It is amazing to think that Christianity as we know it began with a simple Gospel message more than 2,000 years ago. At the time, a ragtag collection of 12 Apostles were charged with taking a God-breathed message of love, hope, and deliverance to the masses.
But how did it happen? Who are the people who risked life and limb to further the message of Jesus Christ? What is God doing in the world today and how did the Gospel find its way to all these different places?
Three years in the making, TBN is set to launch an ambitious project that will examine the sprawling effect Christianity has had on every corner of the globe. Comprised of six documentary-styled episodes, Inexplicable: How Christianity Spread to the Ends of the Earth will debut Monday evening at 8pm ET on TBN (check your local listings) and will feature one episode per month for the next six months. Specifically, the series will focus on the four continents where Christianity has made the greatest impact: Europe, Latin America, North America, and Asia.
“TBN President Matt Crouch had a vision two or three years ago and he realized that the world in which we live is filled with Christians,” says series executive producer Norman Mintle. “He didn’t quite know the research that we talked about in the series, but he wanted to tell the story in the year 2020, a year where we would have 2020 vision and we could clearly see what God was doing.”
No simple task, Mintle formed multiple production crews to explore each of the aforementioned regions in addition to examining the beginnings of the Christian faith in First Century Jerusalem. Another team was commissioned to take a look at what the future might hold for the billions who claim Christianity as their religion.
“It sounds really simple until you think about the insanity of 2,000 years of obstacle, attacks, martyrdom, schisms and all that kind of craziness,” Mintle explains. “What we did in the documentary series was to go chronologically, starting in the First Century and then trace in general terms, the spread of the Gospel by continent.”
One of the key goals for the series was to be as painstakingly accurate as possible. Doing so would further galvanize the irrefutability of the Gospel message. To that end, noted theologian Jerry Pattengale was brought in to spearhead the research team. More than 1,000 pages of research was compiled for the project and was eventually distilled down to about 250.
“Our goal is to tell these stories as accurately as we can,” remarks Pattengale, who was a founding scholar of the Museum of the Bible and a former faculty member at Indiana Wesleyan University. One of the things that was hard to do in a 60-minute episode is to get everything in.”
Whereas most people are familiar with many of the central figures of Christianity through the ages, see Constantine, Augustine, or Martin Luther, it was the intention of the Inexplicable team to introduce audiences to lesser known heroes and heroines of the faith who played critical roles in advancing the Gospel message through the ages.
Case in point is the story of Christian martyr Perpetua. A Third Century married noblewoman who was just 22 years old at the time of her death, Perpetua wrote a journal recounting her trial, imprisonment, and eventual death in the arena for her refusal to renounce her Christian faith.
“We know about some of those major players throughout history. But to find out about this little woman, a young woman who was pregnant and then had a child in the Third Century in Carthage, who was martyred and chose to go into the arena is amazing,” Mintle shares.
Adds Pattengale, “Perpetua puts her hair up (before her execution) because she wanted to die with dignity and not as the common enslaved person in her mind. That’s a very simple detail, but it’s moving when you read the ancient account of that. I hope we captured that well. For me, that was moving.”
Adding details such as the story of Perpetua should go a long way for Christian audiences to not only fill and flesh out their understanding of their faith, but to give believers a deeper appreciation for the sacrifices that have been made to illuminate the message of Christ.
“I think the big downside of the Christian Church that is not either Eastern Orthodox or Roman Catholic, is that we sort of jump from the book of Revelation to Martin Luther or Asuza Street,” explains author and radio talk show host Eric Metaxas. “There’s a whole lot of Christianity going on that in general we are tremendously ignorant of. And we wouldn’t be here without that. The fact that I’d never heard of Perpetua and her diary and the idea that a woman wrote a diary 1,700 years ago is extraordinary.”
To give Inexplicable a greater sense of general appeal and to tie the six-part series together in a seamless manner, well-known Hollywood actor and Golden Globe nominee Dennis Haysbert came aboard to narrate the series.
“We were looking for integrity for our host,” Mintle explains. “We were looking for gravitas. We were looking for someone who could represent us as a guide through this journey of 2,000 years that we’re cramming into six hours. Dennis was absolutely perfect.”
“I wanted to get a better understanding of where Christianity came from, where it’s going, and how resilient do we have to be in order to go forward into the future,” says Haysbert, who has appeared in more than 125 movies and television series as part of an acting career that has spanned more than 40 years. “It was very important to me to become a part of this because a lot of the things I spoke about I didn’t know.”
As he worked on the project Haysbert became keenly aware of the challenges facing the Christian faith as we move forward into the 21st Century and beyond. He believes that ultimately the continued spread of Christianity will be due to understanding what the truth is and embracing it.
“It is as simple as that and as complicated as that,” Haysbert suggests. “I heard a lot of things in 2019. I’ve heard things called alternative truths. The truth is truth. There’s no alternative truth. There is no, well this may be true but that’s your truth. Truth is truth. Faith is faith. Christianity is Christianity.”
Beyond the six episodes that comprise Inexplicable, TBN will also be showcasing 20 world regions throughout 2020 to show stories of God’s historical presence and the abundance of miraculous events still happening today. In addition, more than 50 ministry partners (including CBN) have come alongside to support the project with the ultimate goal being to encourage and inspire followers to gain a better grasp of what they truly believe.
“I feel like I have a sense of the history of the faith,” shares Metaxas. “And then you watch something like this, and you realize there are huge holes in my knowledge. What’s beautiful to me about Christianity is it’s a historical faith. It’s not just some philosophy or something. These things happened and it matters that they happened. I feel like this is a public service.”
“I want viewers to walk away with a sense of “I never knew that” and realize the power and authenticity of the faith that they’ve embraced or discover a faith that they should perhaps explore and embrace,” says Mintle enthusiastically.
Inexplicable: How Christianity Spread to the Ends of the Earth”premieres Monday night at 8pm ET on TBN. To learn more …