Kirk Cameron: On Hollywood, Fireproofing your marriage, and the Ultimate Sacrifice
and film star Kirk Cameron began his career at the tender age of nine
acting in commercials. He was fourteen when the popular sitcom ďGrowing
PainsĒ took off, earning him two Golden Globe nominations, an adoring
worldwide fan base and the reputation of teen heartthrob. But by the age
of 17, the self-described atheist knew that something was missing. His
2008 autobiography Still
Growing tells of his subsequent journey to faith. Kirk talked with Phil
Callaway about success, passion, and his hit movie Fireproof.
You live in Canada. My sister used to live in Calgary. Her husband played
for the Calgary Flames.
They live in Florida now, heís retired. Theyíre doing just great.
Flames are out of the playoffs, so the fans are chanting "Golf Flames
Iíve been a reading a little bit about your story and apparently you were once a confirmed atheist. What changed your mind?
I was 17 years old, on top of the world,
on a hit television show, making lots of money, famous, had everything I
wanted. But questions were gnawing at me, questions like: have I really
attained the most there is to achieve in life? Do I have anything else to
look forward to? Iíve already arrived at the things that most people
want in their lifetime. I also wondered if there was something that
happens after you die. Could there be an afterlife? That led to questions
like, is there a God? How do you know?
did you do?
dabbled a little in the New Age Movement and then I met someone who took
me to church and I heard the Gospel for the very first time. I heard about
sin and about Godís character, his holiness, his justice and his
judgment. I also heard about Godís grace toward sinners and Christ and
the cross and repentance and faith. I had a lot of questions that some
people did answer for me and that drove me to the point where I could
believe it was intellectually possible that there might be a God and that
I had been fooled by my blind faith in my science teachers who told me
that there was no God. And so I prayed for the first time while I was
sitting in my sports car at the side of the road and asked God if he was
real if heíd reveal himself to me and make me the man he wanted me to
be. That simple little prayer opened my heart to the things of God. I
began reading the Bible more, was so captivated by the message of the
Scriptures and by Jesus himself that I embraced the Gospel. God began
changing me from the inside into the person he created me to be. I began
to love God and wanted to turn from sin and live a life that honors him.
were 17 at the time. Were you on ďGrowing Pains" then? (see
picture at right)
did that affect your career?
dramatically. I was not doing and saying the same things as before I was a
follower of Christ so my friends thought it was a little strange that I
wasnít diving into the same kinds of jokes and activities and they would
accuse me of being part of some religious cult or having fallen off the
cliff of religious lunacy. And that was difficult. It was also hard
because in Hollywood you get labeled as some sort of Ďborn-againí nut.
When that happens youíre trying to defend yourself and stand for
whatís right and not compromise and at the same time you donít want to
unnecessarily offend people. It was a struggle and it was a growth time.
God was really developing my convictions and character for things that
would be coming in the future.
you fairly vocal about your faith? Did people know that it was faith in
Jesus as opposed to the rantings of some religious nut?
equated the two. If you were involved in Buddhism or Hinduism or
something, oh, thatís kind of cool, kind of different. But if youíre a
born-again Christian that means you means youíre fundamentalist,
judgmental, David Koresh-type, fire and brimstone stone type. People
werenít sure just what was going on. As much as Iíd try to tell them,
some would listen, but others would just be so concerned. They didnít
understand. The carnal man does not understand the things of the Spirit
because theyíre spiritually discerned and he canít know them. Their
mind is at war with God because they love their sin and so they canít
fully embrace what I had embraced without humbling themselves fully before
God. That can be difficult and strain relationships. At 17 itís hard to
process all that. You donít quite understand whatís going on. Youíve
found what you think is the greatest thing in the world and your friends
think itís terrible.
you learn anything from those early years that has helped you in the way
you deal with people in Hollywood now?
would say I learned through the years that you can really only change one
person. God doesnít give us jurisdiction over other peopleís hearts so
I canít force my beliefs onto someone. I canít change them no matter
how articulately I explain the Gospel or my own belief. The most powerful
and authentic thing I can do is to be who God has made me, to have a sense
of personal conviction that I donít compromise and live those things out
in every area of my life. Thatís another way of saying you donít need
to be obnoxious and offensive in the way you share your faith. Scripture
tells us that the Gospel is an offense all on its own and so all we need
to do is live authentic lives as followers of Jesus Christ and leave the
changing of other people up to God.
you think thereís a place in Hollywood for Christians who are more reserved about their faith than you were or are?
I think thereís a place for Christians anywhere, regardless of their
personality type, and definitely in Hollywood. Itís not the loud-mouth
Christians who get everything done for the kingdom; itís the ones who
are not just hearers of the Word but doers of the Word. Some people are
going to be quiet, shy, but their roots have gone down deep into the Word
of God and theyíre building up the kingdom in different ways, living out
their faith, sharing with people more in a one-one, private setting rather
than in a public one. People who are lifting up marriage and family
through movies and television or directing or writing or whatever. They
have a quiet witness but their works speak loudly.
you ever view Hollywood as a mission field, a Ďlost people groupí that
we like watch and criticize but would never think to pray for?
We see this unreached people group who live in great darkness, they
practice great wickedness and most people wonít dare try to reach them.
And if you do try, they will either try to convert you to their kingdom or
just cut you down completely. We do need to reach them. And there are
Christians here. But the great tension is that if you want to make a
living, thereís a fair amount of Ďkissing upí that you have to do.
Itís all about who you knowóand you donít want to burn those
bridges. But speaking openly and candidly about Jesus Christ will separate
and divide. Jesus told us that. So that becomes the great tension for
Christians in Hollywood: Can I be honest about who I am and what I believe
even if it means that I blow an opportunity?
said that you put God first, then family, then career. What has that cost
lot of heartache and headache. When your priorities are in place it makes
life a lot simpler. When you know who you are and what you believe you can
say, Look, this is my number one priority; does it honor the Lord and
advance his kingdom in some way? Two, is this going to be beneficial for
my family and build up my marriage and my home, and if the answers to
either of those questions are no, then itís not even an option for my
career. So that may have cost me a few movie roles, but I donít care
because God has promised to bless and protect those who honor him. The
results of the convictions God has given me have been a marriage that has
lasted 18 years and is just getting better every day, six beautiful
children, a ministry called The Way of the Master where weíre able to
teach Christians how to share the Gospel, and a wonderful television and
radio program. We just finished Fireproof, a movie on marriage, it was the
number one grossing independent movie of 2008, and my wife and I are about
to launch a new marriage and family ministry this year. So the Lord has
abundantly blessed me and my family.
did you meet Chelsea? Was she on the set of Growing Pains?
was. I actually met her for the first time as an actress on the set of
Full House. My sister was on the program. We met up again on Growing Pains
when she was cast to play Mike Sieverís girlfriend.
long did you date?
was weak in the knees the first time I saw her. It was probably about a
year that we were dating before I asked Chelsea to marry me.
did you and Chelsea choose adoption?
herself is an adopted child and I think itís always been a dream of hers
to adopt children and give them the same gift of a home that she was given
as an orphan. We decided that we would adopt some kids if the Lord allowed
and make our whole family come together through adoption only. We
werenít planning to have natural children. After we adopted four kids we
discovered that Chelsea was going to have a baby and that was such a
wonderful experience that we decided to do that again.
the standard response when people hear you have six children?
freak out. They say, ďIíve got 2 and I can barely handle it!Ē Do you
had much of what culture views as success. Have you ever thought much
about what defines Ďsuccessí?
would consider myself a success when I am fully devoted to the Lord with
my whole heart. I was just reading in Psalm 119 today where David talks
about the man who walks in the ways of the Lord and seeks him with his
whole heart. As long as weíre in this human body, a repository of the
sinful nature, and that stuff still clings to us weíll forever belonging
to be more wholly devoted to the Lord. So I think success certainly is not
measured by how many dollars you have in the bank or how many interviews
and TV shows or how many awards you get. When youíre in heaven itís
measured by are you going to hear ďWell done, good and faithful
servantĒ and how many people you helped move along in their journey
toward the Lord Jesus, my wife and my children and even strangers.
Thatís what success is all about. I just had a meeting yesterday with
Columbia Pictures with the Vice President of Production. He told me,
ďFireproof did great, we want to make some more of these faith kind of
movies.Ē I get home and I think to myself, itís great to do movies,
itís exciting but when I really sit down and read Godís Word, heís
not really calling me to be an actor. I donít think God calls you to be
a beautician or an actress or a dancer or a plumber or a carpenter. I
think he calls you to his son Jesus Christ to live a life that honors and
glorifies him. And heís given you gifts and talents and if you want to
be a dancer or a plumber, great, as long as you can do that and use those
platforms to glorify the Lord with your whole heart. So movies is not my
deal. Thatís not where Iím going to find success. Iíll find it by
walking with the Lord,
serving him with my whole heart. And that means being the kind of husband
that loves his wife the way Christ loves his Bride, and loving and leading
my children like a good father and spreading the Gospel to every creature
that I can, helping others along that journey. Maybe that will be through
a movie like Fireproofóthat was great. But maybe itís not.
Maybe all thatís done. The Lord knows.
did the story line of the movie capture your attention?
this firefighter and his wife represent millions of marriagesóstarts out
great, hot and sizzling, romantic and wonderful and within ten years
theyíre like to disconnected people living in a boarding house with no
relationship. And if there is a relationship itís antagonistic. They
canít even stand to be around each other. Getting on each nerves, never
looking out for the other one and fighting more than they are talking.
Never laughing, never enjoying being around each other and thatís the
state of so many marriages. You put kids in that situation and the stakes
are even higher. So I knew people would relate to it and it gave the one
and only answeróthe Gospel of Jesus Christ. The guy canít fix his
marriage even with a father who loves him giving great advice. The thing
that changes the firefighter is the Gospel. God changes the heart of the
man and brings him to the cross. Then, when his heart has been humbled and
changed and heís living to honor the Lord, now marriage takes on meaning
and significance and itís an opportunity for him to demonstrate love to
someone who does not deserve to be treated so well. But thatís the
message of the cross. Christ laid down his life and died for us while we
were undeserving sinners and I think thatís the hope that everyone needs
to haveóit begins at the cross. The heart of the problem in any area of
life is the problem of the heart. Itís wicked and deceitful, sinful by
nature and we cannot get anything right until we center onto the path of
life and blessing that starts at the cross. Thatís what the movie was
about and thatís what I loved about it.
wife and I watched it last night. Is it true no one took a salary for the
is. Everyone except me was a member of the church there in Georgia. There
were no other professional actors. Even the crew was constantly changing
and revolving because they were community people who would take time off
work. It was a complete volunteer effort except for a handful of expert
technicians to operate the equipment.
a good story, but you can tell it was made for God, not for Oscar. Do you
ever dream of making movies with this kind of message but a higher budget?
never really dreamed of doing it myself but it would be greatóweíd all
would that take?
a few donors who would come up with the money or somebody in Hollywood who
would just step up to the plate. To make a movie for 10, 20 million
dollars is no big deal. They do it all the time for far more than that.
Itís just a question of can they get the money back. Because this is a
new type of film everyone is very cautious. But because it did very well,
Iím sure next time instead of a $500,000 budget it will probably be 2 or
your conversation with Columbia kind of give you hope that this might be
a possibility. But I think itís a good idea to know who the other
believers are in this business. This guy claimed to be a Christian himself
so it was a positive and encouraging meeting.
seems to me when you see the success of a film like this and Mel
Gibsonís Passion of the Christ, it must soak in at some point
where they realize that thereís an audience out there thatís worth
catering to. I wanted to ask you about the topic of the movie. The average
Hollywood marriage seems to last about 16 seconds these days if you read
the tabloids. Youíve been married 18 years. On a practical level, what
has kept you together?
Godís hand of restraining grace, all of us would act out so selfishly.
Ultimately Godís hand of blessing and favor has been on our marriage.
Thatís not to say that God has blessed our marriage more than others
because God hates divorce and wants all marriages to succeed. I think the
thing that Chelsea and I have done that has kept our marriage together is
our individual love for Christ that causes us to want to honor him and do
those things that are important to him and not do those things that he
Skills International claims that 50% of non-believers experience divorce,
among believers itís 53%, and in cultures where marriages are arranged
itís almost non-existent. Have you given any thought to why that could
think weíve got it all wrong. Couples sit in some of our churches and
listen to a shallow gospel where thereís no sin and no sacrifice. Joel
OsteenÖI think heís a good guy who loves the Lord, but he preaches
this easy gospel, ďYouíve got a champion in you and you can have God
on your side too.Ē He needs to preach the Gospel of Christ crucified and
alive in you. Instead, itís a ďSay this little prayer and youíll go
to heaven and be a child of God.Ē That is an adulteration of the Gospel
message because what happens is people are buying into a Christianity that
promises them the worldóďHey, Iíve said this prayer and asked Jesus
into my heart and now God is going to bless me and everythingís supposed
to work out great.Ē But they know nothing of repenting of sin. You can
ask Jesus into your heart as much as you wantóthough the Bible never
tells us to do thatóbut if youíre not making war against your sin and
loving Jesus with an obedient love, desiring to do what he says, going to
church all your life and asking Jesus into your heart fifteen times is not
going to save you from hell or save your marriage from falling apart. We
need the Gospel of Christ crucified and alive. I think whatís happening
is that we have a weak, anemic Gospel being preached in the church today
where thereís no sin and sin and no sacrifice. Because of that, people
donít know anything about what Jesus said.
does that relate to marriage?
said if you want to follow me you must deny yourself, take up your cross
and follow me. Those are the things that are inextricably linked to being
a Christian: self-denial, cross-bearing and submission to Christ as king.
Todayís Christianity doesnít want to touch those things with a
ten-foot pole. Itís Ďdo whatever you want and Jesus will be your
buddyí. Heís kind of your co-pilot to make sure you donít crash and
burn at the end. Then you have trouble in your marriage and people bail
just like the world. And itís even worse because they were promised too
much from God and when they donít get it they think either God is not
real or heís let them down and they chuck the whole thing out as a big
fraud. Whereas if you have people in religious communities where thereís
a real message of the holiness of God, the judgment and the grace of God
and that faith produces obedience and real devotion and serving God and
loving him with all your heart, then the stakes are high and you and the
community have invested in helping one anotheróyou go into arranged
marriages like old times and there are now families actually coming
together and you understand the history and heritage of that family,
thereís so much going into it that it has a much better potential for
success. I think we could learn a lot from those kinds of cultures.
seems to me that the theme of Fireproof is that of sacrifice. Jesus
went to the cross, am I willing to go that far.
what Jesus said, deny yourself and take up your cross. When Jesus took up
his cross there was only one place he was goingóhe was going up the hill
to die. He wasnít coming back. Heís as good as dead. Thatís what
weíre to be as Christians, I am crucified with Christ-paying the price
of dying to self.
do you want to be remembered, Kirk?
like to be remembered as a wholly devoted follower of Jesus, a good
husband, a good father. That takes a lifetime of hard work. For
the last 20 years Iíve worked hard at developing a trust level with the
family audience and it wasnít easy to do. It cost me lots of money and
career opportunities. But I feel like the reward is paying off now in
other ways and with different opportunitiesÖAnd to top it off, my
nameís written in heaven. The high cost of following Jesus on the narrow
road may look totally backward to some, but the infinite value and
adventure has been thrilling beyond my wildest dreams.Ē