Getting Christian Men to Talk about Faith through Film
- Chris Bolinger Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2019 1 Oct
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names.
Familiar in his mouth as household words…
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers…
In Shakespeare’s play Henry V, the king of England realizes that his troops are badly outnumbered by the French. So King Henry rallies his men with a rousing speech in which he calls them his “band of brothers.” His band responds with an overwhelming victory.
Like the men in Henry’s time, today’s men want to have a close-knit group of male friends who provide each other with support, encouragement, and accountability.
But few men have a band of brothers.
In fact, many men have no close male friends at all. And, if they do, those close friends probably don’t worship together on Sundays.
So, how can a church help men develop close friendships with other Christian men?
David Dusek recommends having them watch some film clips.
Leading through Transparency
Dusek left the Florida real estate development market 15 years ago and started doing men’s ministry. His four-hour leadership training sessions for pastors and men’s leaders were straightforward and effective. But what attendees liked the most was not the material.
“Whenever I needed to use an example to back up a concept in the training, I tended to talk about my own failures as a man,” Dusek recalls. “When I surveyed attendees what they liked most about the training, most of them responded with something like ‘the speaker's transparency’ or ‘real-world examples.’ It became clear that men really appreciate a speaker getting ‘real’ and being ‘transparent.’ Transparency breeds transparency and leads to real, meaty, transformational conversations among men.”
But Dusek soon encountered a problem: he had a limited number of personal life experiences on which to draw.
A Blockbuster of an Idea
At the end of a leadership training session in 2008, a man from a church in Alabama asked Dusek if he could lead their three-day men's retreat. Dusek agreed but, during his seven-hour drive home from the training session, he began to have second thoughts. What was he going to talk about for three whole days? “I was just a leadership training facilitator, not a ‘speaker’,” he recalls.
When he got home and told his wife about the request and his subsequent panic, she had an interesting suggestion. Her husband was a movie buff who often saw Biblical lessons in the relationships, characters, and circumstances presented in films. Perhaps Dusek could use film clips to reflect Biblical principles in a more modern form of a parable.
Inspired by his wife’s suggestion, Dusek met up with a TV producer friend who had his own studio. Using a collection of movies that Dusek had rented from Blockbuster, the pair captured a set of clips, edited out offensive language, and burned the result on a master DVD. That DVD was the basis of a successful three-day men’s retreat in Alabama, and the Rough Cut Men Movie Experience was born.
Reaching Men Through Movie Clips
“Certain movies really resonate with men,” says Dusek. “The Rough Cut Men Movie Experience uses a strategic combination of action movie sequences, Biblical truth, personal stories, and intentional fireteam breakout times to accomplish a single, laser-focused mission: get men talking about what's really going on in their lives.”
Dusek draws clips primarily from classic movies that most men love and have seen a few times. Films such as Saving Private Ryan and We Were Soldiers are used to reflect the concept of tactical combat as it relates to men battling an enemy out to steal, kill, and destroy. But it’s not all war movies or even action flicks. The event draws from Forrest Gump, animated films such as The Incredibles and Shrek, and biopics such as Walk the Line and Rudy.
The only “Christian film” clip is the “Death Crawl" scene from Facing the Giants. Why doesn’t Dusek use more movies that are intended for a Christian audience? “I've found that most Christian films have been missed by the average guy, so we tend to adhere to more mainstream content,” he says. And when Dusek presents to a military audience, he needs to cover Biblical concepts without being overtly Christian, so he can’t use "religious films" at all.
“Churches don’t object to my use of secular movies because the scenes are all ‘sanitized’ for bad language, blood, or anything inappropriate,” he explains. “In fact, I've even presented the Movie Experience to emerging Catholic priests at a monastery without a single complaint. I won't show some of the military movies in churches with a lot of veterans or active duty combat soldiers, primarily because I don't want to be a potential trigger for PTSD.”
More Than a Good Time at the Movies
The Rough Cut Men Movie Experience is more than a fun night at the movies for a church men’s group. That’s because the goal is not to entertain but to forge connections.
“A typical attendee probably has been burned a few times in the church,” says Dusek. “He shows up at church on Sunday mornings, but he doesn’t have any close friends in the church. There’s no battle-ready brotherhood for him there. And he really hasn’t connected with Jesus, either.”
Ironically, Dusek sees a similar dynamic with many soldiers. “Even though soldiers are trained to fight as a team when they're downrange, most have no friends at home when they are just working a 9-to-5 job on post somewhere,” he says. “Consequently, isolation steps in, and the results can be anything from addiction or domestic violence to even suicide.”
Building Your Fireteam
During Dusek’s event, he stresses that each man is responsible for connecting with other men. “Of course, every man needs to be plugged into a church and a small group,” says Dusek, “but the way to survive as men – who are in the world but not of it – is to have a fireteam around us every single day.”
Explains Dusek, “I draw attention to a need that many men don't even know that they have: we need brothers on our back all the time. In combat, no one kicks a door without coverfire, and life should be no different. Consequently, I encourage every man to ‘make a date’ with another guy at the event. Go meet for coffee, go shooting, go fishing, play golf – whatever it is you like to do.”
Says Dusek, “It’s never about what we're doing; it's about who we're doing it with. This Christian man thing is a week-long connection, not a Saturday morning once per month pancake breakfast. The more men spend time together, the more they trust each other. Time develops trust, and trust creates relationship. I'd love to see that Saturday men's breakfast shift from being a monthly one-off men's event to more of a rally point where men get together and regale each other with tales of victory from the spiritual battlefield from the previous week.”
Taking the 'Rough Cut Men Movie Experience' to New Zealand and Beyond
Dusek’s approach has been successful throughout the U.S. and in Australia and New Zealand. “I’ve made 10 trips Down Under,” he says. “Men are men. Christian men in the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand struggle with the same battles in a culture that is continuing to walk in the opposite direction of the Lord. Guys ‘down under’ love the movies and are just as familiar with them as men in the U.S. Of course, I have to explain American football to them before showing a clip from Rudy, but otherwise they are no different in their hearts, battles, and responses than their brothers in Christ in the U.S.”
In the past decade, Dusek has presented the Rough Cut Men Movie Experience hundreds of times to nearly a million men. The social media reach of the ministry is close to 1.5 million people a month. In 2016, his first book, Rough Cut Men, went #1 on Amazon in the Men's Christian Living category.
Recently, he created an eight-week video series, called "Who Has Your Six," for the Army Chaplain Corps, and he offers it to churches. “The video series is actually the Movie Experience event in video form,” he says. Rather than filming Dusek behind a podium, the production team took him on the road. Eight scenes were filmed on location, including:
- The We Were Soldiers episode on the jump field at Fort Benning in Georgia
- The Forrest Gump segment on the deck of a shrimp boat in Bayou la Batre, Alabama
- The Saving Private Ryan segment on Omaha Beach in France
“It was worth the expense,” says Dusek. “As the men go, so goes the church.”
Chris Bolinger is the author of Daily Strength for Men, a 365-day devotional published by BroadStreet Publishing and available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christian Book Distributors, DailyStrengthForMen.com, and other retailers.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/jacoblund