The late actor Chadwick Boseman captivated audiences with his roles in films such as Black Panther, 42 and Marshall, but he never forgot the Christian faith that grounded his career.
Boseman, who died Aug. 28 of colon cancer at the age of 43, grew up in a Christian home and was baptized at Welfare Baptist Church in Anderson, S.C., where he sang in the choir.
A professing Christian, he often referenced Scripture and his faith in public. When honoring Denzell Washington at the 2019 AFI Life Achievement Award ceremony, Boseman paraphrased Ephesians 3:20 and told Washington, “May God bless you exceedingly and abundantly more for what’s in store than He ever has before. God bless you.” Years earlier, Washington had paid for Boseman to participate in a summer acting program in Oxford, England, according to Faithfully Magazine.
Boseman discussed his faith in more detail in 2018 during his commencement speech at Howard University, his alma mater.
“Sometimes you need to feel the pain and sting of defeat to activate the real passion and purpose that God predestined inside of you. God says in Jeremiah, ‘I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future,’” Boseman said, quoting Jeremiah 29:11. “Graduating class, hear me well on this day. ... This day when you have reached the hilltop, and you are deciding on next jobs, next steps, careers, further education, you would rather find purpose than a job or career.
“Purpose crosses disciplines. Purpose is an essential element of you. It is the reason you are on the planet at this particular time in history – your very existence is wrapped up in the things you are here to fulfill,” Boseman added. “Whatever you choose for a career path, remember the struggles along the way are only meant to shape you for your purpose. When I dared to challenge the system that would relegate us to victims and stereotypes with no clear historical backgrounds ... when I questioned that method of portrayal, a different path opened up for me. The path to my destiny.
“When God has something for you it doesn't matter who stands against it. God will move someone that is holding you back away from a door and put someone there who will open it for you if it's meant for you,” Boseman added. “I don't know what your future is. But if you're willing to take the harder way, the more complicated one, the one with more failures at first than successes, the one that has ultimately proven to have more meaning, more victory, more glory, then you will not regret it.”
His former minister at Welfare Baptist, Pastor Samuel Neely, said Boseman had kept his faith close as an actor.
“Even though he plays these different people, I still see the person I knew as a child,” Neely told Fox Carolina in 2018. Neely is now retired. “When I see him, it's almost like seeing my own child, he's still Chad.”
Neely added, “He did a lot of positive things within the church and within the community. With him singing in the choir, with him working the youth group, he always was doing something, always helping out, always serving.That was his personality.”
Boseman’s former church mourned his passing in a Facebook post from current senior pastor Ankoma D. Anderson.
“It is with extreme sorrow that we mourn the death of our beloved Chadwick Boseman, who transitioned this evening,” an Aug. 28 post from the church read. “This untimely loss deeply saddens our church. The Welfare Baptist Church will forever remember Chadwick as a homegrown talented young man who rose to superstardom and made us proud! As we mourn his death and grieve alongside his family, we ask that you keep the Boseman and Welfare Church family in your thoughts and prayers! Rest well, Black Panther; REST WELL!”
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Leon Bennett/Stringer
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.