Faith in the film
Michaels shares his heart and new role
Those familiar with WWE Hall-of-Famer Shawn Michaels know he is famous for headlining main events, breaking hearts and captivating sold-out crowds as “The Showstopper.”
Which is why it may come as a surprise to hear that in his first true acting role, he fills a supporting role as Doug, a humble churchgoer, in the newly released film, “The Resurrection of Gavin Stone.”
Michaels and the director of the film, Dallas Jenkins, came to Liberty’s Convocation Jan. 18 to talk about the film.
The faith-based comedy-drama follows the life of Stone, a child star turned bad boy, who finds himself involved with a local church after running into trouble once again.
In his attempt to get out of manual labor, he pretends to be a believer so that he can take a role as Jesus in the church’s play, but is gradually humbled by the character of Jesus and the reflection of that character in his encounters with the church members.
“There’s a scene where (Gavin) doesn’t understand why he’s being forgiven, and they say, ‘This is what we do,’” Jenkins said.
“He’s facing forgiveness and grace that’s loving him into the kingdom more than preaching because they assumed he was a Christian. … They end up just showing him love because that’s what they do.”
The theme is connected with a sermon series from James MacDonald, senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel, who is also the executive producer of the film.
The series stems from Romans 15 verses 1-7 and is broken into three parts: We welcome without judgment, we love without condition, and we forgive without limit.
“It is the actions of everyone around him that continue to blow him away, even when he messes up, even when he hurts them, even when he’s selfish,” Michaels said.
“They don’t stop. Nothing changes in their demeanor toward him. They continue to be loving and helpful and joyful that he’s there. They hurt when he’s gone, they want him, and they want him without any conditions.”
Part of the reason Michaels was inclined to take a role in the movie was because of the similarities he saw between Stone’s transition to the church and his own.
At the peak of his career, Michaels was known for being a wild boy in and out of the ring.
In his testimony, Michaels recalls when his 2-year-old son said, ‘Daddy’s tired’ as a way of describing him in an incoherent state.
Michaels said it broke his heart, and for the first time he loved something more than every selfish whim and desire that he had, and it drove him to seek after the Lord.
“It was a moment of me realizing, ‘Oh my goodness, I’m failing my wife and family,’” Michaels said.
“‘You think you’re a man Shawn, but you’re not, and there’s so many things you’re falling short at,’ and that bothered me. That’s what happens with Gavin. It hurts him. His heart aches for him hurting these people that did absolutely nothing but just love him and care for him and were there for him, and he wants to change that.”
In an interview with some of the cast, MacDonald said that he does not want people to miss that the ideal church is truly loving without limits, and that is how God desires it to be.
“Let’s keep in mind that Jesus Christ was known for keeping company with many different kinds of people,” MacDonald said in the interview.
“This was the big criticism. Look how much he’s going to parties. He’s hanging around with prostitutes. He’s hanging around with tax collectors. He’s hanging around with all the people society said, ‘You’re not good enough to be in our religious club,’ but Jesus actually gravitated to those people.”
Michaels also said that though it is a faith-based film, there is never a point where the viewer feels like they are being preached at.
Jenkins believes that this is because of the comedic atmosphere and the fun nature of the film.
Jenkins noted that a lot of the humor is aimed at Christian culture and the “Christianese” language, but it’s all in a good spirit, and he feels that it will create a more comforting and welcoming environment for non-believers.
“It’s not always the case that faith-based movies are funny, at least on purpose,” Jenkins said.
“I think we Protestants are always so earnest, and it’s really important for us to deliver a message, and to be on point and deliver it with clarity, and sometimes we think that humor is going to get in the way or distract from that.”
Michaels hopes that the film will help break down the misconception that people have to clean themselves up to come to church, a thought he once weighed himself.
“You’ve got the long hair, you’ve got the tattoos — I didn’t look like someone that was going to fit,” Michaels said in an interview.
“I was intimidated about going in, and I was very fortunate to run into someone that was very welcoming. If it was not for the love and compassion of that gentleman and his wife, it did not matter what else was going on, they were always there for me, and they brought me along step by step.”
Working on the film and being surrounded with people that share the same love of Christ that helped bring him to a point of repentance reminded Michaels of the peace that he has had since being saved and the direction of his future.
“I’m waiting to see what the good Lord has for me next,” Michaels said at Liberty University’s Convocation Jan. 18.
“There’s absolutely no point in me wanting to do something outside of God’s will. I know I’m not the focus of anything, and in the wrestling business it will affect my greatness. I will slowly fall down the ladder in the eyes of wrestling fans. I will become less great because I don’t continue to try to build on that … and I’m ok with it fading away. Wallowing in obscurity doesn’t bother me that much.”