Tim LaHaye, best known for the Left Behind series of apocalyptic Christian novels, died Monday in San Diego, Calif. after suffering from a stroke. He was 90.
LaHaye and coauthor Jerry B. Jenkins began the series in 1995 with Left Behind, intending it to be a stand-alone novel. Sixteen books and dozens of ancillary products later, sales total over 80 million copies, according to publisher Tyndale House.
“At the height of its sales, the revenue from the Left Behind series represented more than 50 percent of our total sales revenue,” said Mark D. Taylor, chairman and CEO of Tyndale.
Many others in the book industry profited as well. “Sales of the series helped thousands of Christian bookstores thrive during a period when they were facing increased competition from big-box stores and from Internet-based sellers,” said Taylor.
Dan Balow, who served as director of business development for the Left Behind series, cited the lasting impact LaHaye had on the religion publishing industry. “I believe Left Behind showed that the sales potential for Christian fiction went far beyond what most people thought,” he told PW.
Left Behind’s huge sales and LaHaye himself were game-changers for Tyndale House. The company has been able to pay out nearly $50 million to its non-profit Tyndale House Foundation, which provides grants to Christian ministries around the world. “The success of the Left Behind series helped put us on firm financial footing that has allowed us to give away most of the company’s earnings over the past 20 years,” said Taylor.
LaHaye’s 1966 book Spirit-Controlled Temperament was the first trade book released by the fledgling company, making LaHaye part of Tyndale for nearly its entire history, according to Taylor. Seven titles in the series reached #1 on New York Times, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists. The series ended in 2006.
LaHaye, who was also founder and president of Tim LaHaye Ministries, wrote more than 60 nonfiction titles, including Bible Prophecy for Everyone: What You Need to Know About the End Times (Harvest House, new edition 2016) and The Book of Revelation Made Clear: A Down-to-Earth Guide to Understanding the Most Mysterious Book of the Bible (Thomas Nelson, 2014). Total sales for his nonfiction tops 14 million in 32 languages. His other novels include The End Series with Craig Parshall (Zondervan).
Left Behind co-author Jenkins told PW, “Dr. LaHaye had been preaching, teaching and writing nonfiction books on the End Times since before I was born. I was merely the novelist; he was the theologian, scholar, and prophecy expert.”
Jenkins said LaHaye was humble, self-effacing, and caring. “He was a model to me as a husband, a cheerful giver, and an unapologetic sharer of his faith. He treated everyone the same, from service staff to political leaders. He listened and cared.”
LaHaye is survived by his wife Beverly, founder of Concerned Women for America, four children, and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.