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‘Passion’ & related resources quickly becoming outreach tools

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–As the premiere of “The Passion of The Christ” approaches, news of its importance to the evangelical community is spreading and churches are taking advantage of the high-profile film.

The New York Times published a Feb. 5 article titled, “Some Christians See ‘Passion’ as Evangelism Tool,” about how many Christians are expecting the Mel Gibson film to be as effective an instrument at reaching unbelievers as large-scale crusades have been in the past.

“I don’t know of anything since the Billy Graham crusades that has had the potential of touching so many lives,” Morris H. Chapman, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, said in The Times. “It’s like the Lord somehow laid in our lap something that could be a great catalyst for spiritual awakening in this nation.”

While The Passion promises to pique the interest of many who have otherwise given little thought to Christianity, evangelicals are jumping on the chance to provide answers in various formats.

Among the evangelistic resources using The Passion theme:

— LifeWay Christian Resources has launched a new website at lifeway.com to help people and churches communicate the salvation message of the movie. Free content from LifeWay resources such as T.W. Hunt’s “The Mind of Christ,” Beth Moore’s “Jesus the One and Only” and Daniel Akin’s new book, “Discovering the Biblical Jesus,” emphasize the power of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. Also available: movie ticket vouchers as well as free fan kits that include posters and other promotional materials churches may distribute in their communities.

A link titled “Know Him” walks readers through the steps to becoming a Christian, and a video clip of Beth Moore’s “How to Become a Christian” is available for download.

— The North American Mission Board is mailing Southern Baptist churches suggestions for preparation, prayer and personal witnessing — as well as tools to help follow up with individuals who respond. The same information also is available through www.PassionChrist.org, a new NAMB website.

The site deals openly with the issues many churches will have in hoping to see people reached with the Gospel by the movie while at the same time not wishing to offer unequivocal endorsement to an R-rated (for violence) movie.

NAMB also suggests churches bathe the film in prayer, including mentioning the potential of the film to church members at a regular prayer meeting, holding special prayer events and planning prayerwalks at theaters. Members also could be equipped to share their faith through a variety of outreach tools and apologetics resources available for download.

— The new book by Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, seeks to help readers answer key questions about who Jesus really is. The LifeWay book, part of a yearly doctrine series, is titled, “Discovering the Biblical Jesus.”

“When we planned this doctrine study, we had no idea that the movie was being conceived or that its release would coincide with the book,” said David Haney, an editor at LifeWay. “That’s something God did.

“Discovering the Biblical Jesus will equip individual believers and churches to respond to the questions unbelievers will have after watching the movie. Churches can be good stewards of this tremendous opportunity by using the book to make sure believers know who Jesus is and how to explain their beliefs to others.”

— Outreach, Inc. has partnered with Icon Productions to produce a four-minute trailer on DVD featuring Gibson talking about his film. The trailer is being sent free of charge to thousands of churches across the country to generate interest in the film and its potential as an evangelistic tool.

The California-based Outreach, Inc. also has set up a website with resources for churches, including 13 ideas on how they can use the film, sermon outlines and suggestions for establishing discussion groups. Churches also can order Passion-themed invitation cards, evangelistic booklets, bulletin inserts and doorknob hangers, according to Religion & Ethics Newsweekly.

To learn more about resources from Outreach, Inc., visit www.thepassionoutreach.com.

— PAX TV will air a one-hour special, “The Making of ‘The Passion of The Christ'” in advance of film’s Feb. 25 premiere on Feb. 22 and Feb. 24 at 9 p.m. Eastern. The behind-the-scenes look is meant to help viewers understand Gibson’s vision for the film, and it will present never-before-seen footage of the actors and directors at work. The special also will feature on-set interviews of the cast and crew and stories of how the sets were created.

— The American Tract Society has produced two tracts answering the controversial question of who killed Jesus. Noting the importance of an individual’s last words, the tract called “The Passion of The Christ” by evangelist Greg Laurie traces Jesus’ last words as He hung on the cross and relates how all sinners are responsible for His death.

The second tract, titled “The Passion — Who Crucified Jesus?” by Hollywood-based cultural analyst David Bruce, says the Bible names God as the one responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus. Both tracts end with a Gospel presentation and a sample prayer for salvation. They may be ordered at www.atstracts.org.

— Larry Poland, chairman of Mastermedia International in California, has written a booklet titled “Is the Passion of Jesus Anti-Semitic?”

“The purpose of this booklet is to help the reader understand both the evangelical Christian and Jewish perspectives, not just of Mel Gibson’s film, but of the broader issue of Jesus and the telling of his story,” Poland writes. “It is my passionate hope that the resulting dialogue will help build a bridge of trust and understanding between the Jewish and evangelical Christian communities. I’ll even offer some steps to ‘build the abutments’ for this bridge.”

To receive a complimentary copy of the booklet or to bulk order it, send an e-mail to [email protected].

In other Passion-related news:

— Gibson has decided to delete a controversial scene about Jews in the film, according to The New York Times. The scene in which the Jewish high priest Caiaphas calls down a kind of curse on the Jewish people by declaring, “His blood be on us and on our children,” will not be in the film’s final version. A close associate to Gibson told The Times the scene did not work well in the focus screenings, possibly because it was thought to be too hurtful or not taken in the way it was intended. Though the scene is based on Matthew 27:25, it may have added unnecessary fodder to the claims of many Jewish leaders that the film is anti-Semitic.

— The Passion was the top seller on Fandango online ticket service the week of Feb. 2, with 19 percent of sales. Tickets were pre-ordered before the release date of Feb. 25.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: CENTER STAGE. For information on using The Passion in outreach, resources are available on the Web from LifeWay Christian Resources at www.lifeway.com/passion.

    About the Author

  • Erin Curry