OWASSO—Bringing to life the message “Jesus is alive!” was even more meaningful this year for members of Owasso, First. The church reached deep into the community with a “Passion Week Experience,” an interactive devotional journey designed to immerse people in the meaning of the cross and prepare them to celebrate the resurrection.
On March 27-30, the free event connected more than 1,450 people with the most significant moment in history, resulting in 27 decisions for Christ, including 11 professions of faith in Christ.
“This has been both an incredibly effective evangelistic outreach in our community, and a significant discipleship opportunity in the life of our church. People who do not know Christ are able to walk through and see what Jesus did for them and then sit in a small group setting discovering why Christ came. This has become a modern-day revival meeting in our community,” said Chris Wall, pastor of Owasso, First.
Brad Aylor, groups pastor at Owasso, First describes the “Passion Week Experience” as a “Baptist version of the stations of the cross.” Now in its sixth year, the event has grown to include 10 stations that depict the events leading up to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Participants could either experience the event as a self-guided tour with the option of a fast track by pre-registering online, or by registering for a guided group tour. The experience took about one hour and included a devotional guide written by the Owasso, First staff. The guide included Scripture, explanation, invitation and prayer time.
Visitors were immersed in an environment where they could experience the emotion and meaning of the event. They began their journey by washing their hands, symbolic for spiritually preparing their hearts. They observed the elements of the Passover Meal, walked through the garden, met Caiaphas and held the thirty pieces of silver. Participants walked through a small scale of the Via Dolorosa and had the option to carry a cross beam down the road toward Golgotha.
“Each station really comes alive … you can touch, feel, taste, interact with characters,” Aylor said. “(Our volunteers) have searched the scriptures, they’ve researched and they’ve tried as much as possible to bring this (to life) in the most authentic way.”
A small scale of the temple was created with Outer Court, Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. Participants were greeted by the High Priest as he explained the significance of the sacrifice. At the tomb, participants smelled the oils and spices used to prepare Jesus body for burial.
Ayler explained, “At certain points, along the journey, it becomes really personal, and it takes that story and twists it to ‘I‘m in this story too; it’s my sin that caused Jesus to go to the cross.’”
Toward the end of the journey, participants spent a brief time in an intimate setting with Wall as he shared the Gospel and invited people to make professions of faith in Christ. Many wrote their sin on paper and nailed it to the cross. Utilizing an explanation in the devotional guide, Wall guided believers to voluntarily partake in the Lord’s Supper. Participating in the Lord’s Supper as the culmination of the walk-through experience ends the journey in a unique way has become especially powerful to those participating as well as the deacons who serve.
Aylor noted that the church loves to serve. Three hundred eighty seven volunteers made the night possible. Three shifts per night of one and a half hours each made serving feasible while allowing everyone to participate.
“The Passion Week mobilizes our people to serve, puts our leaders in one-on-one situations where they get to share the Gospel and is a unique open door for our people to point their lost friends to Christ. It makes sense that God’s hand is on it because Jesus clearly told us that if He is lifted up, all men will be drawn to Him,” Wall said.
Passion Week Experience can be customized to churches of any size. Owasso, First has made the event’s resources free to churches. For more information, contact Brad Aylor [email protected] or 918/272-2294.