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2009 Conversations

2008 Conversations

2007 Conversations

2006 Conversations

2005 Conversations

2004 Conversations

Alicia Chole: The truth about joy (12/28/03)

Cookies and Christmas: A roundtable discussion (12/21/03)

John Tesh: In pursuit of passion (12/14/03)

AGWM's L. John Bueno: Bread of life (11/23/03)

Teen Challenge's John Castellani: Christ breaks addictions (11/16/03)

Christian humorist Justin Fennell: Justifiably funny (10/19/03)

Representative Marilyn Musgrave: The role of Christians in government (10/12/03)

Dennis Gaylor: Fifty more campuses (9/28/03)

Kathy Troccoli: A message of hope (9/21/03)

Kristy Starling: Dreams come true (9/14/03)

CeCe Winans Love: Of Gospel and Grammies (8/31/03)

Gary Heavin: Faith and fitness (8/24/03)

Gracia Burnham: Grace in the jungle (8/17/03)

Seattle Mariner John Olerud: Hope when your health fails (8/10/03)

Chris Maxwell: Pastor recovering from memory loss (7/27/03)

Wayne Warner: Today’s Pentecostal Evangel: a historical view (7/20/03)

Paul Drost: Every church a parent or a partner (7/13/03)

Dr. J. Calvin Holsinger: What can be learned from history? (6/29/03)

Ron Drye: Ministering to the whole person (6/22/03)

Matt McPherson: Doing business by the Golden Rule (6/15/03)

The difference (6/8/03)

Fory VandenEinde: Fulfilling the Great Commission (5/25/03)

Tom Greene: The church's new generation (5/18/03)

Lisa Whelchel: Former sitcom star now an advocate for moms (5/11/03)

Tony Lamarque: Warden speaks about unconditional love (4/27/03)

Ann Graham Lotz: Just give her more of Jesus (4/20/03)

Lee Strobel: The case for Christ (4/13/03)

Randall K. Barton: Extravagant stewardship (3/30/03)

Bishop Gilbert Patterson: Bringing people together under Christ (3/23/03)

Pat Boone: A unique celebrity speaks out (3/16/03)

St. Clair Mitchell: God in Washington, D.C. (3/9/03)

Kay Gross: Ministry by women, ministry to women (2/23/03)

Thomas E. Trask: A historic General Council (2/16/03)

Denise Jones: Girls of Grace (2/9/03)

Doug Greengard: Beyond the NFL (1/26/03)

Three pro-life advocates call the church to action (1/19/03)

Chaplain Charles Marvin: The gospel in uniform (1/12/03)

2002 Conversations

2001 Conversations


A unique celebrity speaks out — on Teen Challenge, Hollywood, patriotism and more

Pat Boone is a Grammy-winning recording artist, star of stage, screen and television, and entrepreneur. At one time a Top 10 box office draw, he currently hosts Gospel America, a gospel music TV program, as well as a weekly syndicated gospel music radio program and two hours a week on The Music of Your Life. Boone has been an elder at The Church on the Way in Van Nuys, Calif., for 30-plus years. He spoke recently with Ken Horn, managing editor.

PE: You’ve had a wide-ranging career in entertainment over the years, but many people remember you for one movie role in particular — that of David Wilkerson in the film adaptation of The Cross and the Switchblade. In light of the 45th anniversary of Teen Challenge, could you talk about how you came in contact with the book and the movie?

BOONE: I was on my way to Mexico City and at the airport I picked up a paperback copy of The Cross and the Switchblade. I was curious how they combined those two images in the title. I started reading it on the plane and by about page 31 or 32 I was getting goose bumps. I kept asking myself if this was supposed to be a true story. David Wilkerson was detailing an absolute miracle that happened on the streets of New York City. I’d been taught in my church background that God doesn’t do miracles anymore. I couldn’t put it down.

When I got back to L.A., I called David Wilkerson in New York. I’d never met him. I said, “I’m Pat Boone, the entertainer,” and I started to explain. “I read your book. Did all these things you talk about really happen just that way? … I really think there ought to be a movie made of this book. I think it would be a very successful film.”

He was less than enthusiastic. He told me he thought Hollywood would twist the story around. Then, all of a sudden, he began to pray about it over the phone. “Lord,” he prayed, “my life’s Your life, my story’s Your story, and if You want anything made of this, then You do it. You know Pat Boone; I don’t. You know whether he should be part of it.”

God put the pieces together and did a wonderful work in my life. By the time we started filming, I had been baptized in the Holy Spirit.

PE: Did you face any challenges in making the film?

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Pat Boone

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BOONE: I’d get in a cab in mid-town Manhattan to go deep into Harlem for the day’s shooting, and the cab driver would say, “You want to go where? That’s a dangerous neighborhood, man.” I’d give him his fare as we got close to the day’s location and he would only slow down enough for me to open the door and hop out and he was out of there.

When we filmed, we went into the very streets, alleys and basements where the story had been lived. I felt very inadequate to play David, but I prayed continually and I knew God was doing something. After we had been filming a few days, David came on the set in a basement in Harlem. Then he went to see some of the film we had shot the day before. After they rolled the shots, the lights came up. David looked at me and said, “You’re starting to look like me.” Right then, I knew the Holy Spirit was doing something. The film became the most successful independently produced and distributed film ever up to then.

PE: The movie has continued to be a blessing over the years.

BOONE: It never got the kind of big splash on neighborhood screens that it should have had. But The Cross and the Switchblade has been translated into 15 to 20 languages. I’ve had people from Iran and Iraq tell me they’ve seen the film in their language. Those countries consider it an anti-drug film. Even with its strong Christian message it is still seen around the world in all these languages and even in Muslim countries. They’re looking for something that will discourage drug use, and this film does it.

PE: How did you come to know Christ?

BOONE: Well, thank God I was born not only in America, but to Christian parents. A lot of us have had those blessings, and we take them for granted.

Dad was a building contractor and Mom was a registered nurse. I was their first child followed fairly quickly in the next six years by a brother and two sisters. My parents were very serious about church attendance and involvement. I sat with my parents on the front row or no farther back than the second row for all of my growing up days. We went to Sunday morning service, Sunday night and Wednesday night. We tried to go to every revival service. Plus we had Bible reading and prayer and devotionals at home. Even though it got tiring to us kids at times, we realized that church was as important to our parents as eating, sleeping or anything else. When I was 13, I confessed Jesus Christ as my Savior and was baptized in water.

I asked my parents if I could have the unfinished attic as my bedroom. So Mom and Dad let me have a bed upstairs among all the boxes and clothes and all the paraphernalia that six people in a family collect. And that was a precious place to me. I remember many, many times on my knees, looking out the window of the attic into the side yard and up the street and asking the Lord to use my life, and to use me.

PE: How did God begin to direct you?

BOONE: I loved singing. I sang at every honorable opportunity. I turned down opportunities to sing with dance bands and supper clubs because of my faith. Because of the invitations I turned down, I started to think there was no chance for me to be a professional singer. I’d pray about it when I was milking the family cow, Rosemary. I would talk to the Lord and say, “I wish I could be a singer like Julius LaRosa on Arthur Godfrey and His Friends.” You know, within about two years of those prayers, I was a regular on the show. I was at school at Columbia University, married to Shirley, my high school sweetheart, and I was a father. God just had His hand on me.

PE: Not many people realize you were also involved in ministry during your early singing career.

BOONE: When I first went to college I was preparing to be a teacher. I was preaching in a little country church in Slidell, Texas. They had students come preach for them because they couldn’t afford a regular preacher. There were only about 30 or 40 people out in this rural area. For months I was their regular preacher while I was at school at North Texas State.

While I was on Arthur Godfrey and His Friends and fulfilling my recording contract, I was enrolled in Columbia. I became the song leader and Sunday school teacher at a little church in Manhattan. I was in college and having kids and living over in New Jersey and starting my own weekly television show for Chevrolet and making some movies for 20th Century Fox. But every Sunday and Sunday night, just like when I grew up, I was at that little congregation in Manhattan.

PE: You’re known as both an outspoken Christian and successful entertainer and celebrity. How do you balance those roles?

BOONE: I didn’t always balance them that well. In the beginning, I had a very special sense of God’s miraculous provision. I remember turning down a role that I thought would compromise my testimony, even though I can look back now and see that it was an honorable role. I made some people very angry. Little did any of us know that my turning that role down would lead to my doing Journey to the Center of the Earth. I did what I thought God wanted me to do, and He honored that.

But my reputation made people think I was too good to be commercial, and a kind of squeaky-clean image grew. And I started to chafe at that. I made concessions and I did things I didn’t think were right and gradually I sold out more and more until I nearly lost marriage, family, reputation … everything. I wrote about it all in my book A New Song. All the crumbling and caving in to pressures brought me to a new commitment and a realization — I could not work out my own salvation with fear and trembling. We read Philippians 2:12, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” but we never go on to the next verse. There’s only a comma between verses 12 and 13. Verse 13 says, “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (NKJV). I needed to invite the Lord not just to save me but to fill me and to inhabit me and to be my Lord and to baptize me in the Holy Spirit and to give me the power, not only to do His will, but to want to do it. When Shirley and I were both in our mid-30s, we received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. It changed our lives, even though it cost us continued fellowship with the church I had been raised in.

PE: Where did you find a church home?

BOONE: We wound up at The Church on the Way with Pastor Jack Hayford. It was only about a hundred members then. We didn’t come close to filling the building, but every service there were things that were said and done and prayed that brought us to tears and worship in a way that we never had experienced. Every service was vital and real and a visit with God, and we couldn’t help but invite friends to come. We wanted them to experience what we experienced. I’ve been an elder there for about 35 years now. We’ve watched the church grow to more than 10,000 members.

PE: How did the Baptism continue to impact your life?

BOONE: Once I had been filled with the Spirit, I discovered I don’t have to be one person when I’m with show-business people, somebody else at church, and somebody else in the business world or on the sports field or wherever. I can be the same person all the time. And I’m not going to be ashamed of the gospel, and I’m not going to be ashamed of the Lord, and I’m not going to be ashamed if they want to call me Goody-Goody or whatever they want to call me. That’s OK. At least people know that I’m a Christian, and to me that’s the most important designation that can be. Once that was settled in my own thinking, a lot of my decisions became easy, about where I go, who I’m with, what I do.

God has led me into some things that I would not have intellectually chosen for myself. For instance, having Ozzy Osbourne move in next door to me and eventually declare on his TV show that I am the best neighbor his family’s ever had. They’re lovable people. But their lifestyle — the things that seem so funny and that people actually want to hear and see from them — are certainly not a good, regular diet for us in an already polluted environment. Kids around the country will start emulating them. But, you know, when I went to visit with the Osbournes, I never heard them using all that language.

At a recent benefit for Larry King’s cardiac foundation, Dana Carvey was introduced. I was way at the back of the room. Dana said, “I’ve got to keep it PG tonight. Pat Boone’s here.” Years ago, Don Rickles and I were on the Tonight Show together. Don started to say something to Johnny Carson, then he looked over at me and did a sort of double take and said, “I can’t tell you that with Boone sitting here.”

I’m not trying to intimidate anybody; they’re free to do what they want. I do what I think is right. But it is a restraining influence. It has an effect on their behavior.

PE: Your latest project has given you another great opportunity to talk about God to a lot of people. Could you tell us more about it?

BOONE: This is a real phenomenon, and it’s just God. I recently put out an album called American Glory. It’s full of patriotic songs, and it reminds people that our patriotic songs point us to God. A song I wrote for the album, “Under God,” has even made it to the top-100 chart. We call these songs “patriotic,” but every one of them mentions God as our Source, our Defender, our Hope and our Strength.

I asked Ollie North, a wonderful Christian guy and a retired Marine colonel, “When’s the last time you heard somebody sing the Marine hymn except Marines?” He scratched his head a second and said, “I can’t remember ever hearing anybody sing it except Marines.” I said, “One proud non-Marine is singing your hymn in gratitude to God for you.”

PE: What inspired you to put together such an album?

BOONE: The inspiration for the project came to me last year when Michael Newdow in San Francisco stunned the nation by getting some liberal judges to side with him in his assertion that “under God” violated some separation of church and state principle. He didn’t want his daughter in school to be saying “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance sanctioned by the school. And these two judges agreed in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

I decided to fight this the only way I can, with music. And I wrote “Under God.” I thought we needed a refresher course in American history. So I started with the pilgrims and then went to George Washington at Valley Forge, and then to the Constitutional Convention where Ben Franklin called for daily prayer as they were trying to draft the Constitution itself, and then to Thomas Jefferson. In the last chorus I sing, we pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States. And I do the Pledge of Allegiance at the conclusion of the record with a lot of school kids saying it with me. And that’s the way the record ends — on the triumphant note, “under God, with liberty and justice for all.”

PE: What kind of response have you seen?

BOONE: At personal appearances there would be veterans in wheelchairs sometimes pushed by their wives and they had on their Marine or Navy caps. They would say, “I want to thank you for doing my song,” and their chin would be trembling. And I’d say, “Brother, I did the song, but I want to thank you. I’m thanking you for what you’ve done for this country and for me and for my family.”

PE: Any other thoughts?

BOONE: I want to be like Jesus, who was willing to seek out people and take time with them, while never losing sight of who He is. Jesus was castigated by religious leaders and even questioned by His own disciples about fellowshiping with publicans and sinners. He was never compromising who He is, but He loved the people and He wanted them to know it. He was not embarrassed to be associated with them because He came to save them. We think we’re so pure, and, like the Pharisees, don’t want to have anything to do with the publican and the sinner. Yet Jesus would go right into their home and sit down and say, “What’s for dinner?”

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