Churches in the United Kingdom are getting ready for an evangelistic outreach this Christmas amid the rising mania over the upcoming new Disney film "Narnia."
"The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe" is a movie based on the classic novel written by the renowned English author C.S. Lewis. Aside from its exciting storyline, the Christian message embedded in the film appears to be a great attracting factor for the British audience even before the world premiere in London on Dec. 7.
Christian Publishing and Outreach (CPO), a U.K.-based evangelical publishing company, has approached the Walt Disney Co. and was granted the permission to use two images from the film for the production of special "Narnia" packs, according to Reuters. The materials are being distributed to 20,000 churches across Britain to aid in evangelism.
Russ Bravo, development director for CPO told Reuters that the demand for "Narnia" packs has been "very big." Included in the packs are a what-to-do guide, outlines that give ministers ideas on how to deliver sermons, and material for Sunday schools.
The Children and Youth ministry of the Methodist Church of Great Britain has also published some evangelism resources based on "Narnia." A special "Narnia" service focusing on the theme of gift-giving and receiving was written by Methodist Children for all ages in the Church.
According to the U.K.-based Times newspaper, a Methodist spokesman explained how the adventure of four children Lucy, Edmund, Peter and Susan in "Narnia" relates to Christmas and the salvation of Jesus Christ.
He said that as the main characters have entered a world of ice and snow that has no Christmas, congregations are asked to consider "what the world would be like if Christmas never came," the Times reported. Christians will then be reminded of "the importance of the gift we are given at Christmas, past, present and future."
Doug Swanney, Childrens Work Development Officer, further explained, "Christmas is a time associated with presents and giving and this service aims to highlight Jesus as the great gift of God for our salvation." He added that the worship service can also be used for other occasions during the year.
Premier Radio, the most influential Christian radio in Britain, highly recommends "Narnia" to general Christians. A special section on its website features an introduction of C.S. Lewiss whole series of novels about "Narnia," analyzing the Gospel message behind these stories.
The huge reaction of Christian churches in the United Kingdom to the Disney movie could be explained when recalling the success of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" more than a year ago.
According to Christian Enquiry Agency (CEA) U.K., the number of enquiries about the Christian faith in 2004 boosted drastically after the release of "The Passion of the Christ.
Last year, while the movie was on show in the cinemas, CEA handed out 150,000 response postcards to young people. This year, CEA has planned a marketing campaign similar to that for "The Passion of the Christ" to mobilize the interest of churches and schools on "Narnia."
St Lukes, a local Anglican church in the southeast English town of Maidston, decided to offer 10,000 pounds worth of free tickets to single parents and their children so that they can watch "Narnia" over the holidays, according to Times.
The Church described the movie as the "Passion of Christ for kids." The website aslanisJesus.co.uk was set up, aiming to help people making "a connection between the film and Jesus and how he can transform lives," Times reported.
"C.S. Lewis is a great Christian hero, who wrote lots of books on theology but also these fantastic, classic books," commented Russ Hughes, St Lukes director of worship, to BBC.
"The Chronicles of Narnia speak of some really great values - the value of commitment, the value of sacrifice and resurrection - that things can come back from the dead," he added.
According to BBC, St Lukes experienced around a 10 percent increase in Easter Sunday attendances after it gave away 20,000 pounds of tickets to "The Passion of The Christ," even though it denied that was the reason.