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Sharing God’s Love Through Storytelling

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
The Truth Network Radio
April 26, 2024 7:05 am

Sharing God’s Love Through Storytelling

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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April 26, 2024 7:05 am

Jerry Jenkins shares about his creative writing career and the impact of his books for the Kingdom of God. He talks about the power of The Chosen television show, written by his son Dallas, and their collaboration on a series of novels he is writing based on the show. Jesus used stories to communicate the truth, and Jerry is seeing stories transform hearts and lives today!


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Focus on the Family
Jim Daly
Building Relationships
Dr. Gary Chapman
Building Relationships
Dr. Gary Chapman

That dramatic music introduces The Chosen television series written by Dallas Jenkins.

Today on Focus on the Family with Jim Daly, we have Dallas's father here, Jerry Jenkins. He's written more than 200 books and the latest is a series of novels based on The Chosen. He's going to be talking about the ways The Chosen is impacting people.

I'm John Fuller and welcome to the show. I don't know if we've had a more prolific author here, but it's going to be exciting and fun. Jerry's writings have impacted so many people for the gospel, both Christian and non-Christian. He writes meaningful stories that change his lives. You know, the scriptures are full, especially the New Testament, full of parables because Jesus taught us in storytelling and the power of stories continues. Think of those stories.

Those are 2000 years old and you read them today and they still have application to us about the condition of our heart, what we believe about God, about fellow man. These stories are enduring forever. Yeah, and Jerry is a master storyteller.

We'll hear more in just a moment. He's the father of Dallas Jenkins, the creator of The Chosen television series, which I'm pretty sure most in our audience have heard about or seen a lot of fans out there. Jerry and Dallas have a very close relationship and as I mentioned, Jerry has written novels based on the show. He's married to Diana.

They have three grown sons and eight grandchildren. Welcome, Jerry. Thanks so much. Good to have you back. Isn't that nice to be introduced as Dallas's dad? You know, he used to be known as Jerry Jenkins' son and I'm now known as Dallas Jenkins' father.

May it ever be so. You got to be proud of that. I mean, you know, and we're as proud of who he is as we are of what he's done.

Yeah, and we're going to get into that and talk about that dynamic between the two of you. God's placed a remarkable calling and blessing on your life as a writer. Here at Focus, man, we love storytelling.

Of course, Adventures in Odyssey. We do a lot of storytelling here. When did you first feel like you were called into writing?

You know, it's interesting. I'm not sure I was ever called to write. I talked my way into a sports writing job before I was old enough to drive, and my mother had to drive me to ball games and back to the newspaper office. But when I was about 16, I felt I fell under conviction at a camp meeting. They were talking about some people are called, we're all called to be full-time Christians, but some of us are called to make our living in full-time Christian work. And I felt that call. And I remember going forward and telling the wife of the speaker, who was the counselor that night, I said, I guess I'll have to give up my sports writing and study to be a pastor or a missionary. She said, don't be too quick to do that because God often equips us before he calls us.

If he's equipped you, that may be the vehicle you use to follow this call. So if I'm called to something, and I know I was, I'm called to full-time Christian work, writing is just the vehicle I use, which changed my whole view of writing. I used to dream about bestsellers and big royalty checks and fame and all that stuff. When you're called to full-time Christian work, if writing is the vehicle to fulfill the call, I succeed when I obey. So when I write the manuscript, what happens to it after that is not up to me.

It's up to the marketplace and to God. And so it takes all the pressure off. I'm not writing bestsellers.

I mean, they've come and that's been wonderful, but I'm just obeying. Your career really took off with Left Behind. I mean, I think that series with Tim LaHaye was sensational. I mean, that's a proper word for that series. It sold, I think 63 million copies.

Is that fair? And the bizarre thing is, it'll be 29 years this August since the first one came out. There's a great exchange that you talk about with you and Tim LaHaye about writing to both Christian and non-Christian. I've published a few books.

It is blood, sweat, and tears, but publishers will say you really can't write to both audiences, but you did. How did you do that? Why did you do that?

And what was the outcome? I remember asking Tim, who are we trying to reach? Are we trying to reach the converted who are already with us? And did we just be thrilled by the story?

Or are we trying to educate the uninitiated? And he said, both. And I remember saying, Tim, a double-minded book is unstable in all its ways. You have to pick an audience. And ironically, just before I was to start, he kept saying, I want to reach both.

I remember being very intimidated by that. I'm telling the greatest story ever told and what's to come and what we believe the scripture prophesies. And how am I going to reach both audiences? And basically what happened was we decided to start with the rapture in the very first chapter. So all the people who agree with us and believe in the story are gone now. And so all the evangelical lingo is gone. All the ways they might preach and teach is gone. And now we're left with people who are scared to death. What has happened? And some people are saying, I thought I was a Christian, but I missed it. The secular people, the people who are left are saying, how can this be of God?

Why would he do this? And so I think the secret to reaching both audiences was one we're telling a story that some knew and loved. And to the uninitiated, we had credible skeptical characters, and not all of them became Christians and missionaries and their kids grew up to do the same. A lot of them rejected this, which is true today. And a lot of people who are reading it, the general market, saw themselves in that book and thousands came to faith through it too.

Dr. Darrell Bock Yeah, I mean, that's real. And it's an art form to be able to write like that. Obviously, not many people can do that. And that's why publishers, I think, tell you to pick a target audience. And that's who you write to, because it's so difficult. Mention some of the stories about those unbelievers who, when they read it, were impacted. I'm sure they wrote you letters and connected with you. Dr. Robert Chisholm Yeah, we actually have a book that my friend, Norm Moore, put together based on those letters. We sent them all that Dr. LaHaye and I heard from, we just counted the ones we heard from personally, if it was a phone call or in person at a signing or an email.

We heard from over 3000 people. We know that represents many more. But Norm Moore put together a book called These Will Not Be Left Behind.

But the most moving ones, I hope I can tell them without, you know, breaking down here, but they were on different ends of the age spectrum. We heard from a family who said their teenage son was a rebel, and he was, you know, didn't want to go to church, he was running with the wrong crowd. And so they got left behind, they want him to read it. And they want to push him, but they left it out on the table. Dr. Darrell Bock It's always delicate.

Norm Moore Exactly. And he said, yeah, maybe, maybe I will, maybe I won't. And one night they noticed it was gone from the coffee table and the light was on his room. So they're praying that he would read it. The next day, he told them, he said, I read the book, and I have come back to my faith. And I want to get a box of these books for the guys I've been running with, because they need to hear this too. Well, before he could do that, he ordered the books. Before they came, he was killed in a car wreck.

Wow. And at his funeral, his parents used those books to give to his friends, and several of them came to faith. Well, on the other end of the spectrum, we heard from a 95-year-old man who said he read Left Behind, he said, my eyes are so weak, I had to read through a magnifying glass. And he said, I thought all my life I was spiritual, I believed in God. But he said, now I've got the truth. And he said, my life has been changed. And it wasn't because of what I saw through the glass.

It was what I saw through my heart. Those are precious stories that never get old. I mean, you know, people talk about, it must be nice to have this bestseller and these morality checks and all this other stuff. That stuff pales to insignificance from these stories of people whose lives have literally been changed. That is so, so true. And, you know, I've never put it in this context, but the theology of creative writing, you know, it's an interesting way to look at that.

How does God equip you? Well, and people often, you know, some people will tell me, well, I've never read Left Behind. I don't read fiction.

I want to read truth. Right. I've heard that very thing.

Yeah. And I say, you know, I had a pretty good example of a truth teller through fiction. His stories, as you mentioned, have lasted for thousands of years. So if Jesus stories were valid, why can't mine be valid? And why can't we tell truth with a capital T in the form of fiction? Let me ask you about this difficult space, because one of the things, you know, and we get this with Adventures in Odyssey and I appreciate the feedback, but some people struggle with creative expression kind of between the facts of scripture. You know, we have solid information with the scripture stories that are God-breathed that are right there, a parable of Jesus Christ himself. And this kind of leads into The Chosen, but you did it with Left Behind. You had the same challenge that your son Dallas has.

And that is, how do you put the glue between this? How do you make people more like people and extrapolate from the personalities that you see? And then, boy, some people get really offended by that because they only want to operate in the truth of what they see, not kind of the wholeness of what these people must have been like.

Yeah, that's the issue. And a lot of people will say, you know, aren't you adding to or taking away from the gospel? And we take that seriously. And we spend a lot of time in prayer over that because we'd never want to be guilty of that. That's anathema. But what we believe is, we have literary license to do is believable plausibility and say, you know, you look at some of the miracles or even some of the sermons, they're only a few verses long. And they have such content. And Scripture is all you need.

I mean, if you read the Bible, you can come to faith. There's no question about that. But don't you wonder when you read that, who else was involved? What other characters might have said something?

And what led up to this incident? And that's all Dallas and his co-writers are doing in the scripts for The Chosen. And all I'm doing in the novels is saying, what might it have been like? And we're careful. We don't have Jesus flying in rocket ships to other continents and that type of thing. Well, that's a good thing.

Yeah. But, you know, and you see some general market writers will do that. They say, you know, they just invent crazy stories for Jesus. And we say, we need stories that will fit the biblical narrative.

This may not be in Scripture, but it could have happened this way. And I think people who are familiar with the Bible know what's biblical and what's imagined. And we're hearing from hundreds of thousands of people who say, it just brings it to life for me. And when I read the scripture, and this is true of me, when I read the scripture now, I used to see all the disciples as pretty much the same character in my mind and their stained glass window characters, their statues. And now I'm seeing them as these guys that we see on the screen and it helps bring it to life for me too. It does.

It is so good. Jerry, when it comes to that extrapolation, I think what I've heard from most of the people, including my wife, you always want to listen to your wife, but she loves the human development of what you've done with the novels, what your son Dallas has done with the series, the chosen by putting kind of taking them from that stained glass to bring them down to real life, that Peter was a sinful man, like the rest of us, that Mary had, you know, a sinful past and, you know, probably brought a lot of that baggage into her relationship that the Lord dealt with over time. And I don't know why we walk on eggshells with that, that somehow these people were different. God chose them, but he chooses each one of us.

Yeah. There are many Christians of all different stripes who want to so revere the apostles that it shakes them up a little to see that they backslide, that they're petty, that they're annoying. And of course, Jesus is hard to identify with because he was perfect, but he was also a man.

And I think the genius of Dallas and his co-writers on the scripts of these is that to make him accessible, they make him a regular guy who's got a sense of humor and teases his friends. And, you know, there's one in one of the recent series where there's an arm wrestling, you know, between the two guys and somebody says to Jesus, I can't believe, you know, he lost. And Jesus says, even I didn't see that coming. I mean, that's just funny. Now we don't know that he said that, but why not?

It's not sinful to say something like that and be funny. So he's accessible, but the disciples, we see ourselves in them and in Mary Magdalene and the women who follow Jesus. They're real people and they suffer and they backslide. No, let me ask you this.

It's a, it's a little off track, but I think it's relevant. You know, so much of the church and its construction today, a lot of men I talk to say, it's just not built for men. It's interesting in that regard, as you talk about making these biblical characters more human, I think both men and women can connect with that. But I think especially men, because we feel shame pretty quickly. And if we don't measure up to King David or Peter or Paul, especially in our Christian faith, we kind of shrink back from it. Well, forget it.

I'm just going to go play golf. And so I think the question I'm asking is the benefit for all of us, men and women, but I think for us as men, particularly to notice that failure is part of the walk with Christ, that we are not perfect people, that we are going to fall down. And we, as men do fall down. Speak to that reality.

Yeah, I think the good news is better when you know the bad news. Huh, interesting. And, you know, some of the critics of even scripture will say that was a period where women were second class citizens. And in many ways they were. When they were out walking on the road, women were supposed to walk behind and women were supposed to be, you know, silent in certain situations and that type of thing. Jesus proved otherwise. He listened to the women and he ministered to the women.

The early church, a lot of prominent women. Exactly. And one of my favorite scenes in The Chosen, I mean, I have many, but the one where Jesus is talking to Peter's wife. Now we give her a name and we give them a relationship.

The fact is, she's not mentioned in scripture, but we know he's married because he healed, Jesus healed Peter's mother-in-law. So he had to be right. But Jesus says to Eden, I see you. I understand what you're going through.

And you're, you know, you're giving up a lot with having Simon at that time walk with me. So he honors men and women. But yeah, I think The Chosen has come a long way too, in just showing men what men should be in relation to Jesus. And it makes it more tangible for us. And we lean in rather than lean back.

You know, that's something my wife does, for example, that is said to me pretty regularly by guys. Let me ask you this more of a general question about your relationship with Dallas, but, you know, being that writer, being prominent, obviously the Lord blessing your efforts with Tim LaHaye and all the other books that you've done. How did you shut off the writing side of you when you got home with the kids?

Obviously you were able to pass that along to Dallas. I mean, at the creativity. Yeah, it's interesting. Before we had kids, I was working at scripture press and I was doing articles for Sunday school papers. And I interviewed five men on five different stories for these papers. And they were all about twice my age. I was early twenties.

They were mid forties. And at one point in all the interviews, I asked them the same question. I said, what regrets do you have at this stage of your life?

And every one of them said the same thing. I wish I'd spent more time with my kids when they were growing up. And I remember going home and saying to Diana, somebody's trying to tell me something because if I get to be that age and have that same regret, I'm going to be without excuse. And so we just decided when kids came along, I would do no writing and no work from the office from the time I got home from work until the time the kids went to bed.

And that wasn't easy. I mean, you know, you're writing on the side, you're writing books, got busy stuff to do. I'm a morning person. I'd rather write in the morning while I was working full time. So I'm driving to Chicago and driving back and live in the suburbs at that time.

So when Dallas came along, I just followed that religiously. And sometimes I put him in bed at four thirty. But basically that left me with only about nine to midnight every night to write, which is not my time of the day.

But I was more productive then than ever, because I wrote without guilt. I wasn't shutting the door on my kids. And some great stories of especially Dallas when he was a kid with all three boys. But I can remember when he was about six, he's playing under the kitchen table. And he didn't realize Diana and I could hear him from the other room.

And he's lecturing a Star Wars action figure. And he says, you may die in this mission. So if you go to hell, you can't ask Satan for anything because he's mean, and he won't give it to you. But if you go to heaven, you can ask Jesus for anything you want. And if it's all right with your mom, he'll give it to you.

So Diana really liked that. But I think what with with the kids, I tell them they're my top priority. But kids spell love T-I-M-E. And it's not just quality time.

It's time. It's quantity time. And we didn't have any rebels.

I mean, I'm not saying that that's a guarantee. But the kids, you know, they're our best friends to this day. Because we didn't just tell them they were our priority. We made it.

We proved it. Of your favorite scene of the chosen series that you've written in the novel set was Nicodemus visiting Jesus at night. Why does that stand out to you? I wish there was more about Nicodemus because he he makes an appearance.

But I'd like to see more in Scripture about him. Yeah. When I was eight years old, I got rheumatic fever. And I had to spend almost three weeks in the hospital. And my mother took that time to help me memorize John three, the whole chapter. And of course, it was in the King James Version. So all those these and those and things like that. But, you know, can you imagine the thrill 60 plus years later, to see my son bring that to life on the screen? That very scene? Yeah. And I've got it memorized.

So I'm walking through it. And the interesting thing is, the actor who plays Nicodemus was born in India. But he's not Hindu.

He's he was actually a Buddhist. And he was weeping through the entire it was two days to shoot that scene. And he kept breaking down and weeping. And he's he kept apologizing to Dallas. He's a great character actor, Erica. And he said, I'm so sorry, I can't get through this. And I'll say, you know, Nicodemus may have been emotional, too. So run with that.

Don't don't hide from it. And, and at the end, when they finally wrapped that scene, he said to Dallas, Do you think somebody is trying to tell me something and Dallas was well, yeah, I do. And he's such a great, great actor, and we'll see him again in later scenes.

No, that's so good. And, again, that humanization in the most positive sense of that word is critical for people connecting to that. One issue that seems to be true when I talk to non believing believing friends of mine, they they have an image or characterization of Christ as being this judgmental, hard truth teller that really doesn't understand us. It's so different than what we know as believers in Jesus, what Jesus is hard is about. But how does the portrayal of Jesus in the chosen show both Jesus's love and those uncomfortable teachings about truth, which is, this is the millennial issue of the church, right? How to be both truth and grace and love?

I mean, how to do that? Yeah, that's the challenge of the ages is to make that work. And I think what people appreciate about the Jesus on the screen is that, you know, there's, there's no detracting from his godhood. And there's no detracting from his humaneness, too. And I think in our lives, when we think about the people we really admire, it's not the ones who always flatter us. It's ones who like us and get us and appreciate us, but who also tell us the truth. And so when Jesus is loving on the disciples, they're they're enjoying that. And sometimes he calls them out, and he's short with them, and says, How long am I going to have to be with you?

And how long will it take till you get this? Listen to me. And when he chastises them, because he loves them, and they know it, they take that, that counsel from him, and they take that, that hard truth. And I think that's what we appreciate about Jesus and his believers, and other people, too. So it's bringing him down to the place where he's fully human, and still fully God.

It's so interesting for us in our human experience, we tend to be on a light switch. It's either grace, or it's all truth. And you know, God was able to do both simultaneously. And so often, when you look at Scripture itself, there's such a strong sense that Jesus's greatest struggles were with the religious people. I mean, the Pharisees and the scribes, because he would talk about them being the teachers, but not knowing what they're doing. Being blind, being vipers, you know, stonewashed walls, empty, are also terms that he used. And then he would meet the woman at the well, who was deep in sin, or the woman caught in adultery.

And so like his heart melted for the crushed, for the broken person who knew they were broken. How does that apply to us today? You know, that's one thing I find interesting, too, about the chosen set. You know, Dallas does not hire people based on their faith, or their stripe, or their denomination.

He's looking for quality. And he says, the set is as much of a mission field as the screen. And there are actors in the chosen, who have come to faith since being on the chosen, because they've seen what happens on the set. They see that Dallas and his wife, especially, believe this, and they're consistent in it. So one of the problems today is that people will say, I like the Jesus of the Bible that's loving.

I don't like the judgmental God of the Old Testament or whatever. The fact is, they're both there. And that's truth. Dr. Darrell Bock Yeah, it's so, so true.

Let me wrap up with this. I've heard it said about Dallas, that one of the things as a young boy, he used to listen to Adventures in Odyssey. And I don't know if it's fair to say that helped spark him, his imagination, but describe how Adventures in Odyssey helped him along. Dr. John Baxter Yeah, he says this, quite frankly, that he always loved the creativity. He credits an awful lot of his creativity now to that shaping influence of those shows. And one of the great thrills of his life was to meet Paul McCusker, and they keep in touch.

And see him once in a while. And he tells Paul, I owe an awful lot of what I do today to what you put on the radio. And it was a huge influence on his life. Dr. Darrell Bock And the voice actors are so generous with these children.

And it's beautiful to see that impact. But all in all, Jerry, it's so fun to watch the creativity that you've had with Left Behind and all the other books that you've done. But to see your son Dallas now take that in a new direction with screenplay and what he's doing with The Chosen. And then you writing the novels based on The Chosen, one through three are out. Do you have how many more coming? Dr. John Baxter There'll be a total of seven. There's one for each season. And I'm working on the fifth one.

Now, the fourth one is going to come out just in a few weeks. Yeah, you know, I helped Dallas get started in his career years ago. I used to finance his movies myself.

This is all his own. And so I feel like I'm sort of pressing my nose up against the glass saying, Can I play too? Dr. Darrell Bock That's kind of fun, actually. I mean, it's got to be a great experience as a dad to see your son, you know, arrive. Dr. John Baxter Yeah, there's nothing like it. Dr. Darrell Bock Especially at a high level like that.

It's really good. Jerry, thanks so much for being with us and talking to us about these things of the heart. Dr. John Baxter Always a privilege.

I appreciate you having me on. Dr. Darrell Bock Yeah. And just, you know, those wonderful things that you've gone through. It's been an amazing life that you had, at least from where I sit and see it. Dr. John Baxter I feel blessed. Dr. Darrell Bock God has really honored you and honored your gifts that he's given you.

And you've honored him by doing so well with them. Thank you. Dr. John Baxter Thank you. Appreciate it. Dr. Darrell Bock And we'd like to get this into your hands, The Chosen.

This is, again, the novels one through three that are based on that aspect of the series. And make a gift of any amount. And we'll get this out to you as our way of saying thank you for being part of the ministry.

That's the blessing here. You know, we're concentrating on marriage and parenting and saving babies and helping women with the, you know, tough decision should they have that child or offer it for adoption. There's so many great ways we can partner together to help the people that are hurting, just like those in The Chosen, and do it very practically.

Dr. Darrell Bock Yeah. We welcome your partnership. Donate today, generously as you can, either a monthly gift of any amount or one time donation. Contact us by calling 800, the letter A in the word family, or click the link you find in the show notes. And thanks for joining us for Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. I'm John Fuller inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ. Jim Daly It can be challenging to inspire your community to see life the way God sees it.

So what's the solution? Well, on June 15, Focus on the Family is hosting See Life 24. And no matter where you are or who you are, you can be a part of this free event with speakers like Ben and Kirsten Watson and real stories about choosing life. See Life 24 will inspire you to translate your faith into action. Register today at
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-04-26 08:06:38 / 2024-04-26 08:18:21 / 12

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