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Churches use Christmas to reach community, see decisions madecomment (0)

January 1, 2009

By Megan Norris Jones and Greg Heyman

In December, Alabama Baptist churches turned on the twinkle lights and warmed up the spotlights for their Christmas programs. Some were traditional, while others were not so traditional, but all had the same goal in mind — reaching lives for Christ.

When planning a program, “don’t be afraid to talk about some real-life issues that people are going through,” said Roy McNiel, minister of worship at Gardendale’s First Baptist Church in North Jefferson Baptist Association.

His church took that advice this past Christmas and presented the musical drama “Real Life, Real People, Real Savior,” the story of a teenage girl from a broken home who falls victim to an Internet predator.

It was about healing relationships within families and between individuals and God, but the ultimate message was redemption through Christ. The three presentations resulted in 11 professions of faith and numerous rededications.

“We wanted to see lives changed in that they were drawn closer to the Lord,” said Judy Bates, a member of Gardendale’s First who wrote the drama’s script. That included strengthening Christians’ walk with God and introducing non-Christians to Jesus.

Reaching out to both the community of believers and nonbelievers was something churches from Mobile to Florence hoped to do.

Highland Baptist Church, Florence, in Colbert-Lauderdale Baptist Association staged its first Living Christmas Tree with 111 singers and 110,000 lights on the tree, telling the Christmas story in song. The four performances were well-attended, and Music Minister Ronnie Hendricks hopes to make the Living Christmas Tree a tradition in the community.

“We have really wanted this to be an encouragement to Christians and an outreach to unchurched folks,” Hendricks said.

The Living Christmas Tree at First Baptist Church, Montgomery, in Montgomery Baptist Association was produced with the same two goals in mind: evangelism and encouragement.

“It is such a nonthreatening way to invite people, not only to the meaning of Christmas but to the meaning of our life,” said Chip Colee, minister of music at First, Montgomery.

First Baptist Church, Eclectic, in Elmore Baptist Association used live animals, music, carefully decorated sets and a cast of more than 100 actors to draw the community in for “An Eclectic Christmas,” a walk-through drama depicting the events leading up to Christ’s birth.

It was staged on a farm owned by First, Eclectic, members Donn and Rita Falk. The drama took about an hour to complete the walk-through, which was spread over a mile.

Pastor Wayne Cook estimated that nearly 500 people attended the first performance and anticipated the crowds would be at least that large for the three other performances based on reservations made through the church office.
He added several response cards were completed by individuals making a profession of faith or asking to speak with a minister.

“It’s been very well received,” Cook said, indicating the response from the community and excitement of church members means that “An Eclectic Christmas” is likely to continue in the future.

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