The Table Podcast

Faith, Work, and Filmmaking

In this episode, Mikel Del Rosario and Alex Kendrick discuss faith, work, and filmmaking, focusing on Kendrick’s experiences in acting and producing movies like Fireproof, War Room, and Overcomer.

Timecodes
00:46
Kendrick’s interest in filmmaking
05:03
What inspires Kendrick to make a film?
11:04
What are some of the challenges facing a filmmaker?
16:12
How many people does it take to shoot a scene?
21:26
What's it like to work with actors?
25:10
Kendrick discusses his ministry in light of 1 Peter 3:15
28:25
How can people misunderstand a movie?
30:54
The film Overcomer and Christian identity
38:35
Advice to potential film makers and actors
44:08
How can pastors support Christians in the arts?
Resources The Resolution for Men by Alex Kendrick, Stephen Kendrick and Randy Alcorn, Defined: Who God Says You Are by Alex and Stephen Kendrick, The Resolution for Women and Fervent: A Women's Battle Plan to Serious, Specific, and Strategic Prayer by Priscilla Shirer  
Transcript
Mikel Del Rosario
Welcome to the table where we discuss issues of God and culture. I’m Mikel Del Rosario, cultural engagement manager here at the Hendricks Center, and our topic today is “Faith, Work, and Filmmaking.” We’re going to be talking about how your Christian faith can make a difference in the world of acting and filmmaking.

And my guest in the studio today is Alex Kendrick. Alex is a filmmaker at the Kendrick Brothers, and he is a Kendrick brother.

Alex Kendrick
I am a Kendrick brother.
Mikel Del Rosario
[Laughs] Thanks so much for being on the show.
Alex Kendrick
Oh, my pleasure.
Mikel Del Rosario
Well, tell us a little bit about growing up and how you even got interested in filmmaking.
Alex Kendrick
So, Shannon is my older brother by three years. Stephen is my younger brother. So, the three of us boys grew up in Smyrna, Georgia. Mom was a schoolteacher; Dad was a minister. And we did not have a television for most of my childhood. So, occasionally we would see usually a Disney movie in the theater, and I became enamored with that whole format and process of presenting stories, wanted to make movies.

So, we got a video camera, in our youth, and would run around the neighborhood, making silly little videos, usually chase-’em-down beat-’em-up type of plots. And eventually, God began stirring our hearts to do things for his glory.

And so, in high school, we surrendered our lives to the Lord. In college, communications degrees, then went into ministry. And I don’t know how much detail I should go in as far as going on to Sherwood, but it wasn’t too many years after that that we ended up at Sherwood Baptist in Albany, Georgia and began the movie-making ministry there.

Mikel Del Rosario
Mmm, okay. Well, let’s back up to when you went to college.
Alex Kendrick
Sure.
Mikel Del Rosario
So, the transition from growing up, making little home movies. I used to do that with my friends as well. We’d make little war movies –
Alex Kendrick
Oh yeah.
Mikel Del Rosario
– in the jungle and stuff.
Mikel Del Rosario
But then moving to college, communications degree. I did com as well, so that’s – we’re kindred spirits there.
Alex Kendrick
Yeah, yeah.
Mikel Del Rosario
You were involved in some music, too, right?
Alex Kendrick
I did. So, I took piano for 14 years.
Mikel Del Rosario
Okay.
Alex Kendrick
And was in a singing group called Selah, for a while, and really enjoyed that, but that was – that kinda took a backseat to my hope and drive to tell stories and make films one day.

So, after college, seminary, ordination, and ended up at a church in Albany, Georgia, and I was the associate pastor of media. They had a television outreach, radio outreach; so, I would do that. And in 2002 is where things really got kicked off. I found an article by George Barna, where he had done a national survey, basically said that movies, television, and the Internet were the three most influential factors in our culture. And took that to our pastor and asked him if I could make a feature film for the community of Albany, Georgia.

And he said, “Do you know how to make feature films?” And I did not. And so, he said, “If you pray the money in, I’ll support you if God’s in it.”

So, I started praying, and the Lord began prompting people to come give me the funds needed. So, $20,000.00 was given. And I had written a movie called Flywheel – this was, you know, about lordship. And so, we made that movie with just volunteers out of our church. Very low budget, $20,000.00, and it was really, really hard to make, but it made a big splash in the community, and ended up selling more DVDs than I could count. So, very, very grateful for…

And then there’s some funny little moments that happened in that journey. So, I don’t know how much detail I should go in, but it was – it was the first step in God saying, “I’ve called you to this, and I’ll be with you if you honor Me.”

Mikel Del Rosario
Is that when you got your calling to make movies, or was it slightly before then?
Alex Kendrick
I would say that the desire started in my youth, really about 9, 10 years old, but it needed to be sanctified. In other words, our movies that we made as teenagers were all – instead of James Bond it was Savings Bond, or instead of Indiana Jones it was Alabama Jones.

And we would do our own little neighborhood versions of these and edit from our VCR to our camcorder. But we got quite adept at doing that and learned about framing and action points and edit points and things like that so that by the time I was mature in the faith enough for God to say, “Okay, now you’re going to do all these things for Me,” I recognized that all the chase scenes and explosions and things that I loved about movies weren’t necessary for telling the stories that God may want me to tell.

So, I needed to mature in that regard. Yeah, I still like good action movies, but not gratuitously so, and there needs to be a purpose to everything. So, I’m grateful for the movies that he’s allowed us to make.

Mikel Del Rosario
So, people know you for a lot of movies like War Room was really big, Courageous. What inspires you to make these movies?
Alex Kendrick
We go through a season of prayer between every film. So, I call it tilling the soil even before you put the seed in the ground. So, we till the soil with prayer, and that may go six months, nine months, or even a year of saying, “God, what do you want us to do next?”

And He always prompts us in a certain direction or a theme, if you will. For Fireproof, it was marital love. For Courageous, it was fatherhood. For War Room, it was strategic prayer. For this new one, Overcomer, that we made, it is identity in Christ, which – and it seems to be timely themes as well.

So, the Lord prompts us to these things. We do a lot of research, a lot of prayer. We write a script and then go into that season. And so far, we can tell that God’s timing on each of those themes was perfect, and it seemed that whenever a movie would come out with a theme, that there was other activity already going on with that theme.

And so, I can see the fingerprints of God guiding us, because we – I don’t think we deserve much credit for anything. We’ve just learned to pray, to listen, and to obey Him, and to grow in our craft of making films. You know, the more experience you get, the better you get. And so, we want to continue doing this. And it’s very fulfilling, because when you see people touched by these films and moved to make decisions for Christ, or take a new area of their life for Christ, it’s very encouraging.

Mikel Del Rosario
Mm-hmm. Tell us one of the stories that you’ve found has come out of how the Lord has used these movies in people’s lives.
Alex Kendrick
Wow. So, I could go all day with this. So, there are many stories regarding Facing the – oh, I’m sorry – Fireproof – I could tell stories about any of ’em – where people would look at their marriage a different way, or a man would say, “When I realized that God loves me in a way that I do not deserve, how can I turn to my wife and say, ‘I will only demonstrate love to you when you deserve it’? That’s so hypocritical”.

So, for us to say, “God, please forgive me for my sins and love me and be with me,” He does; He does love us. And so, a husband must love his wife like Christ loved the Church. And we’re not always loveable, are we?

Mikel Del Rosario
Mm-hmm.
Alex Kendrick
There are days I’m like, “Lord, I’m amazed that You love me.” But God doesn’t love us because we’re so loveable; He loves us because He is so loving. Well, a husband needs to love his wife that way: not because she’s so loveable all the time, but because he chooses to be loving.

And a wife needs to love her husband that way – not just when he deserves it, or she thinks she’s deserving of respect, but because he’s her husband, and to choose to love. And many times love is a choice more than a feeling.

And so, that was the method of Fireproof. So we got so many thousands upon thousands of responses from people saying, “It clicked with me.”

I’ll give you one of my favorite stories. There was a couple who came to our church. As soon as they met us in the atrium – this is after Fireproof came out – and they were weeping, gave us a hug, and they said, “We had to tell you our story.”

So, we said, “Okay.”

And in a very brief amount of time, they said, “We were married as 19-year-olds.” And then, after that first year of marriage – ’cause marriage is hard –

Mikel Del Rosario
Mm-hmm.
Alex Kendrick
– they divorced. One of them went to the Carolinas, and the other one went to the West Coast. And for 26 years, they never saw each other. When the movie Fireproof came out, both of them happened to see it in the theater and were both convicted. Neither one of them had remarried.

And so, the husband reached out and found her and sent her a letter saying, “I owe you an apology. I never knew how to love you. I saw this movie Fireproof, and I realized that I didn’t know what I was doing. Please forgive me for the way I hurt you.”

She responded back to him and said, “I saw that same movie, and I agree with you. I didn’t know how to love you. Would you also forgive me?”

Mikel Del Rosario
Wow.
Alex Kendrick
They ended up meeting in person – this is 26 years later – and they struck up a friendship that blossomed into love, and they got remarried, this time as Christians. And to celebrate the one-year anniversary of their remarriage, they came to our church to tell us their story.
Mikel Del Rosario
Wow.
Alex Kendrick
I think that’s incredible. So, married, then divorced for 26 years, then remarried this time in the faith, but Fireproof was the catalyst that got them thinking about one another. So, it’s things like that that I’m amazed at what God does. So, that’s Fireproof.

Courageous, oh my goodness, story after story, especially men who have written us, e-mailed us, phone calls saying, “When I saw this movie, I realized I was not embracing my role as spiritual leader of my home or father, and I went home to do that. I cut out the hobbies,” or, “I cut out the additional trips,” or even, “addictions, alcohol,” things like that. “And I went home and began taking my role as father and protector and spiritual leader seriously.”

And hearing those types of stories make it all worth it. And so, very, very grateful.

Mikel Del Rosario
And that movie affected you, too – right? – in your own personal life.
Alex Kendrick
It did. When I was making Courageous – and I thought I was doing well as a dad, but the Lord convicted me. He said, “You need to start turning off the television in the evenings and nurturing your six children in the faith.” I have six children. And so, for a number of years after Courageous, my entire family, in the evenings, read the entire Bible together.
Mikel Del Rosario
Whoa.
Alex Kendrick
All eight of us.
Mikel Del Rosario
Wow.
Alex Kendrick
So, we went chapter by chapter. I would read sometimes, my wife would, or my older children would. We’d go through, and then we’d talk about the chapters. But we went through the entire Bible cover to cover. And so, that became what we did in the evenings. So, we never got addicted to any TV shows or anything like that. Not that – we have a TV, we just don’t regularly watch it.

So, I loved going through the entire Bible with my children. So, the Lord raised the importance in my own heart of being the spiritual leader of my home.

Mikel Del Rosario
Mmm, wow. You told me another story before about, you know, it’s not all roses and just positive things. There’s been really frustrating things that you went through. Tell us that story about how you tried to market this movie and everyone just said no to you, and you got real frustrated. How did you handle that?
Alex Kendrick
So, early on, this is after our second movie, Facing the Giants, we begged God to help us; He did. We got funding for the movie; we made the movie. When it was done, for some reason I was sure that some studio in Hollywood would like it. So, we went out to California and screened it to whoever would watch it. And no one was interested in releasing it as a film.

Now today, as I look at it with more seasoned eyes, I can understand why. But back then I was like, “We worked so hard on this movie. Why don’t you want to release it?”

And they all said, “You know, it’s charming. It has some inspirational aspects to it, but there’s no stars in it. We don’t recognize anybody. It’s obvious it’s not a big budget movie, and there’s a lot of Jesus in it, and so, we’re gonna pass.” And so many studios passed that I was so frustrated.

I came back, and I said, “God, what are you doing? Why aren’t you helping us?” And God reminded me that in the movie I say, “We must praise God when we win and praise God when we lose,” but I wasn’t doing that in real life. And I was praising God when things went well for me, when He blessed me, which is really not very strong faith. And God is worthy of being worshiped; He is worthy of our adoration because He’s God, just because He’s on the throne, not because of what He does for us – that should be secondary, actually.

And I realized I was treating God like an employee, saying, “God, why aren’t You doing this for me,” as if God owed me something. And so, God is not my employee; I serve Him; He is God. And so, I changed my attitude. I asked God to forgive me for my wrong thinking. And the Lord ended up bringing Sony to us. And I had knocked on all these other doors and was told no, but when I got my act together, and I submitted it to the Lord, He brought Sony to us.

Sony said, “We want to distribute this movie,” which is amazing to me. And it reminds me, “Alex, when you try to jump ahead of God and kick in the doors and make stuff happen, you can’t expect God to bless that. But when you track with God, don’t jump ahead of Him, don’t lag behind Him, and when you track with Him, and ask God, ‘You show me what doors to walk through, and You close the doors You don’t want me to walk through,’ and then I honor Him and obey Him, then I see a different type of productivity and fruitfulness.”

And it doesn’t always look like how I think it’s gonna look, but God does things the way He does, and I love it. And usually, after the fact, I look back at what He did, and I say, “That was the better thing. Instead of what I wanted, what God did was the better thing.” And so, it’s been a journey of faith for me as well, as the filmmaker.

Mikel Del Rosario
Yeah. What a wonderful lesson – life lesson – that you can apply to any industry, really –
Alex Kendrick
Right.
Mikel Del Rosario
– whether you’re in full-time church ministry, or whether you’re making films, or in another kind of business or whatever, to praise God in the good times and when things aren’t going so well. Right?
Alex Kendrick
That’s right.
Mikel Del Rosario
So, it looks like, as a filmmaker, your faith informs not only the story – the stories themselves, the writing, but it informs the way that you make the movies and the way you even handle the frustration that’s associated with that.

Now, on the set, when you’re filming – I’ll tell you I have a personal connection to War Room because first time I ever heard about that movie, my best friend – one of my best friends from sixth grade all the way through high school called me and said, “Have you heard about this movie?” Because he got a call to work on – he was working with your brother – with Stephen – to work on a couple of scenes in War Room. He was the second unit mixer doing audio. And he said that on the set, that you guys began every day of filming with prayer and a devotion. Is that for all your movie? How did that start happening?

Alex Kendrick
It is all our movies, and it’s important to us that if we really want God’s blessing on everything we do, then we have to seek Him; we have to chase after Him. One of my favorite verses is Jeremiah 29:13 where God says, “If you seek Me, You will find Me if you seek Me with all your heart.” And I love that because God wants to be found. He wants to be there for us, but He also wants us to seek Him. He deserves for us to seek Him.

And so, every morning when we meet – in all of our films – we meet with the cast and crew. We pray together; we usually do a devotional; we spend some time in prayer. We ask God to bless the day, to be with us, to guide us. And we invite Him to be in every single aspect of what we do. And that has built unity among our team. It has helped us keep our attitudes in check, and it has allowed God to show off in ways He wants to show off.

But I love seeing His fingerprints on these movies and watching what He does with them. And so, yeah, it’s very, very important to us that every day and every movie is dedicated to the Lord.

Mikel Del Rosario
Mm-hmm. Now, for those of us who are not even – we have no clue what it takes to make a movie – I’ve never been an extra or been on the set, it’s just almost – we can’t even begin to think about how many people are involved in shooting a scene like that.
Alex Kendrick
A lot.
Mikel Del Rosario
I know a little bit about it ’cause my friend holds the boom mic for a lot of movies. But in a typical scene – let’s just say you’re shooting a scene inside a house, like you had the scene in the house in War Room, where the camera followed this woman around while she was walking around the house and really kicking out the devil. Right?
Alex Kendrick
Right.
Mikel Del Rosario
How many people are involved in that? What does it all take? How many people does it take to just make a simple scene like that happen?
Alex Kendrick
Okay. If I take – if I take an average scene in the movie, I would say at minimum it’s 20 people and maximum it’s 60 to 70 people. And the reason for that is – well, unless it’s a scene that requires a lot of extras, and then it could be hundreds of people – but an average scene you’ll have two cameras. You’ll have the guy holding the camera and an assistant there for focus or for power cords or whatever is needed for that camera man for each camera.

Then you’ll have the boom mic operator; he’s holding the boom mic over the heads with this long pole. Then you have the script supervisor making sure that all the lines are recorded. You have the director on the monitor watching. You have the director of photography on monitors watching, making sure it’s shot. You have the lighting guys there, making sure the lighting’s just right. You have the makeup and wardrobe people there. You have the acting coach if it’s necessary for any given person. And then you have extras.

And then outside the set, you have a whole horde of people, including the caterers or the craft services or security or anything like that.

And so, it is – it’s usually a small army of people, and I’m grateful for all of them, because it goes really well. When we started, we only had a handful of people; so, we had to do everything. I was – when I wasn’t onscreen, I was also the camera guy, and I’m moving lights around. And so, the expertise is very low when it’s that way.

But the more people you get with more experience on the set, the expertise goes up, the professionalism and production quality go up. And so, I’m very grateful, especially with Overcomer; it’s probably our best one we’ve ever made. And so, you’ll see the production quality go up in part ’cause you have so many people that are gifted specifically in that area.

Mikel Del Rosario
Mm-hmm. Yeah, you think about all the people who are involved in making a seemingly simple scene when you watch a few seconds onscreen, and you just get to appreciate all the ways that God has gifted all these different people.
Alex Kendrick
It’s a picture of the body of Christ, too, because –
Mikel Del Rosario
Mm-hmm, it is.
Alex Kendrick
– on our sets, when we don’t have levels of respect, meaning everyone is valued, everyone is loved – I mean when the actors come on set, they’re no better than these hardworking crew members.

And so, you value everyone the same. And when we start feeling like a family and like we’re doing this together, it just – it builds the unity to an incredible level. And by the end of the three months of shooting, people are weeping ’cause they don’t want to leave each other, and it’s just a joy to make a movie together, because it is hard to make a movie; it’s very, very hard; it’s exhausting. But when you do it together, and you feel like you’ve accomplished something together, it’s a blessing. So, we do it a little bit differently than probably most movies are made.

Mikel Del Rosario
Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. How do you go about looking for your actors, ’cause you mentioned how the production companies are like “we don’t recognize any of these people, there are no big stars in here.” How do you go about looking for actors?
Alex Kendrick
So, we do auditions. And so, the way we do it is we go to two different audition companies – unless we come across them some other way – but they – we prefer to work with believers because our movies are as much about ministry as anything else.

So, we prefer to work with believers. I personally don’t want someone onscreen portraying the Christian faith or presenting the gospel that doesn’t believe it themselves. ‘Cause I believe when you have the Holy Spirit in your life, when you’re walking with God, that that will come across onscreen in your even portrayal as a Christian. And again, that’s my opinion; that’s the way we operate. And I’ve seen God bless that.

So, when it comes to actors, we do auditions for each role. We look for someone that’s right for the role, and then we get to know them. And if they can share their witness with us, or their testimony, we love that because we’re giving them a platform. You know? And especially when we’re representing principles, truths, or the Word of God of the Christian faith, we want to be good stewards of that.

We don’t want to – you know, we don’t make movies just to entertain the saints. The saints don’t need to be entertained more than they already are. So, we make movies to edify the Church. They’re in a form of entertainment, but we make movies to edify the Church, exhort them to do what God’s called them to do and to be who God’s called them to be. And if we can edify and exhort the Church and build up the body of Christ, that’s success for us.

Mikel Del Rosario
Mm-hmm. How did you end up working with Kirk Cameron?
Alex Kendrick
Kirk is great. Kirk is a growing believer. He had received Christ near the end of his television run and did a few films. I think he did some early versions of the Left Behind movies, but was in ministry and saw Facing the Giants and gave me a call at Sherwood Baptist Church.

I still remember the day I was in my office, and my secretary said, “Um, Kirk Cameron’s on the phone for you.”

And I said, “Really?”

So, I took the call, and we talked. And he said, “Hey, I just saw your movie Facing the Giants, loved it. I love what you’re doing. If I could ever help in any way, let me know.”

So, I asked him if he would like to come audition for Fireproof, and he said okay. And so, he flew out and auditioned, and he did an excellent job, and we interviewed him and saw that he was growing in his faith. And so, he became the lead in Fireproof, and for ten years after Fireproof, spoke on the speaking circuit about marriage and family, and he used clips from the movie, and was just really faithful with that platform.

And so, he’s a good friend now; we’ve done a number of projects together. He’s got a TV show now that we’ve been on, and I would love to do more projects with him in the future if the Lord wills. So, very grateful for Kirk and really proud of him.

Mikel Del Rosario
Now, Priscilla Shirer is another person who you’ve been working with.
Alex Kendrick
Yes.
Mikel Del Rosario
She was in War Room; she’s in the Overcomer. She’s a Dallas Seminary grad, one of our people that we point to as Dallas Seminary people who are involved now in the arts and media. She graduated here in 1998 with an M.A. in biblical studies. How did you get connected with her?
Alex Kendrick
So, Priscilla we met when we were working on a book related to Courageous called The Resolution for Men. And we thought it would be appropriate to have a complementary book for women, The Resolution for Women. And so, we thought – we had read about Priscilla, we knew of her ministry and her witness, and so we went and met with her and her husband Jerry. And she ended up writing The Resolution for Women.

And we so enjoyed working with her, when we were praying through our next movie War Room, we wanted someone who would again use the platform of the movies in ministry in a honorable way, and we needed a lead actress. And so, as we prayed about it, both my brother and I had Priscilla come to mind. And so, we called her, and we said, “Have you ever acted before? ‘Cause we’re looking for someone for the lead in our next movie.” And she just burst out laughing.

She said, “Are you kidding me?” She said, “Not only have I not acted before, you’re talking about the lead role.”

And so she prayed about it; we prayed about it. Then we did some screen tests, and she has that natural charismatic aspect to her personality and the way that she presents herself that it just worked. We got an acting coach; she worked with the acting coach for a number of weeks and months leading up to the movie.

And then we shot War Room, and it was – although it was hard work, it was great fun. And she’s such a delight to be around, and so professional at what she does. And I thought she did a marvelous job, and she helped with some of the resources. She wrote the book Fervent that was attached to War Room.

And then we called her again, and she came back, and she’s in Overcomer, our latest movie, and does a wonderful job in Overcomer. So, I hope that she continues to blossom in her movie ministry as well as speaking and writing; she’s just very, very gifted.

Mikel Del Rosario
Yeah, there’s some very moving scenes in War Room, and she did a really great job there, and I can’t wait to see her in Overcomer, too.
Well, let me change gears just a little bit. I saw a very old picture of you, probably from your college days, and you had signed it with one of my favorite Bible verses, 1 Peter 3
15, that great apologetics verse. Tell me about the significance of that in your life.
Alex Kendrick
So, 1 Peter 3:15 says, “But in your heart, sanctify Christ as Lord.” In other words, set Him apart as more important than anything else. Then it goes on to say, “– and always be ready to give an answer to anyone that asks you of the hope that you have, but do this with a gentleness and respect.” So, that’s my life verse.

Well, how that happened, I was in college in Campus Crusade, and we would often go out on our campus – this is Kennesaw State University in 1992 to 1993 – and we would go witnessing. And I loved that. And I was in the Student Center one day, and I was talking to a college student, and he was of the Baha’i faith. They believe there’s a number of ways to get to heaven, a number of truths.

And so, as I talked with him, and I heard him out, and then I presented the gospel, we got into a little bit of an argument. And I found myself growing in frustration that he couldn’t see what I saw in the gospel. And we began arguing, and eventually, when we finished the conversation, we both left frustrated.

And the Lord convicted me. He said, “Alex, you are not the One that does the saving. You present truth. You should be able to articulate it well, to defend it, but you do not argue people into heaven.” And I realized I was so convicted. And when I saw that verse in Scripture, “Always be ready to give an answer for the hope that you have, but do this with a gentleness and respect.” I wasn’t doing it with gentleness and respect; I was trying to – “Why can’t you see that I’m right?” You know?

Mikel Del Rosario
Mm-hmm.
Alex Kendrick
And it wasn’t done in love. It was done with the knowledge that I had only. And truth and love should go together. And so, that became my life verse. And so now, when I do movies, when I do speaking, when I do books, I try to incorporate a very loving but truthful approach to ministry, and so far that’s served us well.
Mikel Del Rosario
Yeah, that’s our seminary motto, actually, is to teach truth and love well.
Alex Kendrick
Wow.
Mikel Del Rosario
And so, marrying truth and tone, engaging with courage and compassion, these are – we’re kindred spirits in that regard.
Alex Kendrick
I love it.
Mikel Del Rosario
That’s how we defend the faith. We do so in a way that’s gentle and respectful, and that’s how Jesus would do it.
Alex Kendrick
That’s exactly right. So, we have to be sharp enough to know why we believe what we believe, be ready to defend it respectfully, and to articulate it. But I could articulate it, and I was ready to defend it, but there wasn’t the meekness or the gentleness the Scripture talks about. It was, “You know, you’re crazy. You don’t see my way.”
Mikel Del Rosario
Yeah, yeah.
Alex Kendrick
And so, yeah. So, I love that verse.
Mikel Del Rosario
Yeah, and the context of that verse, too, it’s like you read the context of 1 Peter 3, and you’re like, “This is how God made the – took the initiative to come after us. And how did God treat us when we were – before we had embraced Him and His message? How did God treat us? Why can’t we treat other people like that?”
Alex Kendrick
Right.
Mikel Del Rosario
But it takes the power of the Holy Spirit to do it. So –
Alex Kendrick
Yeah, that’s a great point – great point.
Mikel Del Rosario
Yeah. So, in the movie world, then, have you encountered any intellectual challenges to your faith?
Alex Kendrick
I have in the sense that some people will misinterpret what we do. I remember when we did Courageous, there’s a scene where one of the officers goes to a cemetery, and he was still holding onto the bitterness that his father wasn’t there for him; his father was now passed away.

So, he’s standing there before his father’s tombstone, and he had written a letter – and this was based on a real event – he had written a letter where he says, “Dad, I’ve been angry at you,” and he just reads the letter out loud. He stands there at his dad’s tomb, and he reads the letter aloud saying, “I’ve been angry with you; I’ve been bitter with you, but I realize that God is the perfect Father that I need, and He loves me and offers me forgiveness, and so I am choosing to forgive. I am letting go of the bitterness I’ve had” – even after his dad had passed away – “I’m letting go of the bitterness and embracing the Lord.” And he rips up the letter, and he throws it away, and it’s a done deal; he’s forgiven his father.

Well, that’s in the movie. So, when someone saw the movie, they accused me of putting a scene where the guy was praying to his dead father. And I was like, “What?” That is not at all what we were trying to say. He was verbalizing this release of bitterness in his heart, and yes, he did choose to do it, where his father lay, but I do not believe in praying to dead people.

And so, that was one of the funny ones where somebody said, “The Kendrick brothers believe you can pray to dead people.”

I was like, “No, no. That’s not what we were doing.”

And so, occasionally I’ll get something like that, and I also – in War Room, when Priscilla’s character, she rebukes the devil in Jesus’ name, someone accused us that she was praying to the devil. You know, when Jesus rebuked the devil, He was not praying to the devil. You know? So, when Scripture talks about you resist the devil and he will flee – so, that’s what we did in the film.

So, it’s interesting that there are still those, either because of where they are in the faith, or their maturity level, they will misinterpret some of the things we do in our films. And it’s rare, but it happens once in a while. And we’ll have to say, “That’s not what we were doing; it’s not what we were trying to say.” And you try to clarify that for them. But you can’t clarify it for everybody, ’cause you’ll never know how many people think that. So, it’s a little tricky.

Mikel Del Rosario
Hmm, hmm. Well, tell us about Overcomer, the new film.
Alex Kendrick
I’m very excited about Overcomer. So, Overcomer is our sixth film, and it focuses on identity in Christ. And this is a hot button in our culture. Our culture is saying that: “You are what you feel,” or, “You are what your circumstances are.” And we believe that the Creator gets to define His creation. Our identity should come from what God says about us.

So, Overcomer, our biggest budget movie, it follows a town that has the largest factory close down and move away. And when the town is gutted, when so many people move away that worked at the factory, you’re left with a school that’s cut in half. A lot of the teachers and students have gone. And my character – I play a basketball coach – he had the players to win a state championship, and then he loses them, ’cause they move away with their families.

So, he’s really, really frustrated. He’s a Christian, but he’s really, really frustrated. And then the school gives him the cross-country program to help fill in some of the gaps. He doesn’t want to coach cross country. And when he goes to see who will come out, he has one girl that comes out, and she’s got asthma. And he thinks, “This is ridiculous. Why am I even doing this?”

So, as most men would, he flounders a little bit, because when a man feels like there’s no way for him to win or to succeed, he gets really frustrated. Most men put their identity in their job or their status or their awards or whatever. And so, that’s a very tender place, especially for men.

So, in this movie, the coach has to learn that his identity does not primarily come from his job or his success level; it must come from his walk with God and being a child of God. And then the important aspects, like being a husband, then being a father, then being a coach – right?

So, if our foundation is set on Jesus Christ, everything else that’s built on that, even if it fails or falls, your foundation is still intact. But if you make your foundation your job or your success level, and that’s stripped from you, everything above it topples.

Mikel Del Rosario
Yeah.
Alex Kendrick
And so, John – the character I play in Overcomer – he has to learn to reorder his identity. I am not just a successful coach or not even a failure coach; I’m a child of God first. Then I’m a husband. Then I’m a father, and then I’m a coach.

And then the girl he’s coaching – her name is Hannah in the movie – 15 years old, struggling with asthma, she’s just trying to find her place in the world. She feels rejected and unloved. So, she’s learning to run, and she runs with her inhaler.

And so, as she learns who she is in Christ – and there’s a tremendous scene where she begins to realize God’s love for her – and the coach is trying to reorder his identity, you have these two parallel paths, and they head toward a wonderful climactic scene near the end of the film that I think is gonna have the audience on the end of their seat as they do this race at the end of the season, and you’ll have a lump in your throat.

But it’s a reminder that our identity must be found in Christ. And this is what the Lord taught me through this movie Overcomer. Not only does he create us, He knows us better than we know ourselves. Psalm 139 says, “He knew us before we were born. He knows the hairs on our head. He knows all our days laid out before Him even before we’ve lived them.” So, if He knows us better than we know ourselves – and then thirdly, He has the authority to tell us who we are, then why would we look at anything else for our primary identity.

If I could, a quick analogy.

Mikel Del Rosario
Sure.
Alex Kendrick
My freshman daughter – her name is Joy, she’s in high school now – she just finished her freshman year. At the beginning of that year, she tried out for the varsity girls’ basketball team – not the JV, but the varsity girls, and made the team. She was elated.

As the team – as the season went on, the coach began to see that Joy was a very good dribbler and would make good decisions on the floor. So, going into about the fourth game of the season, he said, “Here is the new starting lineup.” So, to make it on the team’s great, but there’s 12 girls on the team. To make it in the top five who start every game is more of an honor. He said, “Joy, you’re now a starter.”

Well, Joy says, “What? Well, coach, I’m only a freshman. You have juniors and seniors on the bench.”

And the coach said, “Joy, I am the coach. I determine who starts, and if I say you’re a starter, you’re a starter.”

So, she started the rest of the season. They actually made it to the state championship. And so, she learned a lesson, and I thought that was a great analogy. It didn’t matter that Joy didn’t feel like she should get to be a starter or didn’t deserve it, it’s what the coach said and thought.

Well, we serve a God who tells us that when you are in Christ, you are a new creation – the old is gone; the new is come. When you are in Christ, you’re beloved and chosen and sealed and adopted and saved and redeemed and justified. And if God says we are all those things, then that is what we are, whether we feel like it or not. Now we must embrace it and walk in it.

What I loved about studying Ephesians for the movie Overcomer is the – Ephesians, as you know, is six chapters. The first three chapters don’t really tell you to do anything. It tells you what to believe. Right? So, because once – the apostle Paul knew that once you believe what Jesus says about you, what a Scripture says about you, then you live it out in Ephesians 4, 5, and 6. So, Ephesians 4, 5, and 6 talk about husbands loving your wives, and wives being respectful to your husbands, and putting on the whole armor of God and all these other wonderful things. That’s what we do in light of what we believe who we are.

Mikel Del Rosario
Mm-hmm.
Alex Kendrick
So, when I realized that, it changed not only that book, but my own perspective of my identity, that I – even if my movies bomb, I know who I am, because the foundation of my identity is founded on Jesus Christ and not on my circumstances or even my job.
Mikel Del Rosario
Mm-hmm. What a refreshing perspective. You know, what you said is really true about – especially for a lot of men who we attach our identity to our line of work, to a job title – that’s something the Lord taught me. I did some missionary work in the Philippines, and when that missionary work was over, you know, before that I would say, “Hi, I’m Mikel; I’m a missionary.” Right?
Alex Kendrick
Gotcha.
Mikel Del Rosario
But then after that, what do I say? “Hi, I’m Mikel; I’m nothing.” Like, “No, I am not nothing. I am a child of God. I’m an ambassador of Jesus, and I’ll represent my Lord today at a job interview, going to buy résumé paper at Office Max or whatever.” And that’s the kind of ethos, that’s the kind of self-identity that we need to have.
Alex Kendrick
That’s right.
Mikel Del Rosario
Or else whatever can be taken away from you – right? – success, it’s just – it’s all fleeting. Right?
Alex Kendrick
That’s right. And you know, it interesting. The two questions – and these seem like basic questions, but these two questions: who is God and who am I? My answer to those two questions will determine my sense of identity and my sense of identity will impact my behavior.

So, if God is my Creator, and I’m answerable to Him, and if I am His Creation and He loves me, then that impacts the way I feel about myself, and the way I feel about myself impacts my behavior. I want to honor my Creator; I want to honor my God.

But if I don’t feel loved, if I don’t feel like God cares about me, then my sense of identity changes, and then that impacts my behavior negatively, and we see that in culture left and right. That’s what’s going on in culture. But so that’s why it was important to us to tackle this issue of identity, to make this movie Overcomer, and even the book that goes along with it is called Defined
Who God Says You Are. What matters is what He says and not my feelings, not my circumstances, not even my status; it matters what God says.
Mikel Del Rosario
Yeah, yeah. Well, what would you say, Alex, to a Christian who is wanting to get into filmmaking, they feel God’s called them to do this. What pieces of advice would you give them?
Alex Kendrick
So, I have – I’ve had this conversation hundreds of times with people. A young person will come up to me and say, “I want to make movies one day.”

And so, I always do this, because movies can tend to be a very ego-driven thing, I always ask, “Why do you want to make movies?”

And if their answer is, “Oh, I just – I want to be a star; I want to go to Hollywood; I want to make movies,” you know, whatever, then it’s better that you don’t. It’s not – it should not be an ego-driven thing. It should be like anything else. I’m a story teller because I think God wired me that way. You want to use that avenue to draw people closer to Him. I’m not real interested in making myself a star; that’s lifting up myself and putting down everybody else. But what does the Scripture tell us? “Less of me, more of Him.”

And so, I’m able to use the platform, but God did not call me to be a star. You know, what is that? That’s self-worship.

Mikel Del Rosario
Right.
Alex Kendrick
And so, I tell people, “If you’re motive is to use this avenue and this art form to draw people to the Lord or to glorify God, more power to you.” Then I start giving them pointers and advice. But I try to test their motive first.

And a lot of people come to us saying, “Hey, I’ve studied this camera; I’ve studied editing; I know this software; I’m ready to make a movie.”

“No, you just know the tools; that doesn’t mean your heart’s ready and your mind’s ready.”

You know, I think God allowed us to have a platform when He knew we were ready for it, because I know that years before that I was not ready for it. And so, I had to say, “God, would you prepare my heart? Would you get me ready?”

And so, I would tell a young person, “First, check your motive. Why do you want to be in movies or make movies? Is it for yourself, or do you want to honor the Lord? Because if you want to honor the Lord, that’s great.” And then I would point to a number of – is this someone going in college by the way, or someone out of college?

Mikel Del Rosario
Either.
Alex Kendrick
You know, there are certain college – Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee, Liberty University, North Greenville University in South Carolina – that have wonderful film programs from a biblical perspective. So, I would say if you’re going into college, go to a place that honors the Lord with their film program.

If you’re out of college and ready to make movies, I would say then start attending places like the Christian Worldview Film Festival. They do a guild every year where you get together with other Christians, and you learn why we do what we do with the highest level of excellence possible.

And I would just say learn all you can, train all you can, practice making movies, make shorts. You know Scripture says, “Despise not small beginnings,” so make shorts before you make a feature film. It’s hard to make a feature film. So, don’t start at the top; work your way up and hone your skills. And practice, just like you would practice an instrument. You know, the more you practice the piano or the guitar, the better you get. Practice filming; practice editing; do little videos.

And so, that’s what we did. And then we love, personally, having interns on our set. We’ll have interns on our set. We’ll have two dozen on each of our movies that want to make films for the Lord. And so, they get on-the-job training, and we put them in our camera departments and lighting departments and wardrobe departments and editing departments, and give them first-hand experience helping to make a film. So, even on Overcomer, I think we had 20 interns that helped us make the movie.

Mikel Del Rosario
Hmm. Yeah, when I was in college, I was a communication major, too, at Biola University, and in the radio – television film had a friend that would be like, “You know that new Godzilla movie that’s coming out? I lighted the egg in that thing.”
Alex Kendrick
[Laughs]
Mikel Del Rosario
It’s like start somewhere – right? – see how God’s gifted you and start small and don’t think you’re gonna shoot for the stars right out the gate.
Alex Kendrick
But don’t hate that small beginning. Be faithful in a few things, and God’ll make you faithful over many things.
Mikel Del Rosario
Yeah, yeah. How about somebody who wants to go into acting? Maybe they’ve acted already in a few little movies, and they want to kinda take it to the next level. They would ask you for advice. What would you say?
Alex Kendrick
Yeah, I would say the same thing. Make sure that the reason you want to get into it is a God-honoring reason and not just to elevate yourself. And again, I’m not opposed to a Christian being an actor or having a high platform, but the heart is the issue. If their heart is more about them getting the attention, them getting honor, then the Lord’s not gonna bless that. He wants to use us as vessels for His glory.

So, if He elevates you – you know, what does Scripture say? “Humble yourself on the side of the Lord and He will lift you up.” But the first part of that is “humble yourself.” So, if you want to be an actor, that’s fantastic, but purpose in your heart to honor the Lord with that ability.

Well, then you learn all you can. So, again, I would encourage them to do it from a Christian perspective. If it’s – they’re of college age, then go to those schools that honor the Lord. If not, come to the Gideon Arts Film Festival, or even NRB that has classes on it, or the Christian Worldview Film Festival, some of these places that have all these training classes and guild – or the ICVM, International Christian Visual Media conference does the same thing. There’s a lot of these festivals and conferences, from a biblical perspective, that help hone their talent.

And then if they can get into a few shorts or low-budget films, then they work their way up. And so, I think that’s – and yes, maybe God starts you at a bigger budget movie, but again, it’s all about the heart and hone your skills. And again, just like you would practice an instrument, practice. Practice what you do. Do your church plays and drama plays, and make some little videos in your backyard and just practice it.

Mikel Del Rosario
Yeah. How can pastors come alongside Christian who are involved in the arts, who are actors, who are filmmakers and be a better support and encouragement?
Alex Kendrick
They should treat them like they treat a missionary, to pray over them regularly, to send them into an area of the world that desperately needs Jesus, and to love and support them. And it may be, if someone is called into the arts, but they recognize they’re called to do it for God’s glory, that they get the same level of support from their church or ministry that a missionary would. Because we can use the screen and the television and the Internet to present the gospel just like someone going to a foreign country. Absolutely you can do the same thing.

And so – but again, if their heart is right, and they can do it for God’s glory, then we should support them. You rarely see a missionary that’s haughty and egotistical going to another country. Right? Well, people in the arts should be the same way. You should be humble and honor the Lord.

And so, a pastor – well, for our books, for our movies, I would say check ’em out, and if you agree with what we’re doing, then let your people know about them and use them as ministry tools. There are people that will come see a movie that may not come in the door on Sunday morning to hear a sermon. So, use them as ministry tools.

And we’re grateful for those pastors that bring groups opening weekend to our films, ’cause when our distributor sees that the films are working, then they gave them even more theaters and more support, and that means more people see the ministry of it.

Mikel Del Rosario
That’s awesome. Alex, thank you so much for being with us here today.
Alex Kendrick
My pleasure. Thank you for having me.
Mikel Del Rosario
And we thank you so much for being with us on the table today. If you have a topic you would like us to consider for a future episode, please e-mail us at thetable@DTS.edu. We hope that you will join us again next week here on the table where we discuss issues of God and culture.
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Alex Kendrick
Alex Kendrick has dedicated his life to serving Jesus Christ and making His truth and love known among the nations through movies, books, speaking, and prayer. With a Bachelor of Science degree in Communications from Kennesaw State University, Alex and his brothers Stephen and Shannon operate Kendrick Brothers Productions. He and his family are active members at Sherwood Church in Albany, Georgia, where Alex was formerly on staff for 15 years. He wrote and and directed multiple movies, including Flywheel, Facing the Giants, Fireproof, Courageous, and War Room, all with the help of his local church body. Alex and his brother Stephen also co-authored multiple bestselling books. Alex has been interviewed by Good Morning America, ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, and a host of other televisions, radio, and print outlets.
Mikel Del Rosario
Mikel Del Rosario is a PhD student in New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, Project Manager for Cultural Engagement at the Hendricks Center, and Adjunct Professor of Apologetics and World Religion at William Jessup University. Mikel co-authors The Table Briefing articles in Bibliotheca Sacra with Darrell Bock, manages the Table Podcast, and helps Christians defend the faith with courage and compassion through his apologetics speaking ministry. He holds a Master of Theology (ThM) from DTS and an MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University.
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