With so many voices trying to dismantle the family structure and compromise godly values, Jonathan Evans, a former NFL player and chaplain to the Dallas Cowboys, created a cartoon series and book to teach children the parables of Jesus.
Evans, together with his wife, Kanika, and their five children, worked together on the book, Stories from the Storyteller: Life Lessons from the Parables of Jesus (Harvest Kids; illustrated by Todd Hampson) and the accompanying cartoon series.
The characters embark on various family adventures that give rise to opportunities where the family shares themes from the parables of Jesus during daily occurrences.
“Having God’s Word ingrained in you is how you don’t get thrown off track so that you can experience the promise that God has for you,” Evans told The Christian Post. “That is why we wanted to make it a cartoon. Kids are engaged in cartoons; they are engaged in screens, but we also want them to be engaged in God’s Word. The book, together with the cartoon, really helps us to do that — ensuring that kids are not easily knocked off track when another idea comes at them, because God’s Word is ingrained in them.”
Each of the 12 Chapters in the book has a QR Code at the end that, once scanned, shows a clip from the cartoon. Full episodes of the cartoon can be seen on YouTube.
The following is an edited transcript of The Christian Post’s interview with Evans where he shares the inspiration behind the new cartoon series.
CP: What inspired you to pen a children’s book that teaches biblical principles?
Evans: I have five children. My wife and I have been married for 17 years with five children between the ages of 14 and 4. We realized early on that there are very few cartoons that they can watch and resources that they can get into that we, as parents, approve of — resources that allow us to walk away and know that our kids are well taken care of.
We want to make sure that the principles that we’re teaching them in our home are the principles that they see on their screen, the principles that they experience in the books that they open. My wife and I said, “Why don’t we just take that up ourselves and produce something that can help parents, especially since a lot of parents are in the same situation that we're in?” We wanted to resource parents just like we wanted to be resourced. So we’ve decided to do just that.
We’re excited about Stories from the Storyteller because our kids are in the cartoons; they do the voice-overs for the characters. These are true stories that have happened in our family. We have really been able to have fun with these stories, and, at the same time, show biblical principles. And so, not only are my wife and I involved, but our kids are able to see the impact that they can have on other people’s lives by being a part of this ministry, seeing what God is calling them to do and using the gifts that God has given them.
CP: Are these true stories you’ve experienced with your family?
Evans: Most all the stories in Stories from the Storyteller are things that have really happened in and with our family. Of course, they’ve been embellished a little bit because it's a cartoon and we wanted to reflect that humor. But these are funny stories that we have experienced, crazy things our kids have done that we're able to use as illustrations. The greatest illustrations are your children. Through our family life, our children have given us amazing stories to tell that connect with biblical truth.
CP: What made you choose the biblical truths selected?
Evans: Stories from the Storyteller is focused on the parables of Jesus Christ. He is the greatest storyteller to ever live and He still lives. When He was telling His stories and using His parables, it was to teach principles. Think about the illustrations that all parents have in their families and the stories that they tell. When those stories can teach the principles of Jesus Christ, you are really onto something. We selected some of the greatest stories ever told from the greatest storyteller to ever tell them in God’s Word.
CP: How important is it for children to believe these truths at a time when secular movements are trying to indoctrinate them with lies?
Evans: This is exactly why we were motivated to do this project. We wanted to have the book and have the cartoons to tie people into a brand that was about teaching the truth of God’s Word. We believe that truth is an objective standard by which all reality is measured. You are not allowed to have your own truth; you are not allowed to have personal feelings about what truth is. Truth sits outside of you; it doesn’t depend on you. And so, the reason we know that 2 + 2 = 4 is because if you set four rocks out, you will see four rocks. It is an objective reality, and so is the truth.
The Bible is that objective reality for us and we look at that as the truth. It sits outside of us and is not dependent upon our feelings to determine it. It remains truth whether we want to do it or not. It is our desire to lead people in that objective truth. We don’t want to follow our hearts; we want our hearts to follow the truth. That being said, we wanted to create this product to really help kids get the armor of God they are going to need so that they can walk out into the world and face the battles they are going to face. Continuing to put that in their minds, continuing to teach them that in a way that they understand and they like and can laugh at, but that they can also connect to spiritually, is our goal.
CP: How do you think having these truths ingrained in them could help children?
Evans: Having these truths ingrained is what is important. In Psalm 1, the Bible tells us to meditate on His Word day and night and says, “That person is like a tree firmly planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither and in whatever they do, they prosper.”
Joshua 1 talks about meditating on God’s Word day and night and not turning to the left or to the right. Having God’s Word ingrained in you is how you don’t get thrown off track so that you can experience the promise that God has for you. That is why we wanted to make it a cartoon. Kids are engaged in cartoons, they are engaged in screens, but we also want them to be engaged in God’s Word. The book, together with the cartoon really helps us to do that, ensuring that kids are not easily knocked off track when another idea comes at them, because God’s Word is ingrained in them.
CP: What outcome do you want for families who read the book?
Evans: When it comes to reading the book, I want them to have family time. We want families to engage. We want their kids to be begging for bedtime like back in the olden days when parents would put their kids to bed, tuck them in and read them a story, creating tradition in the home around God’s Word. Kids will grow up and say, “I remember our story time at night, watching cartoons and spending time with my parents as they elaborated on God’s Word based on the cartoon and stories from the book.” It really creates a dynamic family time.
Families need to come together and although many times gadgets pull them apart, with Stories from the Storyteller, it's actually a part of what brings them together. The impact of family time, and growing together as a family, is what is important here.
We are also soon to come out with a Stories from the Storyteller app where your kids will be able to binge-watch the cartoons. They can look at all the resources we have and even Bible studies will be on there. Our desire is to create a community of people who are connected to Stories from the Storyteller and therefore connected to Jesus Christ. So, we are excited about the book and the cartoon, and especially about families growing together in the name of Jesus Christ.
To purchase the book or watch the series, visit Stories from the Storyteller website.
Jeannie Ortega Law is a reporter for The Christian Post. Reach her at: email@example.com She's also the author of the book, What Is Happening to Me? How to Defeat Your Unseen Enemy Follow her on Twitter: @jlawcp Facebook: JeannieOMusic