It’s that time of year when the spooky takes over. We, as Americans, like to be scared based on the number of haunted houses around. Or notice the number of movies or TV shows out now that seek to freak us out or get us to scream. Churches have responded to this phenomenon by offering alternatives such as Trunk or Treat, Harvest Festivals, and the popular Judgment House.
This post is not a critique if you decide to attend a Judgment House. I would, however, like to share some thoughts. I attended a Judgment House while we lived in Colorado but have not attended one where I currently live in Kansas. They are scripted well, have talented actors and actresses, elaborate sets, and are backed with results. However, over the years, I have become more critical of them.
Here are my thoughts:
- Fear should not be a motivation for salvation. Has the fear of hell forced a decision? Proponents of Judgment House will say look at all of these people who made decisions for Christ who would never set foot inside the church otherwise. My questions would be: how many of these people received discipleship following their decision, how many are following Jesus 5 years after attending a Judgment house, and how has it impacted their view of God (see bullet point below)?
- Is the whole gospel presented at Judgment House? In other words, is it presented in such a way that we understand who Jesus is and how great He is and want to follow Him and know the joys of following Christ now and in heaven or are we instead choosing to avoid hell? Is the focus what we are saved from or what we are saved for? Both are important.
- Does Judgment House emotionally manipulate people? God created us with emotions and those emotions are used by God. But have we gone too far with events like Judgment House where we pull on heart strings just to get kids to say “Yes” and then leave them to figure out the Christian walk on their own. We need both evangelism and discipleship.
- What image of God is portrayed? A.W. Tozer writes, “What comes into our mind when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”1 The Judgment House I attended in Colorado picked specific scenes and focused on God’s judgment of those people for their poor choices. What does this tell people about God? Is He sitting on the throne waiting for us to mess up and then sends disaster on our lives? That is not the God I believe in or worship. I believe in a God of love who allows consequences for our sin, but is not waiting for us to mess up so that He can punish us.
As you consider my thoughts, listen to Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
What are your thoughts? You might disagree with me as others have disagreed with me in the past. But I have to wonder if Judgment House is the best way to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Can it negatively impact our view of God?
By J.L. Martin
Husband to Bethany
Dad of 1 boy, 3 girls
1 Corinthians 13 Parenting Team Member
Pastor of Children and Family at Hesston MB Church