One of the nice things about writing movie church reviews is I not have to review the film itself, but also I don't have to decide upon theological and epistemological questions. So reviewing this film adaptation of the book of the same title by the Reverend Todd Burpo (played in the film by Greg Kinnear), I don't have to decide whether Burpo's claims are true or not. You can decide for yourself whether you believe Burpo's four-year-old son visited heaven.
I'm just here to evaluate the Crossroads Wesleyan Church as depicted in the film. This church may or may not be like the church in real life (frankly, I hope it isn't) but for our purposes here, it doesn't matter. So we'll just look at some of the elements of the church in the film for evaluation.
CWC's Music Program:
This doesn't seem to be a pastor-led church. There are plenty of churches in America (primarily Baptist and independent fundamentalist churches) where the pastor's word is law. This church is run by a leadership team apparently not called deacons or elders but simply "the Board." There are four members of the Board, but just two of them seem to make all the decisions; Nancy Rawling (Margo Martindale) and Jay Wilkens (Thomas Haden Church.)
At one point in the film, the church board tells Pastor Burpo they're not pleased with his performance, and they're looking for someone to replace him. I have no doubt this has happened in some churches, but it is pure leadership idiocy. It's not fair to the pastor who is expected to keep working through the leadership has no faith in him. No pastor with integrity is going take a position where the current pastor is forced to dangle on a string. And it's not fair to a congregation. If a church needs to fire a pastor, it's wise to take time to evaluate the state and mission of the church before a new person is hired. The church leadership here doesn't seem wise.
Here is where I have the biggest problem with the church. In 2 Timothy 4:2, Paul urges Timothy to "preach the word, be prepared in season and out." But Pastor Burpo, according to Wilkens, "preaches from the heart" not necessarily from the Word. The first sermon we hear from him, he talks about The Last Battle (a great book in The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis) but we don't hear him mention any Scripture. The next time we hear him preach, he mentions Romans 12, but in not much detail.
He really sounds like that newspaper editor who wrote Virginia to assure her there was a Santa Claus.
So, though the church in real life might be swell, for all I know, I wouldn't be going to the Crossroads Wesleyan Church as depicted in the film.
(This post first appeared in 2015 in our Dean and Mindy Go to Church blog before this blog came to be. I didn't do Steeple ratings at that time, but it would probably had gotten 2 or 3 Steeples.)