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Have you noticed that reality TV shows are sweeping our nation? Like it or not, programs such as NBC's Fear Factor and The Apprentice, ABC's Extreme Makeover and Fox's American Idol are revolutionizing the way millions of us entertain ourselves.

Though some of these shows contain objectionable content, I must admit to enjoying CBS' Survivor program. Survivor has an interesting set-up: For 39 days, 16 to 20 castaways are stranded in a dangerous, remote location. They are forced to band together and carve out a new life. They have to use their wits to form tribes, build shelter, find food and win rewards.

Day by day, the rough conditions and competitive challenges test the endurance of the survivors while cameras capture their unscripted experiences. Those who succeed are rewarded and stay in the game. Those who fall short risk being voted off at Tribal Council. Each week, another contestant is voted off, until only the Sole Survivor remains to claim the reward: $1 million.

When I first saw Survivor, I was overcome with a strange deja vu experience. Where had I seen this kind of reality--the social cliques, secret divisions, unbridled rivalry and shocking betrayals--before? Then it came to me: I know where I've seen this. These people are in my church, and they're playing this game!

That's when an idea for another reality series was born in my heart: Survivor: The Local Church! OK, this may be a little over the edge, but before you vote me off the island, just think about it.

As believers in local churches, we are like strangers stranded in a strange world. We band into groups, carve out new lives and struggle to work together. All too often, we hurt each other and lose our rewards. Shouldn't we learn how to overcome these challenges and become soul survivors?

Survival Skills

All kidding aside, as a pastor, I want to see people become successful in the local church experience. God designed the church as a place of healing, blessing, maturing and restoration for our lives, and it can work beautifully.

But since we're talking about reality, we should face the fact that sometimes the church can be a pretty dangerous place. Anyone ever been abandoned by a distracted leader? Betrayed by a brother or sister once trusted? Blindsided by a church split?

Despite the many blessings of the local church, we can be hurt there, especially if we don't know what the rules are. In Survivor, everyone has to follow the rules of the game or lose the chance to win. What are some rules we should stick to as we work toward surviving in the sometimes-perilous setting of the local church?

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