When Kirk Cameron visited Liberty University for the first time last fall as a guest speaker at Convocation, he was greeted by a roar of cheers, some shiny “Show Me That Smile” signs, and a serenade by the campus band of the theme song to “Growing Pains,” the ’80s TV sitcom in which he played teen Mike Seaver.
Cameron laughed and sang along, commenting later how astounded he was that so many students, not even alive during the time of the show, knew about his role in the popular TV series.
But the students’ excitement was further evidence that Cameron’s name is still in the headlines, though no longer prefaced by “former teen heartthrob,” but rather by “Christian actor, producer, and evangelist.”
Cameron’s faith journey since becoming a Christian at age 17 has taken him from Hollywood into ministry all over the country, from partnering with Ray Comfort in The Way of the Master ministry, to leading marriage conferences, hosting Christian TV shows, and running a foundation with his wife, Chelsea, to help families of children with terminal illnesses.
God is still using his talent on the set, too. He starred in the “Left Behind” films, based on the popular end-times novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, and in Sherwood Pictures’ “Fireproof,” the highest grossing independent film of 2008.
There’s no shortage of evidence that Cameron has left the Hollywood career of his youth to inspire a new generation of young people to impact the culture for Christ.
On that first visit to Liberty, Cameron talked about the making of “Monumental,” a documentary about our nation’s founders and their biblical principles. Since then, he has traveled two more times from his home in California to Lynchburg, Va. In March, it was Liberty Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s turn to trek across the country, meeting Cameron for a television interview on his own West Coast turf for the Trinity Broadcasting Network’s “Praise the Lord.”
During the interview on TV’s largest Christian network, Cameron announced a partnership that will give Liberty University students and faculty even more face time with him in the months to come.
He revealed that Liberty is partnering with him in a new film he is producing, to be released in September.
The film, under the working title “Unstoppable,” aims to answer some of life’s toughest questions about suffering. Starring in the film, Cameron recounts the personal experience of a friend’s son who battled cancer, then goes back through history showing dramatic biblical accounts of human suffering.
“It’s really a movie about the unstoppable victory of the Gospel through history,” Cameron said.
When his friend’s son died, Cameron said he immediately found himself asking God why He didn’t heal him.
“That’s one of the questions that wrecks people’s faith, that’s a question that turns Christians into atheists, it’s one of the big hand grenades that unbelievers like to throw at communities of faith,” he said. “I’m looking to answer this by taking you on a journey, back through the Garden of Eden to the creation of Adam and Eve and the fall … all the way through to Israel, Christ, and the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70, to show that all kinds of tragedies have taken place in the plan of God and He steers that tragedy and uses it to accomplish what He loves and ultimately restore all things back to Himself.”
The 90-minute movie is being filmed in California and South Dakota. Students from Liberty's new cinematic arts center will be involved in some of the filming and in post-production work.
Liberty will also play a major role in its release. The premiere will coincide with a large event being planned at Liberty’s Vines Center. Using satellite technology, it will be broadcast live to more than 600 theaters nationwide. The movie will be available for church screenings afterward, followed by a DVD release that will include bonus features produced by Liberty cinematic arts students.
“(Liberty) is making some big kingdom moves to produce Champions for Christ and send them into the culture,” Cameron said on TBN. “That’s what I want to do; we’re like-minded in that way. I want to make films that represent Gospel values; I want to impact families; I want to impact culture, and so we’re partnering together.”
He said Liberty will help spread the word about the film, and likewise, “I can get the word out to lots and lots of people about Liberty University, the film school, the academic program, and the Christian community that they offer.”
He pointed to Liberty’s strong philosophy and religion departments, and its seminary, that can support the film with classes on theology and worldview, possibly helping to develop curriculum to accompany the DVD.
During the TBN interview, Falwell commended Cameron for his work on the film.
“You’re using your platform as an actor to answer those questions, because I think there are so many young people who will listen to you, who will watch the new movie you’re making who wouldn’t go to church, who wouldn’t sit in a Christian school classroom,” Falwell said. “I think you’re touching people who can’t be reached any other way … that’s why we decided to help you with it. We’re just so impressed and proud of what you’re doing that we want to help.”
A trailer was shown during the broadcast (view it and the entire interview at www.itbn.org).
Cameron’s visits to campus have included tours of the new Cinematic Arts, Zaki Gordon Center, where he gave students a sneak preview of the film and answered questions about working in the Christian film industry.
He touted the program during the TBN interview: “You’ve got a full-blown film school that blows away most post-production and film production facilities. You’ve got mixing equipment, and you’ve got sound stages, and you’ve got theaters, and you’ve got cameras that people drool over having. If you’re a film student and you’re looking for a university to go to to break into Hollywood without losing your soul, Liberty University is the place you need to look to.”
He said he was inspired by Liberty students’ excitement about movie making.
“It gives us hope for the future, knowing that there are these young, talented, passionate students and filmmakers who want to tell stories that glorify God — and that will change the culture,” he said.
Falwell said that visit solidified a relationship that he would like to see continue long term.
“Kirk is using his skill and reputation as a filmmaker and a popular actor to convey and promote values that are core to Liberty University’s Christian mission. Liberty is grateful that Kirk has chosen to involve Liberty students in his projects, creating valuable learning opportunities for our cinematic arts students that will benefit them greatly throughout their careers.”
Cameron said he, too, hopes the film partnership “is part of a long, fruitful relationship.”
“I am very impressed with everything I see here at Liberty, talking with the students and the faculty and seeing all the growth that’s going on here, and what I’m hearing about studios and outdoor locations and sets for the film school, I would love for us to continue making more projects together beyond ‘Unstoppable.’”
Cameron used a portion of the TBN interview to introduce viewers to Liberty, talking about its more than 100,000 students and top-notch facilities that rival some of the nation’s largest universities. And as he learns more about Liberty, he said he sees how the school’s mission aligns with his own and is glad he discovered a perfect partner in his endeavors.
“Liberty is truly unique in that it’s the largest Christian university in the world, there’s a very vibrant online community, which is very attractive to so many people who couldn’t otherwise finish degrees or even go to college because of work and family commitments; it’s very user-friendly, it’s very accessible for anyone, and it has such a history of a solid Christian worldview, with Dr. Falwell starting it and his son carrying on the legacy,” he said.
From the law school, seminary, aviation program, film school, and recreation facilities, such as a year-round ski slope, “it just seems to have everything AND everything is done with such excellence here,” he added. “It’s not a rinky-dink little Bible college — this is a world-class university and they’re continuing to grow and get bigger and better. I think it’s amazing.”