Software engineer, author uses 'Andy Griffith' for Bible study

by Kristin Searfoss, posted Wednesday, April 04, 2001 (18 years ago)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--In his senior year of college, Joey Fann would stay up all night watching episodes of "The Andy Griffith Show" on videotape. Now the software engineer and author uses the show as thought provoking, discussion starters for Bible study.

"I can remember several nights when my cousin would bring over tapes of the show and we would stay up all night watching and laughing," Fann said of the 40-year-old show that hooked him and millions of other viewers during its original eight seasons and years in reruns.

"It slowly occurred to me that no matter how many times I saw a specific episode, I never got tired of watching because they just got better and better. From that point forward, I was hooked."

Now the show is the subject of Fann's new Broadman & Holman book, "The Way Back to Mayberry: Lessons from a Simpler Time," and a website, barneyfife.com. Broadman & Holman is the trade publishing division of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Each of the book's 30 chapters begins with a Scripture verse that corresponds to an episode. In addition to its foreword by George "Goober" Lindsey who was featured in the show, the book also contains photographs from the series.

Fann's method of showing one of 30 video clips from the 249 episodes of The Andy Griffith Show and then discussing it in relation to a passage from the Bible has drawn a wide and diverse audience in more than 30 states and Canada, he said.

"I think this approach facilitates good discussion because it presents moral dilemmas and other situations in a visual fashion," he said. "People who attend the classes see the characters on the screen face situations and decisions that are similar to those in their own lives."

Teens, seniors, young professionals and visitors who don't regularly attend church have come to the classes Fann has been teaching since 1998 at Twickenham Church of Christ in Huntsville, Ala. Beyond the traditional church setting, schoolteachers, military chaplains and prison wardens have successfully implemented the concept.

"The study is effective in reaching those who would not ordinarily attend a worship service or Bible class," Fann said. "The thought of attending a Bible class with people you don't know can be somewhat intimidating."

However, he said, most people are familiar with the characters of Mayberry and they have that in common.

"I believe the show was a success because it made us feel at home. Even though there was never a real Mayberry, we all felt very comfortable there."

Fann said the show makes sense for a class because of its familiarity and timelessness. It becomes a source of common ground that attracts people from all religious backgrounds and all walks of life.

"When I mention the idea of doing an inspirational class based on the show, most people immediately become curious. Before you know it, people are coming to the class and bringing their friends.

"Basically, it offers a casual, non-threatening atmosphere for people to get together, have fun, and think about how we handle certain situations in life," he added.

Fann realizes using a television show as the inspiration for a Bible study is an unusual idea, but he said The Andy Griffith Show was an unusual show.

"Although there are few direct references to the Bible, I believe the show is filled with the basic morals and Christian principles taught by the Scriptures," he said.

"Each show tended to have a good moral theme that was brought out by the story line. Basic values such as character, personal responsibility, honesty and integrity were routinely exemplified by the show. I believe these characteristics are uncommon for most television shows past or present."

Despite the fact that Fann's unusual Bible study concept has received notice in The Washington Post, USA Weekend, People magazine and on several cable TV networks, he has made no attempt to contact actors Andy Griffith or Don Knotts about "The Way Back to Mayberry."

"The last thing I want to do is give the impression that I'm trying to improve upon or take credit for a wonderful television series they created 40 years ago," Fann said.

And even though he thinks his Bible study might spark other studies featuring other shows, he said, "I won't be the author. For many reasons, I believe that The Andy Griffith Show was the best series ever made. Trying to apply this concept to another show would never measure up, in my opinion."


(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: LESSONS FROM MAYBERRY and ANDY & BARNEY.

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