Intro: They may be called the next generation, but they’re the church of today. Reach, disciple and mobilize students to share the hope of the Gospel. This is Next Gen on Mission with Shane Pruitt.
Shane Pruitt: Hi friends. Shane Pruitt here, national next ven evangelism director for the North American Mission Board, and welcome to another episode of Next Gen on Mission. Thank you so much for taking the time to hang out with us. And today we have a very, very special guest, Madeline Carroll. Madeline is a social media influencer. She has also the actress who played Bart’s girlfriend, and “I Can Only Imagine” she was also in movies like “Swing Vote” with Kevin Costner, “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” with Jim Carey, “The Spy Next Door” with Jackie Chan. So many others. But most important than anything is Madeline loves Jesus. She is so bold with her faith and God is using her in amazing ways. So today we’re going to talk about using the arts to reach the next generation. So Madeline, welcome to the Next Gen on Mission podcast.
Madeline Carroll: Thank you so much for having me, I’m so excited to be on.
Shane Pruitt: Absolutely. Well, we were just talking before this that I actually met you almost two years ago, right before “I Can Only Imagine” released, Prestonwood hosted a private preview screening. It was sponsored by Harvest America. And so I had the privilege, they invited me to come and host you and John Erwin and do an interview time with you all. And I remember just how bold and clear you were with your faith. And so when we started talking about this podcast and casting vision for it, I’m like, I know at least one guest I want to have on for sure. So thank you so much for taking the time to be on today.
Madeline Carroll: Thank you so much for remembering me. It’s so crazy, you were talking about how it feels like yesterday that that happened and it’s been so long since then, so much has happened when I saw you, we didn’t know “I Can Only Imagine” was going to do well at all in the box office or anything. And just to think that John has gone on to form the Kingdom Production company, and now “I Still Believe” comes out in a couple of days, which is crazy. It’s so crazy to think of how so much has happened since then.
Shane Pruitt: No doubt. And to me, I just love how God is so amazing. God is so creative that he can use so many different ways and avenues to reach people for His glory. And so thank you so much for being obedient to that call on your life and worshiping the Lord through the gifts he’s given you. So that’s awesome.
Madeline Carroll: Thank you. It’s definitely been a journey, but God has been very, very faithful through each and every step of the way. But I’m excited for what He has next. So anytime I’ve given Him a little, He’s given me back a lot. So I’ve just been enjoying it really.
Shane Pruitt: I love it. Hey, Madeline, before we get too spiritual, what’s one fun fact that we should know about you that we probably don’t know?
Madeline Carroll: I was thinking of so many before we did this interview, but I think the biggest one that people are usually surprised by is I love podcasts, but I love murder mystery podcasts. Anything like that, I absolutely love, which I know was very strange. I do enjoy and I love crime series on Netflix. People are always super surprised by that. I’ve grown up with three brothers, okay, I’ve watched a lot of stuff.
Shane Pruitt: I love it, I think that’s great. Awesome. Well Madeline, we always open this podcast by asking this same question, and I love to hear the different responses to this from all of our different guests. What is something that we need to know about the next generation? So junior high students, high school students, college students, young adults. What’s something we need to know about the next generation?
Madeline Carroll: I think a lot of people try and fit in with the times, which obviously is a good thing to reach the next generation. But to be honest with you, with authenticity and I think just giving them something real. I think the next generation is just craving something real because of social media and even the stuff that we have on TV nowadays, it’s all very glossy. Every picture is filtered, everything’s perfect, and I think they’re just searching for the real thing, something real. And I think that that’s the biggest mistake that I see happen is older people are trying to come down to the young adults level and it’s like no, we just want to be pulled back to yours. That’s what I think. I think that’s the biggest misconception there, and I think that that’s something really, really important to know. They’re looking for something real. That’s why they look in all these different places, it’s because they just want something real.
Shane Pruitt: Yeah, no doubt. I say that without a doubt. Speaking of being real Madeline, I remember when we were at Prestonwood doing that interview you got really transparent and authentic about some of the pressures you faced in acting. And then there became a breaking point in a good way in your career where you say, you know what, I’m going to take a stand for the Lord. So would you take us briefly through that journey of how you got into acting, and then share again about some of the pressures that you faced as a young woman in the row of film, and then the stand you took for the Lord in making those decisions?
Madeline Carroll: I would love to. So I’ve been acting my whole life ever since I was three years old, got discovered in a nail salon. My mom and dad, they had nothing to do with the movie industry and so it was just the hand of the Lord on my life really at a very young age, putting me on the path of acting. And when I was younger, I loved it. It was just fun, it was like my soccer or baseball, my mom would drive me to all these different additions and just the favor of the Lord, I was used to working. Looking back now I realize how much it was God because as you get older it obviously gets harder. But I had a lot of favor, a lot of opportunity.
Madeline Carroll: And then I hit 15 and my career was really, really taken off and I had just started promoting, or finished promoting actually, a movie called “Machine Gun Preacher”. And that year turned 16, that whole year the opportunities that started coming my way were just things that I really wouldn’t want to do. All of a sudden I wasn’t really playing the daughter role anymore. I was going to be the teenager who wanted to sleep with people and wanted to have sex and all this stuff. And I was super, super uncomfortable. And I’ve always been a Christian, always loved the Lord, but even just my own morals, I didn’t want to do that. And I remember that whole year just being like, okay, well we’ll just wait for the next one, wait for the next one, we’ll wait for the next one.
Madeline Carroll: And nothing was really coming at all. And so I remember just deciding to fast. I wanted to do a seven day fast and I was like, Lord, I really need to hear from you because I’m not seeing any opportunity and I need to know is it still where you want me to be? So at that time, literally first day of my fast, the Lord gives me Isaiah 43. I’d never read Isaiah 43 before up until then. And Isaiah 43 briefly just talks about when you go through a difficulty, you won’t drown. And when you walk through a fire of oppression, you won’t be burned up. And then at the very end it says, behold I do a new thing, do you not perceive it? And I was like, okay, God that’s enough for me to hang on to.
Madeline Carroll: I just knew sometimes it happens when you read your Word, it just speaks to you and it became alive to me and I knew in that moment when I read that, that God was letting me know that yes, I’m still called to be here, but I actually was walking into something, I wasn’t coming out of it, but that season of waiting was just beginning and that was a hard pill to swallow in the moment. But I remember I started crying. I was at the beach, but I knew that God had a plan and so I was like, okay God, I’m willing. Cut to five, four or five years from then. I’m 19 years old. I did a couple things in between people remembering me from when I was a kid calling me back to work with them again and favors, stuff like that.
Madeline Carroll: I’m 19 years old. I’d love to say that after that moment with God on the beach that I got a Marvel movie or I got something. I didn’t. And I’m like, I held out for years and I had passed on a TV show that I was going to have to do nudity in, and I remember my representatives telling me, Madeline, I don’t understand what it is that you want. You’re an adult now. I don’t understand. Now that you’re an adult, this is the kind of work that you have to do. This is what there is out there. So if you’re not willing to do that, I’m not sure what you’re willing to do. And so I don’t know what there is for you. And I remember just being devastated, completely and utterly devastated.
Madeline Carroll: I felt like a fool, is what I felt like. And I hung up the phone, I crawled into my bathroom, sobbed and cried my eyes out. I just had this whole moment out with the Lord and was like, God, I don’t understand. You told me to wait, this is what I did. I waited for You, You promised me this, I haven’t seen you show up. And I was like, Lord, is it me? Did I mishear you? Did you want me to do something else? And the new thing was something else and it wasn’t to keep acting, and I just was so beyond anything crushed in spirit, totally crushed in spirit, and I said, God I’m done. I’m not going to go through the anxiety anymore, this heartbreak, this devastation. I said I’m done with it. In my heart I was going to call my agent, and I was going to quit.
Madeline Carroll: Literally Shane, I stand up and it was full on, the Holy Spirit pulled me back down to my knees and I got out these last two sentences and I was like, “Lord, but if you still called me here and this is still what you want me to do, then I’m willing to keep going, this is what I’ll do for you if this is what you want.” But I said, “you got to send me something, you got to send me a sign, you got to send me something to know that this is where you want me to be”. And so literally the next day, I’m not kidding you, I get reached out to you by Harold Cox, who did “The God’s Not Dead” movie and bunch of other faith-based film. Had never done a faith based on my life. And he said Madeline, I don’t know why, but for some reason I feel like you’re meant to be in my next faith based film. And then literally went did that movie, God put me back on the path and then that fall I got, “I Can Only Imagine”.
Shane Pruitt: Wow. And God so faithful.
Madeline Carroll: He’s beyond faithful.
Shane Pruitt: It costs everyone something to stand for their faith. If they’re going to truly live it out, it’s going to cost everyone something. But in that moment, it could have been so easy for you to say this is going to cost me a lot, maybe a trajectory that I’m on. And yet you still trusted the Lord, and I think he has exceedingly and abundantly more for you than you could ever imagine. And He already has. And I think God’s going to continue to honor that. You talked a little bit about that in your journey and some of the pressures and temptations that were thrown your way. What are some unique temptations and pressures upon your generation, and even younger, that maybe previous generations didn’t have to deal with?
Madeline Carroll: Oh my gosh. I would say the first thing that comes to mind is just we have so many helpers now in doing wrong things. Does that make sense? We have the iPhone, iPhone can even be used. A couple of years ago I would find myself in group texts that I didn’t want to be in with friends picking on another friend, you know what I mean? Social media, cell phones, the way technology is nowadays, it’s so accessible to get into trouble, you know what I mean? Whether you’re screenshotting or sending or doing or Snapchatting and it’s all at your fingertips. And the scary thing is, you don’t actually have to leave your house anymore to get in trouble. My dad, he tells stories of how him and his friend went and did this or that when he was younger and played outside.
Madeline Carroll: Nowadays you can do depredation to your own self, in your own home by yourself with your phone. And that’s so scary to me. And that’s so unique to me. And I’m not really sure what the antidote is to fix that unless everyone stops using iPhones and stuff like that. But I think that’s a unique pressure, at least in my eyes, and I’m fortunate enough, I was born in the 90s so I got to play outside, I got to have all that experience too. I was 13 maybe, or 12 maybe, when the iPhone came out and everything started changing. So I do know what it was like before and that’s the biggest thing to me, is even in the past three or four years, watched it evolve into even more now, there’s so many apps. I could only imagine what’s coming out, just to be transparent as you say I like to be, my publicist they had me do like the social media course, literally I’m not kidding.
Madeline Carroll: It was a social media course of how to handle my social media. And the was just so many apps and so many things, Shane, you can do to make yourself look a different way if you want, make your face look different if you want. And that’s so scary to me, because people are going to be continually after something that’s just not themselves. And I think that that’s heartbreaking because God’s called us all, in Psalm 139 he made us together in the womb. He created us for purpose. And you’ll never discover what your purpose is if you’re trying to live your life to the fullest of someone else’s life, which I think is so sad.
Shane Pruitt: Yeah, that’s such a good word.
Madeline Carroll: But that’s why we’ve got to say another Word!
Shane Pruitt: Yeah, no doubt. There’s definitely some trappings, some negative things about technology, social media, the arts, but what are some unique ways that we can use the arts technology to reach the next generation with the gospel? What are some positive spins on that?
Madeline Carroll: Well take “I Still Believe”, for instance. “I Still Believe” comes out next week. In my opinion, my first thought obviously since I’m in filmmaking, is movies is such a huge way to reach the younger generation. And I’m so excited for “I Still Believe” in particular because I don’t think that we’ve had a faith based film quite like that. And it’s almost like mainstream teenage film and faith film are meeting together with this movie. I mean KJ Apa is in it obviously, which I think is a great point in reaching the next generation. So many young kids that I know that aren’t even believers are excited about the movie because of KJ Apa. I think it’s a great way to hide the cinnamon in the apple sauce—a saying I like. Just getting young people in there because they want to see the movie for other reasons.
Madeline Carroll: And then they end up leaving hopefully with big questions in their heart. And who am I? What do I believe in? Do I believe in God? Do I know God? Have I ever believed in God? Maybe they’ve had a relationship with the world before I walked away from it. And the cool thing too about “I Still Believe”, is it’s handling a really hard topic in my opinion, which is if you talk to a lot of nonbelievers, they’ve either never thought about a relationship with God or they’ve had a really bad burn from the Lord. And so they’re like, well, God never showed up for me, god never answered my prayer. And so I think the cool thing about this movie is that it answers what do you do when God doesn’t show up? Which is a really, really big ones that I found, even just talking to people one-on-one, witnessing myself, is a lot of people have been burned.
Madeline Carroll: A lot of people, feel like God didn’t show up for them whether their parents died with cancer. The other day I met this guy, actually at a movie, who just started talking to me randomly that he lost his son to cancer, he had been burned by the Lord told me, I’m not a very spiritual person because God didn’t show up for me. And I think I’m really excited about that. I don’t know why it was so long, but to answer that question, I think movies are a great way. I think that making movies, making Instagram posts anything, it’s all so accessible now, Shane, there’s no excuse.
Shane Pruitt: That’s true. Specifically on “I Still Believe”, I’m so excited about that and familiar with that story. And most of Atheist agnostics that I personally know or have interacted with, hardly any of them, if at all, got there specifically because of science reasons. They may have eventually got there and say, Hey, I’m an Atheist because of scientific reasoning. However, they didn’t start that journey. Usually that journey started with some kind of hurt, some kind of let down, some kind of bad interaction from a Christian or they were let down by a church, or God didn’t come through in a way they thought and it sent them down that path. So I’m praying that the Lord will use I Still Believe in a incredible way. For the next gen leaders that are looking to give serving opportunities for creatives in their church, what are some ways to serve that maybe we haven’t been considering already to really get creatives on mission for the Lord?
Madeline Carroll: Well, what I’ve been seeing a lot nowadays in churches is, like I went to Zoe Church Sunday, which is Chad Veach’s church here in LA. And I was blown away, because you can definitely tell that they have allowed young people to come in and take over, and you can tell because it has such a young feel to it and a young vibe. So I think the best advice that I would give, who knows nothing about churches really, is just let the young people handle the young people stuff. I think that it gets really awkward when you can tell when someone older has tried to do something to target younger people. And I think just listening to younger people’s ideas, Shane my goodness, especially now that God led me in the direction of writing and stuff, is I found that so much is that older people have a hard time giving younger people the reigns.
Madeline Carroll: But the thing is the younger people are the ones that know what they’re talking about with stuff like that, with reaching other people at their age. It was so funny with the movie with, “I Still Believe”, I kept telling John, I was like, you have to let someone young handle the social media. You have to let someone young handle social media. Finally KJ Apa says well okay, we’ll let someone younger handle social media. It’s just a different kind of feeling. You can tell when it’s authentic and like we talked about at the beginning of the podcast, younger people are just searching for something authentic that you can tell when someone is giving you that. And so I think that’d be the biggest piece of advice. Maybe people have thought of that in the church, maybe they haven’t, but just listen to the younger people listen to their ideas because they’re spot on.
Madeline Carroll: They’re in the heartbeat of what it is that they’re trying to get other people to feel. And so I think that’s a great way. The other day I went to Jensen Franklin’s church here in LA as well. Got to see his church. His church is completely being ran by young people. There was this girl who was 17 on the guitar leading worship, and it was really cool to see. I would say just give the opportunity to the younger people. And you may think they’re immature, but I mean a lot of them actually know what they’re talking about. So just giving them the chance and the opportunity I think is the biggest thing.
Shane Pruitt: Yeah, that’s such a good word. And I think us as Nextgen leaders need to be constantly reminded of that, that’s ministering to the next generation is, because I think by default what we tend to do is we gather a bunch of adults and say, Hey, let’s plan an event that reaches a lot of young people and all the adults do the planning. And then we say, okay, here’s the event, here’s what we’re going to do. We tell the next generation, now bring all your friends. And they haven’t had a chance to speak into it at all.
Madeline Carroll: That’s so true.
Shane Pruitt: Even an event, an outreach event is, have the voice of the next generation at the table helping influence what that event is going to be. The direction of it. And what I’ve found too is if the next generation has buy-in to the event, they will pump it up because they felt like they had buy in because they were a part of creating. Yeah, no doubt. That’s such a good word. So Madeline, you go back in time and you visit your teenage self. What do you tell her?
Madeline Carroll: I tell her to enjoy those five years between 16 and 19, that God has it all ordained and worked out and don’t worry and don’t stress, because I spent so many of those years, saying like, okay God, what is it? What is it that he had me waiting for? What is it that you had me waiting for? When all along it was so abundantly clear. Now I recognize when the Lord is moving. And I remember when I went in that day for the “I Can Only Imagine” meeting or audition, I knew in my spirit I had this piece that if it wasn’t imagine I was going to work with John Erwin one day. I just remember when I met him, I knew my spirit just lit up and I knew I was going to work with him, and that’s the difference. There’s just something about knowing when you’re walking in the will of the Lord, and that was not that I had to learn. Now I can spot that. Now I can recognize that. So I wish I would tell my teenage self just relax. None of those auditions you’re going to go on are going to be it. So just go in and have fun, and don’t worry because God has it all planned out.
Shane Pruitt: Yes. So good. Well Madeline, we always close with this same omission charge. The heart behind this podcast is the seed. The next generation realize they really are the now generation. They’re not necessarily the future of the church, but they’re the church right now. They have a mission now, a calling on their life now. Would you give us one closing thought on this and maybe one practical next step?
Madeline Carroll: Yes. I think that sometimes it gets so overwhelming when you look around at other people and you think, Oh, they’re already there. I’ll never get there because it seems so far away. I know that that’s why a lot of people my age deal with depression, is because they have such big dreams and they have this big vision on my heart, but they don’t know the how. And so that gets really, really discouraging. And so I think movement is momentum and I think just keep moving, keep moving in the direction that you want to go and don’t sit down. I remember I did the LA marathon a couple of years ago and I had never done it before in my life, got asked three days before I did it, it was for the green center my church here in LA, to do it and I never did it before.
Madeline Carroll: And the advice that they gave me that I’ve taken with me, I think applies to this is they said, don’t stop running because when you stop running, your body realizes what it’s been doing and you will cramp up and you will stop, you’ll be sore. And so the whole time I did this marathon, it was 15 miles, I just don’t stop running, don’t stop running, don’t stop running. And the second I stopped running, it was the truth. My body realized what it was doing and I got sore and it was hard to start again.
Madeline Carroll: So I think for the next generation, you’re the now generation, keep moving, keep getting your momentum going and don’t pause to think about it, because a friend of mine, she calls it “analysis paralysis”. When you think about it too much, you’ll get paralyzed and you need to fulfill all the God’s put on your heart because God’s called you to this generation for a reason, for such a time as this, as the book of Esther says, and we got to go for it. Or just like the book of Esther says it’ll be given to somebody else and that’s the worst nightmare in my opinion.
Shane Pruitt: Oh my gosh, that was gold. “Movement is momentum” and “analysis is paralysis”. I love that. I love that. Madeline, this has been so good. So rich, thank you so much for your time, my friend. How can people connect with you? How can people follow you? Where can they find you?
Madeline Carroll: I have Twitter. My Twitter is, I’m Maddie Carroll, M-A-D-D-I-E, and then my Instagram is at @MadsCarroll2, because my original Mads Carol got compromised.
Shane Pruitt: Love it. Love it. Well, thank you so much for listening to the Next Gen on Mission podcast. If you have question on reaching the next generation. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and N-A-M-B dot net, and we’ll try to address those on a future podcast. If you enjoy what you’ve been listening, give us a rating, subscribe, share about this with your friends. It really does help have a great rest of the day and tell somebody about Jesus.