A church in Texas continued its more than a decade-long Halloween-season tradition Wednesday by opening its "Hell House" production, a theatrical Christian outreach tool that takes visitors on a tour while portraying the consequences of sinful choices, depicting hell and the devastation that satan can cause for those not expressively serving Christ.
Clawson Assembly of God in Pollok created the production, "Hell House 180," as an alternative to a typical "haunted house" for their community. The theme is derived from their belief that America has taken a 180-degree turn from where it began with its founders. Also, the group takes their cue from A.W. Tozer, a deceased evangelist, who said, "Historians will conclude that we of the 20th century had the genius to create a great civilization, but we lacked the moral wisdom to preserve it."
"It's a theater-type production with various scenes like abortion, school shooting, bullying and paranormal, as well as hell and heaven," said Jennifer Harvey, spokesperson for Clawson. "People who journey through our hell house can expect to see consequences of decisions played out before them. It communicates that there is a spiritual battle going on where they live."
Choosing scenes throughout the house that are relevant in today's culture was important for the church in order to convey their message as they have seen hundreds make a decision of faith because of the production since its inception in 2002.
Much like a haunted house, church volunteers are dressed in costumes portraying ghosts, satan and ghoulish creatures. In addition, some areas throughout the house depict makeshift bloody scenes.
"Hell House is effective for reaching people. The last scene of the night is always heaven where the gospel is shared. Each person is given the opportunity to say the sinner's prayer and those with more questions can see counselors and prayer partners nearby," said Harvey.
Harvey also tells CP the response to Hell House has been mixed because it has been difficult for some to understand the church's purpose. However, others have been able to see the positive effect it has had within their community.
"Some embrace the aggressive fashion that the gospel is given and some denounce it as terrorizing and propaganda. Hell House is an edgy ministry, it's unconventional, and our purpose is to reach people. Our goal is not to scare people into heaven, but show them the love of Christ," said Harvey.
Despite some opposition, Harvey says that if only one person was led to Christ because of the Hell House, the church would still put on the production.
According to the church's website, the outreach method invites participants to commit their lives to Christ, however, they hope that even if people decide not to, at least the dramatic presentation will remain vivid in their minds.
On opening night on Wednesday (Oct. 23), about 270 people experienced Hell House 180 and the church anticipates a larger turnout closer to Halloween.