A prolific author of more than 60 nonfiction books, LaHaye ventured into fiction in the early 90’s, concepting the framework from which his co-author Jerry B. Jenkins wrote the blockbuster Left Behind series (Tyndale House Publishers) which has sold nearly 70 million copies since its release in 1995. The books became a phenomena and placed the authors on covers of national magazines from Time to Newsweek, and front pages of the New York Times and other leading newspapers.
“The news of Tim’s home-going prompted a prayer of gratitude for Tim and Jerry, their amazing publishing team, and the vast collaborative effort that will impact generations beyond our lifetimes,” Christian said, indicating the books sparked many thousands of letters and several films. “We’ll all look forward to meeting the legion of readers and viewers who are in the Kingdom because of their work.”
Recalling a Breckenridge ski trip with LaHaye back in 1991, soon after he signed with Alive, Christian said, “As we sat around the lodge fire after dinner, I asked Tim about ideas that sparked his imagination at that stage of his life. He told me he just wanted to tell people about Jesus. And then for the next half hour this lifelong prophecy expert, then 65, talked animatedly about an idea for a novel he called Left Behind. The rest is history.”
In a poignant tribute to LaHaye, Jenkins wrote, “When our mutual literary agent, Rick Christian, introduced Tim and me in the early 1990s, we hit it off. He was my mother’s age, and we quickly formed a respectful father/son dynamic. He never tired of my embellishment of Rick’s initial phone call, where I claimed he told me, “Dr. LaHaye is a best-selling nonfiction writer with a great fiction idea, and you’re a novelist with no ideas, so. . . .”
Christianity Today included Left Behind in a ranking of the top 50 books that have shaped evangelicalism. “LaHaye and co-author Jerry Jenkins not only had readers rethinking the rapture, but also the potential popularity of Christian novels,” the magazine reported.
Their first book launched a 12-novel series, plus prequels and sequels and parallel young adult books that birthed a publishing empire and a new set of rules for Christian fiction. Christianity Today reported the series spent a total of 300 weeks—nearly as long as the Tribulation it dramatized—on The New York Times bestseller list. Many debuted in the #1 slot on release there, and simultaneously in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Publishers Weekly, and even bumped John Grisham from his long-standing annual run as the best-selling novelist of the year. No other Christian novels or series have sold more copies.
A generous philanthropist, LaHaye earned his Bachelor’s Degree from Bob Jones University. He was also awarded a Doctor of Ministry degree from Western Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Literature degree from Liberty University.
Along with his own eponymously named ministry, he founded two accredited Christian high schools in San Diego, a school system there of 10 Christian schools, San Diego Christian College (formerly Christian Heritage College), the Tim LaHaye School of Prophecy at Liberty University, and also assisted Dr. Henry Morris in the founding of the Institute for Creation Research, arguably the nation’s leading proponent of creationist materials. Prior to that, he pastored churches in South Carolina and Minnesota before settling his family in San Diego, where he led Scott Memorial Baptist Church for 25 years, growing it to three locations, including what is now Shadow Mountain Community Church under David Jeremiah’s leadership.
In addition to his wife Beverly of 69 years, LaHaye is survived by four children; nine grandchildren; 16 great grandchildren; a brother, Richard LaHaye; and a sister, Margaret White.
Services will be held August 12, 10 am, at Shadow Mountain Church, El Cajon, CA.
Click here to read Rick Christian’s account of how the Left Behind series came to be.
Click here to read Christianity Today’s obituary.