'The Chosen' (TV Show) and Discipleship
By Kissa Vaughn
Jesus used parables. Paul used the poetry and philosophy of the day. Robert Schuller used the modern drive-in movie theater. Billy Graham used stadiums. Archbishop Fulton Sheen used radio and then television. All these people used something popular in secular society to reach people with the gospel message. Now you can add Dallas Jenkins to that list, as he has used crowd sourcing and modern streaming to bring The Chosen to the world.
The Chosen is a multi-season show about Jesus that is not cheesy, boring, preachy, or irrelevant. Unique in terms of funding, production, and distribution, The Chosen has broken numerous records during its first three seasons (including outselling multiple Hollywood films at the box office when it premiered key episodes at cinemas). Most surprisingly, in an increasingly secular society, The Chosen is inspiring millennials and Gen Z to view the Bible in a new light. The characters and storylines are helping viewers of all ages connect with the Bible.
Its success with younger audiences took the team behind The Chosen by surprise, too. Katherine Warnock, one of the producers, said, “We didn’t expect it to perform so well with the Gen Z audience, and we haven’t really been able to crack the code as to why.”  Wanting to explore further, The Chosen team invited nine young people who had never seen the show to binge-watch season one together. Unfiltered: Gen Z Reacts to The Chosen is now a one-hour program produced about this experiment. Unfiltered features young people talking about what appeals to them about The Chosen. In Unfiltered, Emma says she loved the portrayal of the woman at the well. “The fact that, like, Jesus is there and saying: ‘I came here for you’. I felt…she is a representation of everybody that’s sitting out there, like he is showing up for each of us. It was big, I really liked that” (Unfiltered).
Much of the success of The Chosen is due to relatable characters and storylines viewers find relevant. The Chosen devotes a fair amount of screen time to world-building, helping its audience understand the sociopolitical context in which Christ was born. Viewers care about these characters who have real-world problems – money problems, relationship concerns, and jealousy and competitiveness among the group. Viewers recognize themselves in these real people. For the most part, The Chosen circles slowly around its ensemble, letting their relationships to one another, to the world, to religion, and finally to Jesus himself unfold little by little.
Much of the success of 'The Chosen' is due to relatable characters and storylines viewers find relevant.
A friend convinced me to watch The Chosen. She said, “Just watch episode one and let me know what you think.” I knew she wasn’t going to quit asking, so I watched mostly to keep her quiet. By the end of that episode, with tears in my eyes, I knew I needed to see more. So, I joined #BingeJesus and watched (along with my thirteen-year-old son who has become a huge fan) the whole season in a few days. I knew that as a pastor, I wanted to share this with my congregation. I decided to begin teaching a weekly class where every Wednesday night, we would watch an episode and have conversations about it.
I had no idea how many people would be interested or would come to the class. The first week, we had more than twenty people. Soon, word began to spread about how great The Chosen is. By the end of our class meetings, after having watched seasons one, two, and three, we were averaging more than forty people in class. While the numbers were great, I noticed people interacting with the biblical narrative in a new way. We were having some of the best conversations about Jesus and Bible that I had ever had in my twenty-five-plus years of ministry. The Bible was coming alive for people in new and exciting ways.
Each week, I prepared a handout with questions and scriptures related to the episode we would watch together. Most nights, we never got to many of the questions. I would always start by asking, “What stuck out to you?” That always got lots of conversation started. Then I would follow up with, “What spoke to you personally?” Those two questions were asked each week, and often, we would look at the clock and it would be time to go home!
Besides our class talking about The Chosen, we have also incorporated clips from the series into sermons during our worship services. We had a group from the church go and see the beginning of season three in the theaters. This Christmas, we will be taking a group to the theater to see a special Christmas episode. This is a great invitational event since people are particularly open to learning about Jesus at Christmas time. We’ve talked about pulling out the popcorn machine and having a season one viewing party outside this summer to invite new people to come see the series. When season four starts next spring, we may rent a theater and invite friends to come watch with us. I think there will be many ways to use the TV series in our ministries in the future.
Questions to Ponder:
- How could your church harness The Chosen to engage the community? How might The Chosen help the church reach younger generations?
- How could you use The Chosen to make the Bible and sermons come alive for everyone?
- How could you create an invitational event for your community around The Chosen?
- How might your church schedule watch parties and conversations at times that are convenient for families and younger people?
- What are the ways to use The Chosen to foster deeper discipleship?
Rev. Kissa Vaughn is the senior pastor of St. Barnabas United Methodist Church in Arlington, Texas. She is a wife, mom to Hamilton (13) and Madison (8), and a passionate follower of Jesus. She loves to find creative ways to share the gospel.