Church creates ‘Judgement House’ as alternative to Halloween haunts

10/29/2011 5:00 AM

10/29/2011 7:49 AM

HUDSON, Ohio — Life is full of choices, and each choice has its consequences.

That is the message presented just before Halloween at Hope Community Church in Hudson, Ohio.

“Our goal is to portray a real-life story about real people who make real choices about what they’re going to do about Christ,” said the Rev. Jeff Schofield, co-lead pastor at Hope Community. “The Bible tells us that we will all stand before the Lord in judgment and what happens there will be based on the decisions we made in life. We want to encourage people to choose a relationship with Christ.”

The evangelization tool Schofield and his congregation are using is a live, walk-through drama called Judgement House. During the presentation, which is similar to a haunted house, a guide leads small groups from scene to scene as the story of a family, with two teen children, unfolds.

More than 250 church members have been planning since spring to pull together the 35-minute walk-through drama that starts in a tent off the church parking lot, moves through eight scenes in the lower level of the church and ends in the sanctuary, where counselors are available to talk with people about the drama and Christianity.

Angela Condo, who coordinates the volunteers for the drama, said the massive effort that goes into transforming the church into a theatrical production is worth it.

“It’s awe-inspiring to see the impact that it has on the lives of people who come through,” said Condo, of Streetsboro. “For me, it’s personal because both my dad and stepmom became believers in Christ through Judgement House.”

The goal of the local church is to attract nonbelievers to Judgement House as an alternative to the haunted houses that are offered at this time of year. But, unlike the Halloween thrillers, Judgement House does not intend to scare people.

“We’re not trying to make people wet their pants or have a heart attack. It’s not our heart to scare people into a relationship with Christ,” Schofield said. “We just want to present what the Bible teaches about life after death in a compelling way.”

Judgement House, founded in 1983 by a student minister in Moody, Ala., is now a nonprofit organization known as New Creation Evangelism Inc. Since its incorporation in 1988, Judgement House has been presented in 34 states and seven countries abroad. According to information on its website (www.judgementhouse.org), 3.9 million people have experienced Judgement House and 390,000 have made a first-time profession of faith in Christ.

This is the 10th year the local church has presented Judgement House, which attracted 6,000 people last year. Each year, the message “What will you do with God’s offer of a saving and personal relationship with Jesus Christ?” is the same, but the story, or script, changes. This year’s theme of the presentation at Hope Community Church is “Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire.”

It centers around two teens involved in a house fire.

Todd Kowalcyk, who directs the production, adapted the script (supplied by Judgement House) for the local church.

“We are trying to make sure the gospel message is clear and concise,” said Kowalcyk, of Streetsboro. “As far as I’m concerned, God takes care of the message and we take care of the show. It’s all about spreading the gospel.”

The Protestant, evangelical church, founded in 1992, is part of the Christian Missionary Alliance. It attracts about 600 people to its 9:30 and 11 a.m. Sunday worship services.

The Rev. Jerry Witt, founding pastor, said Judgement House is an example of the congregation’s commitment to do whatever it takes to lead people to Christ.

“When people walk away from Judgement House, we want them to look at the reality of life after death and to have seen the love of God through his son, Jesus Christ,” Witt said. “We do this as a gift to others because we want to share the love of God. And the added bonus is that it really draws the people in our church together.”

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