September 16, 2006
“Christian Center” Youth Group
After our little break last week I am ready to resume our mini-series chronicling the churches God has used to shape and mold my life. Unless you are joining me this Monday morning for our first “cup of Coffee Talk” together, then you will recall that in the first installment of this series I talked about being saved and raised in the Baptist Church from the age of ten to sixteen.
Let me pick it up from there. I got the part of “Blair” when I was sixteen and for the first year of filming I had a tutor on the set and did my schoolwork with the rest of the girls. My mother heard about a Christian school in Ft. Worth that provided schoolwork in packets that could be completed without actually attending the classes. Perfect!
My mom enrolled me in this school, Liberty Christian Academy, and I finished my sophomore year of high school on the set in California. (I didn’t realize it until years later but the curriculum was, and still is, a homeschool curriculum. So, I guess I was homeschooled before homeschooling was cool.)
When “The Facts of Life” was picked up for the second season, I reenrolled for my junior year. Soon after, the actors’ union, Screen Actor’s Guild, went on strike. Since I wasn’t allowed to cross the picket line to work, I went back home to Texas and actually started attending the classes at the school.
These were some of the best days of my life. I got to be a real teenager, go to football games, pizza parties, and most importantly, my high school youth group. (I’ll talk more about that later.) Because I was home for an extended period of time, I asked the principal if I could double up on the packets, do two years in one, and graduate by May. This eventually enabled me to work all day on the set without having to go to the “school trailer” for three hours every day.
The union strike ended up lasting six months! I got to spend the longest amount of time at home since I was 12-years-old. I am so thankful to God for those high school memories I was able to enjoy. Because I was enrolled in the school, and attending the classes everyday, I was required to attend chapel every Thursday morning in the non-denominational church next-door.
During one particular chapel service I remember the pastor ended his sermon with these words, “So, if you want more of the Holy Spirit operating in your life, come down to the altar.” I must not have been paying attention to the message but these words grabbed me. Of course I want more! I’ve been desperate for Jesus since I was a little girl. To this day, it is very difficult for me to pass up a trip to the altar. God is always working on something in my life.
So, I got up out of my seat and headed to the front of the sanctuary. The pastor laid his hands on me and prayed for me to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit and I immediately began to praise the Lord like I never had before. I was so excited. I felt so full of Jesus! I couldn’t wait to get home and tell everyone about what happened to me today in chapel.
Oops. I didn’t really understand about the different denomination thing. I thought everybody was Baptist. My friends and relatives soon informed me that I had probably been inducted into a cult. Now I was really confused. It didn’t feel like a cult. I had been worshiping Jesus there every Thursday morning for weeks. I didn’t know what to do.
So, I made an appointment with the pastor of the church for counseling. He showed me a few scriptures in the Bible like, Acts 2:17, 2:38-39 and 8:16.
Can someone please tell me how I had been reading my Bible every night for six years and I don’t remember ever reading about this stuff?! It made perfect sense to me and, for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what the big deal was all about! To me, it seemed to take more work to unexplain the baptism in the Holy Spirit than to simply take God at His Word.
Obviously, this was the first huge thing I learned while attending this church called, “Christian Center.” The second life-shaping influence this church had on my life was sending me out in ministry. My youth pastor, Paul Tedesco, saw the Lord’s hand on my life, my passion for evangelism, and the platform I was given and he invested in my life in a profound way.
The first thing he did was teach me how to share my testimony in an engaging way. He asked me to bring my photo albums from home. We looked through them and he choose a couple dozen pictures from my childhood, through the “New Mickey Mouse Club” years and up to the current “The Facts of Life” days.
He helped me put together a slide show to accompany my testimony and then he asked the church to allow me to speak during the service one Sunday night. I was awful but I was hooked. From there, Paul became my booking agent and he found places for me to speak all over America. For the next many years, my ministry grew. I would work five days a week on the set and then I would travel to churches to speak, primarily to youth, on the weekends.
After speaking to hundreds of youth groups I realized that music was really the language of teenagers. One day I got the brilliant idea to record an album. I couldn’t really sing that well, but that didn’t stop me. I called up the head of a Christian record company and asked for an appointment.
During that meeting I shared my vision. My desire was to put all of the messages that I was desperate to share with young people to music and “sing” my talk. I guess he knew that he could fix anything in the recording studio and he jumped on the idea. I hired a vocal coach, met with songwriters, even wrote a song myself, and recorded an album. From that point, I continued traveling the country but now it was with a band, or at least some really good tracks I could groove to.
It wasn’t until writing this journal entry, and thinking through the influences this church had on my life and ministry, that I saw something significant I had never realized before this moment. Acts 1:8 says, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”"
That is how it happened for me, too. While attending this little non-denominational school, I went to a chapel service at the church, prayed to receive a fresh infilling of the Holy Spirit in power, and was sent out in ministry as a witness for Jesus all over America.
If your particular church affiliation doesn’t believe in a separate infilling, in addition to the indwelling of the Spirit upon salvation, please don’t send me an email. And, please, please, don’t stop being my friend. I have tons of friends – all of them obviously full of the Holy Spirit, and yet many of us believe just a little bit differently, in this area and even others. That’s okay. At the core, there is no question. We believe that Jesus is the Son of God, who died and rose again that we might have forgiveness of sins and life eternally and abundantly.
So, let’s agree not to get tripped up on this, often divisive issue. I’m simply sharing my story. And there is still more to this story. Perhaps, one of the most important things I learned while attending this church was the importance of community, especially a strong youth group during the critical teenage years.
Other than the Nancy, Kim, and Mindy, I really didn’t have many friends in California. All of my best friends lived in Texas and were in my church youth group. Surrounding myself with Christian friends certainly spared me from going down some paths I might have regretted later.
Now that I have three teenagers of my own, I can’t thank God enough for the gift of growing up in a strong, relevant, growing, exciting, fun youth group. My heart always revolved around Jesus, but this church enabled my whole life to revolve around Him, as well.
The impact this youth group had on my life was the driving force behind the church we are attending today. (A Baptist church again, by the way.) When we moved to Texas, Steve and I determined that, in choosing a church home, the most important thing was to find a strong youth group our three junior high kids wouldn’t want to miss every week. I’ll share more of the particulars in that story in a future journal entry. I still have two more churches to share with you before then.
Wow! This was a long one. Thanks for sticking with me til the bottom of the page. I’m sure having a good time reliving my life. I hope I’m not boring you. If not, join me next time when I tell you about the church I attended after high school. I can’t wait.
Posted by weblion at 05:49 PM