Shiloh Christian Academy may be a great school, but it has a so-so football team. In fact, Coach Grant Taylor has not had a single winning season in the six years he’s been in charge of the program. So when a star running back transfers to a cross-town rival, it’s all but guaranteed that the upcoming seventh season will be the same as all the others. That makes some of the team boosters unhappy, and they go behind the coach’s back, pressuring the school administration to have Coach Taylor replaced.
And that’s just one of the things that’s weighing Taylor down. His car won’t run. His house stinks (literally). And he and his wife, Brooke, are facing the prospect that they can’t have children.
Unknown yet to Coach and his team is a post-season match-up against the state’s most feared squad, the undefeated Giants, led by a bulldog of a coach who is used to chewing up rivals as frequently as he does the lollipops perpetually stuck in his mouth. But Facing the Giants is more than a simple David-and-Goliath metaphor on the gridiron. This film tells the story of faith in the face of long odds and the need to align our priorities with God’s.
It’s hard to think of something in Facing the Giants that isn’t positive. I could reprint the entire screenplay in this section; I’ll settle for a few specifics that stand out. After Coach Taylor has an epiphany about how he should change the way he runs his program, he tells his attentive team, “Our goal is not to win games; it’s to honor God.” His new outlook fires up players who had become accustomed to losing. And he takes special care to cure the team captain of a bad case of cynicism.
Another player the coach pays personal attention to is a young man who has a bad relationship with his father. Taylor gives him advice on the importance of honoring our parents even when we think they’re wrong. The boy takes the lesson to heart and reconciles with his dad. Another father struggling with his own disabilities is a fount of encouragement to his insecure son, urging him to never give up even when the odds seem overwhelming.
Thus, the Shiloh Academy players eventually go from being a collection of bickering individuals to a true team, inspiring parents, faculty and fellow students. The team’s assistant coach is tempted to betray his boss, but in the end he puts loyalty over personal gain. Some of the team boosters come to realize they have dishonored Coach Taylor through their backhanded attempts to have him fired, and one seeks his forgiveness. (This man realizes that his priorities have been backwards.)
Taylor and Brooke are a truly inspirational, happily married couple. They show love and devotion to each other through hard times. And each makes the other’s needs a priority.
This story is built around Coach Taylor’s wrestling with what he believes to be God’s will for him, his family and his team. Scenes show him reading his Bible and in earnest conversation with God. He prays with Brooke and repeatedly asks her if she will still love God if He doesn’t give them what they so desperately want: a child. At a breaking point for her, she tearfully surrenders her desires and tells her Heavenly Father that she does still love Him. For Coach’s part, he says, “I’ve resolved to give God everything I’ve got and leave the results to Him.”
A man walks the empty hallways of the Christian school, praying for the students. This spiritual booster is used in the film to drive home a core message: Faith in God’s provision must be coupled with our “very best.” He tells a parable about two farmers who both pray for rain. One waits for it hopefully. The other waits for it while “preparing his fields.” His concluding question? Which one is truly trusting God?
The coach’s example eventually spreads to the student body, and a small revival breaks out. One scene shows students and teachers in groups around the campus, praying. The player who reconciles with his father first reconciles with God. (He tells his dad, “I got right with God today. I just want to tell you I’m sorry and I respect your authority.”) The football players gather in prayer before each game.
On the gridiron we see many scenes of hard hits and furious tackles. Frustrated and angry, Coach Taylor throws his clipboard, and in the locker room he whacks one of his players over the head with his cap.
“God is a better director than Steven Spielberg, a better producer than Jerry Bruckheimer, a better writer than George Lucas.” It’s an unusual quote from one of the men behind this unusual film, Stephen Kendrick. (Stephen and his brother, Alex, wrote and produced Facing the Giants. Alex also directed it and stars in it.)
Kendrick isn’t trying to say that God made this movie. He’s saying that the messages and stories that God holds dear and wants people to hear make the rest pale in comparison. And Facing the Giants benefits mightily from this little spiritual gem. Lousy-team-finally-gets-its-act-together-to-win-the-big-game movies are as ubiquitous as passing plays on third and long. And if this film were just another one of them, there would be little else to say. But by embracing the spiritual concept of faith and then exploring the tension that exists between human experiences and spiritual realities, this little film that could—does.
Facing the Giants took a remarkable path on its way to the big screen. Alex and Stephen are associate pastors at Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga. Their senior pastor and executive pastor—Michael Catt and Jim McBride, respectively—believed that making the film would be an “out of the box” approach to ministry. So the brothers’ project became a church-wide project.
With no traditional fund-raising, the $100,000 undertaking was supported by private donations from Sherwood members. All the actors and most of the crew volunteered their services. Church members pitched in to help, doing everything from lighting to catering. One of the few paid members of the crew was cinematographer Bob Scott, who brought his experience from NFL Films and the camera crew for Any Given Sunday and Friday Night Lights to bring an authenticity to the football scenes.
Even granting the presence of Mr. Scott, though, amateur usually spells death for a movie with aspirations of greatness. Startlingly, in this case, it doesn’t. These amateurs make it look easy. And they make it look good. Maybe that’s because they took the film’s earnest message to heart: Win or lose, they trusted God and gave Him their very best.