John and Elizabeth Sherrill's books have now sold 50 million copies

By Dan Wooding

ANAHEIM, CA  (ANS) -- What do Corrie ten Boom, Brother Andrew and David Wilkerson have in common? The answer is they have all worked with John and Elizabeth Sherrill -- "God's Chosen Writers" -- who co-authored their best sellers, "The Hiding Place," "God's Smuggler" and "The Cross And The Switchblade."

This modest American couple have, however, stayed in the background for years and let their sparkling writing speak for them - and already some 50 million people around the world have now read these and their many other books. Now new readers can learn more about Elizabeth who has written a frank but compelling book about her life called, "All The Way To Heaven" (Baker Books).

Recently, the couple agreed, in a rare interview, to talk about their writing career and it was then that I learned that the Sherrills have served on the staff of Guideposts Magazine for fifty years and were founding publishers of Chosen Books.  (Pictured: John and Elizabeth Sherrill).

John then spoke about the fact that two of the three best sellers he and his wife have co-authored have been with Dutch people - Corrie ten Boom and Brother Andrew. 

"We have had a lot of experience with the Dutch and I was talking with someone recently about the Dutch personality because nearly all the people at Baker are Dutch out of Grand Rapids, and the Dutch people have an odd personality combination of being very open and friendly and very strict," he said. "I think that was true of Corrie ten Boom and also true of Brother Andrew. If they set their mind on something, there was no point in trying to change it. If there was real reason to change, they were very quick to change."

John then revealed a little-known part of Corrie's personality. "At the end of every day, she would get together with her helpers and say, 'What did I do today that got you mad?' And so the person would be honest and would tell her something like, 'Well, you spoke a bit sharply to me because I didn't have the salad at the table at the proper time.' Corrie would then say, 'That's very true' and she would begin to pray, 'Now Father, you know that is not all right; this is not acceptable. Father we would just ask you to take this away from my friend and make it possible for us both to go to sleep tonight with nothing on my minds. We give it to you. Don't let us go fishing for it.'"

He also recalled that much of the research for "God's Smuggler" was done with Brother Andrew lying flat on a couch. "He had injured his back in a plane crash and so this was the best way for him to work," said John.

John then revealed that with both Brother Andrew and Corrie Ten Boom, raised the question of how much about "speaking in tongues" and the Charismatic movement, should be in the books.

"In both cases -- and this is not backing away -- we said, 'Let's allow the story tell that how the Holy Spirit moved in power, and not put a lots of tags on the experience.'"

John said that it was a different matter with David Wilkerson, with whom they wrote "The Cross And The Switchblade." 

He went on, "David felt differently. He wanted us to talk about speaking in tongues," he said. "So at the end of the book we did just that.

"The book was published in various languages around the world, one of them was in a Scandinavian language. Everywhere else sales for 'The Cross And The Switchblade' were phenomenal but not in this country. One day, David got a letter from someone a friend in that country saying that the Scandinavian publisher had left out the part about the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues. So David, being David, got in touch with the publisher and said, 'That won't do. I want you to pull that edition and republish it as was in the original.' And they had to because they were in violation of the contract otherwise. After they made this change, the sales went sailing through the roof."

I then asked him if he and his wife had written these kind of books today, would they would be published?

"We have asked ourselves that same thing," he said. "I don't think books take off and do well or don't do well depending just on the quality of the writing. I think it depends on catching something that is in the air - that people need. You can do a careless job or a careful job. I think all three of these books did catch something that people needed at that time and we really were careful with our work and so they hopefully they had that combination.

"That may be one reason why they have lasted for a long time and have sold 50 millions copies. It is my opinion that Tib's [Elizabeth's] new book, 'All the Way to Heaven' does exactly the same thing. It helps people see that no matter how horrendous life is, heaven is at hand."  (Pictured: Elizabeth Sherrill with cover of her new book).

I concluded the interview by asking John Sherrill about what advice he would give to a new writer today?

"Just don't give up. Writing is such a long, hard road and today almost every would-be full time writer needs to start by being on staff somewhere," he said. "So find a job in a place where you will do a lot of writing. It's certainly possible to do. There's always a heavy turnover and just keep knocking on doors until you get that job, so that you can earn a living while you are learning."


Now a new generation of readers is discovering the classic writing style of the Sherrills when "The Narrow Road" which features the original text of "God's Smuggler," the best-selling Christian classic written by Brother Andrew and the Sherrills in 1967, was given the 2002 Gold Medallion in the youth category at the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) banquet in Anaheim, California.

"The Narrow Road," which is published by Fleming H. Revell, a division of Baker Book House, has sold some 70,000 copies since its release in October 2001. The book was nominated along with four other books in the youth category. Each year, publishers submit hundreds of entries spanning 20 categories. Those selected were not based upon sales, but rather a rigorous evaluation of four factors: content, literary quality, design and significance of contribution. From the five finalists in each category, a panel of reviewers composed of editors; ministry leaders and selected retailers choose one winner. The Gold Medallion is known for being one of the Christian book industry's most prestigious awards.

The book is a joint effort of Brother Andrew, founder of Open Doors - a ministry to the Persecuted Church around the world - and Jars of Clay - a Grammy award-winning Christian band. "The Narrow Road" was inspired after Jars of Clay took a trip with Open Doors to Vietnam to meet and witness first hand what persecuted Christians experience on a daily basis. 

Dan Haseltine, lead singer for Jars of Clay, wrote the foreword for "The Narrow Road." The band has also offered their song "This Road" as an anthem of solidarity for Christians worldwide. A CD ROM of the song is found in back of the book.

It's now time for many other younger people to discover these Christian classics that changed a generation and keep on inspiring us to do great things for God.

Even as we spoke, John Sherrill's face shone as he said, "The kids are lining up at the Baker Book House booth to get the Jars of Clay signature in the book."

Dan Wooding is an award winning British journalist now living in Southern California with his wife Norma. He is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times). Wooding is also a syndicated columnist, and was for ten years a commentator on the UPI Radio Network in Washington, DC. Wooding is the author of some 41 books.  ASSIST USA office at PO Box 2126, Garden Grove, CA 92842-2126. His writings are on the ASSIST Website at: www.assistnews.net. 

ASSIST News Service (ANS) - PO Box 2126, Garden Grove, CA 92842-2126 USA 
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