A year later, Courageous is still scratching where men itch
| by Robert White
When Courageous finished, instead of rushing for the exits, “the whole theatre kept sitting down for the credits,” Promise Keepers Canada president Kirk Giles recalls about the first time he saw the movie with his family. “There was dead silence, an almost reflective silence, in the room.”
But Giles also heard about viewings where the whole audience clapped, or, in one case, gave a standing ovation.
“I’ve heard stories of men who have never been emotionally moved by much who cried during the movie,” says Giles. “I’ve heard the story of a man watching the DVD at home who started to cry, couldn’t contain himself and had to get up and leave the room. He was so emotionally overwhelmed by what he was witnessing— how close to home it hit.”
Now, nearly a year since the fourth film from Sherwood Pictures was released, and about six months since the DVD hit the shelves, the movie still challenges men to live a life of courageous faith by being the men God has called them to be.
Raise the bar
With production values that are raising the bar in Christian filmmaking, Sherwood Pictures followed up Fireproof, the number one independent film of 2008, with Courageous.
The movie, released in the fall of 2011 tells the story of four law enforcement officers whose calling to serve and protect seemed to stop at the front door of their homes. When tragedy hits one, they struggle together to define themselves as men, fathers and spiritual leaders, realizing that being good enough wasn’t good enough.
Knowing the impact the movie was going to have, Promise Keepers Canada tried to connect with the producers, while it was still being filmed, about being one of their ministry partners.
“We got nowhere,” says Giles.
Then, days before he left for holidays last July, Giles got a call from Crossroads Christian Communications CEO Don Simmonds about bringing Courageous to Canada and partnering with Promise Keepers.
“We knew right away it was something we wanted to be a part of. It was just a matter of finalizing the details,” says Giles. “We were happy with the process and the results the movie has had in the lives of men across the country.”
“Our prayer as ministry from day one was that men wouldn’t just watch the movie and say ‘that was a good movie.’ We wanted to see men who were so profoundly impacted that their children, their wives and the people around them would look back after a year and say ‘wow he’s a different man and God’s been really, actively been shaping this man as a father and a husband’ and movie played a real big part in that.”
Like the men at True North Church in Milton, Ontario where Paul LaVigne, who has seen Courageous four times, heads the men’s ministry.
“It spoke deeply to me,” says the father of two daughters (five and eight years old). The transformation of the movie’s main character from a father who was disconnected to one who was very connected “pushed me over the edge.
“I saw what God wanted from me as a father and husband.”
Courageous and the accompanying book, The Resolution for Men, have become the core of the church’s men’s ministry, says LaVigne. Clips from the movie are shown at men’s ministry meetings to reinforce the message and accountability groups have grown.
Pierced the heart
“It hasn’t been a movie we’ve just watched, been impacted by and walked away from,” he says, suggesting the Courageous curriculum is one the church may revisit regularly.
“It’s really pierced the heart of our church.”
Courageous also pierced LaVigne’s heart, especially the scene where the daughter of one of the police officers asks her dad to dance with her in a park. Instead of courageously accepting the invitation, the father stayed in his parked pickup truck and watched as the daughter pretend to dance with him in a scene that would play a significant part later in the movie.
“I’ve had some instances, call them ‘Courageous’ moments, personal moments where I had the choice of not engaging or engaging with my daughters. There was one time when my wife said ‘come dance with us, Daddy.’”
Recalling that moment, LaVigne says he couldn’t put a price on the “joy she had from the small effort I made.” Because of the movie, when he has a choice to do something for himself or something for his family, he more inclined to choose family.
“I don’t want to miss the opportunity to dance with my daughters or my wife when they ask me to because I am too proud or too busy,” he says.
Courageous producer and co-writer Stephen Kendrick isn’t surprised by the film’s long-lasting impact.
“We’d seen God work miraculously with Facing the Giants and Fireproof that we knew He’d do something big again,” Kendrick says.
The movie has spanned the generations, he suggests as young men get “a vision, for the first time, of what manhood looks like.” And older men are getting involved in the lives of their children and grandchildren.
What has surprised Kendrick is the success of The Resolution for Men book, co-written with his brother Alex (who also co-wrote and starred in the film) and veteran writer Randy Alcorn.
Created as a resource to accompany the film, the book is an unapologetic call for men to live courageously for their faith and their families. The Resolution for Men wasn’t featured in the film, unlike The Love Dare book that played a prominent role in Fireproof.
“Large groups of men are going through the book and getting a new vision of what courageous fatherhood means,” says Kendrick, suggesting there’s a new caliber of men in local churches—men who look at the commands of Christ to spiritual warfare and courageous leadership.
“Twenty or 30 years from now, we hope the next generation will say ‘our whole family got better the day when Dad grabbed hold of the spiritual steering wheel,’” says Kendrick.
As Giles crosses the country, he’s been encouraged by the stories he’s heard about the impact of Courageous on men.
“Men are taking their role of spiritual leadership more seriously,” says Giles. “One man I know, for the first time, now makes sure they’re doing family devotions every day. And every Sunday, after church, he sits down with his family and they debrief the sermon.”
He’s also seen the domino effect the movie and subsequent studies have had on men.
“If a man was moved emotionally by what he saw at the movie, the study became the environment where he began the process,” says he says. “[Fatherhood is] the one place in his life where every man would say that’s where he wants to shine.
“Courageous has touched on maybe one of the greatest felt needs that any man as a father has—to be more than just good enough.”
Robert White, a freelance journalist from Guelph, Ont., has a teenaged daughter who is now embarrassed to dance with him and a 20-year-old son to whom he’s trying to pass on the lessons of Courageous before he gets married this summer.
The article above is featured in the special July/August 2012 issue of SEVEN magazine.