WARREN SMITH, HOST: I’m Warren Smith and today you’ll be listening in on a pair of conversations I had recently at the annual meeting of the National Religious Broadcasters. We’ll be hearing from brothers David and Jason Benham, who served as emcees for the conference, as well as the producer of the new movie Breakthrough, Devon Franklin.
Up first, Devon Franklin. Devon Franklin’s father was just 36 years old when he died and that left young Devon and his brothers to be raised by a single mother, a grandmother, and lots of aunts from the extended family. Following his father’s death, Franklin threw himself into academics and activities as a means of coping with the loss. Devon Franklin himself will tell you the rest of the story in the conversation that follows. I want to add, though, that his work ethic has led to a successful career both in Hollywood and as the author of bestselling books. His latest movie Breakthrough is in theaters now and his latest book, The Truth About Men was published in February and has already become a best-seller.
Devon, welcome to the program and, you know, I want to talk about your new movie and, you know, all the other millions of things that you’re involved with but I want to start back maybe in your youth. You were raised by a bunch of women. Your parents divorced when you were young and then your dad —
DEVON FRANKLIN, GUEST: My dad died.
SMITH: Yeah, your dad died.
FRANKLIN: They didn’t divorce.
SMITH: Oh, they did not divorce before. Okay. I’m sorry I had that mistaken. But he did die when you were really young, right?
FRANKLIN: I was nine years old, yeah.
SMITH: And you’re now older than he was when he died.
FRANKLIN: Yes, four years older than he was when he died. I’m 40 years old now.
SMITH: So what was it like being raised by a bunch of women?
FRANKLIN: It was awesome. I think it contributed to the man I am today and, you know, being raised by my mother, you know, she’s such a superhero and the input of my grandmother and then my grandmother’s seven sisters—six of which are still alive today. The oldest is a 92, the youngest is 72.
SMITH: Now, I read somewhere that your mom kind of, that that was a very intentional thing that she kind of put together a coalition of these women around you and your brothers to make sure that you were raised right.
FRANKLIN: Yes, because she grew up in the house with them. So when she was born, she was raised in part by her grandmother, which was, you know, my great aunt’s mother. And so when she was raised, she grew up with my grandmother’s sisters as almost like another sister. So as we got older, you know, because she has such a close relationship with them, it was just an organic part of the process for them to have a close relationship with us. And it’s amazing, you know, being able to still be in relationship with them today.
SMITH: That is amazing. And, well, you were also raised the church as well, right? And that probably didn’t hurt, right? In terms of making sure that you had the right influences in your life.
FRANKLIN: No, it didn’t hurt at all. It truly was a blessing. I think the church gave me a really strong foundation, not only just spiritually, but practically. I think so much of my work ethic, so much of my attitude and commitment to service comes from being raised in the church and serving every weekend.
SMITH: And your pastor was also a member of your family. He was your uncle. Do I have that right?
FRANKLIN: Yeah, he was my uncle by marriage. He still is my uncle, married to one of my great aunts.
SMITH: And you got to preach at a pretty young age.
FRANKLIN: 15 years old, man. I didn’t know what I was doing at all. Had no idea.
SMITH: But you wanted to preach. I mean, to me, I mean, listen, I’ve been at this awhile, you know, in Christian ministry. Nobody knows what they’re doing when they’re 15 years old. But the fact that you wanted to do it and that there was a place for you to do that, that must’ve been so formative for you.
FRANKLIN: It was. I mean, the first youth day that our church did, my older brother spoke and he does more speeches and whatnot. So the second year when they asked me to speak, you know, I ended up, there was a book by Les Brown called Live Your Dreams. Les Brown is a phenomenal motivational speaker, been doing it for 40 years I think, something like that. And in that first survey—and I probably quoted more from his book than scripture—but it went well and people thought I did a good job and I was excited to do it. I mean, you know, I’ve been around the church my whole life, so speaking wasn’t a foreign thing. However, I wasn’t interested in doing that as my job, as my profession.
I mean, everyone, when they saw me preach, they were like, “Oh man, you’ve got to become a minister.” And I was like, “No, no, I’m going to Hollywood.” And I was pretty clear about that. And, you know, that has certainly been a journey and it’s interesting. Over time as I begin to incorporate ministry into what I do, you know, everyone starts to see, oh wow, got it. Now we see all this can work together. But back then, nobody saw it that being in movies and also, you know, ministering would ever coincide.
SMITH: Yeah. Well, speaking of Hollywood or deciding to go to Hollywood, that started pretty early for you as well, right? I mean, you started watching television, started watching movies, kinda dissecting them, right? Taking them apart and figuring out what made them work.
FRANKLIN: Totally. I was always watching films, movies like Rocky, The Color Purple, Back to the Future. Shows like A Different World, The Cosby Show, those entertainment stories just moved me. And I was always fascinated with how do you do this? I mean, Star Wars, how do you make these images come to life? How do you tell these stories? How do you create situations that are emotional, that move an audience? So these things always moved me. And I was always fascinated by them and wanting to figure out how to do it. And that was one of my passions and still is. And the opportunity to do it today is kind of mind blowing.
SMITH: Yeah. Well, before we get to today and some of the projects that you’re working on now, I want to—if I could—just go back to that era. So you’re raised by all these women and the church and you develop this passion for film and television and storytelling pretty early on. And you say that you’re not going to go preach, you’re going to go to Hollywood. And you go to USC, which is one of the top film schools in the country, but you majored in business with a minor in film. Do I have that right?
FRANKLIN. That’s right. That’s right. I majored in business, minored in film. Not because I wanted to, but I got rejected from the film school. So USC Film Schools is still, I believe, today one of the best film schools in the world. And I applied and they rejected me. I got admitted general admission to the school, but I got rejected from the film school. And so as a result I was like, okay, well what am I going to major in? And I decided, well, you know, business is still a good major. And supplement that with a film minor. And that same year, my freshman year, because I wasn’t in the film program, I had some more time on my hands. So I got an internship. Because I never, at that point I never had an experience in Hollywood. So it’s one thing to think you want to do something and having intellectual desire, but you need to kind of complement that with the practical one to decide is this really what you want to do. And so I got an internship working at Will Smith’s management company and that was really my first entree into the business. And it was great to then have the intellectual education through school and the practical education through the internship. And that really gave me a very well-rounded educational experience.
SMITH: Well and working with Will Smith was formative for you as well because you got to be involved as a young executive in a couple of his more successful and more interesting projects, in my view. I think a lot of folks kind of will know Will Smith from Men In Black and sort of the action-adventure and that kind of thing. And maybe from The Prince of Bel Air, but he has done a lot of movies, too, that are intellectually and even spiritually challenging. So, for example, Hancock and Happyness and I Am Legend even. There are real moral, philosophical, ethical dimensions to those movies and you’ve got to be involved with at least a couple of them, didn’t you?
FRANKLIN: Yes. After I was an intern for him at his company for four years, I became an assistant in his company. And then I left to take a job as a development executive for a producer. And then I took a studio job for MGM. And then MGM got sold to Sony Pictures Entertainment. So when I went to Sony Pictures Entertainment, the first movie I worked on with Pursuit of Happyness that Will starred in. I also worked on Seven Pounds and I worked on the majority of the films that he was involved in for pretty much a 10 year stretch. So everything from The Pursuit of Happyness, Seven Pounds, Hancock, The Karate Kid remake, After Earth, and Annie. And it was incredible to have the opportunity to work with him in that capacity. And onPursuit of Happyness, I mean, that film to this day is still one of my favorite films, one of the most inspirational films I’ve ever seen. And his performance was so good. And I’ll never forget the first time I saw the movie. I, as an executive, put together a whole marketing and publicity campaign on how to take the message of faith in that film to the faith-based audience. And that, once we executed it, became very successful and really contributed to the success of that film. And that really laid a foundation for me of starting to combine, you know, my passion for faith and my passion for films.
SMITH: So Devon, your career is kind of in an arc where, you know, you spent 10 years working with Will Smith and there was faith components to these films. But now you’re in kind of a new era. You are doing movies that are explicitly faith-based. And I think, for example, of a movie like Heaven is For Real, that you had a very active role in. That was I guess you could almost call it a sleeper movie. I mean it was the book that it was based on was a best-seller. And so there was a built-in audience for it. And you had a good, you know, you had an amazing director Randall Wallace who had done a lot of really big movies and you had a good cast and all of that. So, I mean, you had all of the ingredients in place, but I don’t think anybody anticipated that this movie was going to do over $100 million.
FRANKLIN: No, no. Nobody saw that coming. And that was a complete shock. And people are still shocked to this day.
SMITH: Well and one of the reasons I think that it worked as well as it did was because of all of those elements. Is that what a producer does? Is the job of a producer to kind of put those elements together?
SMITH: I mean, you can’t guarantee an outcome, but if you put the right people and maybe the right ingredients together, you can increase the likelihood of an outcome?
FRANKLIN: No, you know, I mean, the thing about it is that it is a producer’s job. You know, my job to find the material, develop the material, and then, you know, put all the pieces together. So, finding the right director, helping assist with the casting, and teeing it all up, you know, putting all the right pieces in place for success is a very important part of the process. And on Heaven is For Real, I did that as an executive and, you know, we didn’t know. We didn’t know. We knew the book was big. We knew people responded to the movie, but we had no idea. So we all were shocked at how incredible that movie was and how successful that movie was. And, you know, and then when I did Miracles From Heaven a few years later, that did very well.
And the thing about it, to your question about explicitly faith-based, all these are based on true stories. So that also matters a tremendous amount because it’s not the same of just saying, oh, let’s go create an idea so we can explore these themes. It’s like, no, this actually happened. You know, this young boy did almost die and had a near death experience. That happened. This young girl had an incurable stomach condition, fell down the inside of a tree, hit her head three times, was trapped, and when she came out of it, the disease was gone. And she talked about her trip to heaven.In Breakthrough, you know, this boy really did fall through the ice, was trapped for 15 minutes, died, was dead for another 45 minutes. And it was his mother’s prayers that brought him back to life.
So what I love about true stories that can do that, you can just tell the story. Cause that’s all I do. I just tell the story. I don’t try to impose, you know, my own message on it. I just try to unearth the message that’s already in the true story so that audiences can understand that and then apply it to their own life.
SMITH: So if, if there is a Devon Franklin brand, is that the brand that you are looking for stories that you’re trying to tell?
FRANKLIN: I would say, you know, my brand is inspiration, you know, to tell inspirational stories that can uplift the world. And so, yes, that is a big part of the brand. And so, you know, with that spectrum of inspiration, there’s a lot of different kinds of pieces of content that can fit that. Not everything is going to be Miracles From Heaven. On the inspirational spectrum, I have projects that are, you know, big CGI movies called The Garden, which is the story of the Garden of Eden that we’re doing kind of in a Jungle Book style. Obviously have Breakthrough. I have another film that I’m doing next called Flaming Hot, which about the creator of flaming hot Cheetos, who was a Mexican janitor that worked for the company. I have all kinds of movies that I do because I believe that it’s important to expand what people think is inspirational and that’s a big part of my brand for sure.
SMITH: Well, I’m wondering, based on where you said — I mean, on the one hand, maybe talking to Devon Franklin about the state of Hollywood and the state of Christians in Hollywood is not the best person to talk to with all due respect because life’s pretty good for Devon Franklin right now.
SMITH: It seems to me, but if you could step back from that, and I know you don’t want to bite the hand that feeds you, but how is it right now? I mean, is this a good time for Christians to be making movies? A good time for Christians to be in Hollywood? Or is it a tough time or is it both?
FRANKLIN: You know, I can only speak from my experience and I think that being Christian in Hollywood is great. From the moment I set foot in Hollywood 22 years ago, I have always been open about my beliefs and there’s always been a place here. And oddly enough, you know, Hollywood on some level has been more embracing than certain areas of the church. And I have experienced in Hollywood that when you are authentic, organic, and you also put in the work that there is a place for you. I think that sometimes where, you know, Christians can experience challenges from my experience have been when there isn’t always the same commitment to their faith that there is to the work. And so I think when you put the same commitment to the work that you put to our faith, we can find success. No matter how many doors may close, there’s going to be a door that’s open. And so I do think today and now a good time to be Christian in Hollywood. And I think that’s going to mean something for everybody, different for everyone that is Christian in Hollywood. But I think it’s a great time and there’s tremendous opportunity for sure.
SMITH: Devon, I want to pivot a little bit in our conversation, if I could, and talk to you about your work as an author. You’ve had a book on the New York Times bestseller list. Is that a passion of yours? Is it something that you think we’re going to see more of?
FRANKLIN: You know, I did not know that I was going to love writing, but I do. And I’m on my fourth book. My first book was Produced By Faith. My second book was The Wait, which I wrote with my wife Megan. The third book was The Success Commandments. And the fourth book is The Truth About Men, which recently came out. And I love the opportunity to write because what it does is it gives me an opportunity to reach people in a different way than movies. And also what happens is that the books build the audience. And so I’m able to go out and talk to, you know, my audience on an annual basis, whether I have a movie or not because I’m in conversation with them, helping them in their spiritual life, their professional life, and then their relational life. And those three areas are the areas that they come to me for guidance, for expertise. And the books really give me an opportunity to do that on a mass level. I’m grateful that I’ve been successful as an author and I have some ideas that I want to keep doing. My hope is to do a book every other year and a movie every year. And then we’ll see where, you know, the TV show is gonna fit into all of that.
SMITH: So talk to me a little about your writing process. Whenever I have an author, I often like to ask that question. When you’re in a book, do you write every day for — do you like put 500 words or an hour on or do you once a week or do you go away for a month and write the book at one time and then pass it off to editors and others? Or how does that work for you?
FRANKLIN: It’s chaos. I’m not a very regimented writer. I basically write– I have the ideas that are ruminating for a very long time. And then once I’m on the deadline of like, okay, here’s what you have to deliver. That’s when I start to put the process together. I usually have a co-author who helps me with the structure and kind of lay out the book and the chapters and whatnot. And then, you know, usually what will happen is we’ll walk through the book, talk through the ideas. Do a couple days of that, and then those sessions will be transcribed. He’ll take the transcriptions and usually starts to lay out the chapters. Then he’ll send them to me and then I do the rewrites on them. And when we’re, you know, on a deadline, I mean, you know, sometimes it’s writing in the evenings, it’s taking a couple of days off during the week. It’s taking weekends off. It just really depends. But it’s usually specific to the book. Like when I’m not on a deadline, I’m not writing. I’m writing down ideas and thoughts, but it usually is, you know, once it’s time to deliver, that’s when the process really begins.
SMITH: Well, in some ways I think I can see the movie producer in that process, right? Which is much more, I mean, a lot of times people think about writing as a solitary process where they’re sitting, you know, sort of alone sweating blood with a quill over some parchment, right? But for you, it feels like that that’s much more of a collaborative process, which of course is the movie process. The movie process is a very collaborative process.
FRANKLIN: Oh, yeah, I love collaborating and it’s helpful and also with doing so many things, you know, having collaboration in every area that I’m in is essential because I don’t know that I have the bandwidth alone to do it all by myself. So getting the help in each area is essential in order for needing to operate according to my potential and purpose.
SMITH: Devon, I finally want to get to what I’m guessing you want to talk about, which is your movie Breakthrough. Can you tell me about that movie and sort of how it came into being?
FRANKLIN: Yes. Oh my goodness. Breakthrough. I was on the promotional trail for Miracles From Heaven and as I was there on a TV program on TBN, the Smith family, Joyce Smith, John Smith, and pastor Jason Noble were there telling their story. And backstage I heard their story. I was like, wait a minute, this is unbelievable. I think I got to tell this story. So I went to them and told them I wanted to help them tell their story in the form of a book and a movie. And we started talking about it and the story is, you know, very straight forward. John was 14 years old, was playing on a frozen lake. It began to crack. He fell through the ice and he was trapped underneath the ice for 15 minutes without oxygen. And they, miraculously, were able to find him. They took him to the hospital, they tried to revive him another 45 minutes. They could not do it. They go to his mother and they tell her, “Now’s the time to say goodbye to your son. We’ve tried to bring him back. We can’t. We failed.” And she goes in the emergency room and instead of saying goodbye, she begins to pray loudly. Und ultimately says, “Holy Spirit, bring back my son.” And next thing, you know, her son gets his heartbeat back. And that’s the beginning of the miraculous recovery that medicine has never seen. In the medical note from the doctor, it said, “Patient dead, mother prayed, patient came back to life.” And since they have, you know, done research to try to find another case of someone who was without oxygen for that long to recover the way John did—he’s 18 years old now. No brain damage, no lung damage, no eye damage, pretty much no evidence of what he went through.
And they have not been able to find another case in the world of someone with those, you know, circumstances that is in the shape that John is in now. So it is a bonafide miracle of the highest order. And that is the Breakthrough story. Chrissy Metz from This Is Us stars in the movie. She plays an incredible — She plays Joyce. She does an incredible job. Roxann Dawson is the director. And then we have an all-star cast to support Chrissy. We have Josh Lucas, who plays the father, Topher Grace, who plays the pastor, Dennis Haysbert to plays Dr. Garrett, Mike Colter, who plays Tommy Shine, and Marcel Ruiz, who plays John Smith.
SMITH: Yeah, well that is an all0star cast. Many of those I’m big fans of, by the way. Especially Dennis Haysbert. I was a big fan of him going all the way back to 24.
FRANKLIN: Yeah, yeah.
SMITH: He was the president in 24, so that’s great. I want to just push on you a little bit, though, Devon. I mean, this is going to be folks who are going to look at that story and they’re going to say, I don’t know. Even many Christians might say I’m skeptical. I mean, how do you know this was a real mir–? I mean, clearly something happened, but how do you know it was really a miracle? What would you say to those folks?
FRANKLIN: Just listen to the doctors. I mean, the doctors that were there with their own eyes said this is a miracle. Both doctors that were involved said that. I mean, literally in the medical record it says, “Patient dead, mother prayed, patient came back to life.” Those are the facts. So, if someone were to not want to look at the facts, that’s their choice. That’s okay. But the facts are very compelling and inspiring as well.
SMITH: Well, you know, I’m a fan of a lot of the actors that you just mentioned, but I also know that some of them are probably not Christians.
SMITH: How did they respond to the story?
FRANKLIN: They love it. That’s why they wanted to do it. I mean, they were so connected to this movie, that’s what inspired them to do it. Each one, each person in this film has an emotional attachment to this film that went beyond just a job for them. It was something personal and that’s amazing to be able to produce a story that would allow a personal connection like that with so many incredible actors.
SMITH: Final question: I hope you have many years ahead of you Devon in Hollywood, as a writer, as a husband, and as a dad. But you’re a Christian, you know scripture, you know that the Bible says it is appointed unto man once to die. And after that, the judgment. Your own dad passed away at an early age. What do you want the world to say about you when you’re gone?
FRANKLIN: Oh my goodness. Wow. You know that I live with faith. I was a follower of Christ and I did the best I could to make the world a better place. Yeah, I think that would be, that’d be just fine.
SMITH: Devon Franklin, thank you so much for your time. Really appreciate it.
FRANKLIN: Thank you so much, Warren.
SMITH: David and Jason Benham are twin brothers who had a successful career as real estate entrepreneurs and that success attracted the attention of the television network HGTV, who tapped the twins to star in a reality television program to be called Flip It Forward. It was scheduled to release in 2014. The program would allow deserving families to tap the brothers’ real estate skills to own their own homes. But when the brothers pro-life and pro-family activism became known to homosexual activist groups, they protested and HGTV ultimately pulled the program. The controversy, though, further elevated the profile of the Benham brothers and since then they’ve had active careers as authors and speakers while continuing their real estate business in North Carolina. Their latest book is Bold and Broken: Becoming the Bridge Between Heaven and Earth.
David and Jason Benham, welcome to the program, again. We had a conversation… I guess it’s been a few years ago now and it’s great to have you back on the program here at NRB where you are emceeing the opening plenary session today. What are you going to say to the group?
DAVID BENHAM: Well, you know, Jason and I — well first of all I’m probably going to have to mop up what Jason messes up, but you know, we plan on the public policy session we’ll be talking about the unraveling of civil society. We’ve only got about five minutes and then we run right into the panel. And then the opening session, I’m not quite sure what we’re going to talk about. We’ll have to see. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.
SMITH: Okay. Well, Jason, what do you say? Do you agree with him? Is what he says you’re going to say what you’re really going to say?
JASON BENHAM: Absolutely. We’re actually going to talk about the church needing to wake up and how we already believe the church is waking up and how all of these broadcasters here are a huge part of helping the church wake up. So we’re excited to be here talking to them.
SMITH: Well, now, in addition to being here as MC of the event, which you guys have done in the past, I guess this is kind of a shtick for you guys. You do it once — The problem with doing a good job at something is they keep asking you back to do the same thing over and over again. But you’ve also got a book, right?
DAVID BENHAM: We’ve got a book, we released it a few weeks ago. It’s called Bold and Broken: Becoming the Bridge Between Heaven and Earth. It’s our fourth book. And one of the things that we’ve recognized in today’s culture, the shifting culture, sometimes we realize very harshly that God’s boundaries are found or God’s blessings are found within his boundaries. And that’s now becoming a bigoted stand. And so we want Christians to be bold but boldness apart from brokenness makes a bully. We don’t want to be a bully. And by broken we mean submitted to God. But brokenness apart from boldness makes a bystander. So there’s ditches on both sides of the road. But when you’re both bold and broken, you can become a bridge that connects heaven to earth for people in real, tangible, practical ways. It’s 28 chapters of nothing but stories on how to be bold and broken.
JASON BENHAM: And David and I tell lots of folks that when Jesus wants to touch the material world, he uses the portal of man. If he does it any other way, it’s called a miracle. So we have to recognize that God is disconnected from mankind. Now, Jesus ultimately brought the divine connection with his death on the cross, but we’re told to pray and Jesus teaches us to pray that that connection continues. So, it’s not just a prayer, it’s about participation. You know, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. And the only way to do that is to stand boldly. Like Ezekiel 22 when God said, I looked for a man who would stand in the gap, but I found none. David and I are saying, now’s the time for us to stand in the gap boldly.
SMITH: Well, you know, you said something just a minute ago, David, that really resonated with me, is that if you’re bold but not broken, you end up being a bully. It seems to me that that kind of pretty well describes public discourse today is that people in some ways, we don’t have trouble being bold, but we can’t be vulnerable in front of each other or the people that are on our team will say we’ve caved in. The people on the other team will use that vulnerability against us.
DAVID BENHAM: Yeah. Well that’s why we wrote this book. Because if we’re gonna engage, which we have to engage as salt and light in this public discourse, but we have to do it from a position of brokenness. And by broken, we don’t mean you’re out of the game. We mean you’re in it. Our Dad used to tell us, he said, “Boys, only those horses willing to be broken by the master are fit to pull the king’s chariot. The rest are left to pasture.” So brokenness from that perspective so that you can be useful. And one of the things that Jason and I talk about is that when you look at Peter, in the garden, when he was awakened from his sleep, he boldly reached for his sword, right? And was the wrong spirit cause he cut a dude’s ear off. And Jesus is like, “No, we don’t hurt. We heal.” But then on the flip side, you know, you see him following Jesus now at a distance into the city. And he was a bystander, denying that he even knew Christ three times. So now he lost his boldness and he became a bystander. But then at Pentecost, Peter was the one that stood when the tongues of fire came and he proclaimed the gospel, knowing he could have lost his life. He was both bold and broken. So that day he became a bridge. That’s the way that we can engage this cultural context.
SMITH: Jason, you said something a couple of minutes ago that I wanted to ask you to maybe say a little bit more about. You said being here at NRB—National Religious Broadcasters—was a blessing because you see the folks here as being maybe instrumental in being that bridge. Sounds to me like then you are an optimist about the way things are going in the culture. Would that be fair?
JASON BENHAM: I’m an optimist about the broadcasters who are actually being mouthpieces for God and speaking the truth boldly, even though it may cost them their reputation. That’s what I’m optimistic about. And, you know, the darker the culture gets, the brighter light can shine. And I am optimistic that the church is actually beginning to rise and beginning to wake up. I mean, you look at — David and I just spoke at a thing called The Day of Mourning several weeks ago over what happened in New York with the legislation that changed in order to kill more babies. And we showed up, 45,000 people watched it either online or were there and it was standing room only. And so the church is beginning to wake up and we’re excited to see it.
SMITH: Do you think there are waking up because of legislation like New York where it’s kind of creating an environment where you can’t be silent anymore? I remember the old labors union song, “Which side are you on, boys? Which side are you on?: I mean, is that kind of what’s happening today?
JASON BENHAM: Yeah. Well, in this radical revolution, and it’s a spiritual battle. It’s not a Republican-Democrat or a conservative-liberal battle, even though it manifests itself on those fronts, but it’s a spiritual battle. But this revolution in morality, the ceiling always becomes the floor. It just wants more and more and more. So when we look at abortion and the culture of death specifically on that one issue, to see those legislators celebrating and clapping and applauding, and then to see one World Trade Center lit up pink in celebration of an expansion, a radical expansion, to an abortion law was really revolting. Millions of Americans weren’t celebrating, they were grieving, they were mourning. And so in that regard, it is waking people up. But then our message is not only are they alive and human beings worthy of life in the third trimester, but also in the first and the second, and they’re like, oh yeah, of course. So we’re seeing a huge ground swell of pro-life support around the country.
SMITH: David and Jason, I want to pivot just a little bit in our conversation, if I could, and just ask you a peek under the hood of your car, if I could, a bit. When you guys write a book, you do it together. When you guys are MCs at an event like National Religious Broadcasters, you do it together. When you were in New York for that big event that you just mentioned, Jason, you seem to do it together. Is that a natural thing? Do you all rehearse this? Do you go back and like when you’re writing a book, does one of you write one chapter and one of you write the other? Talk about the relationship between the two of you guys and how you make it work—over now a long period of time—without like killing each other.
JASON BENHAM: Well, we learned a long time ago and our dad taught us that two can get a lot more done than one and it’s not just that we can get twice as much done. You know, the horses at the Dixie Stampede, they did this tractor pull thing or this weight pull and the first place horse pulled 8,000 pounds. The second place pulled 7,000 so they put the two together and thought that, you know, they’d pull 15-16,000 pounds. They pulled 30,000 pounds. So they were able to do more together. So David and I basically just know which lane that we operate best in. So when it comes to writing a book, I, Jason, typically will kind of take the lead on the book and then David comes in and works alongside with me. But when it comes to speaking David, a lot of times, will take the lead on the speaking and then I come in and fill in some color. But, ultimately, David just does whatever the heck I tell them to do.
DAVID BENHAM: That is not true. If you analyze yourself, obviously scripture teaches us to analyze ourselves to see if we’re in the faith, but also at the same time, analyze yourself and see what you’re good at and what you’re not good at. And so I found what I’m good at, Jason’s half not very good. And then he’s good at certain things that I’m not very good. Me, of course, far more things that I’m better at, but we just get into our lane and our hearts, truly by God’s grace… We were competitive at first, you know, early on in life. But by God’s grace, we had a good dad and we genuinely had a conversion experience with Jesus. So our hearts truly want to see the kingdom of God advanced. Because that’s our focus, we can get along really well with pretty much any venue we’re in.
SMITH: Well, you know, you’ve mentioned a couple of times, your dad who I know. I’ve known your dad for probably, you know, 25 years and I’ve known you guys probably since you were teenagers because I knew your dad, and you’re right. You guys have a great dad. Flip Benham, many of our listeners will know your dad Flip Benham who’s been a lion in the pro-life movement for many, many years and he’s still active in your lives. But I’m wondering, you know, we’ve seen a lot of scandals in the church. We’ve seen a lot of Christian leaders fall in the last few years and I can’t resist asking you guys, what do you see in your dad’s life that has allowed him to stay in ministry without scandal for 40 plus years. And in your own lives. What are you guys doing about accountability and transparency and mentors and that sort of thing to keep you straight?
DAVID BENHAM: Oh, I love that. That’s probably one of the best interview questions we’ve ever been given because it’s so appropriate for our cultural moment. Our dad, right now, he is still wearing the wedding ring with our mom who’s been passed away for over two years now, who he was married 45 years. Faithful to my mom, my mom faithful to my dad. And my dad at one point in his life was a national, a prominent figure on the news all the time. I mean, people would just flock to him for his autograph and stuff, but dad always kept himself low. He coached to all of our teams. He loved his family. He was faithful. He would portray the object of unapproachability with the opposite sex. He was not a flirty kind of a guy. He just really — him and the likes of like Dr. Jerry Falwell and Adrian Rogers and Billy Graham and some of these others just really, there was no scandal there.
And so our dad, literally to this day, he’s still faithfully serving at the abortion clinics where he’s ministering to the mothers there. He’s faithfully serving in the church. He still wears his wedding band. And so Jason and I, we see that. We want that in our lives. Now, of course, we’re very open with our dad and with the two of us, but we also have a core group of other men—three to five men—in each of our lives that we’ve opened up to. We are an open book. They can ask us any question they want to ask us and they do ask probing questions and want to know what we’re thinking and not just, hey, what are you doing? But what are you thinking? And so it’s been great. Because the power of sin is in secrecy, so if you’re not secret then the sin can’t settle in.
SMITH: Jason, anything you want to add?
JASON BENHAM: Yeah, I would say the key to staying humble and the key to not letting any type of platform get to you is never inspecting your own fruit. So when the disciples came back after they cast out demons and they had healed the sick, and they’re all excited about it, they’re like, “Jesus, you’re not going to believe what happened!” And Jesus immediately says, “Don’t rejoice over that. Rejoice that your name is written in the lamb’s book of life.” If you stay there, no matter how much impact you make, and you’re like, God, I’m just so thankful that I get to spend eternity with you. Stay there and you’ll be fine.
SMITH: David and Jason, I want to pivot again in our conversation, if I could, because there are a lot of folks here at National Religious Broadcasters that this is their day job. This is their main gig. You guys have remained entrepreneurs and very entrepreneurial over the years. At some level, I’m guessing you must believe that that following God’s calling as an entrepreneur is just as valid as following God’s calling as an evangelist. Is that true? Do I have that right?
DAVID BENHAM: Yeah, you’ve absolutely got that right, because that’s what scripture teaches. We are a kingdom of priests. So we are a royal priesthood. And I love how Matthew Henry says, when he described what a royal priesthood is is he said, as kings and believers, we are kings. He says, we ascribe power, dominion, and authority. And as priests we ascribed glory and honor and praise. And so in our lives as believers, it doesn’t matter where we’re placed or how we’re paid, we are ministers on mission and our work is worship. That’s the key. It doesn’t matter if you’re the pastor or a plumber. You’re a minister of God. You’re on mission for him and your work is worship. And so we don’t define ourselves by where we are. We just define ourselves by who we are, which are ministers of God.
JASON BENHAM: This is Jason. There’s no false dichotomy. There is a false dichotomy that exists, but it shouldn’t, where you think that the guys that are ministers are the ones who are the evangelists or the preachers or whatever, and then the rest of us, which is 99% of the world, are insurance salesmen and real estate guys and all that, or teachers. We’re all ministers. Exactly what David said. If people can just get that through their minds to recognize that you are a minister on mission and your work is worship. See the devil knows that how you see yourself determines how you conduct yourself. So if he can convince you that you’re not in full time ministry, even though you’re mowing lawns full time, then he’s gonna win that battle. But if you know that you’re a minister even though you’re on that walk behind mower all day, then when you see people and you see customers, you see harvest and that’s very important for believers to know that.