September 01, 2006
Raised in a Southern Baptist Church
I’ve wanted to write a series of journal entries talking about all the different churches I’ve attended over the years. Although, I’m beginning this week, I know myself better than to think that I will finish this systematically over the next few weeks. I may do that, or life may interrupt and I find myself writing about something else, only to return to the next installment in this series, months from now. We’ll just have to see.
What prompted me to write this was thinking about how each church denomination I’ve attended, five in all, have all had such a distinctly profound influence on my life and ministry. I can see God’s hand so evidently as He has used the different bodies of believers to shape me into who I am today.
My foundation is Southern Baptist. I was saved at First Baptist Church of Lake Worth, Brother George Dixon, pastor. I remained at this church from the age of ten to thirteen, when I moved to California. Then I joined First Baptist Church of Van Nuys, with Dr. Jess Moody until I was sixteen. (I will talk about the following years in the next installments.)
Many of you already know my testimony, either by reading my autobiography, or hearing me speak, so I won’t go all into it here. To make a not-so-dramatic-testimony short, I was raised in a Christian home, (hey, I’m from the Bible Belt, for goodness sakes,) but not in a church-going home.
I had a friend, Lynn Butler, sleepover on a Saturday night. We got to talking about how fun it would be to dress up and go somewhere. She came up with the idea of visiting the little church at the end of my street. That sounded like a brilliant idea to me, so the next morning, we put our dresses on and hopped on our bicycles and rode a few houses down and across the street to church.
I discovered something that Sunday morning that changed my life. They had been serving donuts and orange juice down there every weekend for almost all of my life! I had lived this close and I didn’t know about this!! The next Sunday I thought, forget about the dress, I’m going down there for some more donuts and orange juice.
I kept coming back for more and it wasn’t just for the yummy breakfast. I really didn’t know exactly why, though. All I knew was that every time I walked into that church, I felt like my heart had found its home. I knew what this was what my life was about. My Sunday school teacher explained that what I was feeling was the love of Jesus and I could ask Jesus to come into my heart and take that love home with me.
Maybe that is why Jesus commands us to come to Him as little children. Children don’t have to have it all figured out before they respond to His love. Soon, I walked down the aisle, probably to the hymn, “Just As I Am,” and prayed the sinner’s pray with Brother Dixon.
Eventually, my whole family began attending church with me. We eventually started a bus ministry. My mom organized the route and taught a little lesson on board. My dad drove the bus and illustrated the stories. I usually entertained with my ventriloquist puppet. And my little brother just enjoyed riding on a bus every weekend. (We felt deprived because we lived close enough to walk to school.)
When I look back on these days, raised in a Baptist church, I immediately think of three major influences. First, the critical importance of the local church. My whole life revolved around church. I was there every time the doors were open. I went to Sunday school, Sunday morning worship, Sunday night GA’s, Potlucks, Midweek services, Saturday workdays, whatever and whenever.
That is still how I live my life today. All of our best friends are from our church. Our kids volunteer on Saturday evenings, we attend as a family Sunday morning, we have Home Team on Sunday nights, the kids have campus teams at the same time, rehearsal on Monday evening, and then, either play in the praise band for junior high, or attend the senior high service on Wednesday night. The body of Christ is too valuable to take for granted. I am so thankful for life in the local church.
Another huge foundational principle that I learned in the Baptist church that still impacts my life is the habit of daily Bible reading. Each Sunday morning, I stuck a few coins in the little offering envelope to turn in at Sunday school. I’m a pleaser and list-maker by nature, so the fact that these envelopes had little “to do” boxes to check-off was too much for me to ignore. I read my Bible every night just so I could check the “read Bible daily” box on the outside.
That habit alone was probably the single most reason I survived as a child star. Even as a little kid in Hollywood, I continued reading my Bible every day. I know the sustaining of that relationship with Jesus kept me from taking more wrong turns than I did.
If I had to choose the one thing that shaped my life the most because of being raised in a Baptist church, without hesitation it would be the emphasis on evangelism. I knew from the moment I walked back from the altar that the rest of my life was to be about telling as many people as possible about the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
When I returned to school after the summer break, my sixth grade teacher asked each student to get up in front of the class and tell what we did over the summer vacation. I stood up and told how I have become a Christian and if there was anyone who didn’t know Christ as their personal Savior then I would meet them out on the playground to pray with them.
Sharing Jesus was my life and I did it as often as I had opportunity. A couple of years later, I was in a musical theater production of “The Sound of Music” in Dallas. After a Saturday evening performance, they invited people to stay for bar drinks and a talent showcase from the cast.
When it came my time to perform, I did a ventriloquist routine and told the story of “The Three Trees.” If you aren’t familiar with this story, let me just tell you this much. It is a pretty straightforward gospel message and I was not asked to perform for the next showcase because the theater didn’t sell another drink at the bar after I left.
The next year, when I moved to California to be one of the mouseketeers on the “New Mickey Mouse Club,” I knew that it was a wonderful opportunity for me to fulfill my dream of becoming a child actress, but even more importantly, I knew I was to being sent to share the Light of Jesus in a dark place.
When I got the part on “The Facts of Life” I knew that God was simply broadening my platform so I could tell more people about Him. I would work on the set all week and then, often, travel on the weekends to speak to youth groups. I understood that it was young people watching the show and they may come to church to meet “Blair” and I could tell them about Jesus and maybe they would end up meeting Him that night.
I am so thankful for the foundation in my life as a good ol’ Baptist girl. The Lord has led me down many different roads since my days singing favorite hymns like “Trust and Obey,” “This is My Story” and “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” but my passion for evangelism, commitment to daily time in the Word, and love for the local church is a part of the very fiber of my being. I am grateful for my Baptist heritage.
Interestingly, as a family, we are back attending a Baptist church today, although you have to dig real deep to discover the denominational title and it doesn’t resemble anything like the little church in which I grew up. I’ll tell you all about this church later. In the meantime, I have a few more journal entries to write telling you about the other churches that have impacted my life. Maybe next week.
Posted by weblion at 09:15 PM