My fears are not the obvious ones, like ... can any good thing come out of Hollywood, or ... will the message ever be heard over the anti-Semitic charges. No, the reviews that I've read are positive. Keith Fournier, constitutional lawyer and graduate of Franciscan University, claims a low tolerance for anti-Semitic bigotry. His review emphasizes, "There is not a scintilla of anti-Semitism to be found anywhere in this 'powerful film.' "David Limbaugh climbs on board when he quotes Mel Gibson, "The Holy Ghost was working through me (Gibson) on this film, and I was just directing traffic. I hope the film has the power to evangelize." Danae Dobson (James Dobson's daughter) closed a recent e-mail with a request. "I hope you all will support Mel Gibson's bold and courageous effort to portray the sacrifice that our Lord made for us."
From all I've read, Gibson has crafted a God-honoring film with pure intentions. "The Passion" promises to be a powerful, spiritually charged spectacle! So, why fear?
It's another comment in the Fournier article that stops me. He describes his feelings having just seen the film. "This was not simply a movie; it was an encounter unlike anything I have ever experienced." His words mirror most reports. They foreshadow an event we will all experience, whether we see the movie or not.
Clearly, this February millions of movie-goers are going to share in the most accurately intimate portrayal ever made of the sorrows, beating, suffering, crucifying, dying, burying and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus. And here, at last(!), is my concern. Do believers in America have the vision to utilize this movie for the kingdom's sake?! Do we recognize a great opportunity (Colossians 4:5) when we see one? Will we show up!?
Oh yes, we are ready to attend; to view the relentless scourging, to identify the poignancy of each cinematic detail, to recoil from the nails being driven. But, having experienced it "up close and personal," what kind of responsibility do we assume, especially after claiming that we believe every blow and stripe down to the last gasping breath.
If you have not already been challenged by someone else, allow me to call you out to the real war with Satan over this movie. The Passion of The Christ is a large door for the gospel lying directly in our paths. Like preparing for a tactical battle, we will be wise to organize our time and resources. Here is an outline toward action:
1. Plan and Pray
Do not attend "The Passion" without a plan. You may want to see it the first time alone. Start praying now for friends and acquaintances who will see the movie. If attending with younger children, they will need support and comfort ahead of time. As one reviewer warned, " 'The Passion' is extremely violent because the cross was violent." Those with teens may have multiplied opportunities. Every adolescent in the country will want to see this movie. The movie will almost certainly be "R" rated so adults will have to go along. (Do you hear the sound of doors opening for youth ministry?!) Ask a non-Christian Mom/Dad to join you. Pray for them!The Passion opens an extremely rare door for national evangelism.
2. Ask God for someone close to you
We Americans love big numbers, instant results and quick turnarounds. Its easy to get caught up in a dream where millions somehow find Christ and, as a result, America turns to God. In most cases those kind of miracles are not based in reality. On the other hand, another scenario has each of us focusing on just one or two people ... friends we already have. A warning, though. Remember that most people will choose in the end to take the broad road.(Matthew 7:13) No message, method or movie will change their minds. Salvation is a heart issue with the Holy Spirit acting in tandem with repentance. We may be awestruck and weeping as the credits roll, but most around us will just get up and go home. When we see that happen we must not be discouraged. Instead, may God allow us to be aware of the one or two individuals nearby. Those who heard His voice. It may be their questions or tears ... or their silence. They may open up on the spot or a week later. Gravitate to them. Listen to them! Take time to answer their questions. Pray for insight and guidance!!
3. Be prepared to share
Have you ever led someone to Christ? If not, find out what is involved!
a. Familiarize yourself with a gospel sharing tool like, the First Followers of Jesus website (Heartlight.org's recommendation) or The Four Spiritual Laws and The Bridge to Life (Author's recommendation).
b. Know your own story. How did you come to Christ? Can you convey it to another person in a clear, concise manner? Write it out then practice telling your story to a friend or family member. You'll find helpful online guidelines at this testimony resource page.
c. Memorize key verses! Read the article, "Why Johnny Can't Share His Faith?" from www.heartlight.org. It contains several links to Bible memorization tools. There are helps available that make this powerful discipline easy!
4. Have follow-up plans
a. Have a personal plan.
After the movie: Are you going out for pizza or having everyone over for cookies in your home? Later, are you going to invite them to church,... a home Bible study,... or a youth group outing? How about inviting your new friend in Christ to join you in a one-on-one Bible study for new believers?
b. Mobilize believers in your church.
If this were a Billy Graham film many churches would already be a flurry of evangelistic planning. Allow me a prediction. "The Passion" is going to be seen by tens of millions who would never consider darkening the door of a theater for a "Christian" flick. Think about it! What about a study on Old Testament prophecy concerning the suffering Messiah? Go ahead! Give me a good reason why a church would NOT have a "Passion" series in place for the month of March?!
Scheduled for release on February 25, 2004, The Passion of the Christ opens an extremely rare door for national evangelism. Mel Gibson sums up his thoughts when he says, "I hope the film has the power to evangelize." Amen! Will we be ready!?