drive-through Passion Play may not be the first thing
that comes to mind for evangelism at Easter, but at least one church has found
the effort to be more than worth it.
Riva Trace Baptist Church in Annapolis, Maryland, uses "bridge events" to
attract unchurched families to the gospel.
"Its all about making church user-friendly and relevant to everyday living,"
says Dennis Gray, senior pastor. "We want people to become comfortable with
church," Dennis says.
The Scenes of Easter is just such an event presenting a unique drive-through
experience depicting seven live, dramatic scenes from Easter week. Drivers and
passengers view the chronological scenes on church grounds as they make their
way from set to set.
"Its like going to the theater without ever getting out of your car,"
explains Dr. Bill Bloomquist, minister of music and producer of The Scenes of
Many people will not step foot in a church, but they will bring their
children and out-of-town guests to see a drive-through. It costs nothing, is
entertaining, and is a nonthreatening way to celebrate a spiritual holiday.
"Our advantage," says Bill, "is that we get to share the gospel story."
The story begins in the first scene with Jesus triumphal entry into
Next is the Lords Supper scene where Jesus bids farewell to His beloved
disciples. It opens with Jesus predicting His betrayal by Judas and His
Following the Lords Supper is the arrest in the garden and Peters
"People seem stunned," says Carol Thompson, church member and scene
director. "They cant believe we go through all this troublefor free. I think
many wonder what motivates us to do this."
The answer is staged in the next two scenesJesus before Pilate and the
crucifixion. The crucifixion scene is the most dramatic. It features an actual
cross, assembled with wooden pegs. Roman soldiers clad with swords and shields
thrash Jesus with a flagrum before putting Him on the cross.
The drive-through finale is the resurrection scene. A fog machine and strobe
lights are used for special effects as the stone is rolled away from the empty
tomb and an angel appears announcing that Jesus has risen.
The Scenes of Easter is consistently a successful community evangelism event
for Riva Trace, and it could be adapted to accommodate most communities and
churches. But it does require months of advanced planning, volunteer
recruitment and hours of preparation.
"Our first year we made 80 costumes," Bill explains. "The following years we
added new costumes and upgraded old ones." His wife, MaryAnn, a member of the
Screen Actors Guild, directs the cast of 100 actors and the seven scene
directors who monitor the scenes during each nights performance.
Meanwhile, the publicity committee is hard at work. A logo was developed the
first year and is now used in paid advertising and all printed materials
promoting the event. Church leaders encourage members to hang professionally
printed posters in public locations. One month prior to the event, they print
free tickets that are inserted in the Sunday bulletin for members to hand out
to friends and acquaintances. They purchase ad space in the local
In April 1999, more than 2,000 people attended The Scenes of Easter, and due
to the unexpected influx of people, many were guided through on foot by church
staff so no one would be turned away.
"Without proper planning," cautions Bill, "this can be a logistical
nightmare." To avoid a disaster and ensure a successful outreach event for a
community, Bill offers these tips:
Dont procrastinate. You cant start too early. Your biggest
time-buster is the costumes. And dont forget to hone those scripts.
Get support. This is a big project, and success requires
the support of your church leaders. Volunteer recruitment is most difficult the
Create authentic scenes. Begin with research and build the
scenes from your findings. Each scenes backdrop or flat should be designed and
painted by an artist. Use colors from the time period, mostly natural earth
tones and jewel tones. For easy set up, build supports that serve as an easel
for the flats and that can be assembled and anchored to the ground with ease.
Dont forget your props.
Plan your setup and logistical needs. Survey church
property and determine the best route for the cars and positioning of the
scenes. Determine your electrical needs. Time each scene during a dress
rehearsal, determining the total time to complete the drive-through and how
best to manage traffic.
Avoid traps that distract from the primary purpose of evangelism. Dont be
too ambitious. Be realistic, and dont try to be too big too soon. Pray a lot,
and always remember whats really important that people need a personal
relationship with Jesus Christ.
Alysia Mathisen is the communications liaison for the Center for
Christian Statesmanship in Washington, D.C.
Heres a great idea to involve children in the Easter story in a unique way and
to teach them about Jesus sacrifice for our sakes.
This recipe for baking Easter cookies comes with a special message, and you
can use them with your family or for a slumber party. The recipe is best used
the night before Easter, but the message will come through any time of
You will need:
1 cup whole pecans
1 teaspoon vinegar
3 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1 large plastic zip bag
Preheat your oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit (this is importantdont wait
until youre half done with the recipe).
Place the pecans in a large plastic zip bag and let the children beat them
with the wooden spoon to break them into small pieces.
Explain that after Jesus was arrested, the Roman soldiers beat Him. Read
Let each child smell the vinegar. Put 1 teaspoon of
vinegar into a mixing bowl. Explain that when Jesus was thirsty on the cross He
was given vinegar to drink. Read John 19:28-30.
Add egg whites to vinegar. Tell the children that the eggs represent life.
Explain that Jesus gave His life to give us life. Read John 10:10-11.
Sprinkle a little salt into both hands of each child. Let the children taste
it from one hand and brush it from the other hand into the bowl. Explain that
this represents the salty tears shed by Jesus followers and the bitterness of
our own sin. Read Luke 23:27.
Say: "So far the ingredients are not very appetizing." Add 1 cup of sugar.
Explain that the sweetest part of the story is that Jesus died because He loves
us. He wants us to know and belong to Him. Read Psalm 34:8 and John 3:16.
Beat with a mixer on high speed for 12 to 15 minutes until stiff peaks are
formed. Explain that the color white represents the purity God sees in those
whose sins have been cleansed by Jesus. Read Isaiah 1:18 and John 3:1-3.
Fold in the broken nuts. Drop by teaspoons onto a wax paper-covered cookie
sheet. Explain that each mound represents the rocky tomb where Jesus body was
laid. Read Matthew 27:57-60.
Put the cookie sheet in the oven, close the door and turn the oven off.
Give each child a piece of tape and seal the oven door.
Explain that Jesus tomb was sealed. Read Matthew 27:65-66.
Go to bed (Make sure the oven is off). Explain that they may feel sad to
leave the cookies in the oven overnight. Jesus followers were in despair when
the tomb was sealed. Read John 16:20 and 22.
On Easter morning, open the oven and give everyone a cookie.
Notice the cracked surface and take a bite. The cookies are hollow. On the
first Easter Jesus followers were amazed to find the tomb open and empty.
Read Matthew 28:1-9.
Wed love to give credit to the original author, but we dont know who she
(or he) is.
A simple invitation changed Chris Edmonds life. Her daughter and son-in-law
invited her to The Scenes of Easter four years ago.
"I was impressed but remember wondering, What would make all these
people go through this for free?" she explained.
The enormity of hosting an event like thiswith all the lighting, costumes,
props and peopleimpacted Chris the most. "I knew the Easter story; I had gone
to church my whole life but was awestruck by the joy on their faces and in
their smiles. I knew they had something I didnt have."
Chris says she remembers being moved to tears by the dramatic portrayal,
especially the crucifixion scene, and was determined to find some answersthis
time. She began attending Riva Trace on Sunday mornings. A few weeks later the
pastor and some members from the church visited her home. "Thats when I really
learned why these people cared so muchthey have the love of Christ and wanted
me to have it, too." Chris accepted Christ that night and later became an
active member of Riva Trace Baptist Church.
One year later Chris was participating in The Scenes of Easter. She was now
"one of those people" with joy on her face. She played one of the women who
accuses Peter of being with Jesus. "By the end of each night, Im hoarse," Chris
says. "I just love it!"
At a church dinner for volunteers, Chris told the group, "You just dont know
how you are going to impact people. Im a living testimony to that reality; I
wasnt here a year ago. Even though you may not see the results right away, The
Scenes of Easter does plant seeds."
A Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program and theAnnie Armstrong Easter Offering® ©Copyright 2013 North American Mission Board, SBC