by Norm Miller
CLEVELAND, Ga. (TMCNews) — Defying the self-obsessed behavior of the typical college male, 68 Truett-McConnell College students -- all single, save one -- car-pooled to a local theater to see the film "Courageous" en masse.
After hearing the men's assessments of the film, about a dozen women students also wanted to see the movie, so several TMC men accompanied them the next day.
What began in the minds and hearts of two students, Brandon Strange and Austin Temple, became reality for the 80 students who viewed the movie produced by Sherwood Baptist Church, Albany, Ga. "Courageous" follows four successful police in their struggles to be godly fathers.
Both Strange and Temple are Christian Life Coordinators, who lead a Bible study in their dorm. Strange approached TMC's Campus Minister Keith Wade with the idea of the male students seeing the film as a group activity. Already planning a gender-inclusive, campus wide function featuring the movie, Wade approved the idea and suggested that men from every dormitory attend the guys-only event.
"Alright, how many of you didn't cry?" Strange told TMCNews, recounting a question from a classmate at movie's end. At least 50 men replied in the affirmative, said Strange, expressing relief it was a men-only event.
"I heard one of my friends cry," Strange said. "He cried like a grandmother, two rows up. But when I talked with him later, he opened up about a number of issues in his life."
"I was either recovering from tears or starting new ones," added J.C. Hitzing, saying the movie encouraged him "to work now" to "prepare my heart for the ministry that I'm going to have to my family."
The victim of an absentee father, Kenneth "Kip" Stanley said he realized "the importance of being a father." The movie "continued to water the seed about being a good father and taking a stand," he said. "Not only that, but I realize that being a good father is something to celebrate," he added, relating the lack of guidance from his drug-addicted and alcoholic father, who died when Stanley was 10.
Truett-McConnell student Chris Chapman said the movie spurred appreciation for his father and encouraged him to strive to be a spiritual leader: "I have to keep my relationship with God first before I can even think about entering into a relationship with a woman," he said.
For newlywed Brian Wisdom, the film was "encouraging and convicting at the same time." He said every man should see the film, especially those who consider themselves godly.
In days following, Strange heard comments on how God spoke to the students through the movie. "So often, you think you're doing a good job at being a godly man," Strange said, reiterating he struggles with "things just like everyone else."
A missions major, Strange noted the importance of being a man of God by citing societal norms he's observed in other countries: "Any culture I've even been in or seen, if there isn't a strong presence of God working in it, then there is no male leadership. Or if there is, it's weak."
The movie portrayed what a godly man should do, he added. "Some fathers may say they spend plenty of time with their kids, but that's not the goal. The goal is to show them God in your own life."
Strange said the movie helped answer this question: "How am I supposed to be the one who will embody a godly man to my own son?"
Missions major Lauren Brown told TMCNews that she wanted to see the movie after "hearing the guys say what a great movie it is, and that it really touched them. That means it really had to be a good movie, especially for those guys who seem so nonchalant about everything else."
Brown said the movie "addressed the deepest life issues people of our generation are facing in every walk of life -- as fathers and children.
"Even though it was directed at fathers, the movie pulled at the guys' hearts strings about the things their fathers did and didn't do," she said. "I think it challenged them to strive for what they should be as they are thinking about their future."
"Courageous" spoke to Brown regarding the "relationship between father and daughter. It's one of the strongest and most important because a girl's relationship with her father determines what her marital relationship will be. She will learn respect for the man in her life, and her mission to the man in her life. She will draw confidence from her father, as well as learn what characteristics she should be looking for in a man.
"If a girl has a correctly protective father, then that's the kind of man she'll look for. But if her father doesn't care, she'll probably go after any guy and be frightened the rest of her life never having developed confidence in who she is and what she's worth," said Brown, whose father died when she was age 9.
"Courageous" also featured a similar personal loss as Brown's and Stanley's, and Brown appreciated that the movie's producers put the drama where it belongs: "The drama is not in the losing," she said. "That's not the drama. The hard part is recovering from the loss -- learning how to go through life day-in and day-out with something missing. Life is never the same, and the movie focuses on the healing process. It teaches that where those who've experienced that kind of loss will need your help is six days, six weeks, six months and six years afterwards."
"I didn't start mourning until many years later," Brown said of her father's death. "When things happen in your life and that loved one is supposed to be there, but isn't -- that's when it really hits you. The movie teaches that that's when it's going to hurt the most."
Brown's general recommendation for the movie: "I went from bawling, to laughing till my sides hurt, to bawling again."
The movie sparked theme-related study groups in the male-occupied dorms that meet every week.
Courageous is the fourth release of Sherwood Pictures, the moviemaking ministry of Sherwood Baptist Church. Their first release since "Fireproof" -- the number one independent film of 2008 -- Courageous joins Sherwood's other films, "Facing the Giants" and "Flywheel," in touching and impacting lives through heartfelt stories of faith and hope.
Norm Miller is director of communications at Truett-McConnell College.
Senior Writer Vicky Kaniaru contributed to this story.