Survivor Show gives man's faith a national audience

By Luis Palau Minsitries
Beaverton based Ministry

Not everyone is a fan of reality television, despite its ongoing popularity. Millions watched the season finale of “Survivor: Redemption Island” and I’ll admit to following this season with growing interest for a few reasons.

Survivor provides a window (albeit a highly edited one) on people’s motivation and their ability to play well with others. It brings out the best and worst (mostly worst) in people. It’s a modern morality play. Most are in it for themselves, lying and cheating openly, so the contrast can be stark when a believer is on display. I often cringe when a competitor comes out with “I’m a Christian” on a reality show, as it can seem like nothing more than a marketing ploy from the producers to build an audience. (“Here comes the tough marine…next, the party girl, and look, the non-stereotypical gay man!”)

This season, viewers were greeted with something truly unusual: a bold, confident follower of Christ who lived out his faith in a simple, authentic, and powerful way, leaving changed lives in his wake.

Matt Elrod is a good-looking, intelligent, 22-year-old from Nashville. He’s finishing his undergraduate education and aspires to a career in medicine. On the show, Matt shared his faith, worshiped publicly without embarrassment, read the Bible around the fire and talked freely about it… and didn’t come across in an odd way. He was one of the strongest competitors, but maintained a Christ-like attitude throughout. He found other believers on the show with whom to pray. He was open about his belief that God allowed him to be on the show and that his life is in the Lord’s hands. His calm, peaceful attitude, even when ‘blindsided’ twice was in stark contrast to many of the frenzied “game-players” with whom he was competing. He proved it possible to succeed on Survivor with honesty, integrity and genuine concern for others.

Seeing him living out his faith in such a public way, among strangers, was encouraging, and a reminder of the difference that one authentic believer can make. Matt’s influence was such that after sending one woman home by defeating her in a one-on-one challenge (a new feature on “Redemption Island”), her final words were that due to Matt’s example the first thing she was going to do upon returning home was find a church and reconnect with God. Even host Jeff Probst got into the act asking Matt how many days Jesus was in the desert; Survivor is 39 days long, just one day short of Christ’s time of temptation.

On Sunday night’s finale, before going into their final challenge, Matt led the other three competitors in prayer, “Dear Lord, thank you for Redemption Island and what it’s meant to all of us, help us to know your will is perfect and have peace with whatever the outcome is. Thank you so much for your son. We love you. In Jesus name, amen.”

Many of us long to see more positive portrayals of believers in the media. What examples do we usually have? Ned Flanders from The Simpsons comes to mind. Even when producers seem willing to portray faith, it often comes across in a cheesy, stereotypical way. In this season of Survivor the producers allowed Matt to speak for himself, “God deserves all the glory and all the credit. My faith has grown, I’ve grown as a person. I mean, who knew what treasure awaited on Redemption Island.”

Matt did us all proud and reminds us that one authentic follower of Christ can still make a difference. At work, at school, in the neighborhood… even on Survivor.

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