Sherwood Pictures in Albany, Georgia
Sherwood Pictures in Albany, Georgia
Michael Catt, Alex Kendrick and Stephen Kendrick
Michael Catt, Alex Kendrick and Stephen Kendrick


Making Pictures His Way

I belong to a very lively discussion group called Christian Filmmakers, who, not surprisingly, discuss the latest in Christian films, along with other related topics. But until Fireproof, which opens next Friday, September 26, in over 800 theaters, I haven't been excited about any of them.

The hoopla over Christian films began with the blockbuster Passion Of The Christ in 2004, which was followed the next year by End Of The Spear, a lackluster portrayal of the lives of missionaries Jim Elliot and Nate Saint. (The 2004 documentary Beyond The Gates Of Splendor, which is about the same events, is much better.) Then Fox Faith got into the act with an abysmal take on the book of Esther called One Night With The King (2006). That year also saw the second Kendrick brothers film, Facing The Giants. (Their first was Flywheel in 2003.)

In 2007 we had Amazing Grace, a solid but less-than-spectacular film about William Wilberforce's fight to end the slave trade in Great Britain. That year also gave us another Fox Faith entry called The Ultimate Gift, which, in my opinion, was the ultimate contrivance. Now we're at 2008 and Fireproof. Talk about a breath of fresh air! Sweep away the media hype of Passion and the controversy surrounding Spear. Get rid of the cuteness of One Night and the gung-ho-ness of Giants. Wipe out the dryness of Amazing Grace and the contrivances of Ultimate Gift, and what you're left with is one heck of a story. In my opinion, Fireproof is the first modern film that truly has a right to call itself a "Christian" film because it is the first film in which God's presence is clearly evident.

When Alex Kendrick came to Sherwood Baptist Church as media director back before Flywheel, Michael Catt the pastor asked him what he would like to do. He said, "Make movies." He thought he would have to wait until he left Sherwood, but Catt said, "Why can't a church make movies?" Thus was born Sherwood Pictures, and it has been a growing, influential enterprise ever since. But the difference between Sherwood and almost every other film company today - possibly the difference between it and most churches - is that they will not move forward on an idea just because it is good. It has to be a "God idea." This is faintly evident in their second film Facing The Giants, but it is clearly evident in Fireproof. If that film doesn't touch hearts and change lives, then something is wrong.

It is not the film itself that is so powerful. As a matter of fact, I wouldn't call it a powerful film at all. It is the story, and, inside the story, the message. The message is that love will do whatever it takes to serve (read "win," "save," "help") the other person, and it uses the description of love in I Corinthians 13 as its basis. That is the "Love Dare," which is the heart of the film. It is the "Love Dare" that changes the people in the film, and that is what will change the people who see it. Only love can change people, not movies or books. But movies and books can deliver the message of love. And in this case, it is an almost perfect transference from the lips of God to the eyes and ears - and hopefully hearts - of the audience.

It is amazing that a church in Albany, Georgia could or would do such a thing. While the rest of the world, including most of Christendom, looks to Hollywood for their next entertainment fix, Sherwood Baptist is looking to God. God owns Sherwood Pictures and the members of Sherwood Baptist know that. But why wouldn't God use His people, His church, the body of His Son Jesus Christ to accomplish His work? It only makes sense. So, why do Christians still make the trek out to Hollywood thinking they're going to use the devil's people and his systems to produce movies that glorify God? Are we really that stupid? Yes, we are. But, thankfully, someone has shown us a better way - God's way.

Fifty to a hundred years ago, I think God could actually go to Hollywood and find people to make a film for Him. But not anymore. Hollywood isn't interested. They're interested in Christians' money, but not in God. So, God went to Albany, Georgia, of all places, and started His own studio, because there He found people who said, "Why can't God do this through us? Is anything too hard for God?" But it had to be a God idea. That is the key. He had to drive the boat, not them. He had to be the executive producer.

I don't believe God is going to stop with Albany and Sherwood. I believe He is going to start movie studios all over America - wherever He finds people who say, "Why can't a church make movies? Why can't God do this through us? Is anything too hard for God?" There are other churches out there like Sherwood. Now that Sherwood has shown us just what God can do when He has willing people to work through, there will be others. Instead of one or two Christian movies a year, I fully expect five to ten or more within the next five years, and perhaps even fifty to a hundred a year within the next ten to twenty years. Why shouldn't there always be a Christian film playing? And, why not more than one? But they have to be God movies, they have to be God ideas. That's the key.


Waitsel Smith, September 16, 2008

Text © 2008 Waitsel Smith. Images © 2008 Sony Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

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