Who would have guessed that the most popular television program of the new millennium would be a game show?
The ratings sensation of the season is “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” hosted by Regis Philbin. The program was so popular last fall — sweeping away all competitors in the ratings — that ABC took the unusual step (for a network) of actually paying attention to the audience, and now it’s on three nights a week. Families can once again gather together in front of the TV without fear of seeing scantily-dressed actresses, watching people maimed and murdered, or hearing profanity-laced conversation. The only thing one has to fear is that now infamous question, “Is that your final answer?”
OK, I admit I’m hooked. Being a trivia buff, I really love playing along — particularly testing my time against the contestants who are trying to answer a question by correctly ordering four items. For example, “Put the following biblical characters in the correct order, starting from earliest to latest: A. Moses, B. Timothy, C. Isaiah, D. Adam.” (For you pagans listening in, the correct answer is: D, A, C, B.)
The program does a wonderful job of building the tension, starting with very simple questions. (“In the nursery rhyme, what does Jack Horner pull out of the pie?” By the way, the contestant missed it, guessing “blackbird.”) The questions get progressively tougher as the money increases. It’s easy to imagine the anguish of trying to decide whether to risk most of $125,000 on the chance of doubling – or eventually quadrupling — the prize.
It all got me to thinking: maybe there’s an idea here for the church. Something along the lines of, “Who Wants to be a Christian?”
The pastor steps into the brightly-lit auditorium, surrounded by congregants eager to try their hand at the grand prize. He announces the “fast finger” qualifying question: “Put the following books of the Bible in order of their appearance, from first to last: A. Romans; B. Jeremiah; C. Luke; D. Lamentations.” Immediately all across the auditorium fingers press quickly against those electronic touchpads, and a winner is announced: Jerry. (The TV contestants are almost always white males. I suppose we have a genetic predisposition to retaining useless information.)
“OK, Jerry, let’s play, ‘Who Wants to Be a Christian?’ Your one and only question is this: In order to be a Christian, you must: A. Join the choir; B. Tithe your income; C. Be nice to your dog; D. Give your life to Christ. What’s your answer, Jerry?”
“I’d have to say, “B” on that one.”
“Jerry, is that your final answer?”
“Yes, it is.”
“Ooh, sorry Jerry! That’s not correct. Should have used a life line on that one.”
The next contestant is Kim. “Here’s your question, Kim: In order to be a Christian, you must: A. Read the Bible; B. Never tell a lie; C. Work in the nursery; D. Give your life to Christ.”
Kim replies, “Hey, I’m sure that one is “A.” And that’s my final answer.”
“Oh my, sorry again! Should have used a life line on that one.”
The final contestant is Chuck, who hears the question: “In order to be a Christian, you must: A. Teach Sunday School; B. Be faithful in your marriage; C. Don’t cheat on your income tax; D. Give your life to Christ.”
Chuck responds,” I believe I’m going to use a lifeline on that question.”
“That’s right, Chuck! The only correct answer to that question is to use a lifeline. The answer is “D” and you’re our big winner!”
That, after all, really is the final answer.

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About The Author

Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.

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