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2009 Conversations

2008 Conversations

2007 Conversations

2006 Conversations

2005 Conversations

Benji creator Joe Camp: Moral movies, personal cost (12/26/04)

Gloria Gaither: A Gaither family Christmas(12/19/04)

Allyson Feliz: Olympic medalist  shares passion for following Christ (12/12/04)

Dan Dean: Walking by faith (11/28/04)

J. Don George: Every church can touch the poor (11/21/04)

Brock Gill: Jesus is no illusion (11/14/04)

Ted Dekker: Good, evil and the battle for souls (10/31/04)

Bob Kilpatrick: CCM: Growing and changing (10/17/04)

Eugene H. Peterson: Man with a message (10/10/04)

Caz McCaslin: Fixing kids sports (9/26/04)

Jerry B. Jenkins: A novel approach to evangelism (9/19/04)

Natalie Grant: Living the dream (9/12/04)

Sharon Ellard: A life-changing education (8/29/04)

Steven Curtis Chapman: All things new (8/22/04)

Jim Ryun: Running to Jesus (8/15/04)

George Barna: Today’s church: By the numbers (8/8/04)

Randy Singer: Made to count (7/25/04)

Holly McClure: Morality and the media (7/18/04)

Don Miller and Richard Flory:Taking the Church to today's culture (7/11/04)

Cecil Richardson: Pastoring the Air Force’s 'Pastors' (6/27/04)

Barry Meguiar: Driven by faith (6/20/04)

Thomas E. Trask: Concerned for America (6/13/04)

Dr. David Yonggi Cho: The work of the Holy Spirit (5/30/04)

Tom Greene: High school: A great mission field (5/16/04)

Jennifer Rothschild: Walk by faith, not by sight (5/9/04)

Chaplain Alex Taylor: Forgiveness and restoration (4/25/04)

Joshua Harris: Not even a hint (4/18/04)

Nicky Cruz: Changing America (4/11/04)

Jason Schmidt: Lessons learned on life’s field (3/28/04)

Scott Temple: One church, many colors (3/21/04)

Michael W. Smith: Called to worship (3/14/04)

Representative Jo Ann Davis: Christians in politics (2/29/04)

Darlene Zschech: Sing, shout … just shout the praise the Lord (2/22/04)

Surgeon James W Long: For your heart’s sake, get fit (2/15/04)

Jerry R. Kirk: Battling pornography (2/8/04)

Dr Michael Ferris: A choice to heal (1/18/04)

Chaplain Al Worthley: Outside the four walls of the church (1/11/04)

2003 Conversations

2002 Conversations

2001 Conversations

A novel approach to evangelism

His books top the New York Times best-seller list. His message is an uncompromising presentation of the gospel through the voices and actions of compelling fictional characters. Jerry B. Jenkins (writing partner with Tim LaHaye of the Left Behind publishing phenomenon) spoke recently with Scott Harrup, associate editor, about life as a writer, a family man and — most importantly — a follower of Jesus Christ in an increasingly secular culture.

PE: People have some stereotypical perceptions of writers as sort of academic hermits. How do you see yourself?

JENKINS: Well, one out of two isn’t bad. I’ve never been accused of being an academic. I guess I’m on both sides of the fence when it comes to being a hermit. I work in a building right next to my house. On the other side we’ve got the Christian Writers Guild. So we’ve got eight full-time employees between these two buildings. And I’ve got a film company. So when I’m here I do everything except write. When it’s time to meet a deadline, I go to a place we have in the mountains about 80 miles west of Colorado Springs. I call it “the Cave” because there’s no phone or TV or Internet. My wife’s in the house and I’m in the out building and I can either procrastinate or write. I usually do a good bit of both. When I’m there I’m a hermit. When I’m here, I’m too interested in who’s on the phone or who just drove up or what’s in the mail.

PE: Your new trilogy, Soon, describes a very different pre-Rapture world than what you created for the Left Behind series, and you’re writing a prequel to Left Behind that will still have to use its original frame of reference. Will readers see this as a contradiction?

JENKINS: So far they haven’t. I did wonder about that. The difference between these two approaches is that Left Behind is what Dr. Tim LaHaye and I believe is going to happen someday and we want people to be ready, while Soon is a story about something that I hope never happens. I hope we never have a World War III. If we do have another world war, I hope it doesn’t cost us our freedom to practice our faith.

What I’m really trying to say to believers through Soon is that if this comes about we’re going to have to look in the mirror. We have an inherently divisive and offensive message that we can’t back down from; we believe it’s the truth. But if we don’t find compassionate ways to share it, people look for laws to protect themselves from even having to hear it. I think we have too many evangelicals who get on television and put their thumbs in their lapels and say, “This is what it says, and this is what it means, so good for us and too bad for you.”

Really, in my mind, the true definition of a believer is one who does believe that Jesus is the only way to God, but it breaks his or her heart that other people don’t agree. We don’t look down on them or become condescending. That’s my intended effect with the Soon series.

PE: Soon focuses on Christianity. What about the billions of people who follow other faiths?

JENKINS: I stayed focused on the evangelicals. I think Christianity would survive better than other faiths that don’t have the truth and have God blessing what they’re doing. I’m not sure what I’m going to do in volume three. There may be more evidence of other faiths that help the main characters.

PE: During more than a dozen years of working alongside Dr. LaHaye, how has he impacted your life?

JENKINS: I feel like I’ve been to the “LaHaye Seminary.” For one thing, he’s the same age as my mother, so there’s a father/son dynamic that is special. We’ve really become friends over the years. He has a reputation for being a polemic and kind of a plainspoken guy who is often embroiled in debates over issues. But I find that what makes him that way also gives him strength in the area of his beliefs. I’ve seen him pray personally for countless people and I’ve seen how much he cares for souls. The bottom line with him is getting people saved. He’s had a tremendous impact on my life.

Jerry B. Jenkins

A Kid’s Guide to Understanding the End Times
Jerry B. Jenkins

Our Destiny: Biblical Teachings on the Last Things
Stanley M. Horton

To order call

PE: You’ve received about 3,000 personal testimonies of people coming to Christ through reading the Left Behind books. Any chance that the books have confused other people or made their spiritual journey more complicated?

JENKINS: Our worst critics will say that we’re setting people up for disappointment if they think they’re going to escape the Tribulation and it turns out that they don’t. We believe our pre-Tribulation position on the Rapture is correct, but even if we were here during the Tribulation I don’t see how what we’ve written would be harmful. People would still know what was happening and would still, hopefully, be studying Scripture and trying to remain true to the Lord.

Since our position is that there is a second chance for people during the Tribulation, another criticism is that some readers might wait to see if we’re right and then plan to accept Christ. People ask what if we’re wrong and there is no second chance. In our minds, that responsibility lies with the reader. The Tribulation is going to be the worst time in the history of the world. You don’t want to risk God hardening your heart or your dying in the chaos that ensues before you can become a Christian. I think the picture we paint shows that it’s really risky to think you can wait until the Rapture to prove the claims of Christianity before you decide to accept Christ.

PE: There is a wealth of Scripture in both the Left Behind series and the Soon trilogy. Describe the challenge of staying true to biblical writers’ intent when adapting their words for your books.

JENKINS: That’s probably my biggest challenge in writing both series. It’s really kind of a fun process because I’ve got Bible texts on computer I can flip through. I don’t want to sound too mystical, but there is a certain music to it. As I’m flipping through Scriptures trying to make it fit — for example, in Glorious Appearing to find out what Jesus would say at a certain point — and make sure it’s biblical, it seems to fall into place.

I’m not a theologian. I do have a lifetime of Bible reading and a year at Moody Bible Institute in my background, and I was raised in the church. But I don’t know the original languages and I’m not a scholar. It’s amazing that when you get deep into Scripture you seem to find the verses that fit.

Dr. LaHaye and I try to make sure, even when we’re speculating about made-up characters and situations, that when we put them in the context of biblical events we’re as close to the biblical record as possible. So far, readers tell us it rings true and that it sends them back to the Bible to identify which parts are from Scripture and which parts are made up. And they’re always surprised to discover they can actually see in the Bible where we got the story.

Jerry B. Jenkins in 60 seconds:

• Your favorite travel destination and why?

Kauai in Hawaii. Being that far from the Internet and enjoying the weather is great. If it weren’t so far from friends and family, I’d live there.

• A meat and potatoes guy, or do you watch your food groups?

I count calories. I can eat pretty much anything I want as long as I don’t eat too much of it. I’d say I’m a meat and potatoes man.

• Best round of golf?

I’ve had three 102s and one even 100. So I’m closing on breaking 100. I really enjoy golf, and I play way too much to be this spectacularly bad.

• Is this the Cubs’ year?

We always say, “They still have plenty of time to blow it.” They really have all the horses right now. When everybody gets healthy, they’ve got the pitching, they’ve got the lineup, they’ve got the manager. Unfortunately, they’ve got a really good St. Louis team down the road.

• Coffee or tea for that inspirational jolt?

Diet Coke.

• Passage of Scripture that inspires you?

Psalm 91:1,2 and Matthew 5:16

• One thing you would say to your wife if you were proposing today?

Fasten your seat belt!

• Can I send you my book?

Sure. Take a number.

PE: Can you tell me three great things about life with your wife, Dianna?

JENKINS: Dianna and I have been married 33 years. A lot of people will ask about tough times and rough patches and how hard it is to start out in marriage, and we almost feel like we need to make something up. The reality is, if there’s an issue between us or we sense some silence, we compete to see who can be the first one to clear the air. We don’t raise our voices or fight. It’s been so idyllic that a counselor would probably say there’s something boiling beneath the surface.

We met on a blind date and were married within about six months. It’s something we don’t even counsel other people to do. But it just felt right from the beginning and it’s been great. She’s a fiercely loyal mother and grandmother and would do anything for her boys and grandkids.

The great thing now, with our youngest son in college, is that she travels with me everywhere. I don’t want to go anywhere without her.

PE: Even while writing prolifically over the years you’ve managed to prioritize time with your family. Why is that important, and how was that possible?

JENKINS: It really came about when I was at Scripture Press in the ’70s. We didn’t have kids yet. I was interviewing people for Sunday School paper stories. I interviewed five or six middle-aged men who were about twice my age at the time and their kids were grown. And I was interviewing them about all sorts of subjects for different stories, but in each interview at some point I asked them about any regrets they had in life. And, to a man, they said they wished they had spent more time with their kids when they were growing up. And these weren’t kids who went off the deep end or anything. It was just that these men felt they had lost those years.

I remember talking to Dianna about it and saying, “If I get to be that age and have that same regret, I’ll be without excuse because clearly God’s trying to tell me something.” So we set a policy that I wouldn’t do any work from the office or any writing from the time I got home from work until the time the kids went to bed. That gave me anywhere from two to four hours a day with the boys. I didn’t force them to talk to me or play with me. But I was there for them. I wasn’t behind a closed door, a newspaper or TV. Since Dianna had been with them all day, that gave her time to do what she needed to do. I think that’s one of the reasons that our kids never went through a serious rebellion. They didn’t agree with us on certain things, and they may have questioned our judgment, but they never questioned our motives.

You can tell kids that they’re your number one priority, and they hear what you say but they believe what you do. If I told my sons they were my priority, then told them they couldn’t bother me for a few hours, they would know where they stood. Our sons still talk about the fact we were at every game, every school activity they had.

As a writer, that also forced me to be really productive from the time they went to bed until I went to bed. I usually wrote from 9 to midnight. I’m not a night person, but I didn’t have a choice. I was writing several books a year back then besides working full time. But keeping those priorities in order cleared my conscience. I never had to write while feeling guilty.

PE: You’re a devoted baseball fan. How does baseball color your life?

JENKINS: It colors it less than it did when I was a kid. I was so into baseball as a kid that I think it actually got in the way of my spiritual life. I still am a fan. I’m a die-hard Cubs fan. I think any team can have a bad century. We watch Cubs games on satellite. When we get back to Chicago we try to follow them.

My kids are really into sports. We have three sons, and my middle son was the assistant baseball coach at the Air Force Academy this past year. He’s planning to make a career of coaching, so that’s fun to follow too.

PE: Since acquiring the Christian Writers Guild, what are your dreams for that organization?

JENKINS: The whole point is to try to give back to the publishing community and to restock the pool of Christian writers. So far, it’s exceeded my dreams. We’re adding about 100 students a month. We’re at 1,900 students now. We have mentors who walk students through a 50-lesson, two-year course by e-mail. We’re getting letters and e-mails from students every day telling us they’ve sold stuff to local papers and magazines and some have published books. These people are actually becoming writers. My hope is that we can change the usual statistic of 1 out of 1,000 book manuscripts getting published and take our students to the point where maybe 1 out of 100 of their manuscripts will make it. They’re being mentored by people who have been there and made all the mistakes, seen all the pitfalls and know all the short cuts.

PE: You’ve faced some aggressive media personalities in interviews. Dennis Miller on CNBC, recently, for example. What is your focus when you prepare to represent the gospel in a national spotlight?

JENKINS: I consider those to be really unusual opportunities. One of the things I want to do is show that there are some Christians who are connected with the culture.

Basically I think Miller and others in his field have a preconceived notion of what they’re going to get with a conservative evangelical. And I like to surprise them. I’m not going to back down from my theology or my views on pro-life or the gospel. But I want to surprise them by responding to their cultural references knowledgeably. I think more Christians need to do that. We don’t need to be exposed to every bit of garbage out there, but we need to know what people are talking about.

The ultimate goal is to see these people come to Christ. But if the only progress I can make is to nudge them and get them to see that something I said made sense, that’s the best I can hope for.

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