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Faith, Media & Culture

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

Expanding horizons. Perhaps no name is more synonymous with the rise of grass-roots faith-based filmmaking than Alex Kendrick who, with his brother Stephen, built Sherwood Pictures, the movie-making ministry of Albany, Georgia-based Sherwood Baptist Church. Through four progressively complex and successful films (Flywheel, Facing the Giants, Fireproof, Courageous) the little church that could garnered unexpected attention from audiences and, in the process, Hollywood. I recently spoke with the minister/movie mogul about his unusual journey has taken him — and is taking him.

JWK: We recently saw each other on the set of the upcoming Erwin Brothers comedy Mom’s Night Out which you have an acting role in.  What was that experience like for you?

ALEX KENDRICK: Well, Kevin Downes is the producer of Mom’s Night Out. He was a fellow actor with me in the movie Courageous. He plays my police partner and we have been friends for several years.  He came and helped me on Courageous and said “Would you come help me on Mom’s Night Out?” So, I flew over to Birmingham and did half a dozen scenes or so as a pastor in the film. I had a great time. I look forward to seeing the final version. I also am good friends with the Erwin Brothers who are co-directing and producing the film with Kevin. They also helped with Courageous. It’s kind of a small little family in this arena and we love helping each other out.

JWK: Mom’s Night Out is actually a faith-based comedy.

AK: Yeah, this’ll be my first comedy. We have little bits of comedy throughout our films but this is like a full-on comedy. I had  great time. It was fun to do a comedy and see a lot of the people I worked with on our previous films and meet some new actors. It was a good experience for me.

JWK: You have a new book out called The Love Dare for Parents. How did that come about?

AK: Well, at the end of our movie Fireproof, we released a book that my brother Stephen and I wrote called The Love Dare. It was for couples. That book had a much larger impact than we expected. As a matter of fact, if I could use the term “overwhelmed,” we were. The book went on to become a New York Times bestseller and sold over five-million copies and is now in 28 different countries and languages. So, we were blessed and just surprised at how well that did. The primary response was “Can you do something that goes through this type of 40-day journey with parents loving their children. As we know, that’s a different kind of love. So, my brother and I,  over the last two years, went back through Scripture and pulled every (passage) we could in relation to parenting children, guarding their hearts, teaching them, loving them, being patient. And then we worked through 40 principles and wrote The Love Dare for Parents. It really came from an ongoing response from people who went through the couple’s book asking us to do the same for children. It’s been a long time coming after a couple years doing this. But we’re excited that it’s now hitting shelves. We learned a lot going through the process of writing it, so we can’t wait to see what happens.

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JWK: What do you think is the greatest challenge facing parents today?

AK: Well, certainly, even separate from what our culture is going through, kids have different personalities and different natural bents and skill sets that they seem to come pre-programmed with. One of my two sons is very athletic. The other one is into social skills and humor. I have six kids — four girls and two boys. I’m amazed that growing up in the same house, same parents with the same exposure to the same things that all my six kids can be so different. I see that as their (being) designed by God. So, what I am learning to do is (to) learn each of their personalities — to study them, to learn how their natural bent is. Is it toward intellectualism. Is it toward athletics? Toward humor? Ministry? What makes each of them tick? And can I help them blossom in their areas of strength and win their hearts in doing so? So, that’s one challenge in doing that. The second challenge is to make sure that, growing up  in this culture, they have a healthy view of life and God and Scripture. So, that’s my other challenge. So, finding that balance is certainly no easy task but it can be very fulfilling. So, that’s part of what we talk about in this book.

JWK: Do you feel that the advent of the internet and the recent rise of social media are making the job parents more difficult?

AK: In some regards it is…As our kids are drawn into, you know, Facebook and twittering and having their own cell phone and iPod and all those things , all of those things will take up as much time as you give them. What our goal is is to help them find that natural balance so that the things of our culture don’t just steal their hearts and their minds and just consume their lives. What we want to do is make sure they’re not totally kept from what’s going on in the world. We don’t want to seclude them but, at the same time, we want them to have wisdom and discernment to make wise decisions — to protect them through the love of the family and the value that we have in one another and in the Lord and our time in Scripture. Finding that balance is not an easy task but it can be done. So, what we do in Love Dare for Parents is walk through the principles that help you win the hearts of your children and find that balance as a parent. As we all know, parenting can be wonderful and exasperating at times. So, we walk through the principles of demonstrating love to your kids in the most appropriate and healthy ways. We learned a great deal doing it and we believe the readers will too.

There was on section in First Corinthians 13 that talks about (showing) patience, kindness, politeness, how can I demonstrate forgiveness to my children and more fully enjoy them as they’re growing up and vice versa. And so, each of those has a day’s journey. There are 40 days that people will go through in applying these biblical principles for their kids. We spell them out in layman’s terms so it’s really easy to grasp a principle. Then we dare them to apply a principle for 40 days to their kids. They don’t have to be 40 consecutive days…Already people that even tested the book for us had amazing responses from their kids. We’re seeing that God’s word and His principles do work. They may not work overnight but they are powerful and when we apply them in the way He shows us to apply them in life then we’re going to see positive consequences.

JWK: I’ve heard it said that when you practice a behavior for 40 days it becomes a habit.

AK: That’s exactly right. That’s a great point. As you show these principles over and over , it becomes engrained into how we think. And, when your kids see that, they begin doing it to their siblings. And so we’ve seen that as well. Many of these aspects I already knew as a parent but, as I study them more, there are more avenues that I can apply in my own parenting and I’m seeing how my kids are watching how I (interact) with my wife and (with) each of them and I watch how they (interact) with each other. As we all know, we’re all highly influenced by the atmosphere that our parents create when we’re growing up. And, if we do that the right way, that carries on to the next generation.

JWK: If I may change the subject, I understand that you and your brother have started your own production company called Kendrick Brothers Productions and that that’s from Sherwood Baptist Church and Sherwood Pictures.

AK: We did. We made four feature films with Sherwood Baptist. The wonderful thing was the church (members) volunteered. It was an awesome atmosphere of attitudes. The hard part was (that) all four of the first feature films we made take place in modern-day Albany, Georgia. We know that not all of our films going to be (set in) modern-day Albany, Georgia.  When we go to different areas and look at doing period pieces and movies shot in other states and locations, even overseas, it’s hard to carry 1700 volunteers from your church with you to do that. And so, we knew that there were going to be growing pains at some point.

We also want to invest in the next generation of filmmakers. There have been hundreds of these filmmakers that have called us saying “Can we intern with you? Can we mentor under you?” And we want an opportunity to do that, as well. So, for those two reasons, we talked with our pastor and he gave us his blessing to kind of launch out and grow the movie ministry that we have. So, the next film won’t necessarily be modern-day Albany, Georgia but we’re grateful for the films we’ve made (with Sherwood). The church is an amazing church. We’re gonna grow as filmmakers and invest in the next generation of upcoming filmmakers and try to duplicate what we’re doing.

JWK: Is Sherwood Pictures still on ongoing entity?

AK: Yeah, it will continue. They’re looking at possibly doing some documentaries and also we have the first four films that will stay out there for the years to come. So, yeah, Sherwood Pictures will be around and my brother and I are certainly supporters of that. We can’t wait to see what God does not only locally there at the church but what he has for us down the road as well.

JWK: And you and your brothers are still ministers at Sherwood Church?

AK: That is correct. It’s still our home base and our home church and we serve there on Sundays and Wednesdays and for special events. During the week, we’ll…travel and speak. And, of course, right now, we’re in prep for our next movie which we’ll announce not too long from now.

JWK: Too early to tell me about it?

AK: It is. We’re really excited about it. We’re working on a script right now and, not too long from now, we’ll announce what that is as we begin casting.

JWK: And this will be under the Kendrick Brothers Productions banner?

AK: That is correct.

JWK: Anything else you’d like to say?

AK: As far as Love Dare for Parents goes, you can download the book. You can buy it at bookstores…We’re really excited about it and believe that it’s going to make significant impact for parents.

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Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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