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New film offers Christians choices in entertainment

Seven years after “The Love Boat” first set sail into American living rooms, its affable captain experienced a transformation.

Gavin MacLeod, aka Capt. Merrill Stubing, became a Christian. Don’t strain too hard to remember the episode – it actually happened behind the scenes, in real life.

This weekend in Coeur d’Alene, MacLeod’s latest work as a Christian in the film industry is showing at Riverstone Cinemas.

In “The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry,” MacLeod plays an elderly widower whose faith in God transforms his community – one heart at a time.

Movies like this one present an opportunity for Christians to vote with their feet, showing theater owners there is a marketable audience for faith-based films.

Happily, Christian filmmakers are putting out better and better work – 2008’s “Fireproof” comes to mind – increasing the likelihood they’ll appeal to a mass audience.

But the arrival of “The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry” in Coeur d’Alene is more the result of prayer, frankly, than marketing.

Several pastors in Kootenai County viewed the film last fall, and began praying that it would be screened in our community. Those prayers have been answered.

Why pray about a movie? Because the entertainment we condone in our community influences us – especially our children – for better or worse. And it says something about who we are, what we value.

Coeur d’Alene has made headlines lately for its rough and rowdy downtown scene at night. Three of the top five liquor purchasers in the state of Idaho are in downtown Coeur d’Alene; a recent increase in police activity there is really no surprise.

The old “garbage in, garbage out” adage is in play here: We can choose to let our entertainment influence us, or we can choose to influence what entertains us.

I vote for the latter.

“The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry” is the story of three 12-year-old buddies in the 1970s, and their friendship with the 75-year-old Sperry. It’s also the story of forgiveness and redemption through faith in Jesus Christ.

The film illustrates the power of quiet, steady, humble Christian influence. It echoes the teachings of Jesus to his followers: “You are the salt of the earth. … You are the light of the world. … Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:13, 14, 16 – NKJV).

Salt influences whatever it comes into contact with; it flavors and preserves, fending off decay. So it is God’s design that Christians, collectively and individually, flavor the community with what is good and right in the eyes of God.

And it is God’s design for Christian influence to fend off a community’s moral decay.

The “Sperry” movie has no big-name distributor, but is making its way to cinemas across the country through church sponsorships. The approach is similar to that of “Fireproof,” whose success was owed more to word-of-mouth on Sunday mornings than flashy marketing.

I’m not encouraging people to see “Sperry” because it’s a great movie. I’m not encouraging them to see it because it’ll change their lives.

But I plan to see it again, and recommend it to others, simply because it’s a step in the right direction. We need entertainment choices that not only please us, but also are pleasing to the God we serve.

For me, just having such a choice is well worth the price of admission.

Steve Massey is the pastor of Hayden Bible Church in Hayden, Idaho ( He can be reached at (208) 772-2511 or


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