Missouri churches excited about Left Behind movie
By Allen Palmeri
October 4, 2005
JEFFERSON CITY – First Baptist Church, Bismarck, a hub in a community of about 1,600 people, is one of several Missouri Baptist congregations that are preparing to show the new Left Behind: World at War movie the weekend of Oct. 21, as an evangelistic outreach tool.
Purchasing a license for a nominal fee has enabled First Bismarck to plan for multiple showings of the film over the weekend. This is typical of how a dozen or more Missouri Baptist churches all over the state are utilizing the movie, which is the third film based on the popular end-times series of novels written by Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye. They hope to create an environment where a pastor could stand before the moviegoers at the end of a studio-quality, Hollywood motion picture and share Christ.
“It seemed to me that it would be a tremendous evangelistic opportunity,” said Lawrence Kennon, pastor, First Bismarck.
Roy Spannagel, Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) associate executive director, agreed.
“This seems to be an extremely wonderful opportunity that has come to our churches to be able to invite people to a non-threatening kind of service where their heart would be caught and challenged with what is going to happen in the days to come, with the coming of Christ,” Spannagel said. “Those who do not know Him as Savior and as Lord are indeed going to be left behind.”
The idea behind releasing the Left Behind movie into churches, not theaters, is to create “a box office counted in souls,” according to the film’s executive producer, Peter Lalonde. A campus group can get a license for $49; a church can obtain one for $69-$199, depending on how many members it has. The goal is to bring someone to know Christ as their Savior much like Lalonde did in 1983 as a result of viewing another evangelistic-type film, The Prodigal.
“I’ve always had this passion for the monthly church film night that we used to have in the early ‘80s,” Lalonde said. “Along came VHS and it sort of ended the 16-millimeter film nights that were such a great outreach. I’ve always wanted to bring that back.”
Lalonde and his brother, Paul, with Cloud Ten Pictures are partnered with Sony Pictures in a pioneering marketing venture that had secured 1,700 screens as of Sept. 26. The standard for a wide Hollywood release is 2,000 screens, Lalonde said.
“To put that in perspective, we have more physical street addresses (like First Bismarck) than the top six theater chains combined,” he said.
First Bismarck plans to show the movie five times on a 12-foot-wide screen in its 250-seat sanctuary. The church’s marketing plan includes a mass mailing, bulletin inserts and posters, as well as word of mouth.
Westport Community Church, St. Louis, has scheduled a 4:30 p.m. showing on Oct. 23. Pastor Jeff Purvis, who is also a member of the Missouri Baptist Convention Executive Board, said Missouri Baptist pastors who are trying to fish for souls ought to do this because so many unbelievers these days are interested in the end times.
“It’s like bait on a hook,” Purvis said.
To find out more about hosting a showing of the movie, visit LeftBehind-WorldatWar.com. Churches may choose to charge admission so that ticket sales can benefit church programs. Another way is to simply show the movie for free. That is what First Bismarck and Westport are doing.
Lalonde encouraged Missouri ministry staff personnel who fall into the category of “a person with a DVD player and a passion for souls” to check out the list of locations in the state where the film is being shown. As of Sept. 29, the total was 49 churches.
“If there’s nobody playing it in your town, there’s an opportunity here,” he said.