<Author’s Note-I must be cruisin’ for a bruisin’ in writing this. To be frank, I truly expect to see many people drop off my Facebook friends’ list over this. But I have to get this off my chest.>
Most high profile preachers, like those that you see on television, don’t have my respect. Anyone who knows me understands that. The likes of Joel Osteen, T.D. Jakes, and Benny Hinn tend to make me roll my eyes at the mention of their names, if I’m in a charitable mood. At worst, their “ministries” tend to make me see them as a blight to the Name of Christ, who wants you to have your BEST LIFE . . . in Heaven, not now (sorry Joel). But out of these high profile names, there are a few who tend to have my respect. John MacArthur, John Piper, Ray Comfort . . . even Mark Driscoll (despite his failings in Mars Hill). Another who has always had my respect is Ray Comfort’s friend Kirk Cameron. The former start of “Growing Pains” is all grown up and is a minister of the Gospel. And I’ve always respected his theology. This is why I was so stoked to go to the Love Worth Fighting For marriage event. I’m going to put my thoughts on the event, which took place in Florissant, MO last night (May 6, 20017).
First of all, the hosting church was First Christian Church of Florissant. Two years ago, my family left that church on bitter terms, at best. It was revealed by the wife of a former member of the pastoral staff, that a former youth worker from this church had been arrested for child molestation out of state. What’s worse, while this youth worker had been at FCCF, it had been reported to the Senior Pastor that there was a concern that he had been doing it to the youth at our church. Very few things can break pastor confidentiality laws. One of them is possible endangering of children. Even if you don’t believe it’s true, you have to report it to the authorities to investigate. Pastor Wingfield didn’t. It was ignored and the people who had reported it were strong-armed into leaving the church. Now that it was on public record that this man really was a child molester, this woman called for the pastor to step down, as he had, truthfully, made himself unfit for ministry in the dereliction of his duties.
He refused. Instead, the people who were still going to this church and calling for his resignation found themselves forced out of the church, sometimes by police escort. Some of the respectable ministers on staff were removed and told to never return. The church, in a vain attempt to save face, “punished” the senior pastor by making him take a six-month sabbatical—basically, he got a six-month, paid vacation. And, to make matters worse, the church filed a lawsuit against some of the accusers, even going so far as to post, on the church’s website, a “bible study” about why a lawsuit—against other Christians—was acceptable. The suit was later dropped but not before the liberal Riverfront Times, given cannon-fodder to attach Christians, had a chance to run with the story.
We weren’t forced out. Having teenagers—one of whom had been in the class of this molester—we left willingly. The church has dwindled to—fr0m what I understand—a shadow of its former self. I’m pretty confident that, after what I’ve just written, I won’t be welcome back there. But it had to be said. An event like this has difficulty divorcing itself (pun intended . . . it was a marriage seminar) from its hosting church.
The event was ministered by Kirk Cameron and Warren Barfield. The latter is a musician who wrote the song that would become theme for Cameron’s movie, FIREPROOF. Barfield’s words were thought-provoking. His mixture of passion and humor made both times that he was on stage exhilarating. I specifically appreciated his marriage testimony, which basically told about how he and his wife almost divorced over a pretzel. I won’t go into detail here, just look it up on YouTube. I’m sure it’s there.
Kirk was good. He started the seminar off with a little self-deprecating humor about his time as an eighties heartthrob and how he knew that many of the women in the audience probably had “Seaver Fever.” My wife did not, BTW. He also pointed out that he figured that most of the men in the audience were just there to placate their wives (he worded it better). For the record, I was the one who pointed this event out to Vickie, not the other way around.
I enjoyed the event. I got a great deal out of it. But I just can’t let some things go. First of all, Kirk Cameron is supposed to be an approachable brother in the Lord. However, if you wanted a chance to meet him and actually talk with him, you had to pay double the price of the ticket. Of course, I wasn’t too upset to not buy the VIP tickets, as I wasn’t a teenage girl in the 80s and I probably would have just spent any time questioning him about Ray Comfort, anyway.
Second, the seminar was totally geared toward the men. Being a guy, I can see the importance. However, with him pointing out the things that the men need to change, and reminding us that the marriage is the man’s responsibility, all fault fell on the men. And I get this. Often, a man can be a bear to get along with. But, just as often, a wife can be as well. And there was no counterpoint to the discussion. He quoted 1 peter 3:7 and preached a basic sermon on the verse, showing how a man is supposed to treat his wife. He began the discussion by pointing out that verses one through six discussed how a woman is supposed to treat her husband. And then he ignored them and went along with how the men need to change. I can picture a number of women—who have good, faithful husbands—going home with puffed-out chests and saying, “See, it is all your fault.” Perhaps including discussion . . . any at all . . . about how the wife’s supposed to treat her husband, would have helped. Or, even better, market the seminar as a husband’s enrichment seminar. I’ve had a failed marriage in the past. And, after a decade of going over all angles of what happened, I am more than willing to take fifty percent of the blame. But 100 percent is not accurate in any case.
Third, the majority of the seminar was more of a commentary on the movie FIREPROOF. We saw clips and Kirk discussed how terrible a husband Caleb was before he found the Lord. And, yes, in the context of that movie, the majority of the marital problems were his fault. However, they gloss over the fact that she was flirting with another man while she was still married (a man who was legitimately vilified for hiding the fact that he was married, too). Mostly, this was a repeat of every bible study on Fireproof and the Love Dare that we had ever been to.
Finally, I have to go back to the first part of this review. As they discussed our need for Jesus, they encouraged us to come back to the host church. Kirk (and please understand that, despite my review of this event, I still hold Mr. Cameron in the highest regard) specifically pointed out Pastor Steve Wingfield and said that he would be happy to pray with us.
Considering what I know about the history of that church and the fact that the pastor’s arrogance splintered it, I couldn’t even take such a suggestion seriously. The most honorable thing that he could have done was to step down and let the church heal. Instead, he stayed and pushed out those who disagreed with him. Even Mark Driscoll had the decency to make the right decision in the end, and still has my respect for having done so.