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Sherwood Baptist Church, in Albany, Ga., has taken a bold step. They’ve decided to make movies as part of their ministry. Their first film, Fireproof, was a success in the evangelical community. It was their call to a vision of Christian marriage.

Now they’ve come out with Courageous, a visual treatise on Christian fatherhood. Four men, fellow police officers, face fatherhood challenges of different sorts, and they form a community for each other as they move forward.

Certainly there are consequences to the lack of involved, Christian fathers in our society—it’s a problem that deserves our attention. However, I find it unlikely that this preachy film, which appears to operate on the “tell, don’t show” philosophy, will effectively reach beyond the particular segment who backs it. If unchurched people don’t want to hear preaching at church, why would they want to hear it at the movies?

I found portions of the film convincing, and the production values of these movies are long way from Christian films of years past. Still, one part of the storyline has some apparently Christian businessmen “testing” a new employee in a way that can only be described as cruel. It is meant to be part of the theme of being tested, but it should never have made its way into the story.

The movie is well-intended, and it will likely be popular with Fireproof fans. And the marketing engine is chugging along with a plethora of Courageous-inspired books, greeting cards, t-shirts, and hats available at Christian retail stores. But the film could have more effectively told its story in less time and far fewer words, not to mention a couple of tangents in the storyline that I would prefer were cut altogether.

If it seems I’m being particularly harsh on a movie put out by fellow Christians, you’re right. I see churches being pushed to be part of the marketing process for faith-based movies, and if we are going to be identified with them, then I want to see movies that are excellent. I want to see stories and characters that challenge viewers to examine themselves without writing out their responses for them. I want to see Christians make movies that use the art of filmmaking to give light in the darkness and clues for exploring the mystery, rather than a live-action tract. Now that would be truly courageous. (Sherwood Pictures)

About the Author

Kristy Quist is Tuned In editor for The Banner and a member of Neland Ave. CRC in Grand Rapids, Mich.

See comments (6)


Kristy said,

Fireproof was Sherwood Pictures first film. Actually, it was the third, preceded by Flywheel, and Facing The Giants.

With the emasculation, and corruption, of the home and church in our society, this is a "must see" film. It represents faithfulness to the teaching of Scripture for the way the home and church ought to be.

Kristy said, "If people don't want to hear preaching at church, why would they want to hear it at the movies?"

Q&A 83 and 84 of the Heidelberg Catechism has a good answer.

Q 83. What are the keys to the kingdom?
A. The preaching of the holy gospel and Christian discipline toward repentance. Both preaching and discipline open the kingdom of heaven to believers and close it to unbelievers.

Q 84. How does preaching the gospel open and close the kingdom of heaven?
A. According to the command of Christ:
The kingdom of heaven is opened by proclaiming and publicly declaring to all believers, each and every one, that, as often as they accept the gospel promise in true faith, God, because of what Christ has done, truly forgives all sins.

The kingdom of heaven is closed, however, by proclaiming and publicly declaring to unbelievers and hypocrites that, as long as they do not repent, the anger of God and eternal condemnation rest on them.

God's judgment, both in this life and the life to come, is based on this testimony.

The Bible says, "How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" (Romans 10:14,15)

While some of your comments I am sure are accurate about the movie and the business of making movies... I truly feel you have complicated this message way too much!! And yes it is pretty surprising that you would be that harsh with a church and some people who are willing to take a shot at making a difference... rather than just talking a good game. This movie has given our ministry to and through men some great talking points. Like men stepping up and taking responsibility and men not accepting doing just enough as fathers... yes maybe to you this all seemed too "preachy" but sometimes we just need to get the message out... and being a man who is seeing the deficit in the leadership of our men in our homes... and in our church it is pretty disappointing to hear that message come from our denominational magazine. The whole ministry to men would be much better served by having us get behind efforts such as these and use them strategically to keep that message moving forward. It is no wonder that the whole Men's Life effort fell flat on it's face in our denomination while Coffee Break for women continues forward!!

I really disagree with you assessment of the movie, Courageous. The message is very clear and simple in the need to step up to the authoruty of God in participiating in their families and the lives of their children. I believe you are being caught up in the marketing of the film and are missing the message entirely.

Men are NOT DOING what they should do in their families. The prisons in America are full of examples of men who either did not have a father or their father choose to not set an examples for them or show them what is right or what is wrong.

I think the movie's message is to encourage men to step up and sign a Resolution to change their life direction and accept responsibility. How can you be harsh on this message??

Rich Jousma

I am on staff at Promise Keepers Canada and we have been promoting this movie since the day we found out about it and saw the pre-screenings. I haven't talked to a single man (or woman, for that matter) who wasn't moved by this movie. I completely agree that your assessment is way too judging on film-making Christian men who understand the lack of fathers in our society and its drastic effects. Working in an organization for men I can tell you we have a serious problem in our churches in addressing the men. For too long the church has emasculated men and failed to challenge them to rise up and be men who will fight for their families and what they believe in and forced them to settle for a womanized version of church that is found nowhere in scripture. The church needs men to be men - Godly men. And in response to the "test" scene - which was one of my favourite scenes - when I saw the movie in the theatre with my wife, half the people in the theatre broke out in applause because they completely understood that there is a lack of integrity in our culture today. Is this movie preaching to the choir? Probably. But if the church doesn't get the message, then tragically the world won't either.

Please go to this link regarding another Christian movie titled "The Genesis Code". Maybe you should be a little more open. People can come to really follow Christ in many ways, in the science room or from a "preachy film".

According to this article "Zandstra (Pastor and film producer) said that he also recognizes that the success of films such as “Courageous” is producing a 'very exciting time to be a Christian who loves movies.'"

'There is clearly a real want and need for high quality faith-based films like 'The Genesis Code' and 'Courageous,'' he said."

I became aware of "The Genesis Code" listening to former Senator Fred Thompson on the radio, discussing the movie Courageous. Mr. Thompson is in the cast of The Genesis Code.

I recently saw this movie in theaters. I had low expectations, I went in with a critical spirit ready to point out anything I saw that seemed cheesy. As a communications major, it's easy for me to criticize Christian art that I view as unrealistic but, over this semester I have learned a number of things that should be taken into account when critiquing Christian media. These things help me to filter the media I take consume.
The main filter is to analyze what group or market the media was intended for. If Courageous is intended to strictly be an evangelistic effort then many of your critiques are correct. Unbelievers are not going to pay to sit for two hours at the theater to be preached at. But a quote from Sherwood Pictures website states "Our goal from day one has been to make family-friendly movies that build on the Judeo Christian ethic and communicate the gospel without compromise. We want to make movies you could take your girlfriend or your grandmother to without embarrassment." Their goal isn't really to evangelize the world through movies. Their goal is to produce wholesome movies that lift up Christian values and the Gospel in an unapologetic manner. If you judge Courageous based on that model, they actually did a great job. Another note, is that these movies really aren't made for unbelievers, they are made to uplift the church. They are 'for the tribe' so to speak. While you may have a problem with this particular philosophy, you must admit if that's what they're trying to do, they are rather successful.
Since I judged Courageous to be a movie for Christians, by Christians, not only was I happy with the end result but was also happy with the overall message of the movie. The truth is that men in the church need to step up and reclaim Biblical manhood. In reclaiming this they need to step up and accept their responsibility as fathers. Ephesians 6:4 calls fathers to bring up their children in the training and instruction of the Lord. Proverbs 22:6 says that parents should train up a child in the way he should go, so that when he is old he does not depart from it. However, today in the church I wonder if many fathers have abandoned this role to the Youth Pastor or youth group. It would be easy to understand how this could happen, the busyness of life and work, the general teenage rebellion against parents, the questions young adults begin to have about life, faith and purpose. A youth pastor is trained to handle all those things right? Let the kids be discipled by them, they're probably in better hands there. Wrong. I have nothing against youth pastors, I do have something against fathers abandoning their God-given call and responsibility to another man. Your local youth pastor is not who God in His sovereignty placed over your children. He placed you over them and He has given you the privilege of training and discipling them. The truth of the matter is Sherwood Pictures looked at the church culture in America used the medium of film to communicate an indispensable message that is tremendously relevant to the church today. Courageous handled this theme well and in a convicting manner. I applaud the fact that they took a stand on such an important issue and hopefully did urge many Christian fathers out of passivity and into activity.