MARSHALL - A lot of people could argue that Alex Kendrick's books, films and speeches should include a warning, that the experience could be life-changing for anyone, because his message is that powerful.
Kendrick, an ordinary man with an extraordinary relationship with God, provided the keynote presentation for approximately 600 people in attendance at the sixth annual Marshall Area Christian School (MACS) Promise Banquet Tuesday night at Southwest Minnesota State University.
Kendrick spoke about developing a passion for making home movies while growing up in Georgia with his brothers Shannon and Stephen.
Photo by Jenny Kirk
Lance Minor, left, of Brookings, S.D., looks on as his book is signed by Alex Kendrick while attending the 2013 Marshall Area Christian School Promise Banquet Tuesday at Southwest Minnesota State University. Kendrick is an actor, writer, director and producer of four Christian feature films in the past decade.
"When those big, bulky video cameras came out, we begged our parents to get us one," he said. "They were like a suitcase on your shoulder. We started making home videos with the kids in our neighborhood. In them, James Bond became Saving Bond and Indiana Jones was Alabama Jones, and they all had the same plot: shake 'em down and beat 'em up."
Kendrick also thought it was cool to jump off a neighbor's two-story house into a swimming pool, until his parents saw the footage and grounded him. What he learned in time, however, was that he was capable of wickedness, and that he was in serious need of a savior.
"I knew about Jesus Christ and that the Bible was a real book, but the Lord began to impress on my heart that he wanted a relationship with me," Kendrick said. "So in 10th grade, I surrendered my life to the Lord. Basically, I said to him: 'You are now my boss. Whatever you want me to do with my life, that's what I'll do.'"
After experiencing high school, college and seminary life, Kendrick was called to Albany, Ga., with his wife Christina, to run the Sherwood Baptist Church media mission. Albany is a town of about 100,000 people and a place where movies were never made, he said. But in 2002, after reading an article about a recent survey, all of that changed.
"It was said in a random survey that movies, television and the Internet were considered the three most influential factors in our culture," Kendrick said. "I took that information to our pastor."
Kendrick suggested trying to make a difference by creating one local movie in the hopes of getting it into the one local theater for people to see. That same year, he founded Sherwood Pictures and began work on "Flywheel."
"I'll tell you right now, I didn't have a clue how to make a feature film," he said. "I remember shooting a scene in the afternoon, and it got too dark. So we came back Monday, but we forgot what we were wearing and one guy had a haircut. You can't do that in a movie. I realized how hard it is to make a feature film. The only thing I did right is that I begged God to put his hand on me. I said: 'Lord, I will do whatever you call me to do.'"
Kendrick said that the more everyone involved prayed, the more God would open certain doors and shut other doors. God not only provided the money with no strings attached, he said, but also the people to come help and the locations to shoot at, answering dozens and dozens of prayers.
"It was amazing," Kendrick said. "God had bigger things in mind. That one movie that was meant for one theater, to date, has sold almost a million DVDs. I learned that there is a difference between a good idea and a God idea."
No one had a clue that "Flywheel" would do as well as it did, Kendrick said. While in awe, Kendrick didn't sit around patting himself on the back. Neither did Stephen Kendrick, who worked with his brother to write, direct and produce the film.
"Our pastor came to us and asked if we had any more movie ideas," Kendrick said. "I said 'of course,' and then went and prayed for it."
Together, the Kendrick brothers have produced three other Christian movies - "Facing the Giants," "Fireproof" and Courageous.
"I did have a love for making movies, but I learned a valuable lesson," Kendrick said. "Sometimes, God will give you a vision or a desire, but then he'll allow that vision to die so that when he gives it back to you, and it's fully his, he gets the credit for doing amazing things. And the Lord did that in my life."
Kendrick is also an actor and played the starring role in "Courageous," which grossed $34.5 million in the box office and was released internationally in theaters and on DVD. In the film, Kendrick portrays Adam Mitchell, a man who makes serious resolutions as a father figure after suffering a tragedy close to home.
On Tuesday, Kendrick challenged everyone, asking them where their hearts were at the moment.
"You need to understand the battle you're in," he said, pointing out personal, corporate and kingdom battles people face. "God judges us on all three levels. And we're in trouble. We're losing so much ground."
Most people seem to be stuck in their own private battlefields, especially amidst so many distractions. As a result, people don't have the ability to unite at the corporate level, as a people or as cities, Kendrick said, or for the kingdom battle, which involves the heart of the nation.
"There's power in unity," Kendrick said. "But most churches don't work together. Why? Where is the church? Where are the men? They're entertaining themselves."
Most Americans tend to be self-absorbed and oversaturated, Kendrick said, noting that other countries seem to follow America but not the other way around. For that reason, he said it was imperative that people step up and fight. And Christian education is something worth fighting for, Kendrick said, praising the fact that there are currently 17 different denominations represented at MACS.
"Whoever fights for the hearts of the children will get them," he said. "The real enemy, the devil, does three things. He distracts, deceives and divides. But stay with God and he'll give you victory."
Jenna Pfaffe, who attended MACS from 1996-2002, shared her testimony about getting a Christian education. She's currently a missionary at the House of Prayer in Kansas City, Mo.
"I was there back in the good 'ol days when we had our chairs made out of five-gallon pails, creatively worked and rigged," she said. "I loved them."
The best part, Pfaffe said, was that the values her parents wished to instill in her where reinforced at MACS.
"As a student at MACS, my parents and my teachers were partnered with each other to see that those ideals, like loving Jesus whole-heartedly and growing in the knowledge of the Word, flourish in my life," Pfaffe said.
As a third-grade teacher at MACS, Laura De Bruin thought the message was especially insightful.
"It was really convicting to me, to not be lazy or comfortable in myself and to look outwardly, at how we're affecting the world," De Bruin said.