Missouri Baptists ready for ‘The Passion’
By Bob Baysinger
February 17, 2004
JEFFERSON CITY – Evangelistic excitement continues to mount for Southern Baptists in Missouri as the opening date draws near for the movie, “The Passion of the Christ."
The movie will open in theaters in Missouri’s major cities on Feb. 25.
“The Passion," directed by noted actor/producer Mel Gibson, has been described by critics as one of the most detailed depictions of the last hours of Christ’s life in movie history. It was filmed in the original languages – Aramaic and Latin – but with subtitles to ensure the meaning is clear.
At least five Missouri Baptist churches – First Baptist, Arnold; Parkway Baptist, St. Louis County ; First Baptist, Raytown; First Baptist, Ferguson; and Concord Baptist, Jefferson City – participated in satellite-broadcast training event on Feb. 7. The program featured segments of the movie, a question/answer session with Gibson and information about how to be involved with outreach opportunities tied into “The Passion."
The list of churches planning to use the movie as an outreach tool is growing.
First Baptist, O’Fallon, has purchased all the tickets in a theater at the MidRivers Mall on Saturday morning, Feb. 28.
“Our goal is to get 150 of our church members to go and 140 unchurched people to go with them," said Pastor Gary Taylor.
Two churches in Jefferson City have bought out theater sessions. Concord Baptist purchased 640 tickets in three theaters at the Capital 8 Theaters for a special preview of the movie on Feb. 23. Cornerstone Baptist, also in Jefferson City, bought all the tickets in one theater for a Feb. 28 showing.
Canaan Baptist, another Missouri Baptist congregation in south St. Louis, has bought out 552 seats for showings of “The Passion" on Feb. 28 and March 6. After each showing theater owners have given Pastor Bruce McCoy 10 minutes to give an evangelistic invitation.
It appears such action is spreading nation wide among Southern Baptists. Saddleback Community Church in California, pastored by best-selling author Rick Warrant, has purchased 18,000. Prestonwood Baptist Church has purchased at least $6,000 worth of tickets.
Harold Hendrick, employed by KSIV Radio, the Bott Network station in St. Louis , is serving as a coordinator for Mission America to focus attention on the movie.
“I have never seen anything like this in my lifetime," Hendrick said. “People who have seen this movie feel they have seen the reality of the Cross in ways they had never seen or imagined.
“I have been making it a point to interview someone almost every day that has seen the movie. Those interviewed are unanimous in their assessment that the reaction is stunned silence or tears. They come away from the movie saying it is almost impossible to describe it."
Gibson has said his purpose for making the film is to help individuals gain a new appreciation for Christ.
Hendrick said his personal quiet time has included a reading of Zechariah 12:10: ‘“… so that they shall look on Me whom they have pierced, and they will mourn for Him, as one mourneth for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.’
“This movie may be an advancement of this prophecy," Hendrick said. “It is a realistic enactment and I believe that people who see it will never think of the Cross again the same way."
The Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board (NAMB) has sent a mailing to 42,000 churches designed to help churches answer questions the movie may raise.
“The Passion tells an important part of the story of Jesus Christ – but only a part," said John Yarbrough, NAMB’s vice president for evangelization. “We are suggesting that Southern Baptists use the impact of this movie in their communities to tell ‘the rest of the story’ about the saving and redemptive power of the Gospel."
NAMB also has dedicated a new website – www.PassionChrist.org – to provide information about the movie (see page 11).
Yarbrough said the website deals openly with the issues many churches will have in hoping to see people reached with the Gospel by the movie.
The site suggests churches bathe the film in prayer, present to church members at a regular prayer meeting the film’s evangelistic potential, holding special prayer events and planning prayer walks at theaters. When the film is released, suggestions include inviting the community to services dealing with “the rest of the story."
“This event could be the catalyst for the mobilization of a multitude of workers to go into a harvest field of people who are waiting, wondering, watching and hoping for someone to tell them the rest of the story about Jesus Christ," the website says. “Pray, prepare and participate in reaching your world during ‘The Passion of the Christ.’"
LifeWay Christian Resources, the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, also has added “The Passion" to its online resources to help people communicate the salvation message of the movie.
Free content from lifeway.com will include a powerful medical description of the crucifixion.
Southern Baptist leaders and other evangelical leaders nationwide have given the film high marks.
“The thing that I’m most excited about is the opportunity it’s going to give those of us who preach the cross," said Jack Graham, SBC president.
“Three words summarize for me: sobering, stunning, haunting," said Darrell Bock, research professor of New Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary. “I hope you keep the graphic nature of it complete in the film, because it will cause everyone to reflect on what His death was. The world tends to wash over this directness."
Billy Graham previewed the film and talked about the impact it had on his mind. “Every time I preach or speak about the cross, the things I saw on the screen will be on my heart and mind," he said.
Ed Young Jr., pastor of Second Baptist Church, Houston, predicts the movie will be one of the greatest evangelistic tools in modern day history. “I think people will go to it and then flood into the churches seeking to know the deeper implications of this move," Young said.
Jerry Falwell, pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church, Lynchburg, Va., said he is praying that the movie will have a powerful impact on our culture and “that it will appeal to millions of movie lovers who are starving for a glimmer of honesty regarding the miraculous and life-changing story of the One who died for everyone, no matter their religious heritage, station in life, sexual preference or skin color."
Missouri Baptists who have access to satellite or cable television can gain some insight into the making of the move when PAX TV broadcasts a one-hour special on Feb. 22 at 8 p.m. (CST).