Tim Tebow and the cast of the new inspirational movie Run the Race, and Josh Enck of Sight and Sound Theatres share the powerful way God works through stories to change our lives. With locations in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and Branson, Missouri, Sight and Sound welcomes more than a million people each year to their immersive productions that feature stories from the Bible. Over the years, Josh Enck has seen the countless ways the Bible’s timeless characters continue to connect with audiences and how the stories hold tremendous power to change lives. Then, the Jesus Calling team had a chance to connect live with the cast and creators of the inspirational movie Run the Race during a special premiere of the film. Tim Tebow and his brother Robby are the producers of the film, and each were drawn to the story of two brothers who defied all odds to achieve a better life for themselves, and strengthened their faith in God and each other along the way. Tim and cast members Tanner Stine, Evan Hoffer, and Kristoffer Polaha talk about why it was so important to them to bring this story to life on the big screen.
Josh Enck: It’s an interesting kind of twist of events, how God works all things together for good. He weaves such an incredible tapestry that if it were us trying to do it, it would be a disaster. But when He does it, even if it’s confusing at the time, you can look back on it and realize what a beautiful tapestry He’s weaving.
God Writes the Stories of Our Lives: Tim Tebow and Josh Enck – Episode #137
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. Today we’re sharing the powerful ways that stories can change our lives, and talking with a few people who are creating stories on the stage and onscreen: Josh Enck of Sight and Sound Theatres, and executive producer Tim Tebow and the cast of the new inspirational movie Run the Race.
With locations in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and Branson, Missouri, Sight and Sound welcomes more than a million people each year to their immersive productions that feature stories from the Bible. Josh Enck has been with Sight and Sound Theatres since 1995, and has worked his way from stage technician to president of the company. In that time, Josh has seen the countless ways the Bible’s timeless characters continue to connect with audiences and how the stories hold tremendous power to change lives.
Josh Enck: My name is Joshua Enck. I’m the president and chief creative officer at Sight and Sound Theatres. And our mission is to move people’s hearts towards truth through the power of story.
The Story Behind Sight and Sound Theatres
Sight and Sound Theatres actually started the year that I was born, 1976, 42 years ago. And It was started by Glenn and Shirley Eshelman. They were from the Mannheim area in Lancaster County, and they both came from farming backgrounds, so it’s quite an incredible story as to how they founded a live theater.
Glenn as a very creative person. His heart is to preach the Gospel and to inspire the church. I think he would have been a fourth-generation brethren pastor, so preaching was in his DNA. It was in his family name.
But Glen had this artistic bent to him, and from a very young age, he would paint farm scenes. Then he got into photography, and he would travel all over the United States taking scenic pictures. And then with those pictures, with those paintings, he would set them to inspirational music, and then his wife Shirley would narrate scriptures. This just became an evangelist tool to reach an audience and to move them closer to the heart of the Creator.
Well, these slideshows really caught on. And before [Glenn and Shirley] knew it, they were traveling all over the United States. They started their family. They have four daughters. Two of the oldest daughters remember piling all this equipment into the station wagon and heading off into who knows which church in which state. And so it was a real pioneering effort on their part.
As [Glenn and Shirley] continued to raise their family, they didn’t want to live on the road. It’s not what they wanted to do, but they were really onto this inspirational method of reaching people’s hearts. And so what they started to do was they started to find local venues here in Lancaster, and they rented out an auditorium of the local Bible college, Lancaster Bible College.
It packed out every single night, and they realized that people will come to them. They don’t just have to take these slideshows to the masses—the masses could come to them. And they did.
And so with that seed money from that Lancaster Bible College Experience, they built an 800-seat theater called Living Waters Theater in 1976.
And so for someone who is attracted to being a storyteller and being a believer in Christ, there is such a synergy there and such a continuity because [Jesus] spoke in parables. And that creativity, that gift He’s equipped us with is just such an awesome honor and privilege to be able to use that for His glory.
Finding Peace That Passes All Understanding
I still pinch myself because this is just not what I would have expected to be doing, to be working in a ministry for one and working at a theater for another. I didn’t grow up with either of those in my life.
I grew up in a factory town, very blue collar. My dad was a foundryman. I learned the value of good, hard work ethic. My mom was a stay-at-home mom and she babysat. We just grew up going to the community pool and swimming in creeks and just doing what typical American kids do. I was the youngest of three boys. My mom and dad were crazy about each other. They really modeled a faithful marriage.
“My mom and dad were crazy about each other. They really modeled a faithful marriage.” – Josh Enck
We learned a lot of really strong morals and values in the Enck family, but we weren’t exposed to church except for Christmas and Easter. We didn’t pray as a family. We didn’t read Bible stories as a family.
I always wondered about God. I knew there was an order to this, but I always wondered if there is a God and a Creator and does He does even care about me. And so when I reflect back on my childhood, there were many times where I would take long walks with my springer spaniel named Abe, and I would pray and I would have conversations with God. I didn’t expect Him to answer back, but I always felt very peaceful and connected, even as a really young kid, with this God of the galaxies.
“I always felt very peaceful and connected, even as a really young kid, with this God of the galaxies.” – Josh Enck
And so after high school, when all of my friends seemed to have direction in their life, whether they were going to college or the workforce or the military or whatever it might be, I didn’t really have any direction at all. They were my life, and when they all disappeared, it really created fertile soil for me to go one or two different directions: go a typical direction of what people without the Lord end up doing as far as aimless directionless, or move toward [the Lord]. And I chose the latter. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I was attracted to people who had this quality about them that I would describe as secure and peaceful, happy.
And so I started going to a church. And several months later, they had a concert or a Christian concert. There was an invitation at the end of that concert for those who have never accepted Jesus Christ into their heart, and they laid out the salvation plan. I shot up like a rocket out of my seat. I just stood up, and I just knew that that’s what I was missing. And this wash just came over me that I still am . . . you know, it’s a peace that passes all understanding. I can’t explain it.
And from that day forward, I truly felt born again
Finding Purpose in an Unexpected Place
From a very early age, I was passionate about movies and stories. I loved when my mom would tell me stories, and I loved to tell stories. If I could get somebody to laugh or be emotionally moved by a story, that was the space that I loved to be in the most.
And so at the age of 12, my mom and dad bought a big old RCA VHS video camera with the big tapes, and that was a Christmas gift for the whole family. But guess who picked up that camera never put it down? That camera became such a creative outlet for me and for my buddies.
I never thought that’s something that I could do for a living. I thought filmmakers and storytellers, they’re the lucky few. They were born in Hollywood or they were born in New York, and they were just handed this opportunity. So I never gave it a whole lot of thought about it being a part of my future.
And so after high school, when I was working full time in a lumber yard, that whole creative thing just kind of hibernated, and I thought that was just a thing of my high school days and we’ll leave it at that. But the Lord started to stir this desire in me to tell stories for Him, tell stories that mattered.
“The Lord started to stir this desire in me to tell stories for Him, tell stories that mattered.” – Josh Enck
I started to look around at some film schools, and my mom and dad took me to a few colleges that had film courses, and nothing ever really stuck. And so I got my own equipment. I started to shoot my own stuff, documentaries and things like that on the side.
But then my mom said, “You know, there’s this theater called Sight and Sound in Strasburg. You ought to check it out.”
And right away I said, “Look, I don’t know anything about plays or musicals. It’s not really what I want to do.”
And she said the guy who founded it, Glenn, took her senior picture in 1967, and she remembers him being a very creative person. And she said he started this theater where they tell Bible stories, and she said, “I think you should check it out.”
So my mom and I came down Route 30 from Mannheim. And when I walked in and I saw it was the Noah’s Ark show and they were building the ark scene . . . when I saw that, my eyes just bugged out of my head. I couldn’t believe that this was a play or a musical. It just wasn’t what I was imagining picturing, and I was captivated by it.
I interviewed that day, and I got a job as a stage technician at 19 years old and started working for Sight and Sound in 1995. I just fell in love with the people the purpose the mission, knowing that I was a part of something that that mattered. And at that point in time, with my belief system as a Christian, it was a tremendous outlet.
“I just fell in love with the people the purpose the mission, knowing that I was a part of something that that mattered.” – Josh Enck
So I was pushing sets around in the dark for a Christian theater, and my buddies could not believe what I was doing, working for a ministry and working for theater. But I never never looked back.
Building a Family at Sight and Sound
I can’t share my life story or my Sight and Sound story without mentioning my very, very best friend, and that’s my wife.
Of course, she grew up in Sight and Sound, in the theater. Her mom and dad are the founders, Glenn & Shirley Eshelman. And Kristen’s the fourth youngest of the four girls.
So at about 20 or 21 years old, there was an opening at the barn to work. And so it’s a crazy twist, but I felt drawn to apply and work at the barn and training horses for the stage. I never grew up on a farm. The closest to farming that I got was my grandma and grandpa, but we spent little time with them. But I felt like I wanted to work you know a seven to four o’clock job and work with my hands and earn a living that way.
It was during that time when I demoted myself and worked out at the barn that my eyes were open to her because she would show up on this little red four wheeler with this beautiful blonde hair, and she would just happen to stop by when I’m out working. And so she showed interest in me first, but it took no time at all for me to realize that the qualities of this woman were exactly what I was looking for.
Kristen is as much a part of the success of the things that I put my hands to as I am. She’s got a critical eye. She’s incredibly creative, and she’s just the most amazing person that I’ve ever met in my life.
God Gives Us the Words We Need
Narrator: As Josh and Kristen have built a young family together, they’ve also tried to walk with God all along the way. And as a family, one of the ways they try to keep in step with God’s voice is through reading Jesus Calling.
Josh Enck: I got my first Jesus Calling devotional as a gift several years ago. And when I first started paging through it, I didn’t really understand the heart of it. And it wasn’t until I started to read them daily that I realized that it’s actually a prophetic voice into my life. It is incredible how many times I needed to hear a specific truth from the book, from the Word or from the Lord or his heart toward me in a specific context or situation. And the Jesus Calling devotionals never ever let me down.
And sometimes it’s—and I think I don’t think I’m the only one out there that’s experienced this. You open up to your day’s devotion of Jesus Calling and you read it, and you look over your shoulder and you’re like, “How in the world did this author know that this day, on this date, I needed to hear that word?” That has happened to me numerous times.
And the really awesome thing is, I have an incredible wife and four beautiful children. And my daughter Ava, who’s 11, has a Jesus Calling devotional and she said the same thing to me several weeks ago. She said, “Dad, I’ve been praying about this. And every time I pray about something, it’s in my Jesus Calling devotional.” And her little mind is realizing that God orchestrates these things, even the devotional that you should have for a season of life.
So [Jesus Calling] has been a tremendous blessing for the Enck family. It has blessed me so richly. And now to see it blessing my children, I’m very thankful for that particular devotional style.
So here’s a Jesus Calling devotional from December 21st.
Do not fear your weakness, for it is the stage on which My Power and Glory perform most brilliantly. As you persevere along the path I have prepared for you, depending on My strength to sustain you, expect to see miracles—and you will. Miracles are not always visible to the naked eye, but those who live by faith can see them clearly. Living by faith, rather than sight, enables you to see My Glory.
When I read that, I think of having eyes to see and ears to hear. And if we keep that posture toward the Lord, He will absolutely continually reveal Himself to us and blow us away with what He wants to show us or tell us.
I’m convinced that if we have eyes to see and ears to hear and we read devotionals like Jesus Calling, He absolutely will reveal Himself to us in the most creative and inspiring ways.
“If we have eyes to see and ears to hear and we read devotionals like Jesus Calling, [the Lord] absolutely will reveal Himself to us in the most creative and inspiring ways.” – Josh Enck
Bringing Bible Stories to Life
When Sight and Sound decides to do a story from the Bible, It’s not your typical approach to theater. These shows are done very cinematically, even to the point of it being a three-hundred-foot wraparound stage. It’s very immersive. Visually, they are at an epic scale. I always like to say, “When story meets spectacle, you’ll find Sight and Sound Theatres.”
“When story meets spectacle, you’ll find Sight and Sound Theatres.” – Josh Enck
You know, stories like Moses where the Red Sea parts all around you. And the actors literally walk from the stage out the house aisle, with the water parting all around the audience. Daniel in the Lion’s Den, you’re actually in the den with the lions. Jonah and the Whale, you’re in the belly of the whale and the fish swims over the audience. Like, everything is just such a massive scale.
But for us, what’s the most attractive it is that these [characters] are real people. We want to humanize these heroes of old. We want to take Moses off the mountain and show his strengths and show his weaknesses.
But Sight and Sound’s vision is to humanize these people and say, “Look, if God can use a stuttering, middle-aged man who thought he blew it, like Moses, to lead His people out of captivity, He can use me.”
Our heart and desire is to continually get these stories into the eyes and ears and hearts of people all over the world. We know not everybody is going to be able to get onto a plane or hop into a car and come to Lancaster County to see a show or Branson, Missouri.
And so years ago, I think probably about 12 years ago, a very loyal Sight and Sound fan had a multi-camera company, where they would go all over the U.S. and film sporting events with multi-cameras. And it was his heart to stopped by the theatre here and capture one of our shows so that we could have it in on on tape. And so we did, and that was 12 years ago. We shot at that time the story of Ruth, and then right after that the story of Noah.
All the shows that we’ve produced since that day have been captured with multi-camera in preparation for our DVDs. These DVDs have really taken off and have become our number one retail item and travel all over the world, into the hands of other churches and missionaries.
And then we partnered with a company called Fathom Events. They have taken the Metropolitan Opera shows onto the movie screens across the nation. So for us that was a no-brainer. It forwards our mission. It’s still our stories in creative, dramatic fashion. But now it’s up on the big screen and the viewer can get up close and personal with these actors, and it has been nothing but successful and fruitful since then.
Stories That Change Lives Forever
There are countless stories where we have testimonies of how God worked in our lives producing them, and in the lives of those who experienced them.
Through the years, you continually hear these amazing testimonies of people who felt compelled to come and see a show and it was a sold out show, but there happened to be one or two seats left when they get here and they watch it in there. Their life changes because of that.
I can remember during the the story of Joseph, which is so much about the message of forgiveness and family reconciliation. And I remember at the end of that show, this one family just wouldn’t leave the theater. And the patriarch of the family, the father, he was just in tears and asking his family to forgive him, could they forgive him. And so family restoration was taking place right there right after that show.
There’s this one gentleman who approached us years ago, and he pulled his wallet out. Inside was an old, ratty ticket stub from Behold the Lamb that he’d been carrying with him for, at that time, 15 years because that’s where he got saved.
There’s no way that we could ever know the fullest measure and extent that these productions have had because we don’t take credit for these stories. It’s not as if Sight and Sound created these stories. They’ve been changing lives for thousands of years. Our calling has to take that story and dramatize it in a way that doesn’t just impress people, but moves them toward truth and an authentic encounter with Christ.
“Our calling has to take that story and dramatize it in a way that doesn’t just impress people, but moves them toward truth and an authentic encounter with Christ.” – Josh Enck
Narrator: To learn more about Sight and Sound Theatres, please visit sight-sound.com. And to catch the Fathom Event of the show NOAH in movie theaters on April 9th, 11th or 13th, please visit Fandango.com to search for showtimes and tickets at a theater near you.
Stay tuned for our interview with Heisman trophy winner and former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow and the cast of the movie Run the Race after a brief message about a free offer from Jesus Calling!
Want a daily reminder that we can have hope, peace and joy each day in Jesus? Now it’s as easy as opening an email. The Jesus Calling Daily Email brings you a thought from the Jesus Calling family of devotionals every day. Brighten up your inbox with this little reminder and take a minute to connect with God during your day. To sign up to get your free, daily thought from Jesus Calling, please visit Jesus Calling.com/daily-email.
Narrator: We recently had a chance to connect with the cast and creators of the inspirational movie Run the Race during a special premiere of the film. Heisman Trophy Winner and former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow and his brother Robby are the producers of the film, and each were drawn to the story of two brothers who defied all odds to achieve a better life for themselves, and strengthened their faith in God and each other along the way. Tim talks about why it was so important to him to bring this story to the big screen.
We’re All Meant for Relationships and Community
Tim Tebow: I think there’s a lot that I can relate to. The brothers in my family and my siblings, we’ve always pushed each other and been each other’s biggest advocates and learn so much from each other and always also had struggles and dreams and hopes. We’ve gone through highs and lows together, and I think that’s something that really related to me and Robby in choosing to go after this script and make this movie. So that definitely relates.
But I think that one of the things that’s really special to us is that there are dreams and there are goals and there are hopes, but there’s things that are so much bigger than that. And that’s the meaning in this movie and the meaning in our lives, having each other’s back and their relationships. I believe that we’re all meant for relationships and community with God first and then each other.
“There are dreams and there are goals and there are hopes, but there’s things that are so much bigger than that.” – Tim Tebow
And and so while people will look at [the movie] and they’ll say, “Yes, it’s about sports and it’s about football and it’s about these things,” it’s so much bigger than that. That’s just an avenue for all of these bigger principles and meanings.
It was exciting, and it was emotional and it was touching because I think when people watch this movie, the goal the whole time was always so that they would be encouraged or inspired. The goal wasn’t to make the movie. The goal was to be able to inspire people that are going through a lot in life.
You Can Rise Above Your Circumstances
Tanner Stine: I’m Tanner Stine, an actor from L.A. I play Zach in the upcoming film Run the Race.
Evan Hofer: I’m Evan Hofer, I play Dave Truett in Run the Race, and I’m from Kansas.
For Dave, I really grabbed ahold of his kindness. To his core, he so kind to everyone around him and really just exudes that in his everyday life. That’s who he is, and that’s what I’m working towards striving to be. And so I thought that that was just terrific.
Tanner Stine: I think with Zach, there’s a fervency. He does everything with such passion, and I really respected that about the character when I read the script. I think Zach’s struggle with faith, I’ve experienced before. So that, off the bat, resonated with me.
I think it’s important for people, when they see Run the Race, to call their brother afterwards. Or maybe it makes them want to call their mom or their best friend, and just kind of reminds them of who’s important in their life.
Evan: [When they see the movie,] I really hope that people realize that they’re not a victim of their circumstances, and that they can rise above whatever is troubling them and use it to make them stronger in the long run.
Pushing Past Failure, Learning to Forgive
Narrator: Kristoffer Polaha plays Michael Truett, the troubled father of the two brothers. Kristoffer talks about his character and the movie’s themes of forgiveness and about pushing forward, even in the midst of failure.
Kristoffer Polaha: The character plays a guy named Michael Truett. He is an alcoholic, and he’s somebody who . . . his wife just died, so he’s a widower and he’s pretty bitter as far as just his life is concerned. He hasn’t succeeded, he didn’t amount to what he wanted to amount to.
I think that there’s something in me that has such a deep well of empathy for people like that, who are broken. I feel like when I was a kid in elementary school, I just always loved the underdog. If there was a kid who was being made fun of or off on his corner, I’d go and be like, “Hey, let’s go swing together,” or whatever. I think there was just something about showing the human face of what that looks like.
I think this movie serves a couple points in forgiveness. In our own lives, whether you partake in the Christian narrative or whether you are just a human being on this planet dealing with other human beings, if you hold a grudge or if you hold onto anger, regardless of where your stance is in life . . . letting things go and also knowing how to forgive yourself for things that we sometimes do, and we’re like, I gotta let that go.
And then the other half of the story, which I love, is about failure and what it looks like when life doesn’t sort of amount to the thing that you wanted it to amount to. How do you of pick up the pieces and keep pushing forward? What does that look like to to run a race in life?
My father-in-law just passed away in April. Here’s a man who did the Crusades with Billy Graham. He got to preach in Martin Luther King’s church. He preached against anti-segregation in 1961, he had crosses burned in his front yard. This dude did amazing things. He was a multimillionaire because he took over this company called CostCut one point. Made a lot of money, lost all of it, had to bring groceries. You know, did another thing where he created a reading system, made a whole bunch of more money, lost all that money. And everyone was rattling off the stuff at the end of his life, this litany of like accomplishments, and none of it mattered.
But what mattered was there was a room filled with people who he just loved on and encouraged for 86 years of his life. And that was amazing. To me, the legacy that he left behind, it wasn’t money, it wasn’t some fancy corporation.
And so here we all are, trying to do our thing and trying to build legacies. But what is the real legacy that we’re trying to build? To me, that’s what’s interesting and that’s what the movie kind of talks about.
And if I can just be one of those people who sheds light and who just loves on people as I go through life, I think that’s the legacy I want to leave behind.
Running After What’s Important
Narrator: The movie’s message is steeped in the notion that when we trust God, He doesn’t always give us the answers we expect, but that He never leaves us while we’re running our own races. Tim goes on to express what he hopes people will get from seeing this movie, and he shares an excerpt from Jesus Calling that relates to his life and to the heart of what “running the race” is all about.
“As you come to Me and take My yoke upon you, I fill you with My very Life. This is how I choose to live in the world and accomplish My purposes. This is also how I bless you with Joy unspeakable and full of Glory. The Joy is Mine, and the Glory is Mine; but I bestow them on you as you live in My Presence—
The God of this universe, He loves you, He gave his best for you and you matter. You have significance, meaning, and purpose on this earth. There’s a reason you’re here. So run your race, but more importantly than trying to win, what are you running after? Run after Jesus, not away from Him, because He loves you. He loves you like crazy.
“The God of this universe, He loves you, He gave his best for you and you matter…You have significance, meaning, and purpose on this earth.” Tim Tebow
And that’s what this movie is all about. When people watch it, they’ll realize what it’s all about and what life’s all about: God’s love for us and what He did for us, and being able to run after what’s important, and that’s Jesus. So that’s why [this movie is] so special.
Narrator: Run the Race debuted in theaters in February 2019.
Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, we speak with entrepreneur and philanthropist Helena Cho. Helena is the CEO of Good Work(s) Make a Difference, a fashion-forward company that donates 25% of their profits to charitable organizations. Helena’s desire to “do good works” comes from her deep faith in God, which has sustained her through the toughest moments in her career.
Helena Cho: Now at early 30s. I was living the American Dream. I had buildings, I had houses. But in 2008 the market crashed. And the company that I’d built, that I’d never known failure since [I was] 25, it tumbled. [I was] completely bankrupt, lost everything. So in my desperateness, because I had no one, nowhere to go, I’m just lost and broken and broke, I kneel to God. I kneel to God.