Stephen Baldwin: Surprising, Sold-Out and Totally "Unusual"
- Annabelle Robertson Entertainment Critic
- 2005 12 Dec
Stephen Baldwin is one of the last people you’d expect to find doing ministry.
“I didn’t want the word getting out there that Stephen Baldwin was in fulltime ministry,” says the 39-year-old actor, who sent shock waves through Hollywood three years ago when he became a born-again Christian. “In Hollywood, that’s career suicide.”
Yet that’s exactly what Baldwin is doing. Just don’t expect to see him sporting a clergy robe.
Best known for his role as a career criminal in the critically-acclaimed 1995 film, “The Usual Suspects” – and more recently, for appearances on “Celebrity Mole” and “Fear Factor” – Baldwin had a reputation as a serious party boy. A native of Massapequa, Long Island, New York, he began singing opera as a teen and attended the prestigious American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Like his four older brothers (Alec, William and Stephen), he then shifted into film, eventually making more than 60 movies.
But the temptations of Hollywood didn’t elude the actor, who has publicly confessed to past drinking and drug use. Even marriage (to wife, Kennya, since 1990) and children (two daughters, ages 12 and 9) didn’t deter Baldwin from the dark side. But after his non-English speaking, Brazilian housekeeper shared her faith – and a prophecy that the couple would both come to Christ, then become involved in fulltime ministry – first Kennya got saved, then Baldwin.
Now, against all odds, Baldwin is fulfilling the second half of that prophecy.
He’s touring with The Luis Palau Association and sharing his testimony with teens through extreme skateboarding, which the evangelical organization features as part of six gigantic music festivals held throughout the country each year. As part of the outreach, skaters and BMX bikers catch air atop 10,000 square-foot skate parks, then share their faith with captivated audiences.
Last year, Baldwin and Palau also co-produced an award-winning documentary called “Livin’ It,” which features some of those same skateboarders and bikers. Now, Baldwin is producing and appearing in a one-hour television special called “Livin’ It: Unusual Suspects,” which airs throughout the month of December on iTV (PAX). The show reveals how he, GRAMMY-nominee Chynna Phillips and Christian Hosoi, the '80s skateboarding idol who was recently released from prison, all came to faith.
I spoke with Baldwin about his coming to Christ, why he spoke at the 2004 Republican National Convention and what it means to be culturally relevant.
Annabelle Robertson: What made you want to do “Unusual Suspects?”
Stephen Baldwin: It’s a look at the lives of four individuals, in a “20/20” or “60 Minutes” kind of format. The goal was to show people how faith and God have impacted these four people – the last people that you’d expect God to use. Another goal is to be as culturally relevant as possible. Now that’s a really cute catchphrase right now, so I want to be specific. Utilizing extreme sports, having a tour and raising up really young, hungry, radical evangelists is the premier industry in America that is having a cultural impact. It’s our attempt at being innovative, in regard to how we reach the culture about God and faith.
That subject is a big problem today. There’s such backlash and red tape in the body of Christ about how you do that. It’s fascinating because there is a tremendous shift coming in the next 20 years. There are churches out there that are amazing, that are doing really cool, edgy stuff. But until I went to a Palau festival, I was thinking, hey this walk kind of stinks. And I hope I don’t sound like I’m waving my Palau pompom, but they are comprehending that times have changed. The culture has changed. And they’re willing to take the steps in their ministry to reach the people. I praise the Lord for this effort. Now is the time. We’ve had three of the world’s biggest disasters in the last 5 years: 9-11, Katrina and the tsunami. I’m not saying the Lord is coming back tomorrow, but I’m on a mission, and my mission is to obey him, follow him, do His will and preach his gospel as fast as we possibly can.
AR: I understand that the terrorist attacks of 9-11 played a huge role in your coming to Christ.
SB: My whole testimony is absolutely freaky, but the straw that broke the camel’s back was 9-11, which was clearly a demonstration and an event, in the natural, that was impossible. I’ve said this to people before, but if the day before 9-11 you came up to me and said, “Hey Stephen, I’m a terrorist and do you think it’s possible that two planes could take off from Boston, hit the Twin Towers and they fall down?” I would have said, “No. In 2001, that event isn’t possible.” That’s just me, but if you think about it, it’s hard to fly those planes into those buildings. There are so many factors involved.
AR: So how did that affect you, once it did happen?
SB: If the impossible happened in my 35-year-old mind – me who was in Hollywood, who hung out with movie stars…if something that was so impossible and so cataclysmic actually happened, it left me standing there with a mindset that now, intellectually, anything was possible. The playing field of what I perceived to be reality and the realm of possibility had totally been wiped clean. And if the impossible was now possible – and this is just for me, I want you to understand – then in fact, it is possible that Jesus Christ could come back tomorrow. That was the impact that 9-11 had on me.
AR: That’s interesting. You made the connection not that you needed to be saved, or get free from your past, but that Jesus could come back. That was your sea-change.
SB: That’s the next thought that I had. Jesus Christ could come back to this planet – that is a possibility. Then the next thought I had was, if that’s true, then where am I at, personally, in my understanding and in my experience and in my daily interaction with everything that represents? And this incredible quantum leap occurred in my heart. I’m a skydiver – and I decided to go the other way. I decided that I was going to become the most insane follower of Christ. I was going to act as if it was true, becoming a follower and a disciple of this faith and taking all of the steps that people suggest about how to do that. Bible study Wednesday nights, Sunday morning church, Saturday night church – totally sold out.
AR: So you weren’t a believer when you were doing all this?
SB: No. But within one month of that I was baptized. After my public profession of faith, though, that wasn’t good enough. After the first half of a prophetic word came true – a word that had been spoken ten years earlier – I went back to the Lord. I found a huge boulder and climbed on top and I lifted my hand to the Lord. I said, “Lord, I’ve done what I needed to do in public, but now I’m coming back to you, and I need you to understand that this deal is between me and you. And I’m telling you, Lord, that I give myself to you. I fully dedicate myself to you a thousand percent. You want me to stand on a box in Times Square and be mocked for being a Christian, I will. I’ll be mocked in Hollywood. I don’t care what they say about me, just as long as you reveal yourself to me in the most powerful way you can. Whatever it is, this experience better be real. It better be the Book of Acts, or I’ll curse you, God. I’m famous. You’ve given me a platform, and I’m telling you, if you don’t show me your power and your might and use me to make a difference, I’m telling you, you’re going to have a problem.”
AR: That’s pretty serious stuff, Stephen.
SB: Yeah, it was. A little old lady came up to me later, after I’d shared my testimony, and asked if I realized how God was in heaven, laughing at me, when I did that. And I’d never thought about it like that, but He was.
AR: So have you seen His power?
SB: Definitely. To date we’ve distributed 100,000 copies of “Livin’ It” – when the goal was just 20,000 copies. We have five “Livin’ It” books, with another video coming out next year (“Livin’ It LA”). The priority is sharing the gospel. And we didn’t plan for the skate tour, but in 2005 we did a 23-city tour with an average of 2,000 to 6,000 people per stop. Over 6,000 kids came to faith this year as a result of the tour and 15,000 as a result of the video. And we’re just getting started. For 2006, 340 churches in America so far are requesting the tour.
AR: Tell me a story about a kid whose life was changed.
SB: Man, there are so many … but, a young boy came to Christ at one of the skate events. Three days later he was hit by a car. He died in his own driveway. Some will say that’s a coincidence, but for me, there have been a series of incredible coincidences that can only be described as Book of Acts experiences – a move of the Holy Spirit.
AR: What made you decide to speak at the Republican National Convention in 2004?
SB: For me, more than anything, the whole decision was not a political statement, although in the natural it was. Several months earlier, I had seen the Kerry camp aligning itself with all the celebrities and rock stars. I said to myself, “Look at what these guys are doing – how they’re going to spin this and what lengths they’re going to go to get this guy votes.” And I don’t say this lightly – I say it with all the glory and honor that should come with it – but the Lord spoke to me about it. For all the perceptions out there about President Bush, I personally am someone who believes that he has had a true conversion to faith and, all things considered, is making his best effort to lead this country in his faith. And, for who I am and who I was at that time in my walk, I felt like it was necessary, purely for that reason, to show that support. My motivation was faith-based. If you looked at the two candidates, it was my opinion that the most authentic demonstration of faith was being identified by President Bush.
AR: You took some heat for doing that, though. I heard that while you were inside speaking, one of your brothers was outside picketing the convention.
SB: I did come into some conflict as a result of that decision. One of my brothers said, “Did you do your homework and look at his policies and what he does and how he does it?” I said, “Sure, to the best of my ability, I’ve looked at both candidates and what they believe. And I made my decision based on that. Now my question to you is, ‘Have you done your homework? Have you read the Bible and understood Scripture and understood how the Holy Spirit has brought me to my decision?’” That was a powerful ministry moment for me, to say to one of my siblings that my understanding is that, for faith reasons, George Bush should be the next president. That has a lot of repercussions, but that was my perspective at the time.
AR: How are the Baldwin brothers doing?
SB: My brothers and I love each other very much, and God is moving in our family. All of the people who have seen the TV special and my sister-in-law (Chynna) coming to Christ, hopefully everyone that sees that will start praying for that.
AR: What’s it like, being Stephen Baldwin, and being born again?
SB: I’m feel like I’m at the highest point of a roller coaster called the Holy Ghost, with my hands in the air, and I’m screaming my butt off. It’s powerful and it’s real, and the only way you can understand the experience is to follow and believe. It’s a great time to be a believer.
AR: Are you still making movies? I see you’ve got some other films coming out soon.
SB: I’ve got two TV movies coming out this year, a movie with Tom Sizemore.
AR: You’re a busy guy.
SB: Amen. My primary motivating Scripture is Matthew 11: 12. All this year, this is the scripture that we read before every skate event. Hold on, I’ll read it to you. It says, “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.” But I tell you right now. I ain’t playin.’ I fully intend on opening a serious can of whoop-butt in the name of Jesus.
AR: You’re getting people into the Kingdom, Stephen. You’re a preacher, man. And that’s cool.
SB: All of Hollywood is coming, too.
AR: What’s it going to take to get Hollywood saved?
SB: It’s gonna take a blink of the Lord’s eyes. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess. It’s just a matter of when.
To hear Stephen Baldwin’s complete testimony or to order a copy of "Livin' It," visit www.livinit.org.
To find a station near you airing “Livin' It: Unusual Suspects” this month, please visit www.palau.org/lpea/resources/tvsearch.php.