Monday, October 06, 2008
Churches are in the movie-making business these days. It’s not all that surprising, really. The technology required to make stunning images is available to just about everyone.
Church folks have long felt that their values and message rarely if ever make it to the big silver screen through established channels. Seated in those arena worship centers now popping up all over the country are writers and technicians and actors and directors and even investors aplenty. And there are, indeed, a few success stories (Facing the Giants). The surprising work of a crew of focused, talented but unlikely people has paved the road – all the way to distribution and release right there in our local multiplex cinema.
Evangelistic film-making has been around for a long time. Billy Graham was one of the first to recognize the power of cinema to touch people’s lives and challenge their thinking. Along with his friend Billy Zeoli, they pioneered a series of such films. We watched them back then – Time to Run, The Hiding Place, Joni, The Restless Ones, The Gospel Blimp. But now, there is a whole new generation of artists creating and producing their original stories. With the advent of home theaters and new ways of delivering content, I’m guessing we’ll see many more.
This weekend we caught the new release of a touching film about marriage. A fireman and his young wife, a community relations director at the local hospital, are seven years into their marriage. Caleb and Catherine Holt are in serious conflict. Their fairy tale romance has turned into a nightmare; both attractive people caught in their demanding careers and living separate lives. Captain Holt commands a motley crew over at the fire station. Catherine is a shining light down at the hospital. But they’ve drifted far apart. Neither believes that the romance that brought them to the altar is retrievable.
I’m trying to remember a film whose aim it is to deal frankly with the issues that divide a married couple and then find a path toward renewal and reconciliation. I can’t think of one. The generally accepted cultural assumption in our world is this: when love goes, so does the marriage and oh well. We’re all resilient. We can find what we’re looking for somewhere else. Mismatches happen. We just move on.
Ultimately, this movie counters that view. The dynamics of conflict are real. But so is the value of hanging on. No matter what. The tension is palpable. And compelling.
Enter Caleb’s (played by Kirk Cameron the former Mike Seaver from television’s Growing Pains) father, a southern gentleman with a story for his self-reliant son. Caleb knows that his folks nearly broke up a short time back. Then something happened. On a walk in the woods, Dad makes a modest proposal – a forty day challenge. He hands Caleb a leather bound journal with handwritten instructions. The reluctant son is willing, but extremely doubtful.
Catherine (played by Erin Bethea, in real life a member at the church that made the movie and more recently Disney World employee in Florida) is, well, seared. The feelings are gone. The respect, absent. Neither of them want to be home. Their dreams have vanished. She’s vulnerable to a doctor’s advances over at the hospital.
Both of them prefer work, where they are valued and admired. But at home, well, it’s an empty, stressful place. They want out.
I won’t spoil the rest. Fireproof (in theaters) comes on strong. Be prepared for a frontal explanation of the Gospel. Bring along your hanky. The emotion is raw. There are a few satisfying twists that will make you glad you stayed all the way to the end.
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It’s Monday morning. You are a leader. There are lots of threats to marriage out there. This week is no exception. We’re living with a more than usual uncertainty. There is no shortage of doom scenarios floating around in the headlines and in the boardrooms and across the kitchen tables.
Our churches have been intentional about attracting seekers. This is a good thing. But Os Guiness makes profound point. He distinguishes between seekers and drifters. He suggests (in his penetrating book, The Call) that many people we may consider “seekers” are in reality “drifters.” It’s easy to be a drifter. Short term commitments. All options remain on the table. Get uncomfortable, just move on. No need to explain. Move with the herd.
Authentic seekers aren’t content until they find answers. They are ever looking for deeper understanding, higher levels of performance, better ways to explain, greater degrees of efficiency, more powerful measure of impact. It’s a sanctified discontent that drives the seeker towards a fearless pursuit of the truth.
We spent five hours this week with a genuine seeker. Jay Kesler, at seventy-two, is relentless. As I write, a young friend of mine from Kosova is wearing out a pair of shoes on the streets and sidewalks of Washington DC in tireless pursuit of his calling. Festim is a seeker.
Fictional Caleb Holt is a seeker, too. Drifters let it go. Seekers keep on until the promise is fulfilled.
Seek, and you will find.
Copyright Kenneth E Kemp, 2008