How to Fireproof Your Relationships
'Christ is the key,' says film producer Stephen Kendrick
October 29, 2008 - Most of us know someone whose marriage is struggling — or worse. Statistics show that half of all marriages end in divorce, and that includes marriages within the church. So how can a movie help?
by Janet Chismar
The film Fireproof, which has stunned Hollywood with its success, portrays both a failing marriage and how a relationship with Jesus can resurrect what seems to be hopeless.
“Fireproof realistically shows some of the fights and struggles that married couples experience every day,” says co-writer and producer Stephen Kendrick. “But it also holds up the truth of God’s Word in dealing with those struggles. We believe Fireproof paints a 21st-century picture of the faith, hope, and love that makes life and marriage work."
Stephen and his brother, Alex, helped establish Sherwood Pictures in 2003 and co-produced Flywheel and Facing the Giants, the surprise hit of 2006. He also worked with Provident Films, developing Bible study resources and other tools for churches in conjunction with Facing the Giants and Fireproof.
Kendrick, who has served as associate teaching pastor at Sherwood Baptist Church since 2001, says he was influenced by the legacy of Billy Graham's World Wide Pictures: “Alex and I grew up watching World Wide Pictures, including Joni, The Prodigal, The Hiding Place, The Home Coming. We are grateful for Billy Graham’s ministry; we are grateful for any kind of effort that will reach people for Christ. All the fruit of those movies we celebrate.”
During a recent phone interview, Kendrick explained how lessons from Fireproof can be applied to anyone's life and marriage.
Q: Why is Jesus so important to marriage? How do you show that in the movie?
Kendrick: In Fireproof, we take the audience on an emotional journey through the struggles this couple is experiencing. Caleb Holt, (played by Kirk Cameron) as he is studying the book, The Love Dare, begins to learn about unconditional love and realizes half way through the movie that he cannot give his wife what he doesn’t have.
Ultimately, God is the source of unconditional love. And the greatest expression of that love is what Christ did on the cross.
Romans 5:8 says that while we were still sinful, He demonstrated love in dying for us. We communicate that in our marriage counseling; we communicate that in the follow-up Bible studies associated with the movie.
We have been very upfront that God is the source of unconditional love and that a relationship with Christ is the key.
Romans 5 also says that the Holy Spirit is the one who actually pours agape love into our hearts; that only happens when we have come to know Christ as Lord and Savior.
The first fruit of His spirit is love. So, not only does a person need to know Christ as Savior, but they need to be walking in an abiding relationship, an obedient relationship with Him. If they grieve and quench the Holy Spirit because of their sin, then the fruit of the spirit will not be seen in their lives.
A husband, especially, as the leader of the home, needs to be modeling a picture of that Christ-like love and be willing to lay down his life for his wife daily in how he dies to himself and serves her. Ultimately, if he is not tapped in daily to the Lord in an intimate, obedient fellowship, he is not going to be able to fulfill the God-given responsibilities in his marriage.
Q: Although the movie is about marriage, single people can learn from the themes of friendship, family and forgiveness. There seems to be something for everyone. Would you say your central theme is that Jesus is the foundation of any loving relationship?
Kendrick: Yes. Not only do we need to be training up the next generation of teenagers and young adults with a Biblical picture of marriage, but we also need to offer hope and healing to people who have been through divorce and are single again. They need to realize there is hope for the future and that loving relationships can exist if Christ is in the center of those relationships.
The singles who have been going to see the movie can relate to the friendship issues, the father/son issues, the mother/daughter issues. The movie ultimately is about relationships and forgiveness is a universal theme.
Q: How did you decide on this particular topic for the film?
Kendrick: We had spent months in prayer asking God for a storyline that would impact the culture specifically. We wanted to go after the fiber, the DNA, of our culture. That takes us back to the root issue of family and then the core issue within family of a godly marriage.
Alex and I both are happily married. We have parents and in-laws who have demonstrated such faithfulness in their marriages. We’ve also done marriage counseling and weddings for people at our churches, so we’ve learned a lot. We are very passionate about the topic, so when the Lord led us to it, there was a sense of rightness.
It was like a light bulb went on over our heads – we realize now that God has been preparing us for years to do this movie. We are truly His workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works He has prepared beforehand.
Q: Between the website and The Love Dare book, this has mushroomed into a full-fledged ministry. Is that something your team is handling or are you relying on local churches?
Kendrick: We have more than 50 marriage ministries across the United States that are now leveraging Fireproof to connect people, to restore marriages, and lead people to Christ. Ultimately the local church is the best ministry vehicle. We have tried to set up churches to be ready – with Bible study resources, tracts, marriage books, and sermon series.
We don’t want people to just be moved emotionally, we want them to walk out of the theater and to connect with Christ and the local church. We wrote the book The Love Dare because Alex and I believed we needed to build a bridge to connect people. The book not only pours into marriages, it challenges couples to connect with Christ, connect with the Word of God, and connect with their local church. We are trying to cast out as many seeds as we can and provide as many opportunities for harvesting ministry as we can.
Q: What would you say to our readers to encourage them to put Christ at the center of their marriages?
Kendrick: According to Ephesians 5, marriage is a mysterious relationship that actually is about Christ and His bride, the Church. God wants to use marriage as a way to reveal to the world who He is and about His covenant relationship with us.
People learn about the true nature of forgiveness, how to communicate, how to submit to one another in love and in service, how to lay down their live for one another, how to forgive — all of these things are learned in a godly marriage. Christ is the source of all of those things.
If they will let the designer of marriage, and the one who can sustain it and the one it actually was created for, if they let Him be the center of it — that will be the key element they need to make their marriages successful.
If we don’t get a divorce, but we don’t make Christ the center, that doesn’t define success. A marriage that is glorifying to God is the one that defines success.
Q: Any final thoughts as we wrap up?
Kendrick: We are so excited and overwhelmed with what God has done. We make movies for ministry first. We made this movie out of a love for the Lord. Our hope and prayer is that once the movie is translated into other languages for DVD, that God will use Fireproof to help prepare the bride of Christ for His return. We want to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth.
We are grateful that we can wrap the Gospel message in a two-hour artistic sermon that millions of people will be drawn to see. Our prayer is that not only will God be glorified and marriages saved, but that the body of Christ will use the movie to strengthen relationships in their church family.
If we can reduce the divorce rate even by one percentage point in America, that will impact a million children who will grow in homes where their moms and dads love each other and stay together.
If we could eliminate divorce completely from the Church, if local churches would catch the vision to begin praying and working toward eliminating divorce completely in the Church, what a powerful witness that would be to the world!
That is something we are hoping for, praying for, something we are asking God for, because it seems like an impossible thing. Only God could do it.
Other Articles to Help Your Marriage:
Building a Marriage and Family That Will Last
The Five Love Languages
How is Commitment to Jesus Like Marriage?
How to Strengthen Your Marriage and Family