History Channel helps pastor spread message

Mar. 28, 2013 @ 05:38 PM

Are you reading the Bible? How about watching it?

Millions have tuned into History Channel’s “The Bible”since the weekly show aired March 3, with the five-part miniseries enjoying consistently strong ratings. One Monroe church isn’t just watching “The Bible,” but is tuning in as the Rev. Tim Madaris bases sermons off of the show. Madaris, pastor of Union Baptist, preaches on the stories the miniseries will cover the morning before each episode airs.

Union Baptist member Bill Pigg said the stories are fresh in his mind when he sees them brought to life onscreen.

“You’ve heard these stories all your life, but seeing it is different,” he said. Covering a part of Scripture hours before watching it makes it easier to spot inconsistencies or to bring emotion to something he read. As a stepfather, it was “moving” to see the torment on Abraham’s face as he prepared to sacrifice his son, Isaac, in one of the episodes.

Church member Phil Edwards noticed the fear on Daniel’s face in the lion’s den, and he got a better picture of God’s punishment and forgiveness after King David’s adultery with Bathsheba.

News outlets are speculating about the show’s success, some saying it’s because “The Bible” isn’t preachy; it just tells a story. Some say viewers need a break from more shallow shows and this is a message with meat on it. Others point to the action – wars, romance and miracles. And some say it’s because the show speaks to viewers with messages of love, heartache, guilt and mercy.

Several celebrities – including singers Shakira and Nick Lachey, rapper/producer P. Diddy, “Glee” star Jane Lynch and Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson – have voiced their support of the show on Twitter.

Yet the miniseries isn’t without its critics. Some say it’s too dark and violent, or that the actors and actresses are too attractive. Possibly the biggest controversy has been whether Satan’s character is supposed to resemble President Barack Obama. Producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey flatly dismissed the latter, saying they respect the president.

Others criticize the miniseries for some inaccuracies in relation to Scripture.

“The fact that it’s not going exactly by the Bible isn’t the important part,” Pigg said. “The important part is that [viewers] get the message.” That message is Jesus Christ, he said, and the story of redemption.

The show uses “poetic license to present a story that overall is close to accurate,” Madaris said, and doesn’t change the central theme. He noticed on Facebook that some people are surprised that events portrayed actually happened, he said, like the parting of the Red Sea. The miniseries has started conversations among Christians and non-Christians.

Edwards hopes the show will prompt people to read the Bible for themselves – something Christians often fail to do. Why?

“Laziness,” Edwards said.

Madaris said people don’t see a need for God unless they are suffering, and other things tend to occupy their time. He’s encouraging his own church to read through the Bible in a year.

“I don’t think anything can replace the personal time of studying the Bible,” Madaris said, not even the miniseries. Scripture speaks to people differently based on their situations, he said, and it’s the best source of wisdom.

Madaris remembers when people used to discuss religion more openly, and he has enjoyed conversations sparked by “The Bible”. He hopes the dialogue and curiosity about Christ doesn’t stop with the last episode on Easter. As a pastor, he said churches shouldn’t function just to “meet, greet and eat” but to live out their faith, making a difference in people’s lives.


Send your religion feature ideas to Tiffany Jothen at tclane1@gmail.com.