Two weeks ago, a Louisiana pastor became the first contestant kicked off of CBS's reality game show, Survivor Thailand. On the show, sixteen participants arranged into" tribes" compete for one million dollars. Every three days, the tribes vote out one member. Besides surviving the elements, contestants also compete politically (often making alliances with one another) to stay in the game.
John Raymond is the executive pastor of the 2,700-member World Harvest Church in Slidell, Louisiana, the fourth fastest growing Assembly of God church in the country. A father of three, he is writing a book on church growth, leads church growth conferences with other Harvest leaders, and leads missions trips to Central America.
Raymond took a sabbatical from his church to participate in the 39-day game. (All contestants were forced to stay in Thailand until the game ended.) However, Raymond lasted only three days. After he returned home from the monsoon-drenched beaches of Thailand, his efforts for survival continued—his church was dangerously close to the path of tropical storm Isadore when it hit Louisiana last week.
After the storm dissipated, Raymond talked on the phone with Christianity Today assistant online editor Todd Hertz.
Why did you want to be on Survivor?
I grew up in Louisiana fishing and hunting and camping. So that part of the game, the outdoorsy part, intrigued me. I was also an athlete coming up through high school, so the competition intrigued me. And being a pastor, I am familiar with a lot of relational dynamics, so that intrigued me as well. I thought with the three of them combined I was a perfect fit for the game.
Did you envision your role as a pastor would be useful in the game?
I was just hoping that they wouldn't vote ...1
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