An old friend of mine recently wrote an impressive piece for The Atlantic on why The Chosen fails to achieve its goals.
The Chosen is a dramatic serial adaptation of the life of Christ, funded by the largest crowdfunding campaign of its type in history. Created by Dallas Jenkins (son of Left Behind author Jerry Jenkins), the show is available for free on a variety of streaming services.
My friend’s conclusion is that The Chosen, while a dramatic step forward in production quality for Christian storytelling, fails to make any connection with non-believers.
I agree. This is a huge problem with Christian storytelling. Almost all Christian storytelling is made by people inside of the Christian bubble for other people inside of the Christian bubble. It usually fails or is afraid to address the topics the world is interested in.
We know that more is possible because we see it happening in other industries. In music, for instance, we see artists like Lauren Daigle, NF, and Lecrae topping secular charts and packing sports stadiums with mixed audiences of Christians and non-Christians, all while continually putting forth an authentic gospel message.
Yet Christian storytelling falls short. For my entire life, when it comes to media, “Christian” is usually synonymous with “poor quality” (to use a polite term).
However, the article fails in one aspect of its conclusion, and this is a problematic paradigm for the church beyond just our media. The article is written from the premise that the only valuable purpose for media is evangelism.
In fairness, The Chosen has often been touted as an evangelistic tool by its creators and supporters, so this isn’t necessarily the article author’s projection. Having done a bit of fundraising myself, I can tell you that evangelism sells among Christian donors. It’s a naturally appealing pitch to say “Help fund this show and we’ll reach all of your neighbors with the story of Jesus.” That’s an easy impact for donors to understand, there’s less theological gray area than other purposes (like teaching or prophesy), and most Christians would love the burden of evangelism to be lifted off of their shoulders. As a crowdfunded show, it’s easy to see how The Chosen could find itself cast in that role.
However, the fact is that when it comes to evangelism, The Chosen is not a step forward from its Christian media predecessors. As my friend explained, it does not reach unbelieving audiences, at least not in any great numbers. But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have value. The church is supposed to do so much more than evangelize.
We need media that evangelizes, absolutely. But we also need media that teaches the body. We need prophetic media. We need apostolic media that fires up groups of believers and casts a clear vision. Every gift and office of the church can and should have exceptional media supporting it.
While The Chosen doesn’t evangelize, it does teach. And it does so with exceptionalism.
The show effectively makes the Bible real and relatable for followers of Jesus. It helps us to understand the relational dynamics of the gospel story, and turns the characters of Bible stories into real people. While non-Christians will likely never watch it, the show does empower existing Christians to live out their faith.
Even if evangelism is your only concern, Christians are always the best (and worst) evangelistic tool the Church will ever have. Empowering Christians to understand and find passion for their faith does result in more and better evangelism.
The Chosen is a really cool step for Christian media. It absolutely falls short of any evangelistic goals, but that doesn’t render it a failure. It only proves that the purpose of Christian media has been poorly understood.
Purpose aside, someone raising the bar for production quality is a critical first step towards better Christian media. Dallas Jenkins has proven that Christians can do better. And if we can do better, we should.
Let’s keep raising the bar. Let’s keep the doors wide open for the purpose of our Christian media. Let’s empower more writers to create amazing content that serves every gift and role of the Church.
Want to see more exceptional stories from Christian creators? We need to start at the bottom. The School of Kingdom Writers is a nonprofit creative writing school training Christians to craft amazing stories that glorify God and serve the Church in all of its gifting and roles.
Learn more and support our work at www.SOKW.org. If you want more of The Chosen, and better, we start by empowering writers to create better stories.
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