Many of Christian leaders are looking forward to the impact of Mel Gibsons movie, The Passion of the Christ, anticipating it to be used as a great evangelistic tool. Although Mel Gibson is Catholic and the movie is filmed based on Catholic faith, other non-Catholic Christians such as Pentecostal and evangelical leaders, have embraced the movie as precious, hoping for a return of Great Awakening that moved Americans in the 18th and 19th centuries to strengthen Christianity.
"I don't know of anything since the Billy Graham crusades that has had the potential of touching so many lives," said Morris H. Chapman, president of the executive committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's largest Protestant denomination. "It's like the Lord somehow laid in our lap something that could be a great catalyst for spiritual awakening in this nation."
After Mel Gibson screened the film the past two months for at least 10,000 pastors and leaders of Christian ministries and media, those leaders are buying a lot of tickets, encouraging church members to invite their non-Christian friends to see the movie.
Also many of the Christian groups are promoting the film and Jesus by distributing lapel pins in Aramaic, witnessing cards, door hangers, and a CD-ROM for teenagers that features a picture of a nine-inch nail that nailed Jesus to the cross.
Much of movie promotion was initially done by various ministries and churches. For example, the American Tract Society in Garland, Tex., proclaims on its website that the movie is "one of the greatest opportunities for evangelism in 2,000 years.
"This is an unprecedented opportunity that the average Christian needs to seize," the president, Daniel Southern said. "You'll run into people at work who've seen the movie, and you can say, `Have you ever thought about why Christ had to die?' And then you can say: `This tract has one take on that and I'd like to share it with you.' And you hand them the tract."
Teen Mania, an evangelical group that holds youth crusades in stadiums, says at least 3,000 leaders of church youth groups have bought CD-ROM kits to teach young people how to use the movie to explorer deeper into their own faith.
Although the movie is rate R because of the violent crucifixion of Jesus, Ron Luce, president of Teen Mania, encourages parents to watch the movie with their children.
"This isn't just violence for violence's sake," Mr. Luce said. "This is what really happened, what it would have been like to have been there in person to see Jesus crucified."