WATCH THE TRAILER HERE
First, the Recap:
True faith vs. false teaching. Standing firm on one’s beliefs is a core, human value, worthy of notice when followed, but also scrutinized and controversial when not. This is more than apparent in Christianity, where supporting the Word of God without compromise can win people’s hearts, but utilizing the faith for one’s own gain can reap destruction. In a small mid-American town, Pastor Luke Wolfe, Sr. (David Vandergriff) has one thing on his mind–building the most impressive mega-church in the area while pushing out any other “competition”. With the town’s architect, Steve (Collin Alexander Brown), and his own son Lukie (Michael K. Johnson) backing him up, plus an eye on local beauty Anita (Kelly Nelon Clark) as a possible trophy wife, Luke’s self-centered agenda is apparent.
When one family, the Jensen’s–Connie (Juli Tapken), Ralph (Ken Dohse), son Billy (James Alcorn), and daughter Barbie (Maranda Vandergriff)–see what is transpiring, they choose to search for a better church home and meet the new face in town, Pastor Evan Shephard (Donald James Parker), who’s felt called by God to start up Old Rugged Cross Church and challenge the wayward teachings Pastor Wolfe is preaching. Suddenly, with congregation members, including Anita, starting to be drawn to Pastor Shephard’s straightforward, truth-infused Gospel sermons and prayer times, Pastor Luke realizes his own plans for personal prosperity is in jeopardy, hence setting up building tension between the two men.
Yet, as Pastor Wolfe continues to utilize underhanded, scheming methods to attack and discredit Pastor Shephard, it all leads to the truth that, with God, all things are possible, and even the hardest heart can be transformed.
Next, my Mind:
As anyone who has seen previous feature film efforts from writer/director/producer/actor Donald James Parker knows, there is no pulling punches when it comes to his own faith in God, much less in his unwavering and unapologetically blunt force messages of the Gospel in the stories via celluloid he chooses to present. This newest project is absolutely, unequivocally no exception to the rule, as Parker once again hits the viewer with in-your-face, deeply passionate, unvarnished truth from the Bible in showcasing the realities of truly living surrendered in heart to God and His will vs. attempting to “use” God for worldly gain and all the subsequent justifications and damage that come with that perception and mindset. While some might try to say this direct, candid, forthright approach could be a turn-off, it honestly just feels right in a modern society that never seems to baby any other decision it makes, so why water it down?
Parker and Vandergriff, in their portrayals of two men seeking God in totally opposite ways plus with opposing goals, are quite entertaining while providing the intended messages the film aims to bring out. Parker has the elder statesman-like persona and presence as Shephard, a pastor whose sole purpose is to pray, listen to God, do what He leads him to do, and make no bones about it. Vandergriff’s Pastor Luke, in total contrast, is a man still focused on and held by worldly ways, despite his proclamations to the contrary, and multiple scenes where this attitude is demonstrated are both intentionally over-the-top, yet sad as well. Watching the two pastors battle for the notion of serving God vs. self is effective and filled with targeted design for both believer and non-believer alike. Solid support is turned in from the characters enacted by Brown, Clark, Tapken, Dohse, Alcorn, and Vandergriff while additional turns from Amelia Mann, Tony Caudill, Royce Henry, Chris Palmer, and Bob Cleeland, all have key moments, which works for the film and its aspirations.
In total, with its uncomplicated execution production-wise and clear, accessible, unhidden Biblical themes and objectives, “Old Rugged Cross” stands as a solid indie effort that will certainly challenge existing Christians as well as non-Christians to be willing to search out what’s portrayed here and discover for themselves, perhaps, a newfound and more cognizant understanding of how important it is that when any of us might say “Lord, Lord….”, there’s true commitment and belief backing those words up.
As always, this is all for your consideration and comment. Until next time, thank you for reading!