What do an engineer from Alabama, a newspaper columnist in Dallas, and a host on CBS's The Early Show in New York all have in common? An interest in the gospel--according to Andy, Barney, Opie and Aunt Bee, that is. People from around the country are taking note of a new Bible-study series based on the popular 1960s television program, The Andy Griffith Show."I've been a fan for a long time," says Joey Fann, 34, of Huntsville, Ala. A software engineer, Fann watched reruns of the show in college to relieve stress. "I noticed that some episodes brought out a certain moral point," he says.Fann eventually created a study for his church in Huntsville based on several of the episodes. "The first class had about 20 people," he remembers. That was two years ago. In the months that followed, Thomas Nelson publishers took notice and agreed to distribute the series nationwide.Since its release in May 2000, churches and ministries have purchased over 6,000 copies of the video-and-study-guide series. "We have some churches that are buying hundreds of the study guides at a time," says Harry Clayton, senior vice president of Nelson Word Multimedia Group.Congregations will show an episode before breaking members into small groups for discussion, says Jim Baird, director of Nelson Word. "It's not a study of the show," he says. "It's a Bible study. The show simply illustrates biblical values." Each study offers a handful of Scriptures and a series of questions intended to help participants connect the show with biblical ideas.Some critics, however, consider the study an attempt to satisfy an "entertain me" mentality of the American church. The central themes exalt basic moral principles without keeping Christ and the basic doctrines of Christianity ...

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September 4, 2000

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