There was an electrical anticipation in the auditorium of First Baptist Church, Tifton, Georgia. Five hundred Christians clapped and sang old gospel hymns with the Lovin Band. And that was enough, a taste of heaven. But there was more promised in this event.
If you’ve seen the movies “Fireproof” and “Overcomer” you know they are very touching and inspiring. In fact, for me, a tissue is required even for the second or third viewing. Alex Kendrick, scriptwriter, actor, and co-producer, was to speak at this Will Graham Crusade kickoff rally.
Will Graham, Franklin Graham’s son, will be holding a crusade in Tifton at the UGA Conference Center, March 20-22. Alex Kendrick followed the Lovin Band in leading this preparatory worship service at First Baptist Church. Billy Graham Evangelistic Association personnel were there also seeking a commitment from local Christians to be involved in praying for and promoting the crusade. We were blessed to get in on the awesome experience, thanks to our friend Charles Hughes who invited us.
Wes and Sally Whitfield had traveled to Tifton with us. It was a rare treat for the four of us to spend an evening together. A full moon kept us company along the way. We enjoyed supper at Cracker Barrel before arriving at the rally at First Baptist Church.
When Alex appeared on the stage with all his energy we’d seen in his films we were enthralled. No chance of nodding off as he told story after story of how God led him and his brother Steven in producing the films that have reached thousands for Christ. He told of how in the beginning he and Steven had to beg an Albany theater to let them show their first movie “Flywheel” on DVD for a couple of nights. The theater owner reluctantly agreed but then had such an overwhelming response that he asked them please to let it show for another week. Alex said, “It was God at work.”
Each movie from “Fireproof” to the recent “Overcomer” has its own developmental story. Alex told of how over and again he tried to “tell God” what the subject of a film would be, how it would be marketed, etc. He failed at every turn until he did what God was telling him to do. For instance, the movie “War Room” seemed headed to a sure demise. Who wanted to see a whole movie on a prayer warrior in a closet? Alex and Steven and their support church, Sherwood Baptist of Albany, insisted on moving ahead with it because God said to. As always, the actors and support staff were volunteers. When it came out, that movie went to the top of the charts amazing Sony Pictures, the Kendricks, and Sherwood Baptist Church. One of those affected by this film was a building contractor who had orders immediately after its release for eight renovations allowing for “war rooms.”
After telling us about production of the movies, Alex spoke passionately about our need as Christians to be aggressive in reaching our world for Jesus. He spoke of three stages of surrender and commitment a Christian and church need to make in order to be effective. A Christian needs as an individual to be committed to the point he’s not satisfied to sit and enjoy the gospel but is compelled to reach out and join others in the effort. Then the church must be eager to move outside its walls. When the churches move into action in Jesus’ name, then the Kingdom can expand, all to the glory of God. True to his dramatic nature (developing from young childhood to present), Alex illustrated these three areas by standing in three different places on the stage as he spoke of each one. Not only could we feel his passion but we could feel a powerful response from the crowd as pastors and congregations from many area churches were challenged.
After the meeting Charles and I waited our turn in a long line to speak to Alex Kendrick. Alex is the son of a dear UGA classmate friend of ours, Rhonwyn Hall as she was known then. We had followed his and Steven’s filming career with prayers and great interest but had never met either of them. Nor had we seen Rhonwyn in many years. When we told him who we were, he flicked out his phone and next thing we knew we were speaking by video to our old friend.
Thank you, Charles Hughes, for that special invitation. What a wonderful evening! We’ll look forward to hearing Will Graham too, if not at the crusade in March, then at the earliest opportunity.