Rev. Nathan Decker, pastor of Grandville PRC in Grandville, Michigan

There is power in media to promote a message. Through television, film, radio, podcast, and social media, getting a message out to the masses has never been easier. And the platforms to receive the message are owned by almost everyone, as smartphones, tablets, and televisions are becoming ubiquitous. Many are the messages that are being promoted, so many of which are dangerous to the Christian and to the church. What I will address in this article is The Chosen, the television series about the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.

Dramatic productions of biblical narratives, and more specifically of Jesus, have been around for a long time. A quick Google search will reveal that as long as there have been television and movies, there have been television and movies on scenes and themes lifted from the Bible. A notable example that many readers will remember was the 2004 film The Passion of the Christ, funded and produced by the well-known actor Mel Gibson, in which the last twelve hours of Jesus’ life are depicted by the actor Jim Caviezel. The film generated a massive response, from both non-Christian and evangelical circles. Among the latter group, some churches hosted viewings of the film, using it as a means to get the message of Jesus out to the masses. Other churches preached, wrote, and spoke against the film, warning Christians not to watch it. Undoubtedly the movie was extremely popular. To date, The Passion of the Christ is the highest-grossing R-rated film in the United States. Mel Gibson’s 45-million dollar investment made him some 400 million dollars. Not only is there power to promote a message, but there is also money to be made in the process.

Rivaling the popularity of The Passion of the Christ is the current television series The Chosen, making it worthy of reflection today. The Chosen depicts the ministry of Jesus, particularly through the eyes of those whom He encountered during His life. The producer, Dallas Jenkins, put it this way, revealing in part his purpose in the production of the show: “We can dig deeper into the people who encountered Jesus, we can see their ‘before,’ and if the audience can see Jesus through the eyes of those who met him, perhaps they can be changed in the same way.”1

There are several noteworthy things about The Chosen, all of which speak to its popularity and influence. First, how the show was financially funded was unprecedented. For the first season, over 10 million dollars was raised for the show’s production and streaming. To date, over 40 million dollars has been raised to keep the show going, making it the largest crowd-funded media production in history.

Second, the show is being produced in many different languages. Already now, the first couple of seasons have been translated into more than 60 languages. The goal of the Come and See Foundation, which was established to facilitate public donations and accelerate the marketing of the series, is to translate the series into over 600 languages. Already the show has some 420 million views worldwide.2

Third, the series is accessible to anyone. Part of what makes the ‘success’ of The Chosen remarkable is that it was initially available for free and only found on the series’ own dedicated app. Originally, it was not on major streaming services. The point is that the word got out, people started watching and liking it, and it has only gained in popularity. Since its beginning, the series has now been picked up by and is available on Netflix and Amazon Prime. Whereas before one would have to download the dedicated app to watch the series, now it will appear in feeds on millions of devices in homes through these hugely popular streaming services. Its reach will only broaden by being available on the world’s most popular streaming services.

Fourth, what makes The Chosen different from many other dramatic productions of the life of Jesus is the fact that it is a television series. The pilot episode was on December 24, 2017, followed by eight episodes in 2019, nine in 2021, and eight more in 2022-2023. Production continues, with more episodes planned to be released in 2024. The ultimate goal of the producers is to make seven seasons of the show. This means that the show has the very strong potential to draw viewers in, such that one becomes enthralled with the production and spends a great amount of time watching and being influenced by what they see and hear.

All of this leads us to consider the question: Why is this important?

First of all, it is important to understand the strong pull that a show like this may have upon the church’s members, especially the youth. From what I have understood from reading about The Chosen, the production and acting are top-notch, meaning that the series falls more in line with the mainstream media industry. The temptation for youth to watch low-budget, unappealing, poor productions that are so-called Christian- themed films or shows is low. Media productions are so high-level today, which makes them very entertaining. This was part of what made The Passion of the Christ so popular. It was produced by Mel Gibson, had a high-production value, and featured known actors. Now there is available another series about Jesus that falls into that category, which has the potential to draw many in, which it clearly has done so far.

In the second place, it is important to be clear on what we say in response to films and shows that depict Jesus Christ and biblical narratives. The purpose of this article is not to explain our response in detail. When The Passion of the Christ was released, a flurry of responses came out that critiqued the film and the idea of depicting Jesus in film. Many of the arguments would apply to The Chosen. One could quickly and easily find resources to guide our understanding.

Last, this subject leads us to think about what it means to share the message of Jesus Christ. And it leads us to think about how God is pleased to work to save His people. I began this article by stating that there is power in media to promote a message. Yes, it is true that there is a certain ability that the media has to get a message out. But in the end, nothing rivals the power of God to save, translating sinners out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of light. The power of God to do that is not found in film, about Jesus, or anything else. It is found in the preaching of the gospel. This is the Christian’s witness: live a life that shines with the light of Christ, expound to others the word of God, pointing them to the truth of Jesus Christ. Bring those in darkness, not to the screen but to the church, where Jesus speaks powerfully to save, for “it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (I Cor. 1:21). This is true power. This is saving power. This is God’s power to save undeserving sinners.

1 jesus-largest-ever-crowdfunding-campaign-for-a-tv-show.

2 and-funding-model.