Close this search box.

“Yo Youth Leaders!” (the making of Rocky and the mastery of Youth Ministry)

Picture of Greg Stier
Greg Stier

The movie Rocky captures the spirit of a lone fighter with the odds stacked against him who prevails in the end. What’s interesting about this film is that the same caliber of courage depicted by Rocky is what it took to actually make the movie.

fullsizeoutput_131cSylvester Stallone was a down-on-his-luck actor who couldn’t get much of a break in New York City in the early 70’s. So he moved to Los Angeles. He struggled so much that he ended up selling his beloved dog, Butkus, for $25.

But then something happened that gave him an idea that changed everything. Here’s how Stallone put it, “I went out to see Muhammad Ali fight Chuck Wepner. And what I saw was pretty extraordinary. I saw a man called ‘The Bayonne Bleeder’ fight the greatest fighter who ever lived. And for one brief moment, this supposed stumblebum turned out to be magnificent. And he lasted and knocked the champ down. I thought if this isn’t a metaphor for life.

With this real-life fight as his inspiration he wrote the script for Rocky. He ran the script by some producers and they loved it. The only problem was that he wanted to play the lead role of Rocky and they wanted to get someone famous to play the role. They offered him $360,000 for the script on the one condition that someone else would play the part of Rocky.

Imagine how tempting that would be? I mean he was so broke he had sold his dog for $25! But Stallone stood firm and said “no.” Why? Because he had a clear vision that he refused to compromise!

The producers finally relented and let him play the lead role. But they only gave him $1,000,000 dollars to make the entire movie. Even in the 1970’s that was a paltry amount for a serious movie to be made well.

So what did Stallone do? He used a lot of family and friends both in front of and behind the camera. He did most of the shots in the movie in just one take. He improvised, adapted and overcame to accomplish his vision!

What was the result of his tenacious and uncompromising vision? Rocky won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1976! According to Forbes the Rocky franchise has brought in over 1.4 billion dollars and is one of the most successful movie franchises of all time! 

By the way, after he signed the deal for Rocky, Stallone found the guy he sold his dog to and bought Butkus back (for $15,000!) And, yes, this is the same dog that is in the movie!

What does all of this Rocky talk have to do with youth leaders? Like Sylvester Stallone, we need an unstoppable vision burning in our hearts that we will never give up on! Even in the midst of a pandemic, even in the midst of social unrest we need “The Eye of the Tiger” and the power of the Spirit to finish the fight!

It means that we are willing to “sell the dog” to get the job done. It means we are willing to say “no” to lesser things so that we can say “yes” to the burning vision God has placed in our hearts. 

If you don’t yet have a vision burning in your heart let me propose one you can seize as your own: “Every teen everywhere hearing the Gospel from a friend!”

There are one billion teenagers worldwide, the largest generation of young people in the history of the world. There are 27 million teenagers in the United States.

How many teenagers are in your city, your community, your local public high schools? What if you took responsibility to mobilize the teenagers in your youth group to reach the teenagers in your community? 

Lead THE Cause (either in person or Virtual) is a great opportunity for your teenagers to get mobilized for the Gospel over the Summer. It’s a full week of next level training that will show your teenagers how to throw a knockout blow to Satan while advancing the Gospel of Jesus together!

Dare 2 Share Live could be a great outreach for your church this Fall! We’ve simplified it and completely removed the price tag! All you need is adult leaders, internet and a commitment to do the outreach! This one-of-a-kind teen outreach day will mobilize your teenagers for Gospel action! Why not jump on board with it so that every teen everywhere in your city can hear the Gospel from a friend?

Your teenagers will be equipped to fight against someone way more formidable than Apollo Creed and win something way more valuable than the Heavyweight Belt!

Cue the Rocky music…

Dare 2 Share LIVE 2020 Highlight Video

Unlikely Fighter

#1 new release in Evangelism on Amazon

The story of how a fatherless street kid overcame violence, chaos, and confusion to become a radical Christ follower.

Get the latest episodes, resources, and updates emailed to your inbox.