Denzel Washington Relies on ‘Experienced Shepherds’ for Guidance About Serving God & Others

At last Saturday’s annual Better Man Event, held in Orlando, Fla., and streamed globally, Academy Award winner Denzel Washington discussed his faith and how he wants to spend “the rest of my days on this earth.” In a one-on-one discussion with Pastor A.R. Bernard of Brooklyn’s Christian Cultural Center, the 66-year-old actor and devout Christian revealed what God has been repeating to him lately.

“In every prayer, all I hear is ‘Feed my sheep,’” Washington says. “That’s what God wants me to do.” While trying to understand that biblical command, he says he’s realized “there are all kinds of sheep. So that’s why I talk to experienced shepherds to help guide me.” Bernard is a spiritual mentor to Washington, who encourages other Christian men to “lift them faith weights” and “refill your bucket” regularly.

Denzel Washington Tells Men to Cherish God’s Gifts

Before Denzel Washington’s mother died recently, he says he “made a promise to her and to God, not just to do good the right way, but to honor my mother and my father by the way I live my life… I’m here to serve, to help, to provide.”

To participants in the Better Man Event, which launched in 2005, Washington offered encouragement for living as a Christian in today’s changed world. “The John Wayne formula is not quite a fit right now,” he says. “But strength, leadership, power, authority, guidance, patience are God’s gift to us as men. We have to cherish that, not abuse it.”

The actor reminds men to “stay on your knees” in prayer, to “inspire who you can,” and to “seek advice”—from church leaders as well as from “the One that can do something about it.” Godly habits, says Washington, are especially crucial in a culture where everyone wants to “be influential” and famous and rich. He assures listeners that worldly fame doesn’t insulate people from problems but “just magnifies” them.

God Is Always Faithful, Actor Says

During a recent Instagram Live appearance with Pastor Bernard, Denzel Washington described how prayer and the Holy Spirit have protected and sustained him. The celebrated actor, who strongly considered becoming a pastor, has been transparent about his spiritual struggles, however. “What I played in the movies is not who I am,” he told listeners on Saturday. “I’m not going to sit or stand on any pedestal…because the fact of the matter is, in the whole 40-year [faith] process, I was struggling for my own soul.”

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During a 2015 speech at a Church of God in Christ (COGIC) banquet, Washington recalled how a woman in his mother’s beauty shop once predicted he would “travel the world and speak to people.” The actor said, “Now mind you I was 20 years old, with a 1.7 grade point average and had flunked out of school. She said, ‘You are going to preach,’ … and I guess she was right.”

Washington says his family and community never stopped praying for him and modeling how “to live out one’s faith and to trust God’s plan.” He adds, “There has never been a time when God didn’t direct, protect, or correct me. There may have been times where I was less than faithful to him, but he had faith in me.”

Washington next appears with Frances McDormand in “The Tragedy of Macbeth,” a black-and-white Shakespeare adaptation that premieres at the New York Film Festival tomorrow and opens in theaters on Christmas Day.

Stephanie Martin
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Stephanie Martin, a freelance journalist, has worked in Christian publishing for 27 years. She’s active at her church in Lakewood, Colorado, where she lives with her husband and two teenage daughters.