Movie Life: Changing Roles
About the Guest
Alex and Stephen Kendrick, co-founders of Sherwood Pictures and writers and producers of the hit Christian films Flywheel, Facing the Giants, Fireproof and Courageous sit down with FamilyLife Today's co-host Bob Lepine to talk about life, filmmaking, and Stephen and his wife's adoption of their new daughter, Mia, from China.
Alex and Stephen Kendrick, co-founders of Sherwood Pictures, sit down with Bob Lepine to talk about life.
Bob: Since they made the movie, Courageous, Alex and Stephen Kendrick have been busy with other people’s projects. Alex has a featured role in an upcoming movie called Mom’s Night Out. Stephen has been consulting with other Christian filmmakers. Both of them agree—not being in charge feels very different.
Alex: It was different to go on set—when we’re prone to say: “Alright, guys. Let’s all gather around. This is the standard. This is how we’re praying. This is the vision for this scene,”—and then, I can’t do that.
But I enjoy—Stephen and I are rooting for this Christian film genre to continue to grow. We’re trying to invest and, at least, share what we’ve learned, up to this point, with as many as we can—in hopes that this next generation of Christian filmmakers will get better, and better, and better, and more effective at presenting the truth.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today forTuesday, December 31st. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.
We’ll visit today with Alex and Stephen Kendrick and catch up on what the Kendrick brothers have been doing since they made their last movie. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Tuesday edition—the New Year’s Eve edition. Tomorrow, it’ll be 2014. I bet there’ll be some people going to the movies tonight because a lot of people, on New Year’s Eve—
Dennis: Oh, yes.
Bob: —either watch a movie at home or go out to the theaters.
Dennis: In doing all this radio—we’ve done over the past 22 years now; right?
Bob: Yes. Or into—we’re in our twenty-second year; yes.
Dennis: One of the things that came out, early on, was that most families go to the movie on Christmas and New Year’s—and on some of the major family holidays. It’s like: “We don’t know how to live with each other. We go to a movie!” [Laughter]
Bob: Well, we’re going to talk about movies today because, not long ago, our friends, Alex and Stephen Kendrick, stopped by and shared with our staff a little of what’s going on in their lives—plans for their next movie. We thought, “Can we share that with our listeners?” And they said, “Sure!”
Dennis: They’re good men and good friends. I really admire these guys and how they’re using their talents for God’s purposes and what He’s up to on this planet. Let me just say something, Bob, before we introduce them and get on with the interview that you performed in front of our staff, which was kind of fun.
It is the end of the year—the last day that you can give and get a tax deduction for 2013. I just want to encourage our listeners: “If you’ve been blessed by FamilyLife Today, this would be a good day to give.”
Bob: This would be a good day.
Dennis: You can go online and make your donation, and say, “I stand with you, guys,” and, “Do what you can to build families across this country.”
Bob: We’re going to be staying late today—phones will be open. You can call us to make a donation at 1-800-FL-TODAY. You can go online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the button that says, “I CARE”, and make an online donation; or you can mail a check. As long as it’s postmarked with today’s postmark, it still qualifies as a year-end donation. Mail your check to P O Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223.
Please pray for us—that we would finish this year strong—and let us say, “Thank you for your support of the ministry,”—those of you, who have gotten in touch with us in December—we appreciate you getting in touch.
Dennis: Yes, and let me say a special thanks to our Legacy Partners: “Thank you, each and every one of you families, for standing with us. You are a very important part of this ministry by giving monthly.”
Bob: Alright; let’s hear, now, what’s going on with the brothers—Alex and Stephen Kendrick. We’re going to talk about their plans for a new movie; but first, we’re going to talk about some of what’s going on in their private lives.
Bob: Nice to have you guys here.
Alex: Always good to be here.
Bob: So, let’s start with the important stuff. Why don’t you hand that to your brother, [Laughter] and we’ll show a picture. You tell us about your family; alright?
So here’s the picture.
Stephen: There she is.
Bob: Tell us the story.
Stephen: My wife and I have had four biological children. There were still empty seats around the table. I knew we were not done having kids, and my wife started talking about adoption.
When we were flying, in February, to approve the final print on Courageous before it went to theaters—I’m sitting on an airplane—and I’m reading in John 10 about Jesus being our Shepherd. I’m thinking, at the same time, about my role as a father—being a shepherd over my children. I get down to this verse where Jesus says, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold, that I must bring to become a part of this fold; and then, we’ll have one Shepherd and one fold.” I know that’s about the Gentiles being included in the gospel; but that morning, the Lord just took that Scripture and punched me in the face with it. He said, “You need to be open to adoption.”
So, I turned to my wife on the airplane and said, “I think God’s telling us we need to be open to adoption.” She was already there—she’s like “Yes!” You know? I wrote “Adoption” next to that verse in my Bible and dated it.
So, you fast-forward two years later. We’d already filled out all the paperwork. We’re in Israel with our pastor and our church. They start sending us these referrals. You know, you get a picture of this little orphan from China; and, “Do you want to adopt this child?” My wife’s all excited, and I’m excited, too; but the Lord—just, in my spirit—it was like, “Nope. This is not her.” We prayed through it for awhile, and I turned down this referral. My wife cried, you know—we’re thinking—but I did not have a peace about it. They sent us another referral—nope. No peace about it.
A month later, they sent us another referral. No peace about it. So, then, I called the adoption agency and said, “How does this work?—because this is really hard!
“Every time we’re praying through it—and I feel like I can’t move forward—and I don’t know why. I don’t know if it’s fear inside of me or if this is God.” He said, “Well, sometimes people may turn down one or two,”—this is after I had already turned down three. He said, “But, you know, you need to do whatever the Lord leads you to do.”
I called another family. They said, “Stephen, if it’s not a ‘Yes,’ it’s a ‘No.’” They said, “If God doesn’t give you a peace of mind, it’s a ‘No.’”
They sent us a fourth referral. Same situation—I turned down four referrals. In February, of that year, they quit sending us referrals. I was kind of relieved because it was this heart-breaking experience every time.
Then, this year, in March, they sent us a referral. It was like the Lord said: “That’s her. That’s who you’ve been waiting on all this time.” This little girl was born with a heart condition. Her mom abandoned her in Nanjing, China—to save her life, really. Well, we did all the research—her mom couldn’t afford the surgeries—wrapped her in a—red blanket, which means, “Good luck, and I love you,”
put all of her medical condition information with her, and left her outside of a bank—where people who have money, you know, are.
Stephen: I was getting ready to go through this same process of turning this down. I turned to my wife; and I said, “I really like this girl!” She said, “Me, too.” I said, “I think this is the one;” and she said, “It is.” [Laughter]
She was born on February—[Laughter] She was born on February 14, 2011—Valentine’s Day. My wife turned to me; and she said, “She was born on Valentine’s Day with a broken heart.”
We said, “Yes.” We locked all that in, moved forward with it, and we were very excited about it. My wife, a few weeks later, said, “When did God tell you that we were supposed to adopt?” I was like, “I don’t know.” She said, “Didn’t you write it in your Bible?” So, I went back, and I found my Bible, and opened it up—February 14, 2011.
Stephen: The day that she was born in China was the day God told me, “You need to adopt.” [Applause]
When we got there, the name, Mia, was the name God had given us for her. In the Greek, Mia means “one” or “first”. When you see it in Ephesians 4—“We have one Lord, one faith, one baptism,”—in the feminine, it’s the word, mia.
And then, in John 11—“I have other sheep that are not of this fold, and they will be a part of this fold,”—that verse God gave me—the word, mia, is in that passage. We get to China; and her mom had named her Yi-Fang, which in Chinese, that’s—that’s the word, “one” or “first”. It’s the same name.
Then, we found out that the day God had prompted us to pray, in June of that same year, was the day that she was having her heart surgery to save her life. All these things—God just said, “I’m in this.” We went to China, and we got her. This year, God has just blown my mind with His heart for the orphan.
I’ve been studying Scripture about the plight of the orphan. They’re the poorest of the poor. They’re destitute. No one hears their cry. And God says, in Psalm 68:5: “I’m the father to the fatherless. I will place the lonely into families.”
And then, I’ve been studying the doctrine of adoption in Scripture—in the New Testament—that God says that He doesn’t just justify us and declare us righteous when we give our life to Christ—He doesn’t just regenerate us and make us new—but He says, “No, I want you to be My children; and I’m adopting you into My family.”
It’s interesting—the Holy Spirit—the Bible says—is a Spirit of adoption; whereby, God adopts us into His family. That Spirit of adoption causes us to cry out, “Abba, Father,”—that we were orphans—destitute, away from God—and God causes us, in with His Holy Spirit, to pray to God and cry out, “Abba, Father,” which is what Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane—to His Daddy.
And that—for the orphans—who have no one to hear their cry—you and I have One who always hears our cry—our heavenly Father.
Bob: Wow. Is that cool? [Applause]
So, you been doing anything significant or—[Laughter]
Alex: I can’t top that. [Laughter] I rejoice with him. It was—you know, he was sending me pictures from China, while they were over there. That was so cool to see God work—you know—and I got to enjoy this story as it was happening.
He would send me one thing; and I would be like, “No way!” Then, a couple days later, news comes; and, “No way!” It’s just obvious how you see the Lord working—the Lord working. The Lord is the author of this story.
And when you depend on Him, and are seeking Him, and you wait on Him—which is so hard to do—when you wait, and wait, and wait—but the end of this story is, “Aww, you can’t beat that story!” It’s incredible what the Lord does.
Bob: It is a cool story. This spring, we’re going to get see you in theaters again; right?
Alex: Yes. It’s not a Kendrick brothers’ film; but we have a dear friend, Kevin Downs, and then, the Irwin brothers. The Irwins did the movie, October Baby. Then, Kevin Downs plays my police officer partner in Courageous.
Dennis: The crooked guy.
Alex: Yes; but he loves the Lord. They are finishing up a movie called Moms’ Night Out. It is a hilarious story about a group of dads that get together to watch all of these three families’ kids—while they send the moms on a night out, just to—they get dressed up and go to their nicest restaurant—and what happens when they come up with this simple plan: “We’re going to take our kids to a Chuck-E Cheese®-like place—just burn them out—playing games, go home, and put them to bed.”
And it just didn’t go that way! A lot of funny things happen; but in the course of the movie, you realize how priceless the role of a mom is—and how she nurtures and cares for these kids in way that God designed her to do. You see this tender, funny story played out. About the end of the movie, there are some wonderful heart-tender moments—that people will no doubt laugh and cry.
But I get to be the pastor in the movie. The lady that plays my wife is Patricia Heaton—if you all have seen Everybody Loves Raymond—very sweet lady and very open about her faith. I was pleasantly surprised by her own testimony—and praying together before scenes, and things like that.
Bob: Robert Amaya—who was in Courageous—
Alex: Yes, Robert Amaya, who plays Javier, the Snake King, in Courageous. He’s in this movie, as well. He does some hilarious stuff. So Kevin Downs, Robert Amaya, and me, from Courageous—
Bob: And Samwise Gamgee.
Alex: Yes! Sean Astin! He is—he plays one of the hobbits in Lord of the Rings. I really enjoyed getting to know him. He is a funny, funny guy in real life. We were able to spend a lot of time talking about the Lord. Then, Trace Adkins, who’s a country music star.
There were many Christians in this movie, and some not there yet; but we were able to minister to them. We were able to talk for 45 minutes to an hour. We were able to plant a lot of seeds there. So, I want to encourage you to pray for these guys.
Bob: Tell us what it was like not being in charge.
Alex: Well, Stephen and I have enjoyed growing up and telling these stories. And up through Courageous, we had only done the projects the Lord had given us to do. And we have more coming, so I’m excited about that.
But we went through a season where Stephen was consulting with another Christian film, and I’m helping Kevin on his film. It was different to go on set—when we’re prone to say: “Alright, guys. Let’s all gather around. This is the standard. This is how we’re praying. This is the vision for this scene,” and then, I can’t do that. So, yes, there’s a part of me that it is hard for.
Alex: But I love these guys—you know, Robert, and Kevin, and the Irwins—putting these movies together. We’re all learning, and growing, and learning how to tell stories of redemption that can minister to the masses.
And I got to talk with the other actors a lot more. Normally, a director meets with the gaffer, who does all the lighting; and the director of photography, to pick all the angles. He’s doing that while the actors are, over here, rehearsing. Then, you bring them in. They walk through, and they block the scene, and then, you jump in.
So, when I’m an actor and director, there’s never a time I’m not doing one of those things. If you come on, just as an actor, you can sit there and say, “Bring me some more sweet tea please.” [Laughter] You make sure everything’s right—and you’ve rehearsed your lines—and then you go on and do it.
But it is different, but I enjoyed—Stephen and I are rooting for this Christian film genre to continue to grow. We’re trying to invest and, at least, share what we’ve learned, up to this point, with as many as we can—in hopes that this next generation of Christian filmmakers will get better, and better, and better, and more effective at presenting the truth.
Bob: Yes, Stephen, you formalized that process a little bit in the last year because, always on your films, you were—a part of the agenda was to nurture young filmmakers and bring them along; but you’ve kind of taken a more intentional step. Tell everybody about that.
Stephen: This year, with our pastor’s blessing, we have launched out. Alex and I are making the next movie independent of Sherwood Pictures. This came after two or three years of prayer. What God began to really make it clear to us was—we were nurturing this one apple tree in our Sherwood garden—but then, if we’re going to think big-picture, and long- term, and be an impact, in the nations, for Christ—we need to be planting a whole orchard of apple trees for the kingdom. So, we’re going to be making this next movie; and we’re going to be intentionally trying to pull in more young Christian filmmakers.
Alex: Yes, it just—if someone says, “Oh, you’re leaving Sherwood,” no, we’re—Sherwood is our home-base—that’s our church. We’re still there—still ordained ministers there—but if somebody says, “Well, why are you doing this?”
Well, two quick things—number one, all of our movies were shot modern-day—Albany, Georgia. We’re thinking: “Well, my goodness. What about all these other plots the Lord’s laying on our heart?
“Do we have to shoot everything modern-day Albany, Georgia?” Well, we love Albany. That’s been our home for over a decade, and we love the church; but we have to shoot there, if we do it in the current model, because the volunteers are there.
And the second thing is—instead of using volunteers, that are wonderful people—I mean, they’re amazing people—but they’re not going to make films if we’re not making films. They have day-jobs.
So, we want to pass the torch—or begin passing the torch—to the next generation of filmmakers—like Stephen said—helping them mature and grow. If we can mentor them—they go with us wherever we need to make a movie—and then, at the end of this time, they’ve got a movie-making experience to take—and hopefully, as the Lord calls them—not in Kendrick brothers’ name—but as the Lord calls them to make more films for the kingdom. That’s when we talk about planting an orchard of apple trees. We have to invest in the next generation. As you know, whoever wants the next generation the most will get them.
Bob: Explain the process you guys go through in deciding, “What’s the next movie project for us?” because you’re in the midst of that, right now.
Stephen: Oh, yes. When we have the direction for the next to do, we’re very excited about it.
We believe that whatever you do, you need to lay the groundwork in prayer. It’s preparing the field for the crop and the harvest. So, what we do—we go through a season of prayer. Then, at some point, it’s almost like He downloads—the whole theme, the direction, the plot-points—things like that. He’s done that for this next film already.
Bob: So—can you tell us?
Stephen: Yes. I’ll give you a piece of it—an appetizer. As far as the theme—most of us have some strategy for our finances. If I said, “How many people have some strategy for finances?” most of you would raise your hand. If I said, “How many people have some strategy for your health?” many of you would raise your hands. “Well, this is on this diet,” or, “This—we’re going to stay away from this.” “I’m going to eat more of this,” or, “I’m working out. I’m doing this and that.” You have some strategy for—many areas of your life you have a strategy for.
But how many of us have a prayer strategy for our marriage, for our children, for our own personal walk with God?
And I’m not talking about for your meals, a trip, or when you’re sick. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m saying—where you have a prayer strategy—“These are the verses. These are the principles, from Scripture, that I am applying to my marriage. I’m asking the Lord to draw us closer together and closer to the Lord—to give us a new heart and one mind,” you know.
My wife and I are one unit. We are not two people that sometimes are opposed to one another. We are one unit—we have to operate as one unit. And you go—you pray for your kids. You pray for their future spouses, you pray for their heart, for what God’s called them to do—for wisdom, discernment, all those things. You pray for your pastor—for your church. You pray for this ministry.
How many of us have those kinds of detailed prayer strategies?—just like you do for your health, your finance, or something else—your kids’ education. We don’t! Why? That’s the most important thing you can do. What do the Scriptures say about going into your closet—alone with you and the Lord? Prayer is not entertaining. Prayer takes work! Prayer is—you have to work at prayer like you have to work at your marriage and at your job! Prayer is not always, initially, fulfilling;
but the Lord says: “Seek Me, and you’ll find Me if you seek Me with all your heart.” “The prayers of a righteous man accomplish much.”
And so, this next film is about learning how to do battle on your knees first—getting alone with the Lord and saying: “For my marriage…” and, “For my children…” “For my family…” “For my church…” “For my personal ministry…” “For these missionaries…” or whatever the Lord lays on Your heart—that you develop a prayer strategy. You turn your closet, or wherever you pray privately, into a war room.
So, this film will be about these people struggling in certain issues; including, marriage. The Lord begins sending people to teach them how to do battle in prayer—to develop prayer strategies. At the end of this movie, we want people to step up and say: “Lord, I have to increase my prayer life. I need to begin, not just venting or being frustrated about certain areas of my life—venting about my marriage and complaining—I need to do warfare. I need to begin building prayer strategies for these areas of my life.”
The Lord calls us, and He gives you the ammunition to do that. When they leave, we want to fire them up—give them a picture of what it looks like—that it is a battle—that it is work—that it is worth it!
Bob: So Alex, you’re at the very beginning of this. What does it take to get from where you are today to when we’ll go the theater and see this?
Alex: We lay the groundwork in prayer. He gives us the theme and the idea. Then, He starts dropping in these scenes. And Stephen and I will—this is a common conversation. We’ll meet—and we do, several times, every week—and we say, “Hey, God gave me another piece for this next film,” or, “God gave me another element for this thing.”
So, when we start writing them down; and you get excited. What we always do is—we take these little colored sticky-notes—they may be yellow, blue, green, red, whatever—and we write down these things. We put them all over the wall. They’re all over the place! And the work begins. We move them around and put them in the right order. We write a story that, hopefully, people will sit there—and they’ll see themselves on the screen.
Bob: Stephen, can you give us a rough idea of when we might go to the theater and see this?
Stephen: Usually, it happens in three-month blocks to ramp all the way up to it. Alex and I are going to spend the next three months writing the script. We’ll do pre-production for three months. Lord-willing, we’ll shoot next spring for three months. Then, we’ll do editing for about three months. So, it’ll probably be the spring or the fall of 2015.
Bob: Well, we’ve been listening to a recent conversation with Alex and Stephen Kendrick. Of course, Alex is going to be with us, here in a few weeks, on the Love Like You Mean It® marriage cruise—which is sold-out, again, for 2014—and looking forward to being with our listeners on that.
Dennis: We are. He’s a good man, but I get concerned about anybody who watches movies in his mind. [Laughter]
Bob: Got all those stories running him?
Dennis: Just think about that! That can be a blessing; but also—it’s kind of like, “What’s the latest movie you’ve seen,Alex?” “Which one?—in my mind or in the movie?”
Anyway, he’s a good man. We love Alex and Stephen. Let me just say a word about the cruise—for those who missed out this year. We have a good one coming next year—for 2015. If you have an anniversary, you know—one-year, five-, ten-, fifteen-, twenty-, twenty-five-, thirty-, or more—or twenty-two—I mean, twenty-two years—
Bob: We’d love to have you join us. [Laughter]
Dennis: Just celebrate. Come on—join us!
Bob: You can find out more about the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click on the link you find there. All the details are available. And just in case you—you’re listening today—and you go, “I’ve never heard of these guys—the Kendricks—and I haven’t seen any of their movies.” Well, we have a DVD of their last film, Courageous. It’s in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order a copy of the film, online, and watch it at home. See what these guys are doing, in terms of making great Christian films.
Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com to order a copy of the movie, Courageous.
Now, of course, as Dennis mentioned, this is the last day of 2013. Thanks to all of you who have made year-end contributions to help support FamilyLife Today. We appreciate your financial support of this ministry.
Today, is the last chance for you to make a 2013 donation and have it credited on your income tax for 2013. And it’s easy to do. You can go, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com—make your donation online. Just click the button that says, “I CARE”, to make an online donation. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY—make a donation over the phone. Or you can mail a check to us. Just make sure you get it postmarked with today’s postmark if you want it to count for 2013.
Mail it to FamilyLife Today at P O Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and the zip code is 72223. We hope to hear from you. Thanks, in advance, for whatever you’re able to do in support of the ministry.
And we hope you can join us back tomorrow on New Year’s Day—when our friend, Dannah Gresh, is going to be here. We’re going to talk about boy-crazy girls and how they need to get rid of their idols. Danna will explain what she means tomorrow. Hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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