Jason and David Benham stood outside on a warm June day as military widow Patricia Shines was presented with the keys to a house she thought she was buying. Only she wasn’t buying it—it was donated to her.
Through their real estate company in Concord, N.C., the Benhams partnered with a local charity organization to give back to a family who had made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.
This is one of the many real life scenarios that might have played out on the HGTV show, “Flip It Forward.” The Benham twins were halfway through shooting this show when they received the call in May that it was going to be cancelled.
HGTV dropped their show amid controversy after bloggers had unearthed some statements the Benhams made in support of traditional marriage and sanctity of life.
Now, a month after the media firestorm erupted, the dust has settled. Looking back, the twins will say that everything that has happened—the cancellation of the show, their conversations with media and their responses to their critics—all serves a much bigger purpose.
And the last thing David and Jason are concerned about is preserving their image.
When the news first broke about the show cancellation, several in the public relations industry warned them to be cautious in their messaging so they salvage the Benham brand.
While these advisors meant well, the brothers knew this was not the direction they needed to go. Truth and love—embodied in the Person of Jesus Christ—is the priority.
“Their whole focus was making sure David and I and maintained an image that would be sellable to other networks. As our first interview was underway, I wadded up the paper of speaking points and threw it in the trash,” said Jason. “This is not about our image or our brand. This is about speaking the truth in love.”
David expounded on Jason’s thought: “We just want to do our best to be a loving representation of the Truth. Truth is a Person. Love is a Person. It is Jesus Christ.”
Despite what their critics believe, their end goal is not to convert people to their way of thinking. Citing the example of the exchange between Pilate and Jesus where Pilate asks Jesus why He came, David said their purpose—show or no show—is to testify to the truth.
“When someone takes a stand for marriage between a man and a woman, or protects the unborn, they are elevating the Kingdom of Christ, since they are taking a stand for His principles,” he said. “They are simply testifying to the truth.”
Jason added: “When Jesus walked the earth, He consistently used parables in His conversations with the disciples. He had to bring it back to the physical so they—and we—could understand it. He encouraged them to see through the eyes of the Spirit. And now we have Holy Spirit.
“But for us, it is far too easy to keep our eyes on the natural. We tend to look at the behavior, and we attribute it to the person. When Jesus said to Peter, ‘Get behind me Satan,’ He was not rebuking Peter. He was rebuking the idea given to Peter by Satan. So, we need to follow suit and rebuke the idea with which we disagree, but love the person. We are human beings, not human doings.”
Responding to Opposition
The Benhams they will say that their response to those who oppose them is crucial—just like it is for anyone in the Body of Christ. In order to give a loving response to harsh words, brokenness is key.
Jason said: “Boldness apart from brokenness makes a bully on both sides. When we should speak up on an issue and choose to be silent, we are not loving people. When we say something in such a way to causes people to turn their backs to God, we are also not loving people. When we are broken, we come face to face with who God is and who we are in light of Him. We are then forced to our knees. And this breeds humility. Then, that humility gives us a genuine love for other people, even when they oppose us. And that enables us to fulfill the greatest commandment: love God and love people.”
Another key to responding to opposition, David believes, is to stop politicizing issues, like gay marriage and abortion, and to see them for what they really are—gospel issues.
“It is our responsibility as the Church to restrain evil so that good may flourish. Yes, we need to take issue with abortion—but not from a political standpoint. Yes, good leaders are important and good laws are important. But we need to see places like abortion clinics as mission fields, not battlegrounds,” he explained.
“We, the Church, should stop creating our own culture and instead, infiltrate the culture in which we live. We can gather and sing songs and have programs, but none of it matters if what we do doesn’t reach outside the walls of the church buildings.”
What’s Next for the Benhams?
For the Benhams, what’s next on the agenda is not seeking out another reality show, book deal or any other public platform. In the wake of the HGTV controversy, they even severed a book deal with a major publisher because they sensed in their spirits that now is the time for them to step back and let God—and God alone—do His work through their lives and ministry.
“They (the publisher) wanted us to take an angle we were not quite comfortable with. So we called them and walked away from the deal. We just want to make sure we are flowing in the spirit of God, and not protecting ourselves,” explained David.
“Right now, the Church needs to exhibit courage. There is a spiritual stronghold on our country. So now is not a time for guys like us to be looking for book deals or other reality shows.”
While the Benhams walked away from the major book deal, they have been compelled to craft a narrative and a charge for the Church to once again be courageous in the face of opposition. This will be in the form of a book they hope to release this fall.
The brothers have been approached by other networks, but they feel that right now is the time to simply be faithful and manage what they have, for now, been entrusted.
Right now, they are content to continue running Benham Companies, invest in their communities, disciple younger men, and continue to be godly husbands and fathers in the process.
They are also praying fervently for their communities and their nation, and are hopeful about the state of the Church in the near future.
David said, “We pray for a supernatural awakening in the church and a posture to once again regain leadership in this culture. Dr. Martin Luther King once said, ‘The Church must be reminded that we neither the master nor the servant of the state. We are the constant.’
“We almost feel like we are in a rebuilding phase. God is course correcting his bride. We can hear it when we talk to Christian leaders across the nation. But in the meantime, we have to carry the message of truth. And we have to be broken so we can carry this message in love.”
Publication date: June 9, 2014