Filmmaker Jimmy Jenkins
BY RAVEN JOY SHONEL, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG — Even though it was a Friday night, Mt. Zion Progressive Missionary Baptist Church’s pews were overflowing to learn more about the Bible in a cinematic fashion. Writer and director Jimmy Jenkins was in town to screen the Florida premiere of his film “Sinners Wanted.”
While in Houston for a conference last year, Senior Pastor Rev. Louis Murphy Sr. and Youth Pastor Shawn Thomas met the aspiring young filmmaker. Jenkins talked about a religious film he wanted to make that would entice the younger generation to go to church.
“I’m always one for being an encourager, and low and behold he done did it,” Rev. Murphy said.
And Jenkins did it up! “Sinners Wanted” stars Lamman Rucker of “Greenleaf” fame, veteran actor Clifton Powell and even social commentator Roland Martin made a cameo appearance.
Jenkins warned the congregation before the movie started that it was about a prostitute.
“Now listen, don’t get mad at me. I take it right out the Bible,” he said, encouraging everyone to go to the book of Hosea. “You guys understand that 70 percent of my generation don’t go to church.”
Jenkins explained that the younger generation is too busy on social media or Netflix to take the time and understand what the Bible is really teaching. He feels that if there are films out there that spoke to this generation, they would be willing to learn and understand the Word of God.
He said he feels God put him on this earth to take Bible stories and transform them into present-day relatable example of God’s Word.
The independent 28-year-old filmmaker quit a good paying job working at Tyler Perry Studios to break out on his own. His father told him he wasn’t going to cover his bills, but he had a message from God that was larger than any paycheck.
“I know when he told me, he said, ‘I need you in my army.’ And at the end of the day, Tyler Perry was great, but it’s not the gospel. I’m here on this earth to present the gospel.”
“Sinners Wanted” is about how an unconventional pastor is ridiculed by his hypocritical church congregation after he rescues and marries a prostitute.
Jenkins wanted to illustrate how people can be hurt by church, highlighting how many of them have forgotten all about the gospel.
“The majority of the churches today aren’t necessarily good, he said. “So you can’t let your experiences in a bad church mess up your relationship with the Father.”
He instructed the congregation to go to the book of Revelation and count the churches.
“There were seven,” he pointed out.” Out of that seven, how many were good? Four! So what does that say? Revelations isn’t nothing but a prophecy of the day.
Jenkins grew up in church his entire life. His father, Pastor John K. Jenkins, has one of the most prominent churches in Washington, D.C. There he witnessed firsthand the cruelty within its hallowed walls. Some of his closes friends stopped believing because of how they were treated.
“We really have to understand God’s Word,” he said. “God tells us there’s going to be bad churches. Beware. Be able to decipher it.”
The congregation fell in love with the wise beyond his years Jenkins and the 90-minute film.
In the fall, he plans to have “Sinner Wanted” in theaters across the country in select cities. He’s asking for both sinners and saints to pack the theaters so more films of this nature will be produced.
“Hollywood does not think there’s a platform for African-American faith-based films, like this,” Jenkins said. “They’re not creating platforms. So I said, ‘I’m going to do them myself.’ I’m going to tell the gospel like it’s never been done before. I just need y’all to have my back. Please have my back as we go on this journey.”
The film has only been shown in five cities around the country. When it made its Washington, D.C., debut, it beat out “Us” and “Captain Marvel.” Jenkins chalked it up to a yearning for the gospel and the need to see the black people in God-filled content.
Visit sinnerswanted.com to learn more about the film.