The Truett brothers Dave (Evan Hofer), left, and Zach (Tanner Stine) run football drills in the movie “Run The Race,” which opens in theaters on Feb. 22, 2019.​ Photo courtesy of RTR Movie Holdings, LLC.

Tim Tebow makes the Christian movie he's always wanted to see

LOS ANGELES (RNS) — Tim Tebow, the Heisman Trophy winner and former NFL quarterback now readying for his fourth season as a minor-league baseball player, knows that being a good Christian doesn't solve everything.

Even watching Christian movies growing up, Tebow had his doubts when the main character started praying and suddenly everything “was just perfect.”

“That’s not real life,” he said. “Life’s not easy.”

As executive producers of the new film "Run the Race," Tebow and his brother Robby wanted to create the kind of movie — and Christian life — he longed to see instead: one that’s not perfect, but authentic.

"Run the Race," the story of two high school brothers trying to overcome their mother’s death and father’s abandonment, sticks close to the power of fraternal love and sports. Zach Truett, played by Tanner Stine, is working to earn a college football scholarship, but after he suffers an injury, he worries he’ll never find his way out of his small town.

Not wanting to give up on their dream, his brother, Dave, attempts to save both brothers' futures by securing his own scholarship in track.

The characters, especially Zach, also spend a lot of time grappling with and asking questions about their faith — questions many of those involved in the movie, including real-life Christians Stine and Tebow, have asked themselves.

Tim Tebow and his fiancee, Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, at the premiere of “Run the Race” on Feb. 11, 2019. RNS photo by Heather Adams


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“We all go through our own faith journey. You ask the questions and you ask the why,” Tebow told Religion News Service. “Even in your lows, God loves you and he’s chasing you and he wants to know you and support you and he gave his best for you.”

Jake McEntire, who wrote the original script, was in one of those lows. By that time he had been working on the screenplay for almost a decade. “I remember being in class in 2004, just freehand writing this stuff,” said McEntire.

He rewrote it multiple times over the years, then made a "concept" trailer hoping it’d attract more people to the project. McEntire said there were multiple times he’d pray, asking God if he should give up or if God wanted him to keep going.

“I just felt like this was a calling God gave me in my heart to go tell this story,” he said.

It was on one of those days of praying and questioning whether to continue that the Tebows called, he said.

Trey Brunson, who met McEntire in college in Dallas, got to know Robby Tebow as a pastor in Florida. Six years ago Brunson, now an executive producer himself, showed the trailer to Robby, who showed it to Tim. The Tebow brothers then asked to read the full script.

It was reading the script, Tim Tebow said, that was his impetus to get into the movie industry. A popular public speaker, he said the power of McEntire's storytelling impressed on him how limited his appearances were compared with the movies.

The official poster for “Run the Race.” Courtesy of RTR Movie Holdings, LLC.


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“It’s just another avenue to encourage people,” said Tebow, who has been supporting the movie with press and on social media. “Why not use that avenue for good, too?"

Though McEntire now had Tebow to ask about achieving in sports, the writer said that much of the film is drawn on his own sports experience.

McEntire had a scholarship to play college football before he tore his ACL and his dream of a football career went away. The mother in the film is based on a friend’s mom who had passed away from breast cancer.

“I kind of cherry-picked things that happened to me and my brothers and my best friends, the good and the bad, and put it all into one story,” he said.

Even McEntire’s relationship with his wife was used to create a storyline that is not the usual Hollywood teen romance.

McEntire knew he wanted to marry his wife three days after meeting her — something he immediately told his brothers. Six months later he bought a ring, but he continued to pray for another six months.

“I was like, ‘Lord, if you want me to marry this girl, I’ll do it. But if you don’t want me to marry her, get me out of here,’” he said.

They were married in April 2007, 16 months after they met. “We were both virgins when we got married, so I wanted to show that purity,” he said. “I wanted to show kids that can still happen — you can have this.”

If the movie represents Christian values, it's not a sermon from on high — the filmmakers even debated if any character should say the name Jesus, McEntire said.

Once they got to filming, in fact, "Run the Race" became a collaboration. Director Chris Dowling shares screenwriting credit with McEntire and Jason Baumgardner, and Dowling in turn allowed his actors a lot of flexibility. That spirit is what convinced veteran actor Mario Van Peebles to take the the role of Pastor Baker, who leads the church in the Truetts' small town.

“I wanted to play this character because there were things I wanted to say,” Van Peebles said. “Some of what you see in the film is ad lib.”

Pastor Baker (Mario Van Peebles) and Louise (Frances Fisher) in a scene from the movie “Run the Race.” Photo courtesy of RTR Movie Holdings, LLC.


 This image is available for web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

While there is a lot about Christianity in "Run the Race," Dowling said it addresses experiences many people can relate to — not least the director himself, whose father walked out on his family when Dowling was young.

“As humans we all want the same thing. We want to know we have a purpose, we want to feel loved, we want the best for our kids,” Dowling said.

Tebow hopes people see what he says is the reality of trusting in God.

“You don’t want to trick people or fool people that all the sudden life is going to be perfect. Never told it’s going to be perfect or easy — just worth it,” he said.

"Run the Race" will be in theaters Friday (Feb. 22).

Comments

  1. Tim Tebow is a class act. Whether his movie is good or not, his foundation and his work with special needs children is inspiring and remarkable. Check out the Night to Shine program: Timtebowfoundation.org

  2. How would it possible for Christian filmmakers to have any “debate” about whether any character in this kind of film can speak the name of Jesus? There are no “Christian Values” which can be “represented” without it, after all. If Christ and Christianity are somehow diluted to just “God”, then something like “Godianity” is what would be “represented”. Christians have made a big deal out of wanting to say “Christmas”. It’s more important to be sure that Jesus is really mentioned by name—–and prominently—-in every depiction of Christianity.

  3. Fox, Breitbart and other conservative sites love them some Tebow. He’s in there regularly as a representation of a true Christian athlete. That’s fine.

  4. I’m sure this will go over as well as Kirk Cameron’s born-again efforts at film production.

  5. When it comes to Tim Tebow this latest quote that has gone viral says everything you need to know that defines the man…

    “You’re always going to have critics and naysayers and people that are going to tell you that you won’t, that you can’t, that you shouldn’t. Most of those people are the people that didn’t, that wouldn’t, that couldn’t.”

    The fact that Tim Tebow understands himself, If you don’t try, you definitely know that you can’t win or loose.

  6. My wife and I are retired and spending almost all of our time together. She does a lot of sewing and quilting. When she does that, I read books to her out loud. Some of her (our) favorites are fictional novels by Christian writers. They all contain scenes where one individual leads another one to Christ, with a short explanation of the real Jesus, and simple sinner’s prayers prayed together. THIS is the Christianity people need in fiction, not vague “God” episodes. Seriously. “Christian” is one specific thing. Showing this is how to get kind Christians instead of Warrior Godians—-the latter of which we now have too many.

  7. Teebow seems to be a bit less of an angry snot about his beliefs than Cameron.

    Plus the film seems to be aiming towards something besides pandering to the wingnutty crowd.

    Like it or not, PureFlix reopened the floodgates of low budget exploitation fare which were largely gone by the 00’s. Godsploitation makes decent profit from low budgets.

  8. Sounds interesting. Low budget personalized filmmaking is something that doesn’t get enough love these days.

  9. So Christian values can’t be represented without speaking the name of Jesus? I beg to differ. In fact, most of the time, they are.

    There’s a difference between stating one’s beliefs and demonstrating them by how one lives. Show me two professed Christians, one who spouts the name of Jesus on every occasion but acts selfishly and one who seldom speaks but treats others with compassion, and I know which one I’ll follow as a model.

    A Christian should be willing, when called upon, to proclaim in speech what he or she believes. The rest of the time the call is simply to live it.

  10. “Live” WHAT exactly? I have people all the time trying to lead me to believe that Genesis, Revelation and the Ten Commandments are the whole deal. They are all Trumpies now. We need to haul them back to Jesus—-the only place there is any kindness or empathy in any of it. Don’t settle for a “skip-over” job like “the man upstairs”.

  11. Live the Ten Commandments. Live the Beatitudes. Live the Corporal Works of Mercy. Live the Spiritual Works of Mercy. Live the Seven Heavenly Virtues. Live the Three Theological Virtues. Live the Paschal Mystery. Live the Great Commandment of Love.

    You know, that kind of stuff.

  12. It’s easy to say Mr Rogers Neighborhood spoke of Christian values from an ordained minister without ever mentioning Jesus by name.

    (Yes, I just recently rewatched “Won’t You Be My Neighbor on cable)

  13. I love it when unbelievers lecture believers on how they should and shouldn’t express their faith – the clueless pontificating about clues.

  14. An authentic Christian movie would feature a family broken apart by a zealous convert who insists on bringing up Jesus at every available (and most often inappropriate) opportunity and repeatedly reminding family members of their eternal appointment in hell. Being Christian is not easy for non-Christians.

  15. I especially enjoyed the video of him and Ray Comfort praising god for designing bananas just for man. Silly man didn’t realize he needed to thank his fellow man for developing such a tasty and convenient snack. The original banana was a mess.

  16. That would work, but we have to remember that a huge chunk of church no longer puts those at the top unless you (we) press that issue.

  17. You’re right, but Mr. Rogers and sports/message movies are two different things. Mr. Rogers could do God without mentioning God at all. I get nervous about things where God is the admitted point, but they are afraid to mention Jesus for fear that the thing won’t sell as well commercially.

  18. But do we know whether I, the believer, might be lecturing you, the unbeliever? Snarky flows both ways and you are in no position to know which way this is going (or you wouldn’t be snarking).

  19. You want me to believe that the Trump voters from churches have this all together in the witness department? We are living in a “God” focus that is not working out right at all with most of the people who most claim it. Tons and tons of people who are imagining themselves Christians are following a very bad spirit these days.

  20. “I get nervous about things where God is the admitted point, but they are afraid to mention Jesus for fear that the thing won’t sell as well commercially.”

    Which is why I mentioned PureFlix previously. Evidently mentioning Jesus and Christianity has been selling well commercially for them. “Christian” films represent a viable form of independent films. Especially in an industry where distribution has become far more decentralized than it has been in the past with streaming services and digital download.

  21. Sorry, but I don’t know anything about PureFlix or what they have put in films. Actually, I don’t even know what is in this Tebow film. I was just struck by the suspicion from this article that Christianity which doesn’t mention Jesus is likely to be designed for that “muscular-minded” set which is following Trump for the thrill of imagining themselves kicking butt. I also have a similar suspicion about God painted onto competitive sports (and vice versa) for that matter.

  22. Half of the country—-the half which does not appreciate being asked to be nice.

  23. I would say it’s probably no more than a third, but they are very vocal.

  24. PureFlix is a low budget production company which has been putting out “Christian films” starring mostly former sitcom actors. They follow exploitation film methods.

    The plot of the film as described in the article looks like, “God helped me through ______ trouble”.

    Who knows?

    Low budget independent filmmaking was becoming a lost art as of late. So I applaud the effort. Even though it is not something that appeals to my tastes in film.

  25. All of my comments about religious topics have everything to do with politics. I am always looking for what religion causes people to think, do and say in their other life settings.

  26. Both this article and the movie are a serious waste of electrons. Tim Tebow? Get a grip as he’s about as newsworthy as paint drying.

  27. I like the idea of low budget. I would like the idea of sweet—–if they really have that. For actors, I would probably like the idea of people no one has ever heard of. What I would really like is seeing Jesus turn churchy people into honest people. As in, wow, I used to think lying for the Chamber of Commerce is okay, and now I don’t.

  28. Your original comment said nothing about either politics or Trump. It only referenced whether or not one can be Christian without mentioning Jesus, and that’s what I responded to. If everything you write is about politics, I suggest you be a bit clearer about that.

  29. I just was—-to you. As for Christianity depicted, I’m for making it be about Jesus softening hearts and straightening out minds. There is nothing good which ever comes from God talk which calls itself Christian but skips dwelling on how Christ is quite different from most of everything else ever said about God. If we were meant to appreciate “muscular Christianity”, Jesus would have raised armies to defeat the Romans and whatever He thought was errant about the Jews of his time. That’s not how it went.

  30. I suspect using has-been actors is necessary to get the films financed. Christian films are following the business model set by exploitation film makers like Roger Corman.

  31. I guess so. Like I said, I know nearly nothing about any of this. We don’t have cable, we don’t download anything in video, we don’t go to many movies. I’m fossilizing and admit it.

  32. I saw this movie yesterday. Its simplicity and profundity was refreshing. The message was in that in life we all have up and downs. Behind it all, we all have a purpose and meaning to be discovered.

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