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September 24, 2008
Column #1,413
Advance for Sept. 27, 2008
Churches Organize for "Fireproof" Film
by Mike McManus

Since 1970 there has been one divorce for every two marriages in America. In most, Jesus is quoted, "What God has joined together, let no man put asunder."

Yet America has put asunder 43 million marriages since 1970, shattering the lives of 41 million children. The trend seems relentless and inexorable.

However, this weekend a movie opens in 830 theaters called "Fireproof" which offers such an exciting answer, that hundreds of churches are buying tickets in advance, and filling  theaters with couples to give their marriage a booster shot.

What's particularly extraordinary is that "Fireproof" was produced by Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, GA.  Most of the actors in the film are church members!  The film has both a marriage-saving message and a Christian message.

The church produced an earlier, very successful movie, "Facing The Giants" that has sold 1.5 million copies and prompted many people to make a commitment to Christ, 6,000 of whom wrote to thank Sherwood Baptist from 45-50 countries

Fireproof is about a fire fighter named Caleb Holt and his wife, Catherine.  Inside burning buildings, Capt. Holt lives by the old firefighter's credo: "Never leave your partner behind."  At home, however, he is moving toward divorcing Catherine, his partner for life.

Caleb saves a victim from a burning building.  Later, on the phone to a buddy he says, "The newspaper has called me twice wanting to interview me. I am a hero to everybody - except to my wife. Catherine and I were in love when we married. Today we are two very different people."

Catherine confides to a girl friend, "We fight more than anything else."

However, a fellow fireman says to Caleb: "You go into a burning building to save someone you don't even know. Yet you are letting your marriage burn to the ground."

Later his Dad confronts him: "Hold off on the divorce for 40 days. I am going to send you something," which turns out to be a book, "The Love Dare." It outlines a new way every day  to love his wife.  He tries it, but says, "My heart is not in it." Worse, Catherine is not impressed.

"He fixed me coffee.  He bought me a pitiful bunch of flowers. Today he called to see if I am doing OK," she shrugs to a girl friend.
Then Caleb thinks about the fireman's motto, "Never leave your partner behind." In fire-fighting, two firemen always go into a building together, never just one alone.  It is "Two in, and two out," so each is responsible for his partner's safety.

When he realizes he needs to apply the same principle to his marriage, he perseveres in loving her so effectively, that he ultimately wins her back.

"Love is patient," I Corinthians 13 states. It is not a feeling, but an act of the WILL.

Pastor Michael Catt of Sherwood Baptist adds, "My hope is that people will understand the power of forgiveness and of unconditional love. We realized that was happening in marriage and in the culture was a redefining of marriage, a watering down of the word marriage so it is no longer a covenant, but only a paper contract, that is undermining the moral fiber of our culture."

However, Fireproof is much more than a movie.  It is a strategy many churches are using to strengthen their marriages. Hundreds of churches have bought out the entire theater!

Erin Bethea, the actress who was Catherine, spoke at First Baptist Church in Orlando. So many couples decided to buy four tickets, to take another couple, that 2,000 seats were sold. 

Firemen and spouses across America are invited by churches to come for free, since fire fighters divorce at a 70 percent rate.

Pastor Ted Cunningham of Woodland Hills Marriage and Family Center in Branson, MO, is even more ambitious. He trains church members to be "First Responders," who, if they hear of a marriage in crisis, will offer to be a "Support Partner" of a spouse trying to save a marriage,  using  a course, "Marriage 911 - First Response."  "We want them to think they are like an ambulance, who shows up to stop the bleeding, and get them to an ER." 

Joe Williams, who wrote the course with his wife, Michelle., says, "I consider the helper a Good Samaritan, who will not leave a marriage in a ditch."

The spouse takes the 12 week workbook course, meeting with a same gender friend weekly using a Support Partner Handbook to know what questions to ask each week. It helps more than half of spouses grow so much, they attract back their errant mate. Cost: $28.

To save a marriage go to  

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