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October 26, 2011


I Agree. My church is doing Judgement House this year and hopefully it our last. It makes heaven look great and hell look bad. But where is the glory of God in all of it. We are scaring people into choosing Christ so that they can get the reward of heaven and not the punishment of hell. we are not making much of Christ, He is almost excluded (this is scary). It is man centered instead of gospel centered.

The ONLY way it could be justified is if the attraction was properly contextualized with a supplemental teaching over and against its entertainment value. That said, one would have to admit that the attraction was merely entertaining and not particularly instructive. It's only value would be to bring in people to potentially expose them to a truth that they would absorb merely tangentially in lieu of actually finding a more direct way of presenting the gospel to them. It's like ruining your lawn by flooding it in an attempt to wash your car with the full force of a fire hydrant.

Our church is doing JH for the second time. Last year, a young mother and father gave their hearts to Christ. They returned the next night with the grandmother, who also accepted the Lord. The entire family began to attend church. This year, their two elementary/youth boys accepted Christ. The entire family, and the grandmother were all baptized a few months ago. All have been active in the church since. Our JH clearly gives the gospel and presents both God's love AND His judgment. It causes people to "experience" a tiny bit of their potential future reality. Our church follows up with a presentation from our pastor, and a home visit. It has been an effective ministry. There's a verse about saving some "with fear." Perhaps for some, the truth about heaven and hell needs to be proclaimed.

Along with the comments here (and at the original blog), I have mixed feelings. I have known people who have at least recommitted themselves at such events, but I think these are relatively rare, and I question whether their commitments wouldn't have come about through decent teaching without the sensationalism.
More crucially, I think these events are offensive, and I don't mean "offense of the cross" offensive, but just plain "my God is gonna get you" offensive. Admittedly, if you actually attend one, you probably won't get this vibe, but it is certainly common in the media and blogosphere. Doctrines of God's holiness, judgment and hell are deep and complex beliefs that resonate deeply with people when deeply understood (understood by a CS Lewis or Jonathan Edwards, not a Rob Bell). The sensationalism, manipulation and entertainment provided by a JH don't come close to doing it justice, and give skeptics one more reason to write off Christians as judgmental, emotion-driven, superstitious, manipulated sheeple.

Last year, our church had over 80 decisions because of Judgment House. This year, some of those same people have returned, bringing friends and family members with them. As one of the guides who leads the groups through the drama, my voice often shakes and my eyes well up as I deliver the narration. Understanding the weight of the information the guests are receiving can be very emotional, and I don't take it lightly at all. The event is covered in prayer, before, during and after. We present JH in humility, only asking God to use the talents He has given for His glory. Last week, I "guided" two unchurched Gothic-style lesbians through the tour, and both of them later acknowledged that it was "interesting." They may not have made decisions, but at least seeds were planted. They were not offended. I believe our sincerity and concern for them will be the impression they are left with, not an offensive God.

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