Doc Hollywood: Called to Community

Posted: May 28, 2013 by John C. Kwasny, Ph.D. in Comedy, Drama, Romance
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Starting with the blockbuster Back to The Future trilogy, Michael J. Fox made a film career out of pretty much the same role–a know-it-all punk who gets into trouble and then typically charms his way out of it.  I was definitely one of his biggest fans back then, since I grew up with his Alex P. Keaton character in the Family Ties TV Series.  But it was some time in 1996 that one of his movies impacted my life the most.  Yes, I’m not ashamed to say it: God used Doc Hollywood to crystallize my calling in ministry.

[Note: Doc Hollywood was actually released in 1991, but I didn’t see it until 1996 on television.  And it was a good thing too, since the edited version leaves out a totally useless nude shot of the lead female character.  So I would suggest waiting until it comes on TV!]

Doc Hollywood is about a young cocky Doctor, Ben Stone (Fox), who has a traffic accident on the way to an interview as a plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills.  To pay for his “crime”, the judge mandates community service as a doctor in the small town of Grady.  The townspeople, including the mayor, do their best to convince “Doc Hollywood” to stay in Grady permanently to replace the retiring Doc Hogue.  The small town of Grady symbolizes real community, while Beverly Hills (not surprisingly) is a picture of isolation, imitation, and plastic.

Just in case you’re interested, here are some of my favorite lines (since I’ve now probably watched the movie a dozen times or so).  In an appeal from the mayor to Ben Stone: “Give Grady a chance, you just might like her.”  Ben Stone’s love interest, Vialula, tells him: “You can’t poop in this town without everyone knowing what color it is.”   Life insurance salesman and rival, Hank (played brilliantly by Woody Harrelson), says about Doc Hollywood: “I’m not sure if I trust a man who doesn’t eat meat.”  Classic.  And one of the most important questions by Ben Stone himself: “Don’t you think a guy’s entitled to choose his own destiny?”

If Ben Stone was a Christian, he would have come to understand that God was calling him to stay in Grady and become a small town doctor.  From the very beginning of the movie, it was his destiny.  He just so happened to crash his sports car into the local judge’s fence, forcing him to stay and do community service.  The part for his car delayed his road trip, and later his repaired car was wrecked again.  He fell in love with the woman who only wanted to live in Grady.  He even started falling in love with the quirky people he was serving.  There is even great symbolism in one scene, where he has to tear up his Armani shirts in order to deliver a baby.  Gradually, “Doc Hollywood” begins to let go of his “big city” aspirations, seeing them as hollow and most importantly, lonely.  Ultimately, he had the “freedom” to leave, so he left Grady–but not for long.  Grady was his destiny.

So, I know you’re dying to know how God used this movie to shape how I looked at ministry.  Well, one scene did it for me.  After Doc Hollywood delivered his first baby, he was celebrating with old Doc Hogue.  Hogue opens up his antique armoire which holds hundreds of photos of babies stuck in there like post-it notes.  In his own crotchety way, he says:  “Over 700 babies I’ve delivered in this small town.  Saw them through every sneeze and sniffle, and sometimes even walked them to the gravesites.  Wouldn’t trade them for gold…well, maybe gold…or cash money!  Well, this is my PORTFOLIO…”  It hit me like a ton of bricks.  This is the sort of “portfolio” I wanted out of my calling.  No, not as a doctor–but as a Christian Education and Children’s Ministry director in the local church.  I wanted to see children born to families in our church, trained by God’s Word, make professions of faith in Christ, and grow up to serve the Lord all of their lives.  I know it may sound corny to some, but this movie sincerely changed me from wanting to just work to “move up” in the world, to wanting to spend my life ministering to a body of believers in the church.

To me, that is the message of Doc Hollywood:  We are called to community.  God calls believers out as individuals to put us together as the family of God.  The lure of this world is money, power, success–and independence.  The call of the Kingdom is for people to come together as the Body of Christ, serving, loving, and really knowing one another.  Whatever the size of your church, it really is meant to be a “small town” community experience in the Lord!


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