FBC Winfield uses local news to hit home with reality-based dramacomment (0)
November 20, 2008
By Darla Brantley
A jealous, abusive ex-boyfriend becomes angry and accidentally shoots his former girlfriend at a party. A teenager seeking phenomenal athletic ability takes a health “supplement” that causes a fatal reaction.
Since 1989, First Baptist Church, Winfield, has made reality-based story lines like these come alive as part of its Final Judgement drama ministry each October around Halloween. Structured like the popular Judgement House events, it challenges audience members to consider where they will spend eternity.
In order to avoid problems with the Judgement House trademark, the Marion Baptist Association church chose the name “Final Judgement” in 2002 and only uses original scripts focusing on the pressures and choices today’s teenagers face.
Joyce Ballew, Final Judgement director and scriptwriter, strives to not only make the story lines as realistic as possible by focusing on events in the news but also make them specific to the Winfield area by asking local teenagers what kinds of issues they face.
“First, I pray and ask God to show me what issues we need to address,” Ballew explained of the scriptwriting process. “God will bring something to mind that I have read ... or something I have seen on television about teen ... problems, and this will trigger an idea in my mind.”
At least one character perishes in the story line each year, and the audience follows him or her through the consequences of his or her eternal choice. In years past, characters have died as a result of drowning, car wrecks and tornadoes. One year featured those left behind after the Rapture.
Once the story line has been determined, the work on Final Judgement turns to set construction. One story called for a plane crash to be staged, which involved moving an actual airplane from the roof of one building to another. Another story had Ballew enlisting the help of the local fire department to create the illusion of a mobile home fire.
But one thing remains the same each year — all of these behind-the-scenes efforts result in decisions made for Christ. This past October, First, Winfield, hosted its 20th annual Final Judgement and saw more than 1,100 people come through and 156 decisions made. Ballew estimated the number of professions of faith at more than 2,400 during the 20-year period and noted that only one year did the number of decisions fall below 100.
She credits word-of-mouth for the number in attendance each year. “People who have been before tell their friends about it, and we now have adults who came as teenagers who now bring their teens,” Ballew said.
The event is free of charge — something Ballew wants to maintain. “We have so many things made available to us from people and businesses in our community that we don’t have to spend a lot of money on sets and special effects,” she said. “I feel like this is our ministry, and I want to make it available to everyone.”
Ballew believes the reason the event has been successful for so long is the number of people who are committed to praying for the ministry.
“Another reason is the commitment of our teens and adults to make this a quality presentation,” Ballew said, mentioning those involved in acting and set building.
Her husband, Charles, who serves as the church’s pastor, said Final Judgement involves dozens of people who might otherwise “miss out on witnessing to the unsaved” and serves as an avenue for spiritual gifts to be used. And not just the ones you might associate with producing a drama but also things like cooking for the cast and crew.
While working in Final Judgement is time consuming — sometimes lasting until midnight — and exhausting, Sarah Hughes, a six-year veteran of the production, says it’s worth it.
“After a few days, the exhaustion will fade away, but the decisions made for the Lord last forever,” Hughes said.
“When we hear the number of people who come to know our Savior each night, we realize all of our hard work is truly making a difference for the Kingdom.”
Tracey Reese serves as a guide in Final Judgement each year and compares the experience to an athletic victory.
“It is such a victory over the devil,” she said. “He shows up hard and heavy that week. It is so nice to beat him; it’s like winning the big game. There are just no words to describe it.”