After death something new begins, over which all powers of the world of death have no more might.
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Easter Sunday is one of the most attended church services each year. When I was at the pinnacle of my career in the Hollywood entertainment industry, my wife, Doneata, ruined my dinner one night when she shared the news with me that she had become a Christian. I had always disliked Christians and certainly wasn’t thrilled at the thought of being married to one. I was happy with my life and accomplishments, and I didn’t want anything—especially God—to mess up my life in any way. However, at the time our son, David, was sick, and I thought Doneata probably needed God in her life to help her cope with his illness. Of course my worst nightmare became a reality when I found myself sitting in church one Sunday.
The next Sunday I sat in a stiff pew, wondering why I agreed to go to church in the first place. I really didn’t care about seeing the new pastor. When Pastor Carey walked up to the podium, I was immediately taken back by his appearance. He wore brown alligator shoes and an off-white, western-cut, tight-fitting tailored suit. His shirt was expensive, with large French cuffs, and his tie was silk. I thought, “That tie seems a bit much for a preacher, but I guess it goes perfectly with his western attire.” He had long blond hair that he combed straight back, without a part in it. I guessed him to be in his early forties. He had the chest of an athlete and probably a thirty-six-inch waist. With no disrespect to a South Dallas used car salesman, that’s what the preacher reminded me of. I wondered, “Now what kind of a car is the preacher driving? I would bet cold hard cash that he drives either a Lincoln or a Cadillac.” Pastor Carey preached for about twenty minutes. During his message, he kept walking very quickly across the stage, going back and forth. He had the audience laughing and crying. Everyone but me seemed to be having a good time. I thought to myself, “This guy is not a preacher. He’s an entertainer.”
As we left the church, I told Doneata, “Let’s go by the pastor’s parking space. I’m sure he has an assigned space.” Doneata asked, “Why do you want to do that?”
“Oh, I don’t know. I’m just curious about something.” If I had made a bet, I would have won. The preacher drove a shiny, two-toned, red-and-white Cadillac Eldorado.
The experience I had that Sunday with the new preacher turned me off from ever wanting to go back to Sunday school or church. I thought, “I have seen enough movies to know how a preacher is supposed to look, dress, and act.” I had gone to church that day expecting to meet a preacher who looked and acted like Spencer Tracy, or maybe Gary Cooper. What I found, however, was someone who looked and acted like Elvis!
I hated going to church and had zero respect for the new pastor. But thankfully, there is so much more to Christianity than simply going to church. Christianity is about a personal relationship with a person, Jesus Christ. When I look back on my life, I am amazed at how God called and saved me. I wasn’t seeking. I didn’t want Him. But one day—in one moment—everything changed for me.
When I pulled out my cigarettes from my shirt pocket, I noticed the tract I had picked up earlier at church. It was a small blue tract with a small picture on the front of a dove in flight. It took only a few minutes for me to read through it in its entirety. That little tract asked a very personal question that I had been asked before, but this time, for some unknown reason, it had my undivided attention. “Have you been born again? Have you experienced the spiritual rebirth Jesus said was absolutely necessary for entrance into heaven? This is the one thing, according to the Word of God, that will determine your eternal destiny.” I knew at that very moment what I had always known to be true—that I was an unsaved man. I knew that if I died that day I would spend eternity in hell. I continued reading from the tract. “The moment we open our hearts to the Lord Jesus and place our complete trust in Him—and Him alone—as our Savior, God promises to forgive our sins.”
I sat there on my sofa with tears streaming down my face wondering, “Why has it taken me so long to understand what a wretch I have been?” I got down on my knees and prayed a prayer and asked God to forgive me of my sins, to put a new heart in me, and to give me a desire to be more like His Son. That afternoon I became a Christian.
Excerpts from Hollywood’s Chosen
While living in Miami, I enjoyed listening to Keith Green. He had so much passion in his singing and in his love for Jesus. Keith Green said this at one of his concerts: “Just dare to believe in Him. There’s so many people around that are afraid because all they’ve seen of Jesus is Churchianity, or all they’ve seen of Jesus is religion. They’ve been turned off by the hypocrisy, but there is a real Jesus, and there are real Christians running around.” In 1982, Keith Green’s singing career was cut tragically short as he and two of his young children (three-year-old Josiah and two-year-old Bethany) were killed in an airplane crash. I still get goose bumps when I hear Keith Green’s “Easter Song.”