Trial and Error, and Prayer:
Behind the Scenes of THE AMERICAN BIBLE CHALLENGE with Pastor Troy Schmidt
By Jeff Holder, Web Editor
Movieguide® sat down with a friend of the ministry, Troy Schmidt, the writer on the GSN hit game show, THE AMERICAN BIBLE CHALLENGE. When not writing questions and jokes for Jeff Foxworthy, Troy is the Campus Pastor at First Baptist Church Windermere in Orlando and has a long history of writing for childrens animation, notably the Max Lucado HERMIE DVD series as well as the GLO interactive Bible encyclopedia. Plus, way back in Movieguide®’s early days, Troy was a movie reviewer!
Movieguide®: AMERICAN BIBLE CHALLENGE has become a hit. What do you think is the reason for the success?
Troy: The Christian audience is amazed that somebody like GSN would reach out to them with a TV show in primetime. The only people that were making TV shows for them were the Christian channels, but here’s a network saying, “We honor what you believe, and we want to do a show that entertains and informs the family.”
Movieguide®: How did you and the creative team get from “Let’s do a game show based on the Bible” to it becoming a show with specific types of questions, games, program format, and such?
Troy: We got here through trial and error and prayer. We did a pilot that we scrapped 65% of; and, one of those things was me (Pastor Troy chuckles; in the pilot he was an on camera Bible expert). There was much tenacity on the part of GSN and the executive producer to find the right ingredients for the show.
Movieguide®: It must be difficult to write questions for this program. The contestants obviously know their Bible and would need difficult questions, but the viewers at home may not be so well versed. How do you balance that?
Troy: The opening of the show is accessible to everyone. At the top, the questions are easy. Then, the questions get a little harder. By having multiple rounds, we were able to make the game harder and harder. So by the end, everyone’s saying, ‘Whoa, I didn’t know that!”
We kept coming back to the one word in the show’s title, “Challenge.” We wanted to make sure that the contestants and viewers were challenged.
Movieguide®: What was the most difficult part in the process of doing the show?
Troy: The hardest part was to make the show relevant. We wanted everyone to get involved. Many people thought we were just going to be a “Bible bowl” or something. So we did categories like “My Tweet Lord” or “Faith Book’” to keep it relevant.
Now, the easiest part was Jeff Foxworthy. He was great to work with. Part of my job was to go over the questions, pronunciations and context with Jeff. He’s interested in the material, and we would often get into a discussion of what Jesus was thinking or why David did this or that. We had to sometimes stop ourselves because we had a show to tape. He’s very much engaged in what the Bible is about.
Movieguide®: Is there anything that you would like the Movieguide® audience to know about AMERICAN BIBLE CHALLENGE?
Troy: I think of two things. The first is that they should know that the Bible was handled so respectfully. Everyone worked really hard to make sure it was accurate. We had experts and researchers on board. We knew we were dealing with a book that is Truth. So, the heart and the mission was, “Let’s make sure that the show is true.”
The second thing to say is that if a network is going out on a limb and broadcasting a show about the Bible, then we Christians need to support it. We often complain about the lack of programs for us, and often the lack of quality of those we have; but, this is the kind of show we can all get around.
Also, other networks are watching. They see that an audience turns out for AMERICAN BIBLE CHALLENGE. They might say, “Maybe we’ll do a show that embraces Biblical values.” The next few weeks are crucial for us to make sure that the audience still remains engaged.
To read Movieguide®’s review of THE AMERICAN BIBLE CHALLENGE, CLICK HERE.
Pastor Troy Schmidt has just released his latest book, PRAYING THROUGH GENESIS, and you can find out more about it and his other books a troyeschmidt.com.