Are your kids enthusiastic about the Bible? Today’s guests think the Bible should be ANYTHING but boring! In their new book, Kirby McCook and the Jesus Chronicles: A 12-Year-Old’s Take on the Totally Unboring, Slightly Weird Stuff in the Bible, Including Fish Guts, Wrestling Moves, and Stinky Feet , authors Stephen Arterburn M. ED. and Marcus Brotherton take aim at middle-grade schoolers! With humor, they help teach kids that Jesus has been part of the story from the beginning and can be found throughout the Bible, from Genesis through Revelation.
Transcribed version of podcast is below.
Today’s Scripture Writing Challenge Verse
- Galatians 2:20
Resources Mentioned in Podcast
- Kirby McCook and the Jesus Chronicles: A 12-Year-Old’s Take on the Totally Unboring, Slightly Weird Stuff in the Bible, Including Fish Guts, Wrestling Moves, and Stinky Feet
- Find it on Audible
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Marcus Brotherton is a New York Times bestselling author and collaborative writer known for his books with high-profile public figures, humanitarians, inspirational leaders, and military personnel.
Claton Butcher is an audiobook narrator, voice-over artist, and music pastor, with over 80 audiobooks to his credit. He has studied under some of today’s best and most prolific narrators, including Scott Brick, Sean Pratt, and Johnny Heller. He is also the founder of Two Words Publishing. Claton and his biggest fans: his wife, and their daughter – born in 2016 – live in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota.
[Heidi] Hey everybody, this is Heidi St. John. Welcome to the Heidi St. John podcast. Today is Friday, November 8th. This is episode number 842. It is, meet my friend Friday, and I’ve got two guys on the show today that you guys are going to love. If you’ve got kids in your home from the ages of eight to 12, and you want to encourage them to walk with The Lord, you’re going to love this one.
Stick around. I think you’re going to be encouraged.
All right you guys, so thanks for joining me today in my little corner of the internet. I want to encourage you, for those of you who have been following me at MomStrong International, we are at the beginning of a brand new Bible study over there, MomStrongInternational.com and we’re studying contentment for the whole month of November. We figured it’s a great time to study that heading into the holiday season. Speaking of the holiday seasons, Christmas card palooza is in full swing at Firmly Planted Family. We’d love to hear from you. Please send us your Christmas cards and pictures of your family. We would love to just put faces to the names of the people that we’ve been praying for, for a long time around here.
All right. Without further ado, I’m very excited today because I’ve got two guys on the show with me today who have never been on the show before. They share the same passion that I do for training up the next generation of kids to walk with and serve The Lord Jesus. Really what we’re trying to do is train up disciples, the next generation of disciples. I think you guys are going to be really excited to interact with them today. Marcus Brotherton is on the show. Marcus and I have a little bit of history which we’ll get into later. He is a New York Times bestselling author.
Also, Claton Butcher on the show. They have a brand new book out today. Marcus has been a collaborative writer known for his books with high profile public figures, and humanitarians and military personnel. Claton is an audiobook narrator with over 80 audio books to his credit. Though he occasionally gets behind the mic for special projects, most of his time is invested in running the audio book publishing companies he founded with his wife, Two Words Publishing and Black Hills Audio Books. Claton and his young daughter and his wife live in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota. You guys, I’m excited about this. We decided to do something a little bit different today and started off with a clip from his audiobook. Hang in there. Here we go.
[Claton] Okay. You need to know that one of the grossest most feared diseases in those days was called leprosy. The disease caused a person to lose feeling throughout the body, so people would cut themselves and not know it or step into a fire without noticing and just let it burn till their foot smelled like barbecued monkey meat, or they’d break an ankle, but just keep walking on it until it filled with pus.
[Heidi] Claton and Marcus, welcome to the podcast.
[Marcus ] Thanks, Heidi. It’s great to be here.
[Claton] Thank you. It’s great to be here.
[Heidi] That’s gross. That was a pretty gross way to introduce you guys and Kirby McCook and the Jesus Chronicles, but you’re really trying to get a hold of eight to 12 year old kids, and get them interested in Jesus. Right? Which is why you’ve started writing Kirby McCook. Marcus, first of all, I’m going to start with you and then we’ll move over to Claton a little bit. You and I have known each other for a while, so with full disclosure, I thought it’d be fun for you to say what is our long and storied history. Go, I’ll let you go. I want to hear what you have to say actually. This will be fun. I will put mic on mute while you talk.
[Marcus ] It’s all good, it’s all good. Heidi and I have known each other since college days. I don’t know, do we want to put a year by that, Heidi?
[Heidi] Well, yeah, it’s like the late ’80s.
[Marcus ] Yeah, before the days of podcasting anyways.
[Heidi] Before email, Before the internet. Yeah, all that stuff.
[Marcus ] I was actually at your guys’ wedding in, was it ’89?
[Heidi] Yes. Yep.
[Marcus ] Yeah. Heidi’s husband, Jay and I, we were in a rock and roll band.
[Heidi] Woot, woot!
[Marcus ] When you’re in college you have to play rock and roll. We both had really sweet mullets and ripped jeans, before they were sort of mainstream. Yeah. Heidi and Jay, I’m going to tell some nice stories on you guys actually, because there’s a lot of places I could go on that one. The thing that your readers really need to know is that Heidi and Jay do a ton of work behind the scenes with people, I don’t know, I guess your readers and listeners really don’t know about. We have mutual friends in common and I know for a fact that Heidi and Jay just put a lot of time into loving and supporting people when they’re going through hard times. They are rock solid people. When it comes to Heidi and Jay, they are it. They’re the true deals. Yeah. Good stuff, Heidi. Glad you’re doing that.
[Heidi] Thank you. I’ll give you your 20 bucks later. That was amazing. Thank you so much. Well, it’s fun because I’ve been watching you really … I mean, obviously when we knew each other way back when because Jay and I just celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary, which is just crazy. I mean, I wasn’t planning on being a writer. Were you planning on being a writer?
[Marcus ] That’s a great question. My dad was a pastor and my mother was a newspaper journalist. I’d kind of grown up in this world of God, and faith, and words and how do you put them all together. When I was in college, I was doing the journalism track there at Multnomah. I had writing in mind. I wasn’t sure where that would go or how do you become a writer. I think that’s the big question a lot of people have. Yeah.
[Heidi] Right, yep.
[Marcus ] Right out of college and through grad school I worked as a youth director at a church and thought for a while that maybe pastoral ministry was going to be my destination. I came to be, I don’t know, 30 or 31 years old, and just went, it is time to write. Switched careers basically and started working as a newspaper reporter. That’s where I really learned the craft and banged it around in the trenches there.
[Heidi] Yeah, that is amazing. You are now in a project that I was actually kind of surprised to see you doing, because I didn’t anticipate you getting into writing for kids, but you’re doing this with Claton. Claton, you’re on the show today. Welcome, welcome. I’m glad that you’re here.
[Claton] Thank you. Glad to be here.
[Heidi] How do you know Marcus? Let’s just back up a little because this is helpful for me. You guys met how?
[Claton] Basically I stalked him on Facebook after the book was about to release. He was kind enough to respond and was able to … As the audio book publisher, we don’t see a lot of the impact that the books have that go to the authors, like the emails that are sent into the authors, if that makes sense. I was asking him, hey, I saw him post about it that there were a lot of awesome stories of how this was really impacting families. I said, “Could you pass some of those on, because we would love to hear that?” He was kind enough to do that. Then we started talking about the book a little bit and said, “I would love to get in with homeschooling families, because I think this is a great way to tie that in with what families are doing in training their kids.”
[Heidi] Yeah. So important and really more important now than it’s ever been. I mean, you’d argue that the culture has been messed up for a long time, but we’re watching it change very, very rapidly right now. I’m so encouraged when I see men in particular really get in there and try to do things that are geared at getting young people interested in the things of the Bible and the stories of the Bible. You guys have a collab. Kirby McCook and the Jesus Chronicles, I love this title. It’s really long though, right? A 12 year olds take on the totally un-boring, slightly weird stuff in the Bible, including fish guts, wrestling moves and stinky feet. Marcus, you’re not known for this. You’re known for like military nonfiction, hanging out with the greatest generation, all that stuff. Why did you ever decide to write a children’s book?
[Marcus ] That is a great question. It’s so off brand for me. It’s like the East from the West, I don’t know. Over the years, yeah, I worked with Band of Brothers, and the Marines featured in the Pacific, and Gary Sinise who runs the Gary Sinise Foundation, and just sort of all these military projects. It was my own kids who really drove me to do a kid’s book.
[Heidi] Kids will do that.
[Marcus ] Kids will do that. They’re just so blunt in their approach. We’ve got three kids, two girls and a boy, and they’re ages 16, 11 and six right now. A 10 year age spread, that’s probably a podcast, by the way, how do you parent kids from a 10 year age spread. The two older kids in particular, for years, they were just sort of on me and this was their literal line. They would say, “Dad, when are you going to stop writing all those boring books for grownups and write something that us kids are going to enjoy?” One day I thought, let’s just do it. Let’s just write a kid’s book. What should I write about? I can write about anything, birthday parties or video games. I want to write about Jesus. Is it third John I think, 3 John 1:4 says, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are following the truth.”
That’s really what I wanted to impress upon my kids, that their faith is important, and that Jesus is the life, and that Jesus can be to them, and I would use this word very reverently, Jesus can be the true superhero that they can follow, and marvel at, and emulate and ultimately live for.
[Heidi] Yeah, that’s totally right. The title, which I just read, one of the longest titles ever in the history of titles. Right?
[Marcus ] Yeah.
[Heidi] What were you thinking, dude? I think it’s great because I’ve got a six year old grandson now and I’m telling you, I read that to him and he is just going to be like, “Yeah, where is it? Stinky feet.” How did you come up with the title?
[Marcus ] Kirby McCook and the Jesus Chronicles is kind of the short version title, and then that subtitle that just goes on forever that nobody’s going to remember, but it’s really funny, but it came about, we had called it something different. The team at Tyndale, they’re just amazing, and we all sort of got together and said, “What is this book really about?” What was great about the team at Tyndale is they really caught the vision from moment one. They said, “It’s parents and grandparents who kind of buy the book, but it’s the kids who actually read it and get into it or have the book read to them,” so the book has really going to appeal to the kids themselves intrinsically. They went, “Let’s go over the top on this. Let’s make it really funny and fun and appeal to kids.” That’s how that title came up.
[Heidi] I love it. We share a publisher. I’ve been working with Tyndale for several years now. Love those guys. Love their heart to see the gospel saturated in the culture through media. Claton, I know that you are the producer for the audio version of the book. Talk about how Kirby McCook became a passion project for you.
[Claton] One of the reasons that my wife and I started this company a few years ago, was to expand the reach of the gospel and strengthen the church. We have a special emphasis, especially at the time on kind of filling gaps in the Christian audio book publishing industry. One of those glaring gaps that Kirby meets is in the children’s space. There’s very few audiobook options for Christian kids that are God honoring titles that actually teach kids…
[Heidi] That they are interested interesting…
[Claton] Right, that they’re going to actually listen to and enjoy.
[Claton] That’s our heart, where we came from, why we started this Two Words publishing. I meet with publishers to look at different books and things. Recently I met with a publisher and we talked about how we need to ask the question, how are you going to reach my kids or grandkids with the gospel. That really resonated with us, especially with the heart that we have and why we started at the publishing company. We started keeping our eyes open for that. Then it had, actually may have been at the same conference that I met with Tyndale. We’re talking about that and they said, “Oh, how about this book?” We looked at it and Kirby McCook obviously the cover, I don’t know if listeners are able to see the cover, but that’s…
[Heidi] Oh, we’ll link back to the show notes. It’s great.
[Claton] Awesome. Yes, it is really just a great book. It really jumped out at me partially because I had no idea who MD Brotherton was, which is how he’s listed on the book. Sorry about that, Marcus. Stephen Arterburn and I was so much familiar with and thought, oh, this has got to be really solid. Well, it’s coming from Tyndale, so it’s going to be solid biblically.
[Heidi] That’s right. For those people who are listening who don’t know Steve Arterburn, can you introduce listeners to him because he wrote the book together with Marcus, correct?
[Marcus ] Yeah. So Steve and I share the same agent and Steve has a 12 year old son himself. Steve and I were talking one day just sort of comparing notes. He’d done several specialty Bibles over the years. He’s just has a really big heart for kids and he had a big heart for this project just from moment one. Steve used to be a fifth grade teacher before he became a radio personality and sort of a famous author. He’s got a really good relatability fact with kids and he was the one who suggested just making this book as funny as possible.
In fact, he came up with the title, the chapter title idea. Jesus put the mag in magnificent, which I just thought was brilliant.
[Heidi] That’s awesome.
[Marcus ] Yeah, so Steve and I were talking as well, and there’s kind of a bigger vision here that we’re not too old to remember when we were kids ourselves, and we were involved in various children’s programs, Sunday school, and VBS, and children’s church, and Christmas programs, and on and on and on.
[Claton] Back when flannel graphs were the way to go, right?
[Heidi] Mm-hmm. Amen.
[Marcus ] Yeah.
[Heidi] Don’t knock the flannel graph. Okay?
[Marcus ] I loved the flannel graph.
[Claton] I grew up with them too.
[Heidi] Bring it back.
[Marcus ] Right. We’ve all been in those programs and we can kind of remember, some are really great and they’re really terrific. Then some of them are sort of less than excellent. As grownups, we wanted to make sure that we never presented the word of God to children in a, I don’t know, a slipshod or boring manner. Steve in particular is really big on, if you’re involved in children’s ministry, bring your A game. I mean, make this a great thing for kids. Don’t waste kids’ time as much as anything or don’t make the gospel a boring thing.
[Heidi] It’s so important too, because I think we see this in the church. It’s kind of a sickness in the church. We’re putting all this money and all this effort into big church and a grownup church. Then we sort of relegate kids to, oh, here’s your 45 minutes downstairs in the basement. Really, we need to be focused, laser focused on discipling our children. You guys have been very intentional about not just teaching information, but discipling kids also, which is a huge theme here at the podcast. I’m curious about what discipleship means to you and how do you hope that this book is going to help parents encourage their kids to be disciples of Jesus.
[Marcus ] I mean, the information is part of it. We definitely want kids to know about Jesus and about the events in His life, but it is key that we are trying to teach so much more than that. We want to inspire kids in their faith because children can draw close to God and they can live in light of God’s holiness, His sovereignty and His grace. When we use that word, discipleship, what does that even mean? It’s like Jesus said to His first disciples, His first followers, He said, “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”
There’s really three key parts of that. The follow me, is following Jesus. It’s having a relationship with Him. It’s knowing Jesus as a person, what He was about, who He was, what He taught, particularly how Jesus invited people to have an abundant life. Then the “I will make you” is it’s this idea of being transformed by Jesus. When we follow Jesus, our lives aren’t the same. Then fishers of men, come follow me, I will make you fishers of men, is the idea of living with purpose in mind. When we become disciples, we live deliberately. We become disciples who make other disciples. Ultimately we want to love God. We want to love people. That’s what it’s all about and that’s what we hope to get across in this book.
[Heidi] I love it. We know that because we’re watching with keen interest, I know this is one of the things I talk about here at the show all the time, is this importance of bringing kids into God’s story because they are a part of His story. They’re part of history which is God’s unfolding plan that we’ve been seeing happening around us and has been going on since the creation of the world. You’re giving a really unique opportunity for kids to kind of enter into that story. You’ve made it laugh out loud funny. I mean, I love the clip that we played because who doesn’t want to talk about leprosy in that way? Right? When you think about drawing kids in, and bringing your A game and making it funny, did you feel any apprehension at all about combining the stories of Jesus with humor?
[Marcus ] Oh absolutely. I think anytime you use humor you run a risk of being, I don’t know, misunderstood or sort of going over the top, whatever, but kids love humor, and so we wanted the kids to intrinsically want to read the book. Yeah. I don’t know. For instance, in the book we talked about how God came to Moses in the wilderness and Moses was told to go to Pharaoh in Egypt and say, “Let my people go.” We talk about how Moses was hesitant to do that. He answers back to God. He answers something like, “Okay, I’ll go, but I’m not much of a talker, Lord. I’ve been out with sheep in the past 40 years, and about all I can say anymore is, baaa.” Will people get that? I don’t know. Yeah.
[Heidi] Well, and honestly, if you think about it, again I was looking at the cover and how just very artistic and fun. It has almost a comic book appeal to it. We can’t help but think about Veggie Tales. It doesn’t matter where I go, and I speak all over the nation, I will often say, I’ll stop in the middle of something and I’ll say, “Hey, you guys, let’s not forget, God made you special.” 99% of the audience will go, they’ll say, “And He loves you very much.” Why? Because Phil Vischer was able to use humor to drive home the point that God loves you. That’s really what you’re doing. I mean that’s what I see you doing is really encouraging kids, by writing a story that’s going to draw them in.
Really you’re giving parents a tool. This is what, Mom and Dad, I want you guys to hear this because we talk about this all the time on the show. We want to put in front of our kids things that are going to draw them in and show the magnificence and the love and the power of Jesus. This does that so well and so beautifully. I thought it was interesting too, and Claton, this question is for you, you guys were able to get a really awesome voice actor to play the part of Kirby for the audiobook. This is the same guy that voices Diary of a Wimpy Kid. What was it like to work … Is it Ramon? That’s his name?
[Claton] Ramon, yep.
[Heidi] What was it like to work with him?
[Claton] Ramon is awesome. He’s definitely a professional. He’s been the narrator of the year multiple times and a whole bunch of other awards. When I cast him, I didn’t realize that he was the Diary of a Wimpy Kid narrator. I, for some reason, hadn’t put that together, but I thought, okay, this is the guy that I need for this book. He’s awesome. He can relate to kids. Kids can relate to his voice. It was such a smooth process.
[Heidi] He’s got the voice that draws you in. When kids listen to this, I always love it when my kids are listening to something that I can tell that it’s interesting to them, because they lean in. You can tell that they’re just like, ooh, can’t wait for the next thing, and this has that feel to it.
[Claton] It does. It does. We really wanted to, like Marcus said, to bring our A game to this. This is the first kid’s book that we’ve done to try to meet that need in parents’ and kids’ lives. We wanted to go all out. We got Ramon and he definitely didn’t disappoint, I should say.
[Heidi] That’s awesome. That’s so cool, Marcus. I understand that, speaking of going all out, you guys are getting some pretty cool feedback from the book so far. Different age groups of readers are emailing you. They’re saying they love the book and they love it for different reasons. Can you speak to that for just a minute?
[Marcus ] It’s been really cool, Heidi. You’re an author and you put books out there to the world. There’s all sorts of things you can do like beforehand, you get your sort of cloistered market of early readers and whatnot, and how is that book going to be perceived by other people, but they can sort of only tell you so much. Really the book has just got to be published and it’s got to go out there. You really need to hear from actual readers. The response has been fantastic so far. It’s been kind of different, kind of all over and different age groups. We had a mother who wrote us and said, “I got this for my kid, and then I found I was reading it myself, because there’s like things that I didn’t know about Jesus in it.”
This pastor in Vermont, he wrote us and he said that he had picked it up for his family. Vermont is a pretty unchurched area these days. He said, yeah, he’s like giving it to everybody he knows. It’s kind of on everybody’s Christmas list for this year. We had a grandmother in Colorado read it for her grandson, and then she turned around and she ordered like 20 copies for all the youth pastors that she knew.
[Heidi] That’s awesome.
[Marcus ] We had a principal of a middle school up in Canada who had picked it up and he immediately ordered a copy for like every student in a school. He was so excited about it. Yeah, it’s finding its way in some pretty cool places.
[Heidi] That’s really awesome. Someone said it’s like Captain Underpants meets the Bible, only reverent. I love that. You’re bringing kids into this story of Jesus with humor. You’re teaching kids that Jesus had been a part of the story from the beginning, and He can be found throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, which is something that parents really have I think a hard time communicating to their kids, like how can you see Jesus woven throughout scripture and He’s there. He’s there. You’re doing a great job with this book.
I got one other question for you. Well, actually I’ve got two other questions. I’ll start with the big one. For parents who are listening to this and grandparents who are going, man, this sounds like something my kids would love and make a great Christmas gift, where can they find Kirby McCook and the Jesus Chronicles?
[Marcus ] On Amazon, it’s there on Barnes and Noble, on the Tyndale website. Just type in keyword, Kirby McCook and the Jesus Chronicles. You’ll find it there or ask for it at a bookstore near you.
[Heidi] You guys have the audio version, which is super fun, is out. The best place to get that is at Audible. Is that right, Claton?
[Claton] Yeah, so Audible.com/TwoWordsPublishing. You can get to it at TwoWordsPublishing.com as well.
[Heidi] I will link that for those of you who are listening and you’re driving or you’re in the shower. I know you guys are listening in the shower, because you’re always emailing me, telling me how you’re washing your hair while you’re … I will link back to these things in the show notes today. Rinse your hair and everything will be fine. We will link to where they can find the book on Audible and also an Amazon, Barnes and Noble, basically anywhere that books are sold. I’m really curious to know, is this the one and only, or are you guys thinking you might make a series out of it?
[Marcus ] Well, we’d love to make a series. Yeah. That’d be great. It depends on reader response.
[Heidi] Yeah. Right. It always depends on reader response. Well, I’m really excited about this. I think we need more great books for kids. There’s so many. I mean you guys, oh my goodness, go to the library. There are so many books out there right now, they’re harming our kids and bringing messages that are not true and they’re hurting our kids. You guys have said, “Hey, we’re going to make something that’s not only interesting and fun and fantastic to listen to, but it shares the truth of the world as seen through the eyes of Jesus.” That includes some slightly weird stuff and fish guts and wrestling moves and stinky feet. I think it’s awesome.
[Marcus ] Thank you.
[Heidi] For more information on Kirby McCook and the Jesus Chronicles, I’m going to link back to all things Kirby McCook in the show notes today, including a picture of the cover of this book, because you guys are going to love it. If you’ve got kids that range in age from about eight to 12 years old, I hope you guys will check it out. I’ll link back to it in the show notes today. We need to do a better job of discipling our kids. Claton and Marcus, I’m really happy to see such amazing men and professionals jumping into the market and helping us reach this next generation. Thank you so much for coming on the show.
[Marcus ] Thank you.
[Claton] Thanks so much.
[Heidi] For more information on Kirby McCook and the Jesus Chronicles, visit me online at heidistjohn.com/podcast. I appreciate you guys listening. As always, we’d love it when you leave reviews for the podcast over at iTunes. Be sure to check out the brand new Bible study at MomStrong International, which just began. On Monday, we’re going to study the topic of contentment. Thank you so much for listening everybody. I’ll be answering your questions at Mailbox Monday, on November 11th. See you then. Have a great weekend.
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Heidi St. John
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