Sarah Salter 

Sarah Salter is a graduate of Methodist College with a BA in English. An employee of the NC Church Education Ministries of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church (IPHC), her work has appeared in Methodist College’s Tapestry magazine and Evangel, the monthly magazine of the IPHC. She is a member of ACFW and is currently working on her first novel. Sarah travels regularly with short term medical mission teams, but makes her home in Central NC with her dog, Sadie. Visit her website at

The List

As much as I love books that take me to new and exotic locations, sometimes the best stories are the ones set close to home. I’m often drawn to books that take place in my region because I can settle into them and really enjoy them. I can easily visualize the landscape and hear the familiar drawls and brogues of Coastal Carolina. I’m a North Carolina girl all the way from the saltwater in my veins to my darlin’ Southern accent. So when my pastor mentioned The List by Robert Whitlow and I discovered that it was set in the Carolinas, written by a Carolina author, I rushed out to find a copy.

I wasn’t disappointed by The List. Whitlow’s book was filled with the familiar images I had hoped for. At the same time, it was much more than I expected: a powerful story of the lengths God will go to bring His children home.

Josiah Fletchall “Renny” Jacobson has spent his whole life trying to please his father, but since he can never quite seem to manage that, he figures that he’ll settle for being rich like his dad. Renny graduates law school, buys a Porsche he can’t afford, and begins practicing law at a prestigious Charlotte law firm. When his dad dies, Renny sees one last chance to receive some kind of love or acceptance from his father—in the form of his father’s large estate.

Renny returns home to Charleston to meet with the estate lawyer and learns his father donated everything to charities and churches. Once again, the only thing he seems to get from his father is rejection. H. L. Jacobson does leave one thing to his son: a membership in a secret society called The Covenant List of South Carolina, Ltd. Mr. Jacobson promises Renny that through this group, he will find incredible riches. Renny has never heard of them but is willing to do anything to get the money he believes he deserves.

One thing Renny doesn’t count on is meeting the beautiful Jo Taylor Johnston. Her father is also a recently deceased member of The List. She goes to the meeting of The List, hoping to learn more about the father who abandoned her years before. She is shut out of the group, but because Jo is a Christian, she quickly realizes that God is the only one who can fill her needs and heal her hurts.

Renny pledges himself to The List, signs the covenant, and seals it with his blood. What he doesn’t know is that he is a marked man. God the Father is seeking Renny, but so are the powers of darkness that are attached to the covenant. Renny is going to have to choose whom he is going to follow.

This book is obviously about the battle between good and evil. The spiritual warfare element is a large part of this book. As I read it, though, what struck me deepest was that above everything else, God the Father was longing for a relationship with his son Renny. God surrounds Renny with people like Jo, who have intimate relationships with Him. Though Renny had a religious upbringing, he sees something genuine and personal in the lives of the Christians he meets.

After I read The List I was eager to see the movie. I saw the excellent trailer at our church, so I was expecting a fantastic cinematic masterpiece. I tried to temper my hopes with the knowledge that it is impossible squeeze a 406-page novel into a 108-minute film.

The List was filmed in Wilmington, North Carolina, with a cast full of highly respected and talented Southern actors. The film crew was not only experienced, but also highly acclaimed. The movie was well acted, well directed, and the set was unbelievably gorgeous. It won three Crown Awards at the International Christian Visual Media Convention. However I couldn’t help but be disappointed at the overall product. I watched the movie, hoping to see in it the novel, but it was significantly different from the book.

The most glaring inconsistency was how the film neglected the salvation story. A large part of the first half of the novel was dedicated to presenting the gospel to Renny, but in the movie it was notoriously absent. A motion picture doesn’t necessarily have to have a gospel presentation to be labeled “Christian”; however, in The List, the entire premise hinges on Renny’s response to God. The problem is that the movie never shows us clearly that Renny has an experience with God. One thirty-second glimpse of Renny silently crying in a pew at a church can’t realistically replace Renny’s intricate and complex salvation journey he takes in the book.

After I watched this movie a second, third, and fourth time, I was still torn over how I felt. I ended up searching online to find out what director Gary Wheeler intended when he started the project. In an interview with Christians in Cinema (, he explained his motives: “Our goal all along was to drive people to the novel, because it contains the full measure of the Gospel in the sense that it contains the full Christian experience, and you could never convey that in a film. So if people go and watch the movie and pick up the book afterward, we’ve accomplished one of our goals.”

The List is an excellent book, which I highly recommend. I do not, however, recommend watching the movie in lieu of the book. Invest your time in the novel and enjoy the story of a heavenly Father’s intense love for His children and the sacrifices God’s children will make for the ones they love.

Sara Salter