Gavin MacLeod is known for piloting 'The Love Boat' to a loyal fan base and strong ratings for more than a decade -- but if you ask the iconic TV star who's behind the wheel these days, he's not likely to mention his beloved alter-ego Captain Merrill Stubing. Today, when he tells Fox News, "I know who my Admiral is," he's referring to that big skipper in the sky. As in God.

Now 79 and a born-again Christian, MacLeod is embarking on a new chapter in a 50-year career that has seen him star on successful TV shows such as 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show' and 'The Love Boat' and share the screen with legends like Moore, Cary Grant and Tony Curtis. With his latest film 'The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry' (in select theaters now), MacLeod is plunging headlong into the burgeoning Christian film industry. Gavin MacLeod is known for piloting 'The Love Boat' to a loyal fan base and strong ratings for more than a decade -- but if you ask the iconic TV star who's behind the wheel these days, he's not likely to mention his beloved alter-ego Captain Merrill Stubing. Today, when he tells Fox News, "I know who my Admiral is," he's referring to that big skipper in the sky. As in God.

Now 79 and a born-again Christian, MacLeod is embarking on a new chapter in a 50-year career that has seen him star on successful TV shows such as 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show' and 'The Love Boat' and share the screen with legends like Moore, Cary Grant and Tony Curtis. With his latest film 'The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry' (in select theaters now), MacLeod is plunging headlong into the burgeoning Christian film industry.

In the film, MacLeod portrays the titular elderly widower who, in the summer of 1970, uses Biblical teachings to help a 12-year-old boy and his friends cope with a bully, a secret crush and just growing up in general. And despite the fact that there's no one named Moore or Grant starring opposite him in the movie, Gavin confesses, "The biggest honor I have ever had was to play the role of Jonathan Sperry in this simple but special film."


'The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry' showtimes and tickets


MacLeod is not alone in expressing these sentiments, as it is becoming progressively more apparent that there is a viable market for Christian cinema and a new breed of Christian filmmakers who are tired of complaining about Hollywood's lack of faith-affirming output and looking to fill the void. Following in the footsteps of the Kendrick brothers, who scored a surprise box office hit with last year's faith-based Kirk Cameron-starrer 'Fireproof,' twins Dave and Rich Christiano co-wrote 'Secrets' (which Rich also directed and produced) and eschewed the usual Hollywood tactic of scoring a big-name distributor in favor of turning directly to churches for financial support.

The film debuted in 118 theaters on September 18 and will gradually roll out through November, with 240 theaters committed to play it so far. That's not unusual for an independently financed film. What is unusual -- and, frankly, fascinating -- is that each venue that screens the movie is sponsored by a church or group of church members who ponied up $2,000 of their own money to get the film into the theater. If 'Secrets' grosses upwards of $4,500 in that location, the church gets their investment back in full. That's what you call an act of faith.