By Gabe LaMonica, CNN
(CNN)– A Baptist church in Albany, Georgia, is getting Hollywood’s attention – the church, Sherwood Baptist, has developed a movie-production operation, and its latest offering opened last weekend as the Number Four top money-grossing film in the country.
The Christian-themed film, “Courageous,” was developed in connection with TriStar, Sony, and Provident Films. It is meant to inspire fathers to not leave their families, to love their children, to not fail.
“Courageous,” which opened in just 1,161 theaters this past weekend, depicts four police officers who share a commonality both as fathers and in their effort to become better ones. The movie and its characters, played by amateur actors and members of Sherwood Baptist are enveloped in various ways in a devastating tragedy.
According to boxoffice.com, which tracks movie response nationwide, put “Courageous” at the fourth position for the weekend with gross revenues of just over $9 million. The fifth- and sixth-place movies (“50/50” and “Dreamhouse”) both opened at far more theaters but did not come close to the weekend box-office income of “Courageous.”
“Courageous” takes on a timely topic – fatherhood.
The National Fatherhood Initiative, an organization dedicated to “educating and engaging fathers across the country,” lists wide-ranging adverse affects that correlate to children growing up in fatherless households. Fatherless households are common in the United States, and there is no causal evidence linking fatherless households to increased suicide rates, incarcerations, aggression, behavioral disorders, delinquency, criminal activity, confused identities, low achievement, and criminal activity.
But the correlating evidence is so strong that in a country where the most recent census lists 24 million children – one in three – living apart from their biological fathers, it is remiss to discount it.
“No matter what your scenario is – you’re single or married or whatnot – we want to really inspire and encourage men to see the value of their role as a dad,” says Alex Kendrick, the co-writer, director, and actor who plays the character Adam Mitchell in “Courageous.”
Kendrick, who co-writes with his brother Steven, says, “The reason we put it in a law enforcement setting was that, as you know, a motto from law enforcement is to serve and protect, and then we drew a correlation to what a father is supposed to do.”
“We drew that correlation and said, ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting if we put this in the context of police officers who are also dads, and they may be heroic on the streets but it also takes courage to be a great dad – not just a good enough dad.'”
Ken Bevel, who plays Nathan Hayes, a sheriffs’ deputy in the film, says that everyone has a dad and can relate to a fatherhood story. “We just pray that this movie resonates in the hearts of men and women and families across the globe,” he says.
“If you go to Sherwood (Baptist Church) on any given day you will see a bunch of people that are in the movie,” says Bevel, who played Kirk Cameron’s fellow firefighter in “Fireproof,” the last film from Sherwood Pictures.
“Our desire is not to become the next movie-making sensation or to make millions and millions of dollars at the box office,” he says, “our desire is to see hearts changed and families touched.”
Kendrick’s character, Adam Mitchell, makes a general statement over grilled steaks to his fellow officers in the movie: “Half of the fathers in this country are already failing,” he says, “and I don’t want to be one of them.”
The Christians at Sherwood Baptist Church, says Kendrick, “want especially men to walk out of the movie theater saying, “This movie makes me want to be a better dad and really a better man as a model and mentor to my children.'”
“You will see a difference and it will make a difference in our culture,” he says.