December 16, 2002
SIKESTON — "… And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved."
Readers of the book of Acts marvel at the numbers of people who came to know Christ as their personal savior in the early days of the church. There were 5,000 on one occasion, 3,000 on another and, as Acts 2:47 says, "daily such as should be saved."
There have been no such reports lately of "thousands" being saved from Southern Baptist churches in Missouri, but there comes one report of 409 being saved in one week.
It comes from the Miner Baptist Church – at one time a small church on the eastern outskirts of Sikeston but now the largest and fastest-growing Southern Baptist congregation in the area.
Under the leadership of Mitchell Jackson, the church’s evangelism fires have been rekindled over the last five years, especially in the heart of one church member, Chester Cardwell, a deacon. Cardwell developed a burden to bring Judgement House, a dramatic presentation about eternity, after seeing it presented at Lynnwood Baptist Church in Cape Girardeau.
Judgement House originated in 1983 as a Halloween alternative, Cardwell said, but churches now are presenting the drama year round.
Cardwell laid the groundwork with a trip to Clearwater, Fla., to meet with New Creation Evangelism representatives. The meeting resulted in Judgement House being presented at Miner Baptist Church in 2001 and again this year in early October.
"The event originally was scheduled for five nights, but we extended it to six because of the overwhelming response," said Associate Pastor Jim Barnhart. "During the six nights 3,034 people toured the eight scenes in groups of 25."
Following each tour, according to Barnhart, groups sit briefly in a room and are given an opportunity to accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior, rededicate their life or have a counselor pray with them.
"The result was 409 decisions for Jesus, 292 rededications and 148 coming for prayer" Barnhart said, adding that the impact has been widespread in the Sikeston area.
"There are great numbers being baptized in our area as a result of Judgement House. We are following up on the prospects in our general area, and we’re getting reports of people being baptized at other churches because of Judgement House. It was a massive undertaking for us to put this on. We spent more than $8,000 to stage it, and more than 300 in our church were involved."
According to the assistant pastor, Judgement House is not designed to entertain. In fact, it is recommended that children 10 and under not be taken through the scenes.
"The Gospel is presented throughout," Barnhart said. "By the time a person goes through all the different scenes they have to come to grips with the fact that they are facing an eternity in either Heaven or Hell. And it is made clear that where they spend eternity is based on their decision to accept Christ or not to accept Christ. Those who see Judgement House leave with a very good idea of what Heaven and Hell will be."
Those who make a positive response to the drama are counseled one-on-one after the performance, Barnhart said.
Almost as exciting as the salvation decisions, Barnhart said, has been the impact Judgement House has had on the Miner congregation. "People are on fire; they’re really lit up and ready to go," he explains. "This has worked to bring the body closer together.
"A lot of the fruit from Judgement House has been in our people. It produced a bonding of the membership. There were times we’d get together between 5 and 6 p.m. and not get away from the church until 11-12 p.m. It produced a spiritual high among all of us that is very difficult to explain," the deacon said. "It’s a very powerful presentation of the Gospel, and we’re all excited about using Judgement House again next year."
Barnhart credits the Miner pastor with having a vision to conduct such evangelistic efforts as Judgement House.
"He’s a very conservative guy and one of the reasons the church has grown so much. He’s not ashamed of the work of God. He preaches the Word regardless, and people are flocking here to hear it," Barnhart said.
Miner Baptist was one of 22 churches in Missouri that presented Judgement House this year. Any church interested in Judgement House can call 727-797-8189 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to obtain additional information.