Aug. 14—JACKSONVILLE — Bryan Dunaway, 48, said his brief messages about faith took off online when his son, Dylan, 23, began helping him.
The Jacksonville residents found an audience far beyond Calhoun County and Alabama.
"Dylan began posting my three-minute sermons on TikTok three months ago," Dunaway said. "Now we have more than 71,000 people who listen to them regularly, and we have received more than 9.1 million views."
The sermons can be found on Dunaway's website, www.dewaynedunaway.com, or by searching online for the DeWayne Dunaway Show. Online, Dunaway goes by DeWayne, partly because he likes his middle name and partly because it gives his ministry an identity of its own.
Dylan said when he saw his father's sermons that he occasionally posted on Facebook, he decided to use his newly acquired, online-marketing skills on TikTok, a website that features short videos that anyone can create and share. Now, he is posting three sermons daily. Also, he posts them on Spotify, an audio platform, and YouTube, which Dunaway uses to teach longer sermons.
"A lot of people comment on my messages," Dunaway said, "both positive and negative. We get about 7,000 comments on TikTok each week. It's the positive comments that keep me going."
He described how one listener commented that she cried when she heard him saying how simple the Bible's message is. Others have told him their lives have changed for the better.
Dylan keeps up with the numbers and said a rough estimate of the positive versus negative comments is about 50/50, numbers that do not concern Dunaway.
"I'm more interested in the message," he said.
Dunaway's sermons are sometimes different from the mainstream Protestant sermons, and he doesn't avoid controversial topics.
"I come down on the more liberal side," he said, "and, because of that, I get some hate-filled comments."
His goal is to encourage people to know their Bible and to help them heal from the pain related to their faith that some have experienced both in and out of the church. He believes many Christians have forgotten how simple Jesus's message of love is, that it is based on grace, mercy, unity and forgiveness.
"I need a lot of grace myself and that has taught me to extend it to others and to view them in a completely different way," he said. "I, too, have made many mistakes, and it is refreshing for me to accept the love of God."
He believes many Christians today are not practicing the love that Jesus exhibited toward those of different races, genders and whose lifestyles were different.
Two topics that get the most negative comments are those on abortion (Dunaway is pro-choice) and gay marriage (he says the Bible teaches that monogamous relationships are more important that gender relationships).
Controversy does not bother him.
"Jesus was controversial, and He was going against the current religious thought of people in His day," he said. "It's really very simple. He wants us to live by the truth that love for God and others offers change. Reading the Bible is important. "
Dylan said his father's extensive knowledge of the Bible gives him the credentials to speak boldly.
"I can state a topic," Dylan said, "and he can do an entire lesson on it with chapter and verse without even looking at the Bible. I think he has the entire Bible memorized."
Dunaway chuckled at the comment and shook his head "no" as he sat across from his son.
"He can," Dylan continued, "and he does it in almost every video. He can take any topic and turn it into a relatable, devotional message using scripture, and he can speak about something that is on his heart at a moment's notice."
Regardless of his modesty, Dunaway seems destined to become a full-time minister. He has studied the Bible and preached since he was 10 years old.
"My father is a brilliant preacher," he said, "and he taught me how to study the Bible, to think for myself and to preach."
Neither Dunaway nor his son said they are seeking fame or riches. However, to keep the DeWayne Dunaway Show going, they have a donate button on the website. They hope to devote even more time to reaching out to viewers, and his engagement with online viewers takes several hours each week.
"If we have value," Dunaway said, "and if people want to help us, we could use the help."
In addition to speaking online, Dunaway writes and posts movie reviews on his website.
"Movies," he said, "often have spiritual messages."