Filmology (Film Review) of “We Are Marshall” and its Connections to Church Planting

Posted: December 11, 2007 by Rick Hogaboam in Ecclesiology (Church Stuff), Movie Reviews
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Okay, I know that there seems to be an annual football movie and it may be getting kind of old, but this movie is worth watching for no other reason than that it is based on a true story. An entire football team perishes in a plane crash, which obviously rocks the country, and in particular, the small town of Huntington, West Virginia.

University president, Donald Dedmon, decides to continue the football program after an inspiring plea by the student body, only to find that no one wants the coaching job. Assistant coach, “Red” Dawson, is too shaken up to take the job and other coaches don’t want to take over a program that needs to start over from scratch. In those days, freshman were not allowed to compete in varsity sports due to NCAA rules. An incoming coach would basically only be able to work with whatever freshman returned for the following year (becoming sophomores) and any transfers from other colleges or junior colleges. Basically, the football team would have to take a 2 year break to even field a team and even then, who would want to transfer to such a program?

A small town coach, Jack Lengyel, from Wooster College, actually inquires about the job and becomes the next coach. He reaches out to “Red” Dawson and subsequently recruits a coaching staff. As for fielding a team, coach Lengyel recruited players from other sports and sought permission from the NCAA to allow incoming freshman to compete at the varsity level.  He finally gained permission and was then able to better recruit players, promising them immediate playing time.

The story is really about how coach Lengyel was able to bring healing to the Marshall campus and at the same time restore the football team. I couldn’t help but think that pastors, church planters in particular, could benefit from watching this flick. Here are the reasons:

Coach Lengyel saw a need at Marshall and was driven to pursue the job. He wanted to help be part of the solution amidst much grief. In other words, he had a “calling”. So also, pastors must minister in their “calling”. The only thing that can keep a man sane in amidst tragedy and suffering is a sense of “calling”.

Once coach Lengyel surveyed the work ahead of him, he thought outside the box and was willing to challenge the status quo. He sought the NCAA’s permission to allow freshman to play, he looked for talent in unsuspecting places, like the soccer, basketball, and baseball teams. The connection here for church planting pastors is that challenges must be met with creativity and boldness. A pastor must be willing to transcend the norm and break out of the boxed perception of how things “ought to be done”.

Coach Lengyel went to West Virginia and Bobby Bowden for help in formulating an Option offense. Lengyel wanted to install the “Power I” offense at first and had to adjust because it wouldn’t work. There is a lot to learn from this. Lengyel was familiar with the “Power I” and was passionate about its potential. Rather than stubbornly insist on his preconceived conviction of what the offense should look like, he was flexible and teachable. He even looked to coach Dawson for help, who suggested the option offense. A good pastor must surround himself with good leaders and be teachable. A good pastor will be humble enough to admit that his way might not be the best way and be willing to make the necessary adjustments. Going to West Virginia for help was also unthinkable, requiring much humility. Kudos to Bowden for his willingness to help!!! You have not because you ask not. Lengyel was willing to ask, and he received. Church planters need to be man enough to swallow pride and seek help when necessary. A self sufficient mentality will suffer unnecessary failure.

Anyhow, decent flick, good acting. I give it a 7/10. Recommended for all church planters and existing leaders.



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