet.
Dennis: Okay, Stephen, I can tell you have already started thinking about this because you are rubbing your eyes here. I am going to ask you to give a tribute to your dad, 69 years old, who is likely going to be listening. He is seated across the table. What would you say to him?
Stephen: I would say, “Dad, there is no other person in my life that has impacted me more than you. I thank God for you, that He allowed me to be your son. I thank God for the legacy of integrity you modeled for us as we were growing up.
I know that life has been hard. I know that your multiple sclerosis has been a daily battle for you. I know that there have been moments in your life when you felt like God was against you. But I praise God that growing up I didn’t stumble upon you reading pornography; I stumbled upon you on your knees in prayer for our family.
I thank God for every spanking, for every lesson you taught us, for staying with mom and her staying with you, for leading us in prayer, for making tough stands as we were growing up. I just praise God for a father who helped introduce me to my heavenly Father and who did say, ‘As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.’ I love you deeply, and I look forward to passing on the legacy to your great, great grandchildren that you have passed on to me.”
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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