Jeff Wyers knew four months living as a Puritan in a 1620s-style Massachusetts colony would be hard. He didn't expect his faith to be so challenged.
Wyers, real-life pastor of Community Baptist Church near Waco, Texas, became "governor" of the colony in Colonial House, PBS's version of "reality TV" that aired in May. Wyers, his family, and about 20 others volunteered to live as four households of freemen and indentured servants in the show that challenged modern prejudices and historical mores.
As a functioning colony, participants agreed to live as they would have 400 years ago—including milking goats and raising corn, producing goods to repay their British backers, submitting to male headship, and mandatory attendance at three-hour church services.
As governor of the colony, Wyers had responsibility to enforce civil laws. He also had a personal, spiritual mission: to understand the Puritans who hoped to create a "City on a Hill" in the new land. But he experienced the same problems the Puritans did when he tried to get non-Christians to live like Puritans.
Leadership Weekly: As governor you had to enforce religious rules through civil law. How did that work?
Jeff Wyers: The people signed contracts. The non-believers said they had been told [by the production company] that they should go to church for a while, but if it became too heavy, there'd be a way out. There wasn't. If I had done nothing, I'd shoot down the whole premise of the show.
I told the colonists I am a Baptist: "I believe in freedom of religion, I don't believe in state oppression, and I'm not coming on this show to be the person that pushes persecution. But the law says—the law we agreed to and the law they had in  said—you went to ...