Creative fundraising finances Jesus-centered series
Mason Beasler
AFA Journal staff writer

April 2020As many great things do, The Chosen started small, with one man and an idea. In 2017, Dallas Jenkins was tasked with creating a short film for a Christmas Eve service at his church. The film portrayed the birth of Jesus Christ and told the story from the shepherds’ perspective. Soon, Jenkins was presented with an opportunity to release the film. Through this endeavor, he was introduced to a groundbreaking concept: crowdfunding.

“When that short film was done for my church,” Jenkins told AFA Journal, “it ended up getting in the hands of a streaming service. They loved the idea and thought we should do a show and raise money through crowdfunding.”

Crowdfunding is a method of raising funds by inviting a large number of people to contribute small amounts of money. Presented on a free app, each episode of The Chosen starts by offering the viewer an opportunity to “pay it forward” so the gospel can reach others in the future.

Breaking records
Jenkins’s original short film would go on to break the crowdfunding record, with over 19,000 people donating more than $10 million within five months. That momentum would pave the way for Season 1 of The Chosen.

“While I was making [the short film],” said Jenkins, “I came up with the idea of a multi-season show about the life of Christ that explored the stories but in a more detailed fashion.”

This new show tells the story of Jesus along with stories of His disciples and other New Testament characters and their interactions with Christ.

“With a series,” said Jenkins, “you can really dig deep into each story … you can dig deep into each person, such as Simon Peter, or Matthew the tax collector, and really explore their lives, explore the cultural and historical context of the time, in a way you can’t do in a movie.”

As a creative communicator, Jenkins follows in the footsteps of his father, Jerry Jenkins, co-author with Tim LaHaye of the blockbuster Left Behind novel series. He emphasized one other way he believes The Chosen will greatly impact viewers.

“Jesus has been portrayed in the past in a very stiff, formal, and even emotionally distant way,” said Jenkins. “People who have seen [many] projects haven’t been able to connect with Jesus or connect with the stories on the same kind of emotional level they would with any other show they watch.”

Bringing emotion
To meet this need, Jenkins says The Chosen portrays the often overshadowed qualities of Jesus, like His humor and charisma, and truly presents the “Jesus that people wanted to follow two thousand years ago.”

Crowdfunding not only allowed producers to raise the necessary funds, but has also set an example for other shows to create Christian content free of Hollywood influence or corporate sponsors. Jenkins said this show could cause others to realize, “OK, maybe we don’t have to wait for Hollywood to approve of us. Maybe we can go directly to the people.”

“At some point,” said Jenkins, “you have to get past the gatekeepers and go directly to the families.” Jenkins is confident another season is on the horizon, but for now he and his team are still working to make season one as successful as possible.

The Chosen has shown not only that successfully creating and distributing media outside the realm of Hollywood is possible but also that millions of people around the globe are interested in discovering more about the gracious, loving, and life-giving person who is Jesus Christ.   

The gospel for millions
The Chosen is available in the App Store and Google Play for free and has reached 180 countries around the globe. Currently, the total number of views on the app has exceeded 7.2 million. Learn more about support and purchasing at vidangel.com/the-chosen.