Lessons from the “Resurrection of Gavin Stone”
Dallas Jenkins, director of faith-based movie Resurrection of Gavin Stone, keynoted the Tuesday noon session of the Filmmakers Guild. He has another claim to fame in the Christian media arena; he’s the son of Jerry Jenkins, author of the Left Behind series. “I noticed that Stephen Kendrick will be speaking tonight,” Dallas commented. “I’m like the local band opening the act for the Beatles.” His talk was preceded by worship music in Spanish led by Oswaldo and his wife Ellie.
First reading from Matthew 15:32-38 and John 11:38-44, the accounts of Jesus feeding four thousand people and raising Lazarus from the dead, Dallas Jenkins then launched into the story of how he got started in film, beginning with the movie adaptations of Left Behind.
He originally set out to make films for mainstream audiences. In his own words, “I was too cool for Christian movies.” However, God led him through a series of events that directed him into the Christian filmmaking world. After a rough situation on Dallas’ first film set, he realized the potential mission field of Hollywood and the film world. His focus became more on the people he worked with than the content of the films he worked on.
“The key is to keep listening and seeking God, and then obeying Him. God is always smarter than you are,” he commented.
As an example, Dallas related the story of how God led him to take a position at a church in Chicago, and he didn’t make a feature film for three years. But he did create a short film for a Christmas Eve service, The Ride, later submitted to a film festival. It came to the attention of a secular director who wanted to branch out into the faith-based arena. The funding for Resurrection of Gavin Stone came as a result of this, and when Dallas told his investors that he needed to retain full creative authority, they told him, “You’re the experts, why would we want to change things?”
After the film hit box offices, it unfortunately received half of the viewers it had been projected to. It was the biggest disappointment of Dallas Jenkins’ 20 year career. His wife directed him to the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000. God pointed out to Dallas the role the disciples played in trusting Jesus after being instructed to feed the crowd.
What he and his wife realized, in both this story and in the resurrection of Lazarus, Jesus told the people to do what they could, while He did what only He could. “Our job is not to feed the multitude,” Dallas explained. “Our job is to offer the loaves and fishes.”
“It’s not about the miracles in my story… It’s about the peace that only comes from God,” Dallas said. Stories of how Resurrection of Gavin Stone touched people began pouring in. People were moved to tears. Dallas stated, “I don’t care whether people like the movie or not, so long as I please the Lord.”
The unhappy results of The Resurrection of Gavin Stone have brought Dallas deeper in his relationship with God. He revealed to Dallas that joy and happiness are two very different things. “That’s what a relationship with Christ does: joy when there is no happiness,” he stated.
Dallas passionately shared the failures and struggles that he’s had in his life, mincing no words in describing the frustration he’s felt over the recent financial disappointment of a project, and how this major struggle showed him something.
Dallas then closed in prayer. The audience was moved to give a spontaneous standing ovation, smiles and tears on their faces. At Phillip Telfer’s suggestion, everyone took a few minutes to pray in small groups around the tables.
“This session was so powerful,” volunteer Laura Cook shared “God really spoke to me through what Mr. Jenkins shared. And the prayer afterward–so uplifting and special.”