NEW YORK – How did the son a of Mennonite pastor and small town Kansas boy grow up to star in successful movies and TV shows and run his own production company? By “following the Lord in obedience in whatever [he] does.”
“God’s Not Dead” star and producer David A.R. White was raised Mennonite, a sect of Christianity that he says, “makes Mormons look like a pack of Hell’s Angels.”
Not to be confused with the Amish, Mennonites are a group of Anabaptists who range from those who dress in “plain” clothing similar to the Amish, to those who wear modern dress.
“I saw one movie in theatres in the first 18 years of my life,” White told FOX411 of his conservative upbringing. At 8-years-old, he snuck out with friends to go see a film in theatres and it was then that he was captivated by the movie industry. Although, at first he thought he “was going to hell.”
But it wasn’t until White attended Moody Bible Institute that he decided he wanted to move to Hollywood to pursue a career in acting. At age 19, he packed up his bags and moved to Venice Beach.
“Coming to Hollywood at 19 and living in a single apartment with one other guy on Venice Beach was a massive contrast to my upbringing,” White said. “After 20 years in LA, I still feel like I’m just a farmer at heart living in a really bizarre town that values money, power, fame, drugs, sex, everything I didn’t grow up with.”
Unlike many young actors trying to make it big in Hollywood, White landed his break out role soon after moving to the Golden State. He turned a one-line part into a recurring role on the early 90’s CBS show “Evening Shades” and landed guest roles on shows including “Coach,” “Saved by the Bell” and “Melrose Place.”
However, once word got out that White was a Christian, he began to receive offers for faith-based films. While he was grateful for the opportunity, he found that the movies had a good message but suffered in quality. He decided to open his own production company specializing in family and faith friendly films including “God’s Not Dead” and the upcoming “Moms’ Night Out.”
“Pure Flix Entertainment makes movies that uplift and inspire the human spirit which some would call a radical idea,” White said. “I wear this label of a Christian filmmaker proudly.”
“There’s no doubt along the way people have ridiculed me when they find out what I do,” he continued. “I’m certainly out there in the world for being a Christian filmmaker but I don’t like to think about it that way. I want to live my life the way Jesus does – I want to love people.”
Like in the movie “God’s Not Dead,” White has been asked many times why he believes in God when there is no way to scientifically prove His existence.
“Ultimately our relationship in Christ comes through faith,” he explained. “We can prove in many things the history of the Bible, but in the end you have to take a leap of faith. You take a leap of faith the other way too if you believe there is no God. I just think how hard it would be to go through this life without a belief in God.”
Amid all of his success, how does White stay grounded?
“First and foremost I just try and follow the Lord in obedience in whatever He’s calling me to do,” White told FOX411. “I stopped trying to have my way. The goal is to expand your territories for God’s Kingdom so whether that’s a blockbuster movie or just the movies that I’ve been doing, I’m at a place in my life where I’m just thankful for my family and for what I’m doing and wherever the Lord takes me I’m open.”
Faith & Fame is a regular column exploring how a strong belief system helps some performers navigate the pitfalls of the entertainment industry.
You can find Sasha Savitsky on Twitter @SashaFB.