By Jarrod Jacobs
In the October 20, 1995 edition of The Tennessean, Ray Waddle reported on a trend among many of the denominational churches in Donelson, Mt. Juliet, Lebanon, and Clarksville, Tennessee. Attributing the idea to Jerry Falwell, area Baptist churches were offering tours of “Judgment Houses” in lieu of haunted houses. Yet, another example of the denominations trying to “sanctify” a holiday.
Some 10,000 youngsters attended last year’s event at the Two Rivers Baptist Church. Each year they try to vary the general theme as to what hell might be like. “This year, the hell room is a place of claustrophobia and darkness” said Phil Wilson, student “pastor.” He went on to say, “We haven’t figured out how to do a lake of fire without burning everybody up.” How unfortunate.
Why Should We Be Concerned
About This Article?
Someone may ask, “What has this to do with me?” Friend, we need to be aware of these things because several denominational bodies think this type of flagrant dramatization is necessary for reaching young people. Philip Herring, the minister of the First Baptist Church in Clarksville, said, “Many kids see this as a presentation of the truth” (emp. mine, JJ). We need to be cautious and concerned about things such as this because once certain brethren see the numbers involved, they will want to “be like all the nations” (1 Sam. 8:5-20). Unfortunately, we have some among us who will “tickle people’s ears” in order to be popular (2 Tim. 4:3-4). There are brethren crying for a “new” way of teaching and preaching right now! They ridicule what they call “1950s preaching.” In other words, they do not like sermons that call sin sin! They do not like sermons that name false teachers and their doctrine. They would rather children enter into “Judgment Houses” and be “scared” into obedience, than to have them convicted through the pure and simple preaching of the word of God!
Why Would a “Judgment House” Be Wrong?
The reason that this type of thing is wrong is that it appeals to physical enjoyment rather than spiritual truth. The appeal in these “Judgment Houses” is made to emotional-ism and sight tricks. A close study of the New Testament reveals that Jesus spoke more about hell than any other teacher in the New Testament. Yet, He never appealed to emotionalism or sensationalism, rather to a calm and logical study. Jesus taught that hell was a real place where people would spend eternity. He taught it was a place of torment, fire, and punishment (Rev. 14:9-11, 21:8; Matt. 25:46). Jesus knew about theaters, dramatizations, and the like. The plays of Sophocles and Euripides were common in his day. Yet, Jesus chose to appeal to logic, reason and to the soul of man about this terrible place. Why is this not good enough for us?
The Work of the Church
We need to understand that the church is not in the entertaining business. The church is to be working to save souls. It is the “pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). With this in mind, let us not try to get the church engaged in unauthorized activities in the name of “winning” people to Christ. The end does not justify the means (Rom. 3:8)!
If it is true that plays, puppet shows, “Judgment Houses,” and the like will reach so many, why didn’t Jesus and the apostles use this method of “teaching”? Was Jesus not the Master Teacher? Of course he was! Yet, Jesus chose to con-front and convict people of their sin, rather than entertain them (John 8:1-11; Matt. 23:13-39; etc.). Paul and the apostles would have made many more friends, and I am sure would have converted many more if they had simply conducted puppet shows and plays for the kids. Instead, they chose to follow the example of Christ and preach the unadulterated word of God. (Gal. 1:11-12; 1 Cor. 9:16). Knowing this, who are we to think that we have a “better” or “newer” way to teach than Jesus or the apostles? God wants his word preached and taught in its purity and simplicity (2 Tim. 2:2, 4:2). It will not do for anyone to try to change God’s word by going into the entertaining business, or scaring kids into obedience!
Guardian of Truth XL: 11 p. 23
June 6, 1996