Actor Stephen Baldwin, 38, has appeared on film and television in a spectrum of roles since his breakout success as William Cody in the 1989-92 series The Young Riders. His versatility has drawn critical acclaim. But BaldwinÕs talent for portraying widely varied fictional characters is not a factor in his two most diverse identities — his own before and after accepting Christ as his Savior. Baldwin spoke recently with Associate Editor Scott Harrup about his ongoing ministry to todayÕs youth culture and what it really means to live out the call of Christ. BaldwinÕs LivinÕ It outreach has partnered with the Assemblies of GodÕs Seven Project.
PE: How would you describe your life before you accepted Christ?
BALDWIN: It was pretty normal, all things considered. For a guy from a lower-middle-class family from Long Island, N.Y., to have been working as much as I have in the last 15 years in the movie business — some people might not find that normal. But for the most part, my experience with life was to take it as it came and with each blessing just say, ÒOK, God. YouÕre the boss. IÕm cool with this as long as itÕs positive.Ó
I was pretty submerged into the entertainment business and everything that it represented. I just believed that was what I was to be focusing on. It was an adventure. I always felt like God was in control. But I didnÕt have a personal relationship with Jesus. I had a good deal going, but I didnÕt understand why. You can be satisfied with one side of the equation in life, and it still be open-ended. For me it was open-ended. I would say, ÒOK, God. I donÕt know why IÕm living this life. But I accept it.Ó
PE: You and your wife, Kennya, were both impacted by the personal faith of your housekeeper. What was it about her that made Christ appealing to you?
BALDWIN: ItÕs hard to nail that down specifically. I just know that Augusta was a conduit. She was a very humble and peaceful person. In retrospect, what has been so amazing is that within just a week or two of our relationship with her, she had explained that there was a prophetic reality behind her coming to work with us. That set things into motion. Things have been fulfilled through the years to a degree where now my understanding and exposure and involvement with the prophetic realm have been intense. IÕm blessed to work with several people who share with me things I need to understand in my natural circumstances that are really coming from the Holy Spirit.
PE: Talk about ÒLivinÕ It,Ó your current ministry in partnership with Luis Palau.
BALDWIN: We have this extreme sports ministry. ItÕs kind of a new reality. ItÕs an extremely culturally impacting tool. ItÕs relevant. WeÕre taking some of the top professional Christian extreme sports athletes and weÕre traveling across the country with them and letting them do demonstrations of their skateboarding and BMX biking and motocross stuff. And within that show weÕre communicating with kids and presenting them with the gospel message.
ItÕs just been so powerful. Nobody could have anticipated a year ago when we first started doing this sort of thing that it would explode the way that it has. Basically what weÕre doing is really quite simple. WeÕre just presenting the kids with an experience that they can relate to, and then within that experience weÕre inviting them to believe in Jesus. This is a new form of evangelism, really, when you think about it. Because evangelism in the past usually went to the nonbeliever and said, ÒYouÕve got to believe and then youÕll have the experience.Ó With this ministry, weÕre showing them the experience first and then inviting them to believe. ItÕs Òstealth evangelism.Ó
And itÕs so the Lord, bro. We couldnÕt have figured this out. We couldnÕt have thought this up. Not Stephen Baldwin, not Luis Palau, not anybody. This is one of those situations where a couple of us got together and we were saying, ÒIs this something that could work? Will kids get into this? Will it be relevant?Ó So much of the effort of the body of Christ in relating to the unsaved hasnÕt changed over time. But I never want to come across as someone who thinks heÕs got all the answers. We just stepped out in faith with this ministry and did something edgy and innovative and said to ourselves, ÒMaybe this will connect.Ó
I want to give a lot of kudos to Luis Palau. ÒLivinÕ ItÓ is just an offshoot of the festivals that theyÕre doing that are innovative as well.
PE: Your father died when you were 17. Do you find that your loss has helped you connect with young people who are growing up in fragmented families?
BALDWIN: I would say that more than my dadÕs death, my own individuality is something that lets me relate to kids. From the age of 15 to about the age of 30 I was trying to find myself. ThatÕs the thing I can relate to with kids — the individual quest of why weÕre here. ThatÕs the real opportunity I have when I talk with kids. IÕll tell them, and IÕll tell them very humbly, ÒYouÕre talkinÕ to a guy whoÕs made millions of dollars, been around the world, hung out with movie stars, stayed at Giorgio ArmaniÕs palazzo in Milan.Ó IÕve done all of these things, and still I wasnÕt complete. I wasnÕt totally at peace and satisfied.
PE: Your marriage and family have been strengthened by your faith. What steps are you and Kennya taking to encourage your daughters to develop a relationship with God?
BALDWIN: Our children are homeschooled. The family unit is the kind of concept the Lord has really led us to be sensitive to. For me, any true walk of faith in the Lord begins at home. The LordÕs really had me traveling a lot in ministry the last year, and IÕm blessed to be married to a woman who is so dedicated to her faith. In relation to my kids, thereÕs a side of me artistically as a creative person and a filmmaker that wants my kids to still be kids. I donÕt allow them to run wild, but I just trust in the Lord. They do attend Bible study classes at church every week and my wife and I give them assignments during the week. But IÕd never want it to become some reality where even for a nanosecond they would be made to feel like they were forced into it. I really think when youÕre genuine and sincere and righteous in the eyes of the Lord, HeÕs going to cover those situations and make sure that your children are getting the understanding that they should. So weÕre kind of taking it as it goes. WeÕre honoring the Lord and feeding our kids in a way that is loving and gentle.
PE: Talk about the importance of the Holy Spirit in your life.
BALDWIN: What I like to say, when IÕm ministering one on one, is that I always knew that the hand of God was on my life looking out for me, but what I didnÕt know is that there is a big difference between the Holy Spirit being with you and the Holy Spirit being in you. I go by the Book, and the Book says it isnÕt until the Spirit is within you that you are truly saved and born again. ItÕs been an awesome experience. The only time IÕve ever been completely understanding of my purpose was when I started having the experience that I continue to have with the Holy Spirit. IÕm a skydiver, I race motorcycles, IÕve done all these crazy things. But this is the greatest ride IÕve ever been on.
PE: So whatÕs the essence of living out the gospel?
BALDWIN: I can only answer that by telling you whatÕs happening with me. The essence of living out the gospel for me is the sensation that I have in my bones on a daily basis of the presence of the Holy Spirit. And I know that I have that feeling because IÕve been obedient, IÕve been disciplined. As humbly as I possibly can, I go to the Lord each and every day and get down on my knees and surrender to Him and ask for His will in my life — every single day. The essence of the experience for me is the willingness to submit to the LordÕs will.
PE: WhatÕs a passage of Scripture that has really encouraged your faith?
BALDWIN: One that I actually had put on some jewelry I wear all the time is Matthew 10:34. Early in my walk, literally the first Scripture I ever read that leaped off the page was that verse: ÒDo not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.Ó One of the things I like to say to people is, ÒRead your Bible, baby.Ó God is all love, but HeÕs also going to discipline us. IÕve had countless encounters with people where IÕve asked them, ÒDo you think in your heart that youÕre supposed to fear God?Ó And probably 9 out of 10 will say ÒNo.Ó And IÕll say, ÒRead your Bible, baby.Ó If you go home tonight and go to the back of your Bible and look in the concordance at how many times a word is used, you can look up the word Òfear.Ó ItÕs like one of the top words used in the Bible. IÕve just been very blessed in my walk early on to get hip to that.
PE: WhatÕs a final thought youÕd like to leave with our readers?
BALDWIN: IÕm so excited about the opportunity that we have with the ÒLivinÕ ItÓ skate ministry. I want to see this new form of evangelism impact the youth culture here in America as quickly as possible. LetÕs get it out there; letÕs bring these kids into the Kingdom.
For more information on the LivinÕ It ministry, visit www.livinit.org.
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