My son Hudson just turned sixteen. And on his sixteenth birthday he received an unusual challenge from a man in his life; the kind of challenge that a newbie sixteen year old is simply unable to decline.
The Lego video at the conclusion of this blog is the result of that challenge. But, the backstory behind the challenge, I think, is the best part of the story.
My son, Hudson, has been blessed with some wonderful manly role models in his life. Stephen Kendrick (producer of movies like Courageous, War Room, etc.) is one of them.
Since Hudson was six years old, he has been interested in movie-making. As a father, I intrinsically start with a concern about the notion of my son heading in that dubious direction. After all, Hollywood has proven a death trap to many well-meaning Christians who went to L.A. to “change it for Jesus.” I want my son to be triumphant in what he sets out to do. Being a movie maker is fraught with landmines and spiritual barbed-wire.
So, what is a Christian father to do? How can I encourage my son to walk the Narrow Way and yet influence those on the Broad Way?
Enter Stephen and Alex Kendrick.
The Kendricks have done something that most Christians don’t fully understand. They have officially bucked the Hollywood system. They have done what most would have considered impossible. They have made successful box-office movies, but not out of the mold of Hollywood. They have made movies that both glorify Christ and build the cast and crew spiritually stronger while they work on creating the movies. They have flipped the notion of “the Hollywood death trap” into a missions excursion to declare Christ to the nations of this earth.
This is something that as a father of an aspiring movie-maker, I’m interested knowing more about.
In July of 2018, Hudson and I visited Columbus, Georgia to spend a few days on set during the filming of the Kendrick’s film, Overcomer. It was a deeply inspiring experience for me. The same thing for Hudson. It was a movie set, yes, but it felt more like a spiritual conference — a gathering of missionaries. The typical hierarchical structure of the Hollywood system was not present at all. Instead humility was practiced by everyone. The actors and actresses were treated on the same level as the production assistants (the set servants) — and, get this, they wanted to be treated on the same level. Jesus was in the air. The love of Jesus was shared. It was the Body of Christ in full bloom — everyone sharing their gift for the edification of others and for the production of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I said to Hudson while we were there in Columbus: “Bud, I want you to study this Christ-centric model of movie making, because it is something very special!” It was movie making that turns the movie maker into a missionary, a pastor, a teacher, and a role model.
Hudson has had the opportunity to watch Stephen in action quite a few times now — on set, at conferences, at meals, and even in escape rooms. I want him to have these opportunities to watch, up close, a man who is serious about living out his faith. As a father, I don’t want to be the only man he watches, I want to give him opportunity to witness other men that model the “Quit ye like men” lifestyle of the manly man Christian.
This leads us to the name of this blog entry (The Birthday Challenge) and the video posted below.
For Hudson’s sixteenth birthday Stephen did something that I wasn’t expecting. Hudson would have been blown away with just a quick text from Stephen saying, “Happy Birthday, bud!” but Stephen took it to a whole other level.
I, Stephen Kendrick, am officially daring and challenging Hudson Ludy, on the occasion of his 16th birthday to read the book of Proverbs and to write an article on the topic of WISDOM.
Stephen offered a stout reward for the completion of such a challenge if it be by midnight on a specific day. He supplied detailed rules for this challenge (ie. the length of the article, its spacing, and its focus) and general encouragement for the importance of such a project. And then he finished his official dare with the word (if it is a word), “Bwahahahahaa!” and then asked, “Are you in?”
Here’s what impressed me about this — and what I want each of us as men to consider as we meditate on it. Stephen, having a position of influence in Hudson’s life, leveraged his position towards the forward movement of Hudson’s development. And Hudson responded to this with great guns. He grew a foot taller instantly in just having the challenge presented to him and then grew ten feet taller in the completing of the challenge.
In fact, Hudson went beyond the original challenge to also produce a Lego-stop-motion animation inspired by his study of the book of Proverbs. You can watch it below. But, more importantly than the video, I want each of us as men to consider how we can leverage our own positions of influence to grow the younger generation a foot taller with a well-placed “wisdom” challenge of our own.