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SBC messengers screen new Kendrick brothers film ‘The Forge’

Ben Mandrell, president and CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources, interviews directors Alex and Stephen Kendrick about their new film “The Forge" June 11. Photo by Sonya Singh

INDIANAPOLIS (BP) – Before “The Forge” debuts in theaters across the country on August 23, Alex and Stephen Kendrick gave audiences at the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting an early screening of their latest film.

In two different screenings sponsored by Lifeway Films on Monday, June 10, and Tuesday, June 11, the filmmaking brothers shared their heart behind the movie to hundreds gathered to hear their story and watch the film.

Stephen Kendrick said “The Forge” provides a refocusing for churches and Christians on Jesus’ call to make disciples. “Our hope for every film is that it is an entertaining, inspirational ride you can watch and enjoy with your entire family. We love lifting up the name of Jesus in theaters. But our hearts’ desire is the kingdom,” he said. “Filmmaking is an excuse to make disciples, on set, through our films, through resources, and everything we do. Our hope is that this will be a tool for pastors to ignite a renewed passion for the Great Commission.”

The movie follows the story of 19-year-old Isaiah Wright, played by newcomer Aspen Kennedy, who is drifting through life – no job, no plans, no idea how to be a man. His mom, Cynthia, played by Priscilla Shirer, gives him an ultimatum – step up or move out. Enter Joshua Moore, played by Cameron Arnett, who not only gives Isaiah a job but much needed wisdom and spiritual guidance. Isaiah is forced to deal with his past, sacrifice his selfishness and discover how God might have a greater purpose for his life.

Lifeway President and CEO Ben Mandrell shared “The Forge” was his favorite of the brothers’ films because of its focus on discipleship and relationship. “The power of mentoring and pouring into young people like Paul tells us to do in the book of Titus is clearly displayed in the movie,” he said.

Alex Kendrick said after previous screenings viewers have expressed renewed confidence in their role in making disciples. “We’ve heard people say, ‘I can do this. I can disciple some young people at my church, kids in my neighborhood, or on the sports team with my son or daughter,’” he said. “People caught a vision and a fire for how they can pour into the next generation.”

On Tuesday evening, 600 SBC messengers attended a dinner and discussion with the Kendricks. Mandrell introduced a behind-the-scenes look at “The Forge” and then held a Q&A with Stephen and Alex. Those in attendance also asked the brothers questions about the film and discipleship and how pastors can use the film to challenge and encourage their churches to embrace a lifestyle of discipleship.

Alex Kendrick revealed that he originally had a role in the movie, but as he worked on the script, he felt led to take himself out of the movie and fight against any desire to win an award. “Jesus said, ‘If anyone wants to be my disciple, they must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me,’” he said. “The Lord was teaching us what it meant to deny yourself.”

Stephen Kendrick said after months of prayer, the Lord directed them to the Great Commission. “This has to be the priority of the church. With all the distractions we have in our generation, it’s very easy for us to start putting good things over God’s highest priority,” he said. “If the laypeople in our churches can catch a vision for discipleship, it could rapidly grow our churches, not only numerically but also in depth.”

Lifeway has teamed up with the Kendricks and Shirer to provide a suite of new resources to accompany the film and address discipleship, including a book by the Kendrick brothers titled “Devoted to Jesus,” “I Surrender All” by Shirer and “Count Me In,” a book for teens written by Travis Agnew and the Kendricks.

For churches that want to take full advantage of the film and go deeper in their understanding of discipleship, Lifeway has teamed up with AFFIRM Films to release two Bible studies to underscore the message of the film. Releasing this month, “The Forge Bible Study” is designed to ignite a passion for following Christ and helping others become disciples of Jesus. This five-week small group study uses featured clips from the movie and explores a simple, reproducible approach to discipleship.

“Fully Devoted” is an eight-week group study by the Kendricks that will take readers on a journey through Jesus’s invitation to follow Him and then to intentionally make disciples of others. It’s designed to help groups dive into what it looks like to be Jesus’ disciple.

“We have forever been grateful for our partnership with Lifeway and their heart for the Great Commission,” said Stephen. “We hope these resources will help churches make disciples of Christ who are fully surrendered to Him and discipling others.”

AFFIRM Films, Provident Films and The Kendrick Brothers will release “The Forge” exclusively in theaters nationwide beginning August 23. For more information about the movie, visit TheForgeMovie.com.

For more information about “The Forge” resources, visit Lifeway.com/theforge.