Although thoughts and current activities are more focused on Thanksgiving and Christmas, here is a story on what happened last month around Halloween. Two churches from different locations provided similar events, and both had a great impact on God’s Kingdom.
Oklahoma City, Wilmont Place and Atoka, Harmony hosted Judgment Houses. People from the respective communities walked through rooms, anticipating suspenseful, scary situations and experiencing salvation through the presentation of the Gospel.
For Atoka, Harmony, this was the church’s first time to have a Judgment House. For three nights, the event drew 931 people, and the results included 125 professions of faith and 128 rededications.
“We have been praying for years to do something like this,” said Jay Willoughby, pastor of Atoka, Harmony. “We are a country church. We are not in town. We are about six or seven minutes out of town. We had people drive from all over to come.”
Willoughby credited Chris McDaniel, student minister at Atoka, Harmony, who had experience with doing a Judgment House at a previous church. In fact, McDaniel came from the same church where Willoughby previously served as student minister and was instrumental in starting the Judgment House at that church.
“We have the same heart and same direction, and since we both were familiar with how to do a Judgment House, we thought we could make it happen at Harmony,” said McDaniel about Willoughby and how both men desire to relate to the community during the Halloween season. “We look for opportunities to redeem those things that are within our culture. Halloween is a great thing that we can redeem, not from the ‘haunted house’ perspective but being able to share the Gospel.”
The church was in full support of having the event. Willoughby said they averaged 150 people a night serving at the Judgment House.
“We have been laser focused in serving our community and laser focused on evangelism, laser focused on overcoming your fear of talking and breaking out of your comfort zone,” said Willoughby. “When we began to see people coming together we saw what the Bride of Christ is supposed to be doing, making known the name of Jesus.”
Oklahoma City, Wilmont Place has more experience doing a Judgment House, as this was the 18th year for the event. They also offered three nights that attracted 1,953 people with 156 professions of faith and 832 rededications.
Josh McKee, student pastor at Oklahoma City, Wilmont Place, said this was one of the larger attendances for Judgement House. He said many student leaders who went through past Judgment Houses that Wilmont Place hosted were now bringing their youth groups.
“It’s one of the more effective ministries that we do and do it very well,” said McKee.
One thing that both churches stressed about doing a Judgment House was not to “scare anybody into a relationship with Jesus Christ.”
“We emphasized the love of God,” said Willoughby. “We want to show them and share with them that they are created uniquely and that God planned a purpose and a redemption story for every one of them, and that the story always involves the love of Jesus.”
McKee said Wilmont Place made the emphasis be on a real life situation that would cause participants to think about their own lives.
“I got to see many reactions,” said McKee who portrayed Satan in one of the rooms and could tell those taking in the setting were affected. “It looked obvious that ‘the lights came on.’ There were many ‘teary-eyed’ responses, not out of a scare but more out of a realization.”
Both churches made sure the Gospel was presented, as counselors met with each individual at the end. Willoughby said they used the same materials that are offered to those making spiritual decisions at the Falls Creek Summer Youth Camps, as well as materials offered through the Evangelism Office of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.
“It’s an excitement,” said Willoughy. “We’ve had baptisms. We’ve had people join. These are people that did not only come for Judgment House but they also were involved in seeing the church coming together and wanting to be a part of what’s happening.”
Whether in a large city or in a smaller community, churches of different sizes can be used of God to spread His Gospel and see many come to Christ.