Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

Suddenly The Bible is hot TV. Between History Channel’s mega-hit miniseries The Bible and GSN’s hugely-successful game show The American Bible Challenge, which returns tonight (3/21) at 9:oo PM (ET) for a second season, the Good Book is proving to be a ratings bonanza for TV programmers.
In its first season, The American Bible Challenge, hosted by Jeff Foxworthy, garnered GSN’s highest audience in its 18-year history — with 1.7 million total viewers for its series premiere and over 13 million total viewers during its run. The success of the show extended to digital and social platforms with the launch of The American Bible Challenge Game for iPhone, iPad, Android, Kindle and Facebook, which currently has over 8 million game plays, and over 500,000 users. 
The show is an entertaining hour of television that pits three teams of three against one another in a friendly test biblical and pop culture knowledge. Question categories include the links CSI: Holy Land, Faithbook, Book ‘Em Daniel and The Chosen People’s Court. Just as in season one, the first six episodes of the new season will  feature the teams engaging in four rounds of play, with two teams advancing to the “Final Revelation” round.  The winning teams from each episode earn $20,000 for their charity and then go up against each other in the semi-finals. It all leads to a final showdown that awards $100,000 to the charity of the championship team.
What’s nice about the show is that the participants are given the opportunity to turn their knowledge of their faith into an occasion live out their faith — since they’re not playing for themselves but for others. For example, this season’s contestants include a trio of young rabbis playing for the UJA Hurricane Sandy Fund .  Also joining the  this season is Nine-Time Grammy-winner Kirk Franklin as its Musical Co-Host/Gospel Choir Leader.

Tonight’s season premiere features three young nuns from Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist who are playing to help members of their community entering their retirement years. Team Sisters of Mary includes Sisters Peter Joseph and Evangeline, both novices; and Sister Maria Suso, a Professed Sister. The three nuns reportedly love competitive games like soccer and Scrabble. In a statement, about the their participation in The American Bible Challenge, they say “We look up to our older Sisters who have generously given their lives to God, and the prize money from this show would be the perfect way to show our gratitude for all of their inspiration.”

Says Foxworthy, “These nuns are fun, funny and let me tell you, they came to win. Viewers are going to really enjoy seeing them in action.”

Tonight, you can see them facing off against Team Preachin’ Divas, a group of Oakland, CA women dedicated to inner city outreach and Team Anointed Ink, a group of Texas-based tattoo artists who specialize in religious painting. Here’s a clip from one of the rounds.

You can read more about the sisters experience on the show here.

Also worth noting, is the release of The American Bible Challenge Bible Studya 10-week Bible Study hosted by author and television producer Phil Cooke.  The educational program will cover topics such as Love, Forgiveness, Prayer, Acceptance, Character, Anxiety, Courage and The Bible itself.  The curriculum for The American Bible Challenge Bible Study was written in conjunction with American Bible Society.  The Bible Study can be found here.

The American Bible Challenge Bible Study features Prominent personalities from the worlds of religion, publishing, music and literature  guiding viewers through the verses and talk about the meaning they hold in their lives. The list includes:

Max Lucado is a best-selling author, writer and preacher at Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas.  In almost 25 years of writing, more than 100 million products-80 million books-filled with his words have been sold.  Lucado is the only author to have won three Christian Book of the Year awards.  In 2005, Reader’s Digest magazine dubbed him “America’s Best Preacher” and in 2004, Christianity Today magazine called him “America’s Pastor.” The product line for 3:16-The Numbers of Hope sold more than four million units worldwide, including one million units of the cornerstone trade book of the same title (released in September 2007), making it the fastest selling Lucado product in his career.  His latest, Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make a Difference (September 2010) hit both the Publishers Weekly and New York Times bestseller lists and has been featured on Fox & Friends and CNN American Morning. He participated on the Good Morning America Christmas Day panel in 2009 and 2010.

Randy Frazee is the senior minister of Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas, where he teaches and leads in partnership with Pastor and author Max Lucado.  Prior to Oak Hills, Frazee served as teaching Pastor at Willow Creek and as senior Pastor at Pantego Bible Church in Fort Worth, Texas, for fifteen years.  He is also the author of Making Room for Life and The Christian Life Profile Assessment Tool.

Karen Kingsbury is America’s favorite inspirational novelist. There are more than 25 million copies of her award-winning books in print, including several million copies sold in the past year. Kingsbury’s recent dozen titles have all debuted at or near the top of The New York Times Best Sellers list. She is also a public speaker, reaching more than 100,000 women annually through various national events.

Sherry Surratt is the President and CEO of MOPS International. She has deep experience in church ministry and learning from women leaders. Her most recent position prior to MOPS International was the Director of Leadership Network’s Radical Future Innovation Labs. Her church ministry experience includes Children’s Ministry Pastor and Central Support Pastor at Seacoast Church based in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. There she developed multi-site ministries at their 13 campuses.

Rev. Susan Sparks is currently the Senior Pastor (and the first woman in its 165 year history) of the historic Madison Avenue Baptist Church in New York City.  A trial lawyer, turned standup comedian and Baptist minister, Rev. Sparks is America’s only female comedian with a pulpit.  After ten years as a lawyer moonlighting as a standup, she left her practice and spent two years on a solo trip around the world, including working with Mother Teresa’s mission in Calcutta, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro and driving the Alaska Highway.  Upon returning home, she entered Union Theological Seminary in New York City where she earned a Master of Divinity and wrote an honors thesis on humor and religion.

Clay Walker first topped the Billboard country singles chart in 1993 with What’s It to You and followed with his second consecutive No. 1 hit, Live Until I Die. Since then he’s placed 31 titles on Billboard’s singles chart including such additional chart toppers as Dreaming with my Eyes Open, If I Could Make Living, This Woman and This Man and Rumor Has It. (The latter two songs each spent two weeks at the summit.)  He’s enjoyed his share of success at the cash registers and has consistently been one of the busiest artists on the road.  Walker has scored four platinum-selling albums, signifying sales of a million units, and two gold albums, discs that sold over 500,0000 units.

Dr. Jamal-Harrison Bryant has broken the stereotype of yesterday’s clergyman. He is the leader of a new breed of ministers who embrace the idea of capitalizing on the ever-increasing marketplace of Internet and technological innovations to spread the gospel. With more than 7,500 members attending weekly services at Empowerment Temple in Baltimore, Maryland, and approximately 35,000 followers on Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace, he believes that “God is not just in the church; He is also in technology.” His mission is to “empower people spiritually, develop them educationally, expose them culturally, activate them politically, and strengthen them economically.”

Bishop Paul Sylvester Morton is currently senior Pastor of Changing A Generation Full Gospel Baptist Church and Co-Pastor of Greater St. Stephen Full Gospel Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia.  He is also a recording artist, author and the founding and presiding Bishop of the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship.

Dr. Debra B. Morton is the much admired and beloved Senior Pastor of the Greater St. Stephen Full Gospel Baptist Church in New Orleans, Louisiana and the Co-Pastor of Changing A Generation Full Gospel Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia.  She works diligently in the service of the Lord with her husband, Bishop Paul S. Morton.  Dr. Morton also serves as General Overseer of the women’s division and daughters of the promise (DOP) of the (FGBCFI).  As founder of Women of Excellence Ministry for over 15 years, Dr. Morton has nurtured thousands of women.

Jimmy Wayne Barber is a country music singer and songwriter. He released his self-titled debut album in 2003 on the DreamWorks Records label. Four singles were released including “Stay Gone ” and “I Love You This Much” — both reached Top Ten on the Billboard country charts.  A second album, Do You Believe Me Now , was released in August 2008 via Big Machine Records  subsidiary Valory Music Group, and its title track became his first Number One hit in late 2008.  In September 2009, Wayne released a cover version of Hall & Oates’ 1976 single Sara Smile, with backing vocals from Hall & Oates.

Howard Hewitt is an American R&B and gospel singer and former lead vocalist of the R&B group Shalamar.   As a writer, producer, and session vocalist,  Hewett co-wrote and produced “Frustration” for LaToya Jackson in 1984, and sang on her LP Heart Don’t Lie. He did lead vocals on LPs by Stanley Clarke and George Duke in 1984 and 1986, a duet with Stacy Lattisaw on Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, and sang with Firefox in 1986, as well as doing backgrounds on a Donna Summer release.  An eponymous 1990 album by Hewett included the number two R&B hit “Show Me,” and the singer followed up with 1992’s Allegiance and 1994’s It’s Time before going on hiatus as a solo artist and concentrating on his work as a background vocalist on albums by a variety of jazz musicians, including Duke and Joe Sample.  Hewett returned with the 2001 gospel album The Journey, and the single Enough (also featuring Duke) arrived in 2006, followed by the holiday effort Howard Hewett Christmas in 2008.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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