“To Hell and Back,” an illustrated sermon that takes the audience on a journey to hell to meet those who have been condemned, has been a staple event of Greater Grace Temple in Detroit for over a decade. On Friday evening, thousands will watch the scary and insightful message yet again, and just in time for Halloween.
“To me, when you talk about hell, when you talk about demons and ghouls … that’s always seemed to be what Halloween has represented,” said Bishop Charles H. Ellis III, senior pastor of Greater Grace Temple, in an interview with The Christian Post on Thursday. “So we’re trying to take it now and put a positive twist to Halloween.”
Ellis says the event, which has been held on the Friday before Halloween for the last 13 years, isn’t a drama but is an illustrated sermon composed of dramatic elements. “To Hell and Back” features an angel who guides Ellis through hell, where suffering sinners share their testimonies about how they lived their lives apart from God.
The bishop says the concept for the sermon came from another pastor, Tommy Barnett of Phoenix First Assembly of God in Arizona, who allowed him to adjust the script to make it more relevant to a primarily urban, African-American crowd. Among the characters who share their testimonies from hell are biblical names such as Judas Iscariot, Cain, and “the rich man” who treated Lazarus poorly, along with more contemporary individuals including “gang bangers,” a false prophet, a drunkard, a fornicator, homosexuals and an internet predator.
“There’s some people who will only step in a church for a funeral,” Ellis said. “There are some people who will come to what they perceive to be a play, a dramatization, and we’re very careful to say, ‘This is not a play, even though it looks like a play. This is an illustrated sermon.'”
The first time the church put on the production in 1998, he says, around 3,000 people attended and approximately 400 people responded to an altar call. Some people stayed until 2:30 a.m. following the presentation, because 250 people lined up to get baptized that night.
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SOURCE: The Christian Post