- "It ought to be that any fatherless child or any single mom can walk in the doors of the church, and they see a whole army of fathers that will step in and work together to take in those fatherless kids." Tweet This
- "There's this interesting heart connection that kids have with their dads, and when dad is not there or he's abusive or he's unloving, it deeply wounds kids." Tweet This
- "I tell people, I didn't stumble upon my dad looking at pornography; I literally stumbled upon him on his knees multiple times crying out to God to help us with our family." Tweet This
Anyone who has watched one of the Kendrick Brothers' films, from “Courageous” to “Flywheel,” knows that the hero is often an imperfect but ultimately loving father striving to do better for his family. In their latest film, “Show Me the Father,” a documentary released last week on DVD and digital, Alex, Stephen, and Shannon Kendrick introduce viewers to their real-life earthly hero and the inspiration behind their films: their dad. “There’s no way we could have told the stories we’ve told in the manner we did without our father’s influence,” says Stephen, who is typically behind the camera but this time is one of five powerful stories featured in the film, along with Dr. Tony Evans and Sherman Smith. In my view, "Show Me the Father" is probably the Kendrick brothers' best film to date because it finally shines the spotlight on the overarching theme of their previous movies by telling true stories of men who were either deeply wounded or overwhelmingly blessed by their fathers. I recently spoke with Stephen about “Show Me the Father” and the message the Kendrick brothers hope the film conveys to audiences both inside and outside the church.
Alysse ElHage: Something I’ve always loved about your films, especially “Courageous,” is the strong emphasis on fathers and father-figures. And a major figure in your new film, “Show Me the Father,” is your dad. Tell us about him and how he influenced your life and work?
Stephen Kendrick: Well, our father, Larry Kendrick, had a huge impact on our lives. He was a very loving and faithful father. We grew up in church, and we would see the best of the best and the worst of the worst. We would see hypocrites sometimes in the church, but we came home to authentic Christianity lived out with our parents at home. And I tell people, I didn't stumble upon my dad looking at pornography; I literally stumbled upon him on his knees multiple times crying out to God to help us with our family… You see in scripture that it's God's desire, it's the last verse in the Old Testament, "God wants to turn the hearts of fathers back to their children and children to their fathers." And it says in Proverbs that the glory of children are their fathers.
There's this interesting heart connection that kids have with their dads, and when dad is not there or he's abusive or he's unloving, it deeply wounds kids. It really causes them to close off their hearts many times. So, we thank God for moms who reach over and grab the steering wheel a lot of times when dad falls asleep at the wheel, or when he jumps off the bus. But God wanted men and women, husbands and wives, moms and dads, to be like two wings on an airplane. We're balancing each other out, both of us representing God's love to our kids…
Not only did Dad have a big impact on us, but we have seen, after having served in ministry in 20 years, and if you look at the statistics, the number one common denominator of atheists, kids on drugs, people in prison, teen pregnancy, and people that are being trafficked or that are involved in the porn industry is fatherlessness. That key issue of dads being abusive or disconnected from their kids emotionally…causes the rails to come off on so many kids' lives. And when you can help dads to step up and get involved in the lives of their kids or to reconcile with their children, it not only helps bring healing to that relationship, but it introduces kids to a loving, redemptive father in Heaven…You know, our Dad, or at least the representation of him, is in all of our films. We specifically try to go after this issue of fatherlessness or helping dads to step up because it is an upstream issue that affects almost everything else.
ElHage: What I appreciate most about “Show Me the Father” is how you highlight men who stepped up to be father figures to fatherless boys, and who ultimately pointed them toward God. Unfortunately, not every fatherless kid experiences this gift. Is it fair to say that the church has not always lived up to its responsibility to be fathers to the fatherless?
Kendrick: Absolutely. It’s sad when you realize that the church doesn't understand the roles of fathers like they should. It's laid out very clearly in scripture: in James chapter one, it says that pure religion before God the Father is to care for the fatherless and widows in their affliction. And the fatherless and widows have in common that the most important man that should be loving and providing and protecting, is now removed from their lives. So, it ought to be that the body of Christ steps in. Just like Paul did with Timothy: you will see in the Bible that it wasn't Timothy's dad, it was his mom and his grandmother that were godly women of faith pointing him back to God. They were leading him in the scriptures, but they can't be a dad. So God sends Paul into Timothy's life, and he keeps calling him my son, you know, follow my example, my son, be encouraged, my son, stand strong in the Lord...
And so, it ought to be that any fatherless child or any single mom can walk in the doors of the church, and they see a whole army of fathers that will step in and work together to take in those fatherless kids, to sing happy birthday to them, to invite them into their home, to take them fishing. You know, let them interact with their own children and to see what a loving, happy home looks like…
"If we discover God as the compassionate father willing to run off the front porch and embrace us, it really changes how we approach God. " — Stephen Kendrick
ElHage: What struck me the most as I watched “Show Me the Father” is how one good father produces another. Like the coach who fathers his team, and then those young men go on to be good fathers to their own kids and to other fatherless kids in their community—and ultimately how these fathers point others to God. What overall message did you hope to communicate about fatherhood through this film?
Kendrick: First, we want people to heal from their own father wounds, because everybody has a father story, men and women, and boys and girls. And if you get people to talk about their relationship with their dad, whether it was a painful experience or a loving experience, oftentimes they get choked up because it is a matter of the heart…
So, when you can help people to let their imperfect dad off the hook and forgive him and turn to God and see God as the perfect father. Because Jesus pointed out that if you, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, because earthly fathers are broken and sinful, then your heavenly father who is perfect will give good things to those who ask. Jesus in the first sermon in the first gospel says, “Pray to God as Father. Live for God as Father. Have a relationship with him as a father. Don't worry because your father knows your needs.” And then he says, “be perfect even as your father is perfect.” He's pointing us to the perfect fatherhood of God, because earthly fathers are not to replace God, they are to introduce their kids to who God is…And if we discover God as the compassionate father willing to run off the front porch and embrace us, it really changes how we approach God.
ElHage: A beautiful part of the film is your family’s adoption story. How has adopting your daughter, Mia, changed you as a father?
Kendrick: We had four biological children when we made the decision to adopt Mia, and it was such an unexpected adventure. I was not planning on adopting, but I believe that if people with compassion would step up, we could knock out the whole orphan issue around the world. Because if you just be an involved parent and invite them into your life, your heart will expand in love for these new children. I was wondering, “Am I going to love my adopted daughter as much as I love my biological children?” And the answer is absolutely! It's like God just puts a new level of love in your heart for this child. Not only do you see that child's life transformed when they're placed in a loving family, but you also see your other children’s hearts expand because they're learning that love isn't just limited to just those biological family relationships. So, in our relationship with Mia, I have grown in compassion, and I've grown in greater understanding in my role as a dad…And I understand so much more my relationship with God because I went through the adoption process.
ElHage: “Show Me the Father” is obviously geared toward a religious audience, but it deals with some universal themes, like father wounds and the transforming power of one good man in a child’s life. Do you see your film speaking to a secular audience, to those outside the church?
Kendrick: This movie deals with a universal issue on multiple levels. There was research done on the most prominent atheists of the last 400 years, and the one thing that they had in common is that they were either abandoned or abused by their earthly fathers. And it caused them, in that woundedness, to reject God. But the flip side is also true that the most prominent leaders in the church or para-church ministries either had a strong, loving father, or they had a father figure that stepped in to fill the gap in their lives. In "Show Me the Father," we don't beat up dads, but we turn on the light bulb as to why this role is important. We do share the research as to what's going on across the culture…But we go beyond that, and we tell true stories of people who were wounded by their earthly dads and how they found healing and were able to move on from that...
So if you want to bless the education of a child in the next generation, or keep them off drugs, or keep them from being trafficked, and if you want to help them deal with depression or anxiety, if you'll just focus in on helping dads to step up and be loving and involved fathers, you will simultaneously be helping [address] in a thousand different ways the things that this next generation is dealing with. And so, we hope "Show Me the Father" will appeal to both a church and non-church audience.